Democratic Republic of the Congo Basics

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The Basics

Time: GMT +1 in the west (Kinshasa) and GMT +2 in the east.

Electricity: Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. Various plugs are in use, but two-pin attachment plugs and round pin plugs with grounding are common.

Money: The official currency is the Congolese Franc (CDF). Credit cards and ATM facilities are very limited and usually only in Kinshasa. It is best to take US dollars in hard currency. Banks are closed on weekends and credit cards cannot be used to obtain cash advances. Currency denominations and exchange rates can change at short notice.

Currency Exchange Rates

CDF100.00 = USD 0.06GBP 0.05CAD 0.08AUD 0.09ZAR 0.88EUR 0.05NZD 0.09
Note: These rates are not updated daily and should be used as a guideline only.

Language: French is the official language, but Lingala, Kingwana, Kikongo, Swahili and Tshiluba are also spoken.

Entry requirements for Americans: US nationals require a passport valid for the period of intended stay, and a visa, to enter the DRC.

Entry requirements for UK nationals: British nationals require a passport valid for the duration of intended stay, and a visa, to enter the DRC.

Entry requirements for Canadians: Canadian nationals require a passport valid for the duration of intended stay, and a visa, to enter the DRC.

Entry requirements for Australians: Australian nationals require a passport valid for the duration of intended stay, and a visa, to enter the DRC.

Entry requirements for South Africans: South African nationals require a passport valid for the duration of intended stay, and a visa, to enter the DRC.

Entry requirements for New Zealanders: New Zealand nationals require a passport valid for the duration of intended stay, and a visa, to enter the DRC.

Entry requirements for Irish nationals: Irish nationals require a passport valid for the duration of intended stay, and a visa, to enter the DRC.

Passport/Visa Note: All foreigners entering the DRC require a visa obtained in advance, as well as a yellow fever vaccination certificate. If there is no diplomatic representation in the country of origin, visas will only be granted on-arrival to passengers holding a pre-notification letter issued by the Direction Generale de Migration (DGM) officials. Visas issued by any country other than the home country of the traveller may be refused, unless there is no representation in the home country. Visas can be obtained on arrival if passengers have a letter issued by the Ministry of Interior and Security. Documents and tickets for return or onward travel are required. It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

Travel Health: Yellow fever vaccination is a requirement for entry for everyone over one year old, and vaccinations against cholera, meningitis, typhoid, and polio are highly recommended. There is a significant malaria risk throughout the country, and advice should be sought in advance about preventive measures. HIV/AIDS is prevalent. Rabies is common to the DRC, and monkeypox occurs, which is a virus usually transmitted to humans from infected ground squirrels and rodents. Regular outbreaks of pneumonic plague also occur, particularly in the district of Ituri, and is fatal if left untreated. The country has also experienced a number of ebola outbreaks over the last decade. The Centre Prive d'Urgence (CPU) clinic in Kinshasa is able to cope with basic health problems and to stabilise a patient after serious accidents. However, medical evacuation to South Africa (or elsewhere) would be advised as soon as possible. Outside Kinshasa, western standard medical facilities are practically non-existent. Visitors are advised to take their own basic medical supplies with them, as medicines are in short supply. Medical insurance with provision for emergency air evacuation is essential for visitors. All water should be regarded as contaminated, and milk is unpasteurised, therefore consume only imported bottled water and avoid dairy products.

Tipping: A 10 percent service charge is included in restaurant and hotel bills and further tipping is unnecessary. In general, tipping ( Mahtabish, meaning 'something extra') is expected.

Safety Information: The east and north east of the DRC are insecure and travellers should be cautious if travel to the region is necessary, particularly near the borders with Uganda and Rwanda. There is a high level of street crime and armed robbery, particularly in Kinshasa, where armed gangs or criminals posing as plain-clothes policemen regularly attack foreigners. Security officials have also been known to arrest foreigners and demand payment for their release. Do not display valuables on your person, walk the streets alone, or carry large amounts of money, and keep car doors and windows locked. Demonstrations and political gatherings should be avoided. Boats and ferries are poorly maintained and have low safety standards.

Local Customs: Photography is technically illegal in the Democratic Republic of the Congo without a permit. Even with a permit though, one must never take photos of police or military personnel, official buildings, or motorcades. The Congolese may get very upset if you take pictures of them, or their children, without permission. At 6am and 6pm the national flag is raised and lowered, and all traffic and pedestrians are expected to stop for this ceremony, as well as for any official motorcade.

Business: By rights, the Democratic Republic of Congo should be one of Africa's richest countries owing to its abundance of natural resources, yet it has suffered from corrupt leadership and extensive civil war which has been detrimental to its economic development. But biodiversity, abundant natural resources, and agricultural potential offer many opportunities for foreign investment and companies are beginning to see this. Areas with potential for investment include mining, oil, energy, fishery, timber, railroads, and telecoms. The business community in the DRC is still developing, and the country is currently ranked among the most difficult for ease of doing business. Travellers must ensure business is conducted with the correct legal establishments, and it is crucial to work with a local attorney in order to avoid mistakes caused by unfair competition, scams, or simple ignorance. Most foreign investors will find that a good deal of homework combined with respect for the local culture will make them welcome in the DRC. The principal language used is French, and interpreters are available. It is important to establish a good personal relationship with business connections, as these relationships are often given preferential treatment. Business tends to be formal: men wear light suits while women should avoid trousers. Formal suits and ties are generally worn only when meeting dignitaries or government officials. Business hours are usually 8am to 4pm Monday to Friday, closing at 12pm on Saturdays.

Communications: The international dialling code for the DRC is +243 and the outgoing code is 00, followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). International direct dialling is available. Domestic telephone connections are unreliable. There are GSM 900 and 1800 networks with variable coverage and roaming agreements covering Kinshasa. There are some internet cafés in Kinshasa, but power failures can be a problem.

Duty Free: Visitors to the DRC may import 100 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250g tobacco; one bottle of alcohol; perfume for personal use and a camera to be used for touristic purposes, without paying customs duty.