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Country Guides for Africa

Congo (The Democratic Republic of the)

Congo (The Democratic Republic of the) Since 1997, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DROC; formerly called Zaire) has been rent by ethnic strife and civil war, touched off by a massive inflow in 1994 of refugees from the fighting in Rwanda and Burundi. The government of former president MOBUTU Sese Seko was toppled by a rebellion led by Laurent KABILA in May 1997; his regime was subsequently challenged by a Rwanda- and Uganda-backed rebellion in August 1998. Troops from Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia, Chad, and Sudan intervened to support the Kinshasa regime. A cease-fire was signed on 10 July 1999 by the DROC, Zimbabwe, Angola, Uganda, Namibia, Rwanda, and Congolese armed rebel groups, but sporadic fighting continued. KABILA was assassinated on 16 January 2001 and his son Joseph KABILA was named head of state ten days later. In October 2002, the new president was successful in getting occupying Rwandan forces to withdraw from eastern Congo; two months later, an agreement was signed by all remaining warring parties to end the fighting and set up a government of national unity.

Source: CIA World Factbook

Food and waterborne diseases are the number one cause of illness in travelers. Travelers’ diarrhea can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites, which are found throughout Central Africa and can contaminate food or water. Infections may cause diarrhea and vomiting (E. coli, Salmonella, cholera, and parasites), fever (Typhoid fever and toxoplasmosis), or liver damage (hepatitis). Make sure your food and drinking water are safe.

Malaria is a serious, but preventable infection that can be fatal. Your risk of malaria may be high in these countries, including cities. Prevent this deadly disease by seeing your health care provider for a prescription antimalarial drug and by protecting yourself against mosquito bites . All travelers to Central Africa, including infants, children, and former residents of Central Africa, may be at risk for malaria. All travelers should take one of the following drugs (listed alphabetically): atovaquone/proguanil, doxycycline, mefloquine, or primaquine (in special circumstances).

A certificate of yellow fever vaccination may be required for entry into certain of these countries. For detailed information, see Comprehensive Yellow Fever Vaccination Requirements. Also, find the nearest authorized U.S. yellow fever vaccine center.

Dengue, filariasis, leishmaniasis, and onchocerciasis are other diseases carried by insects that also occur in this region. Protecting yourself against insect bites will help to prevent these diseases.

An outbreak of sleeping sickness (trypanosomiasis) has been reported in southern Sudan.

Schistosomiasis, a parasitic infection, is found in fresh water in this region. Do not swim in fresh water (except in well-chlorinated swimming pools) in Central African countries.

Because motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of injury among travelers, walk and drive defensively. Avoid nighttime travel if possible and always use seat belts.

CDC recommends the following vaccines (as appropriate for age):

See your doctor at least 4–6 weeks before your trip to allow time for shots to take effect.

  • Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG).
  • Hepatitis B, if you might be exposed to blood (for example, health-care workers), have sexual contact with the local population, stay longer than 6 months, or be exposed through medical treatment.
  • Meningococcal (meningitis), if you plan to visit Central African Republic, Chad, and Sudan, from December through June.
  • Yellow fever, if you plan to travel anywhere outside cities.
  • Rabies, if you might be exposed to wild or domestic animals through your work or recreation.
  • Typhoid, particularly if you are visiting developing countries in this region.
  • As needed, booster doses for tetanus-diphtheria, measles, and a one-time dose of polio vaccine for adults. Hepatitis B vaccine is now recommended for all infants and for children ages 11–12 years who did not receive the series as infants.

To stay healthy, do...

  • Wash hands often with soap and water.
  • Drink only bottled or boiled water, or carbonated (bubbly) drinks in cans or bottles. Avoid tap water, fountain drinks, and ice cubes. If this is not possible, make water safer by BOTH filtering through an “absolute 1-micron or less” filter AND adding iodine tablets to the filtered water. “Absolute 1-micron filters” are found in camping/outdoor supply stores.
  • Eat only thoroughly cooked food or fruits and vegetables you have peeled yourself. Remember: boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it.
  • Take your malaria prevention medication before, during, and after travel, as directed. (See your health care provider for a prescription.)
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites:
    • Pay special attention to mosquito protection between dusk and dawn. This is when the type of mosquito whose bite transmits malaria is active.
    • Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats.
    • Use insect repellents that contain DEET (diethylmethyltoluamide).
    • Read and follow the directions and precautions on the product label.
    • Apply insect repellent to exposed skin.
    • Do not put repellent on wounds or broken skin.
    • Do not breathe in, swallow, or get into the eyes (DEET is toxic if swallowed). If using a spray product, apply DEET to your face by spraying your hands and rubbing the product carefully over the face, avoiding eyes and mouth.
    • Unless you are staying in air-conditioned or well-screened housing, purchase a bed net impregnated with the insecticide permethrin or deltamethrin. Or, spray the bed net with one of these insecticides if you are unable to find a pretreated bed net.
    • DEET may be used on adults, children, and infants older than 2 months of age. Protect infants by using a carrier draped with mosquito netting with an elastic edge for a tight fit.
    • Children under 10 years old should not apply insect repellent themselves. Do not apply to young children’s hands or around eyes and mouth.
  • To prevent fungal and parasitic infections, keep feet clean and dry, and do not go barefoot.
  • Always use latex condoms to reduce the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Download Magellan's Chart of Insect Protection and Water Purification Needs by CountryDownload Magellan's Chart of Insect Protection and Water Purification Needs by Country

SAFETY AND SECURITY: U.S. citizens traveling to and residing in Congo-Kinshasa are urged to exercise caution and maintain security awareness at all times. While the April 2003 signing of peace accords between rebel groups and Congolese authorities has resulted in the formation of a power-sharing government of transition and a reduction of conflict throughout most of the country, Congo- Kinshasa remains unstable. T he United Nations has authorized up to 10,800 military personnel to deploy in Congo. Security is improving in most areas where the U.N. Mission to the DRC (known by its French acronym, MONUC) has deployed. Elsewhere, it is tenuous. Rural areas, especially in the eastern provinces, are highly insecure. Ill-disciplined militiamen continue to operate in the eastern regions of the country and pockets of the north. Armed soldiers and police, while common in urban areas, including Kinshasa, are often poorly trained, irregularly paid and undisciplined. The security forces often act arbitrarily, and may themselves pose a threat to the population instead of protecting them. These forces are often the perpetrators of crimes, mainly armed robberies.

In the past, the previous government imposed curfews with minimal warning. While this practice has largely subsided, travelers should nevertheless check locally to confirm the current curfew status. Ferries to and from Brazzaville do not operate after 6:00 p.m. Travel in the downtown parts of Kinshasa, Kisangani, Lubumbashi and most other major cities is generally safe during daylight hours. The outlying areas are less secure due to the lack of adequate training/supervision of the security forces present and high levels of criminal activity. Travelers should avoid civil disturbances that may occur without warning in all areas, and have the potential to turn violent. There have been episodes of hostility towards U.S. citizens and other expatriates.

Both inside and outside Kinshasa, there can be military roadblocks, especially after dark. Vehicles are often searched for weapons, and travelers are checked for identity papers. Troops regularly seek bribes. If confronted with such a situation, it is suggested that U.S. citizens remain courteous and calm. If detained, report the incident to the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa as soon as possible.

Attacks against isolated villages continue sporadically in the Ituri region of Orientale Province, and in North Kivu, South Kivu, and Maniema Provinces, where Rwandan and Burundian rebel groups that have yet to cede control to the authority of the new transitional government continue to mount periodic attacks. The Rwandan rebels include individuals who perpetrated the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Violence in these areas from armed Congolese militiamen is also not precluded. The large number of rebel and government soldiers to be decommissioned as a result of the peace process is another source of potential security concerns.

REGIONAL TERRORISM: One of the many extremist rebel factions in the Great Lakes region, the Liberation Army of Rwanda, has committed violent acts against American citizens and interests. This faction was responsible for the March 1999 kidnapping and murder in Uganda of several western tourists, including Americans. In April 2001, six employees of the International Committee of the Red Cross were murdered while working in Congo-Kinshasa, near Bunia in Orientale Province. In May of 2001, irregular Congolese Mai-Mai forces kidnapped more than 20 individuals employed by a Thai logging company in North Kivu Province.

CRIME: In Congo-Kinshasa, poor economic conditions continue to foster crime, especially in urban areas. Vehicle thefts, burglaries, and armed robbery occur throughout the country. Carjackings occur in some regions. If confronted by members of the military or security forces, visitors should be wary of permitting soldiers or police officers to enter their vehicles or of getting into the vehicle of anyone purporting to be a security official. It is recommended that in such instances U.S. citizens remain courteous and calm and, if threatened, not resist. All incidents should be reported to the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa. Consistency in administering laws and regulations is notably absent. Travelers should note that in cases of theft and robbery, legal recourse is limited. Therefore, valuable items may be safer if kept at home or another secure location. Individuals purporting to be legitimate police authorities have detained and later robbed American citizens in the city of Kinshasa. This type of incident has occurred more frequently during the Christmas and New Year's holidays.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to local police and to the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for assistance. The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends, and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed. U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad for ways to promote a trouble-free journey. Pamphlets are available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at

Source: U.S. Department of State

tropical; hot and humid in equatorial river basin; cooler and drier in southern highlands; cooler and wetter in eastern highlands; north of Equator - wet season April to October, dry season December to February; south of Equator - wet season November to M

Source: CIA World Factbook

The Democratic Republic of Congo's electrical current is 220/50 (volts/hz) and uses the plug adaptors listed to the right under Related Items. Many North American appliances are designed to operate only within the 100-125 volt range. These appliances will suffer damage if plugged into 220-250 volts without the proper transformer or converter.

To determine which plug adaptors you'll need and if you'll require a transformer or converter, use our Electrical Connection Wizard.

For a detailed discussion of international electrical standards, see our related article on Electrical and Phone Adaptation.

Download Magellan's Guide to World Electrical ConnectionsDownload Magellan's Guide to World Electrical Connections

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A passport, visa and evidence of yellow fever vaccination are required for entry. Visas should be obtained from an Embassy of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Congo-Kinshasa) prior to arrival. Visa fees are expensive. Travelers entering Congo-Kinshasa with visas and/or entry/exit stamps from Rwanda, Uganda or Burundi may experience difficulties at the airport or other ports of entry. Additional information about visas may be obtained from the Embassy of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1800 New Hampshire Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20009, tel. (202) 234-7690/91, or Congo-Kinshasa's Permanent Mission to the U.N., 866 United Nations Plaza, Room 511, New York, NY 10017, tel. 212-319-8061, fax: 212-319-8232, web site Overseas, inquiries should be made at the nearest Congolese embassy or consulate.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

Source: U.S. Department of State

The time zone for Congo, The Democratic Republic of the is 1 hours offset from GMT, which means that if it is 12:00 noon in New York, the time in Congo, The Democratic Republic of the would be 6:00 pm

The unit of currency in Congo, The Democratic Republic of the is the Congolese franc (CDF).

Look up the current exchange rate using's Universal Currency Converter

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