Road Conditions and Safety: Outside of main cities, most roads are not drivable, even with an off-road vehicle. Road conditions are poor and deteriorate significantly during the rainy season from October to May. Traffic is hazardous due to lack of infrastructure, poorly trained drivers, poor maintenance, and indifference toward pedestrians and cyclists. Outside of Goma and Bukavu, travel in a convoy and avoid all travel after dark.
Traffic Laws: An international driving permit is necessary to drive in the DRC. Use of cell phones while driving is prohibited.
Accidents: In the event of an automobile accident, remain inside the vehicle and wait for police. If in danger, leave the scene and proceed directly to the nearest police station. Do not stop at the scene of an accident, as mobs can develop quickly.
Official motorcades pose serious risks to drivers and pedestrians in Kinshasa.
- Pull to the side of the road as far as possible and extinguish the vehicle?s headlights when sirens or security forces announce their presence.
- Do not take photographs of motorcades.
- Do not attempt to move until the entire motorcade has passed and proceed only when security forces permit it.
Drivers should stop their cars and pedestrians should stand still when passing a government installation during the raising and lowering of the Congolese flag. This ceremony occurs daily at roughly 7:30 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.
Public Transportation: Avoid all travel by public transportation, and hire private transport from a reliable source. Any form of public transportation is unregulated, unreliable, and generally unsafe.
Few taxis meet U.S. safety standards.
Reputable car rental firms will include the services of a driver.
Ferry: Ferry accidents are commonplace and often fatal. Ferry service between Brazzaville and Kinshasa may close completely with minimal notice. The ferry stops running in late afternoon, and there is no service on Sundays. A visa for the destination country (Republic of Congo or DRC) is required to cross the Congo River between Brazzaville and Kinshasa.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo?s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. Further information may be found on the FAA?s safety assessment page.
The U.S. Embassy prohibits official travel by U.S. government employees and certain contractors on some airlines flying domestic routes in the DRC due to safety and maintenance concerns. This prohibition does not apply to international flights on foreign-owned-and-operated carriers. A list of airlines approved for use by U.S. Embassy personnel may be found on the U.S. Embassy Kinshasa?s Regional Specific Information page.
Medical facilities, medicine severely limited.
We do not pay medical bills. Be aware that U.S. Medicare does not apply overseas. All care providers expect payment in U.S. dollars before treatment.
Medical Insurance: Make sure your health insurance covers you overseas. Most care providers overseas only accept cash payments. See webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.
We strongly recommend supplemental medical insurance with medical evacuation coverage.
If traveling with prescription medication, check with the government of DRC to ensure the medication is legal in DRC. Always, carry your prescription medication in original packaging with your doctor?s prescription.
Due to poor air quality, individuals with respiratory illnesses should carry medications with adapters.
- African trypanosomiasis
- Diarrheal diseases
- Hepatitis A
- Meningococcal meningitis
- Yellow fever
Vaccinations: Yellow Fever vaccine required. Hepatitis B vaccine recommended. Be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Further health information:
Local laws and Special Circumstances
Criminal Penalties: You are subject to local laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. You may have difficulties at immigration if you are traveling with satellite phones, GPS receivers or military clothing. Furthermore, some laws are also prosecutable in the U.S., regardless of local law. For examples, see our website on crimes against minors abroad and the Department of Justice website.
Exit Permits for Adopted Children: U.S. adoptive families of Congolese children are cautioned that attempting to circumvent the exit permit suspension could have severe consequences.
Photography: It is illegal to take pictures of government buildings, military installations, and along border areas. You could be fined, have your photographic equipment confiscated, or be detained or arrested. Do not take photos of Congolese without permission.
Arrest Notification: If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy immediately. See our webpage for further information.
Phone Service: Cellular phones are the norm, as other telephone service is unreliable and landlines are nearly non-existent. It may be possible to purchase a SIM card locally and use a U.S.-compatible cell phone.
Currency: The Congolese Franc is the currency of the DRC (CDF) but U.S. dollars are widely accepted in urban areas. Most vendors and banking institutions will accept only bills printed from 2010 or later. Bills must be crisp and in good condition; even those with minor stains or small tears may be rejected. One-dollar bills are rarely accepted.
Counterfeit currency is widely circulated. Examine U.S. bills before accepting them to ensure they are legitimate. Exchange currency only at reputable banks.
Faith-Based Travelers: See the following webpages for details:
- Faith-Based Travel Information
- International Religious Freedom Report ? see country reports
- Human Rights Report ? see country reports
- Hajj Fact Sheet for Travelers
- Best Practices for Volunteering Abroad
LGBTI Travelers: There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of LGBTI events in the DRC.
Individuals engaging in public displays of same-sex sexual conduct can be subject to prosecution under public indecency provisions nevertheless. Homosexuality remains a cultural taboo, and harassment by the state security forces occurs.
Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance: Persons with disabilities face limited access to transportation, communication, accommodations, and public buildings. There are few sidewalks and no curb-cuts, and most buildings lack functioning elevators.
Women Travelers: Sexual assault is widespread and occurs largely in the conflict zones in North Kivu province, but also throughout the country by security forces, rebel and militia groups, and civilians, often during attacks on villages and sometimes as a tactic of war to punish civilians. Domestic violence is common. Although the law considers assault a crime there is no specific penalty for spousal abuse. Intervention by police or action by judicial authorities is rare.
See our travel tips for Women Travelers.
Safety and Security
See the Department of State Travel Advisory and Alerts for the DRC.
The security situation in parts of eastern DRC remains unstable due to the activities of rebel and other armed groups and ongoing military operations. In October 2017, one of these groups declared itself aligned with ISIS and called for supporters to travel to the region to join the group. Sporadic but severe outbreaks of violence targeting civilians, including killing, rape, kidnapping, and pillaging, continue throughout North Kivu, South Kivu, Tanganyika, Haut Lomami, Ituri, Bas-Uele, and Haut-Uele provinces.
There is also continued potential for civil unrest in parts of Kinshasa and other major cities related to elections.
- Avoid demonstrations and public gatherings. Even events intended to be peaceful can become violent and turn deadly.
- Monitor consular alerts and messages and local and international news from reliable sources. English-language news can be found on BBC at 92.6 FM. Radio Okapi broadcasts in French on 103.5 FM at 7:00 a.m., 8:00 a.m., 12:00 noon, and 6:00 p.m., and provides updates throughout the day.
Roadblocks: Security forces set up spontaneous roadblocks, especially after dark, to conduct vehicle searches and check identity papers. They may also solicit bribes. Remain inside your vehicle with doors locked and open the window slightly to communicate. Remain calm and, if threatened, do not resist.
Armed robberies, burglaries, and vehicle thefts occur throughout the country. Criminals may pose as law enforcement officials especially after nightfall.
Victims of Crime:
U.S. citizen victims of sexual assault should first contact the U.S. Embassy.
Report crimes to the local police at +243 81-555-5944 and contact the U.S. Embassy at +243 97 261- 6145. Dial 112 to contact the police in an emergency in Kinshasa.
Remember local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting crime.
See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas.
- help you find appropriate medical care
- assist you in reporting a crime to the police
- contact relatives or friends with your written consent
- explain the local criminal justice process in general terms
- provide a list of local attorneys
- provide our information on victim?s compensation programs in the U.S.
- provide an emergency loan for repatriation to the United States and/or limited medical support in cases of destitution
- help you find accommodation and arrange flights home
- replace a stolen or lost passport
Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence may contact the Embassy for assistance.
Tourism: The tourism industry is unevenly regulated, and safety inspections for equipment and facilities do not commonly occur. Hazardous areas/activities are not always identified with appropriate signage, and staff may not be trained or certified either by the host government or by recognized authorities in the field. In the event of an injury, appropriate medical treatment is typically available only in/near major cities. First responders are limited and are generally unable to access areas outside of major cities to provide urgent medical treatment. U.S. citizens are encouraged to purchase medical evacuation insurance, especially given the current Ebola outbreak. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.
Entry exit Requirementsh
Requirements for Entry:
- World Health Organization (WHO) card with yellow fever vaccination.
Obtain your visa before traveling. Visit the Embassy of the Democratic Republic of the Congo website for the most current visa information. Overseas inquiries should be made at the nearest Congolese Embassy or Consulate.
Visa applicants must provide an invitation letter notarized in the DRC and approved at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kinshasa. Allow at least two to three weeks for visa processing.
The DRC does not recognize dual nationality. U.S. citizens should always present themselves as U.S. citizens to Congolese authorities. Otherwise, it may impede our ability to provide consular services.
All departing international travelers must pay these official fees when checking in:
- $50 airport exit fee
- $5 boarding fee
- Passengers on domestic flights pay $10.
If you experience harassment at any of port of entry, such as detention, passport confiscation or demands by immigration and security personnel for unofficial ?fees,? ask to contact the U.S. Embassy.
If you are planning to reside in the DRC, register at the office of the Direction General of Migration (DGM) in your commune of residence.
Journalists working in the DRC must:
- enter the DRC through Kinshasa
- obtain a permit from the Ministry of Communication and Media (a $250 permit is valid for one month)
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of the DRC.
See the Department of State?s Fact Sheet on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for information on U.S. – Democratic Republic of the Congo relations.