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African Travel Tips when Visiting the Democratic Rep of Congo

African Travel Tips when Visiting the Democratic Rep of Congo

The Democratic Rep of Congo is located on the Equator in the centre of Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, is a vast country of rainforests, mountains, active volcanoes and 15,000km of waterways, of which the most notable are the mighty Congo river and Lake Tanganyika on the country's border with Tanzania and Burundi. Transport infrastructure is almost non-existent and one of the main modes of transport is with dug-out canoes, called 'pirogues', which is the best way to see this lush African country.

During the rainy season roads and bridges are for the most part impassable. The DRC, with its untamed natural beauty and undeveloped tourism, provides a truly wild experience for the adventurous traveller, who may even come across primitive pygmies. It is unfortunate that the country's political instability and the fighting in the areas north and east of the Congo River, have made travel, unless on essential business to Kinshasa, Lubumbashi and Matadi, inadvisable.

CAPITAL:

Kinshasa

CLIMATE:

The Democratic Rep of Congo is warm and humid. The best time to visit the area north of the equator or travel along the Congo River is Nov-Mar (dry season). The best time to visit areas south of the equator is Jun-Sep (dry season).

CURRENCY:

1 Franc Congo = 100 centimes. This is a mostly cash economy, but credit cards are accepted at a few major hotels, restaurants and car rental firms (Amex is most widely accepted). Cash advances cannot be obtained from banks. Traveller's cheques can only be cashed at commercial banks. Some travellers have complained about high fees, delays and unavailability of cash at commercial banks for traveller's cheques. Possession of any foreign currency is illegal.

Visitors have three business days to deposit their foreign currency in bank-run exchange houses. These institutions will buy foreign currency deposited by travellers upon their arrival. However, it's unclear whether or not they will sell foreign currency to travellers upon their departure. Local currency must be used for all commercial transactions, and there are criminal sanctions for non-compliance.

ELECTRICITY:

220volts, 50Hz. Plugs are 2-pin and 3-pin round.

HEALTH:

A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for travellers over 1 year of age. Visitors are also advised to take pre-arrival precautions against malaria (risk throughout the year in the whole country), typhoid, polio and Hepatits A. Other health concerns include dysentery, diarrhoea, cholera, limited medical facilities and medicines, and influenza (risk extends throughout the year).

LANGUAGE:

Official language is French, but Lingala is more widely spoken. Business is mainly conducted in French; interpreter and translation services are available.

PUBLIC HOLIDAYS:

New Years' Day (1 Jan); Independence Martyr's Day (4 Jan); Patrice-Emery Lumumba Day (17 Jan); Carnival (23 - 24 Feb); Easter Monday (12 Apr); Education Day (30 Apr); Labour Day (1 May); Ascension Day (20 May); Whit Monday (31 May); Independance Day (30 Jun); Parent's Day (1 Aug); Assumption (15 Aug); All Saint's Day (1 Nov); New Regime Anniversary (24 Nov); Christmas Day (25 Dec)

SHOPPING:

bracelets; local paintings; baskets; African carvings; Kuba wraps; wood and metal items; Katanga art; malachite and copper items; Kikanda (snack prepared from peanut flour, Kikanda root flour and onions); palm oil (soap and cooking oil); coffee; 'saka-madesu' (dish of stewed manioc leaves and beans in a palm oil sauce).

SOCIAL CONVENTIONS:

The religion is predominantly Roman Catholic. Casual clothes are widely accepted, but business people should wear lightweight suits.

TIME DIFFERENCE:

GMT +1 (western region); GMT +2 (eastern region)

TIPPING:

Not necessary as service charges are included.

TOP TEN ATTRACTIONS DESCRIPTION:

Kinshasa:

Capital of DRC featuring prehistoric and ethnological museums at Kinshasa University; Archaeological Museum; Arts Institute; Zoological Garden; National Museum; the Chapel; Ma Valleé lake; Kinkole port; the Gardens of the Presidential Farm of Nsele; and markets; a 5-star hotel and an 18-hole golf course available; Symphonies Naturelles.
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Matadi:

Meaning 'stones' in Kikongo, due to the rocky terrain on which the city was built; view the port, Metropol Hotel with its beautiful architecture, Pont Marechal; southeast of Matadi, one can see the highest peak of Mont Courbier; capital of Bas-Congo province.

Parc National des Virunga:

An area of 12,000km² in North Kivu bounded by two mountain ranges that serve as a natural enclosure for the animals which roam this huge natural reserve; game, colourful aquatic birds and gorillas at the Virunga Volcanoes; previously called Parc National Albert and was the first Nature Reserve in Africa; currently this area is held by fighting rebels so is a no-go.

Lofoi waterfalls:

North of Lubumbashi in the Katanga Province's Kundelungu National Park, 360m and said to be the tallest waterfalls on the African continent.

River journeys:

The country's many rivers and surrounding banks some dotted with otherwise inaccessible fishing villages can be explored by dug-out canoes; a barge is available on the Luapula river on the southeastern border of Katanga with Zambia with restaurant areas, shops and bars on board - the trip starts in Kasenga, visits Kashobwe and finally arrives in Pweto on the northern bank of Lake Moero.

Bas-Congo:

Mbanza-Ngungu is a pleasant resort with good climate where you can explore caves with its unique, blind fish; Kisantu and its Frère Gillet Botanic Gardens with their world-famous rare orchids; Zongo Falls; Inga the largest hydroelectric dam in Africa; first Catholic cathedral at Boma; Diego Cão's monument; Caravan's Road; Slavery Road; Vivi.

Kasai Katanga:

Lakes, tropical towns and waterfalls; Upemba National Park northeast of Bukama; Kalemie and Lake Tanganyika have been compared to the French Riviera.

Bunia Lake Albert:

Bunia is a small, pretty town featuring villas, restaurants and hotels; from Bunia visit Lake Albert, which contains more fish than any other lake in Africa and go on excursions into the forests and mountains, native villages, the Caves of Mount Hoyo and the Escaliers de Venus Falls; currently this area is rebel-controlled so access not advised.

Garamba National Park:

In the North, covering 400,000 hectares and featuring lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos and giraffe.

Lake Edward:

Ideal for bird watchers; the region is also inhabited by gorillas and the extremely rare okapi.


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