Democratic Republic of Congo
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a state in Central Africa. It shares its border with Southern Sudan, the Republic of the Congo, Uganda, the Central African Republic, Rwanda, Zambia, Burundi, Tanzania, and Angola. The capital city is Kinshasa.
The climate in the country is predominantly equatorial with temperature changes during a day. The best time for travelling to Congo is two dry seasons, which lasts from January to March and from June to August. Heavy rains occur here from April to May and from September to December.
The official language is French, but the languages Congo, Swahili, Lingala, and Luba also have the national status. The main religions here are the Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam, and syncretic cults.
There are no beaches in Congo but this does not make the country less attractive for the tourists. This country is the main destination for ecological and excursion tourism. The picturesque Mweru and Kivu waterfalls, hiking, kayaking, rafting, fishing, and safari, to name a few.
We recommend staying in large cities with a well-developed infrastructure. You can choose Kisangani, Mbandaka, Kinshasa, Boma, Likasi or Goma in the North Kivu province.
The tourists can also visit the settlements of the local ethnic groups, including the Pygmies, and see cultural and historical monuments, learn more about modern ethnography.
There are no direct flights between CIS countries and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. To get to Kinshasa, the CIS citizens have to take a transit flight with a stop in one of the European cities. It is much easier for the Europeans to get to Congo as there are direct flights from Europe. Brussels Airlines offers the flights from Brussels, Air France from Paris, Swiss International Air Lines from Zürich, and Alitalia offers the flights from Rome and Lisbon.
A cargo-passenger ferry takes the passengers from Brazzaville, the capital city of the Republic of the Congo to Kinshasa along the Congo river. Three times a month, the travellers can also get to the country from the Central African Republic by ferry which departs from Bangui and arrives at Kinshasa.
CIS and EU travellers must obtain a visa to get to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They can submit the documents to the Embassy of Congo. It usually takes 15 working days to process the documents.
There is an opportunity to get a visa on arrival but this is not a very reliable way so we recommend obtaining a visa beforehand.
A visa is valid for 30 days.
There is no updated Customs legislation in Congo and the Customs officers refer to the old normative acts. These acts do not restrict the import or export of foreign currency.
The tourists can bring in Congo the following things duty-free:
- cosmetics and perfume for personal use;
- some alcohol and tobacco.
Radio and photo cameras are charged with Customs duty.
It is strictly prohibited to export from Congo:
- national currency;
- non-processed gold and diamonds;
- ivory and ivory products (without a certificate);
- products made of feather and skins of animals;
- rare animals and birds.
The traditional cuisine of Congo absorbed the cooking traditions of France, Italy, Britain, and Asia. The main characteristic of this cuisine is a generous use of such spices as ginger, cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper, and clove. The most widespread bread in Congo is Kwanga which is made of cassava.
The foodies usually choose mutton and dishes made of the camel meat. The tourists can try a crocodile tail prepared according to a special recipe, eggs of turtles, ostriches, and alligators. The locals always marinate fish before adding it to soups or other dishes. We recommend trying marinated fish in banana leaves.
Being in Congo, you should definitely try meat soups, casseroles, and delicacies from alligator liver. If you crave for something more exotic, the local chefs will make for you fried locust or caterpillars and a snail delicacy Mbembe.
The common side dishes in Congo are rice, maize, sweet potato, beans, pea or cassava. In Congo, you can try such dishes as Fufu or Ugali. These are balls made of the maize or cassava flour paste. The tourists also like to order Moin-Moin from mashed hot pepper, chopped onion, and pea paste.
There is not a great choice of desserts in Congo, usually, these are fruits and fruit salads. The travellers can also treat themselves to such African sweets as Caakiri from couscous with cream and Ngalakh from baobab fruits.
Every meal is served with non-alcoholic beverages with ice and fruit juices. The locals also make rice beer. The most popular brands are Primus and Skol. The local people also like to drink light palm wine. We strongly recommend you against trying the local strong alcoholic drinks as there is no state control over the distillation and the beverages can contain methanol.
The official currency in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the Congolese Franc (CDF). There are the banknotes from 1 to 500 francs, 25 and 50 cents coins, and 1 franc coins.
The tourists can exchange the currency in large cities at banks, in exchange offices, hotels and in some supermarkets. One can also exchange the currency on the black market with 1-2% rate difference.
You can pay with the credit card only in hotels, restaurants, and shops in Kinshasa. Visa, Access, MasterCard, Dinners Club, and American Express are accepted. If you are planning to visit smaller towns, make sure you have enough cash.
One can cash traveller’s checks in the capital city.
The criminal situation in the country is not favourable, so avoid walking on the streets at night and travel across the country without a guide. Do not carry large sums of money and expensive jewellery.
Details of interest
Sightseeing in Congo
In the Congo, there are 5 sites inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
- One of the oldest parks in Africa is the Virunga National Park, which is situated on the border between Congo and Uganda. The total territory of the park is about 8.000 square kilometres. On the north of the Park, there are snowy Ruwenzori Mountains and the Semliki Valley. In the central part of the Park, you will see the Rwindi plain, the Ishasha plains, and the Rutshuru plain. On the south, there is the Nyamuragira volcano and the Nyiragongo volcano. The Park is the habitat for the mountain gorillas, hippopotamuses, oxen, kob antelopes, and African bush elephants.
- The lovers of nature should visit the Garamba National Park, which is situated on the northeast of Congo. The Park is covered with wet savannah, open woods, and tropical forests. This place is the habitat for the endangered white rhinoceros.
- In the Kahuzi-Biega National Park, the tourists have a unique chance to see one of the last species of the eastern lowland gorillas. The park is located at the foot of the extinct volcanoes Biega and Kahuzi. The territory of the park is 6.000 square kilometres.
- Take a boat trip and visit the largest protected area in Congo, the Salonga National Park. The park covers 36.000 square kilometres of the territory. It was founded with the aim to protect the equatorial forests and in 1984, it was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. In the Salonga, you can see gray African parrots, Congo peacocks, chimpanzee, bonobo, slender-snouted crocodiles, and forest elephants.
- The Okapi Reserve is forests which surround the Ituri river. The tourists will see rare species of the primates and okapis. Anyone can learn more about the life of the Efe and Mbuti tribes.
The travellers can also visit the Crater lake Albertine Rift, Mangengembe village, and Kinkol village, the Kinsuka, Livingstone, and Stanley waterfalls.
Souvenirs in Congo
In Congo, the tourists can buy:
- baskets, vases, and pottery;
- Poto-Poto pictures;
- wooden figurines and traditional ritual masks.