Democratic Republic of the CongoOfficial Name: Democratic Republic of the Congo
Must have at least six months validity remaining
BLANK PASSPORT PAGES:
One page required for entry stamp
TOURIST VISA REQUIRED:
Required, including WHO card with up-to-date yellow fever vaccination for all travelers more than one year of age
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY:
The total combination of foreign currency cannot exceed 5 million Congolese Francs (CFA) – approximately $5,400
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT:
It is illegal to export Congolese francs
Embassies and Consulates
310 Avenue des Aviateurs
Democratic Repuplic of the Congo
Telephone: +(243) 081-556-0151 (do not dial the zero when calling from abroad)
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(243) 081-556-0151
Fax: +(243) 81-556-0169
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (a.k.a. DRC or Congo-Kinshasa,), located in central Africa, is the second largest country on the continent. The capital is Kinshasa. French is the official language. The country endured more than a decade of civil war that ended in 2003, but still faces continuing violence from armed groups, political instability, and extreme poverty. Read the Department of State’s Fact Sheet on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for additional information on U.S. - Democratic Republic of the Congo relations.
Entry, Exit & Visa Requirements
A passport, DRC visa, and World Health Organization card with yellow fever vaccination are required for entry. Airport visas are not available, and visitors to the Democratic Republic of the Congo will need to obtain their visas in advance of travel. Please note that the DRC is now requiring visa applicants to provide an invitation letter notarized in the DRC and legalized at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kinshasa. For further visa information, contact the Embassy of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in Washington, D.C., telephone (202) 234-7690 or the Permanent Mission of the DRC to the United Nations, in New York City, telephone (212) 319-8061. Overseas inquiries should be made at the nearest Congolese embassy or consulate.
All journalists working in the DRC must obtain permission from the Congolese Ministry of Information in Kinshasa and should enter the DRC via Kinshasa. Visitors who wish to travel to any mining areas must first obtain government approval from the appropriate government agencies or ministries; a cumbersome and often time-consuming process.
Travelers may experience difficulties at the airport and other ports of entry, such as temporary detention, passport confiscation, and demands by immigration and security personnel for unofficial “fees.” If confronted with harassment, please ask to contact the U.S. Embassy’s Consular Section at +243 81 556 0151 or +243 97 261 6145.
All departing travelers must pay a $50 airport exit fee, in U.S. dollars (cash). Passengers must have the correct entry stamp in the passport they use to exit the country.
The DRC does not permit its citizens to hold dual nationality. Dual nationals arriving in the DRC should carefully consider which passport they use to enter the DRC. Before being permitted to depart the DRC, travelers who entered on a Congolese passport may be required to obtain a valid for visa for their destination country, even if they hold a second passport. Congolese authorities require resident foreigners to register at the office of the Direction General of Migration (DGM) in the commune of their place of residence.
The United States Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of the DRC.
Safety and Security
The security situation in the DRC remains unstable, difficult to predict, and sometimes volatile. Violent crime, political instability, and high unemployment persist throughout the country, while various armed groups remain active in eastern and southern Congo. Travelers should remain vigilant at all times. See the current Department of State Travel Warning for the DRC and the current Worldwide Caution for additional details.
Several ongoing conflicts in the DRC pose serious and significant risk to travelers in the country. The DRC military has conducted a series of operations against the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), and other rebel groups in the eastern DRC in an effort to restore state authority to the region. On December 30, 2013, clashes occurred when armed supporters of religious leader Paul Joseph Mukungubila attacked strategic government locations in Kinshasa, including the airport, as well as key locations in three other Congolese cities. More than 100 people were killed across the country when Congolese police and military units responded with live gunfire, effectively shutting down the capital until the situation stabilized. As a result of conflict and resulting humanitarian crises, there are approximately 2.7 million internally displaced persons in the DRC.
The security situation in eastern DRC remains unstable due to the activities of rebel and other armed groups and ongoing military operations. Limit travel to the provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu and the Ituri region in the province of Oriental. The United Nations’ largest peacekeeping operation, known by its French acronym of MONUSCO, has approximately 20,000 peacekeepers deployed in the DRC, primarily in the east. On February 5, 2014, a MONUSCO staff member was shot and killed by unknown assailants in the northeastern city of Beni. MONUSCO employees are not the only ones attacked. In eastern Congo, there is increased anti-MONUSCO resentment due to MONUSCO’s perceived lack of intervention and prevention of ongoing rebel attacks on civilian populations. Most recently in Oicha near Beni more than 25 villagers died and nearly 5,000 people were displaced in early October 2014. After events like this one, people often protest in Goma against MONUSCO’s perceived indifference.
Military actions against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Haut Uele District have reduced the group’s presence but elements of the LRA are still active in this area and especially near the borders with the Central African Republic and South Sudan. Although DRC military forces supported by a MONUSCO intervention brigade defeated the rebel group M23 in North Kivu province in November 2013, sporadic but severe outbreaks of violence targeting civilians have occurred throughout North Kivu, South Kivu, and Katanga provinces, as well as in the Ituri, Bas-Uele, and Haut-Uele Districts of Orientale province, and less frequently in Bas-Congo and Equateur provinces.
Both inside and outside Kinshasa, security forces have been known to set up spontaneous roadblocks, especially after dark, at which they conduct vehicle searches and check passengers for identity papers. They may also solicit bribes. If confronted with such a situation, remain courteous and calm and remain inside your vehicle with doors locked and open the driver’s side window slightly in order to communicate. If detained, report the incident to the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa as soon as possible.
To stay connected:
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program to keep up to date with important safety and security announcements.
- Follow the Bureau of Consular Affairs on Twitter and Facebook.
- Bookmark the Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which contains the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution.
- Follow the U.S. Embassy in DRC on Twitter and visiting the Embassy’s website.
- In the event of an emergency, contact us at 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the United States and Canada, or via a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444, from other countries.
- Take some time before traveling to consider your personal security and checking useful tips for traveling safely abroad.
CRIME: Armed robberies, burglaries, and vehicle thefts, occur throughout the country with reports of some carjackings in the North Kivu area resulting in deaths. Drive with doors locked and windows closed at all times. Some criminal groups pose as law enforcement officials in both urban and rural areas, especially after nightfall. Do not permit soldiers or police officers to enter the vehicle, and do not get into the vehicle of anyone purporting to be a security official. Carry color photocopies of your passport and other identity documents to give to security or police officials instead of the originals. If confronted, remain courteous and calm and, if threatened, do not resist. Please report any incident to the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa.
Major cities such as Kinshasa, Kisangani, and Lubumbashi are relatively safe during daylight hours. Avoid walking alone and displaying cash and other personal property of value, especially after dark. Kinshasa has a critically high level of crime, and U.S. citizens continue to be the victims of serious crimes, including armed robbery. Legal recourse is limited in cases involving theft and robbery. Keep a lower profile by leaving valuable items at home, carrying only minimal amounts of cash, not carrying credit cards, not wearing conspicuously expensive jewelry or clothing, and keeping cameras and cell phones out of sight.
Most reported criminal incidents in Kinshasa involve crimes of opportunity, which include pick-pocketing and petty theft, often committed by homeless street children called “shegues” who can be aggressive and persistent, particularly in Kinshasa. In heavy traffic, be wary of these gangs of street children who may open doors and steal belongings. Be vigilant particularly on public transportation, in traffic jams, and areas surrounding hotels, supermarkets, restaurants, and nightclubs. Do not stop at the scene of an accident or at intersections where people have gathered, as mobs can develop quickly. Avoid traveling in Goma and other smaller cities after dark when robbery and banditry are common.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. The local emergency contact number for the Congolese Police is +243 81-555-5944. In October 2014, the Congolese Police launched an emergency contact number. Dial 112 to contact the police in an emergency in Kinshasa. This number eventually will be deployed throughout the DRC, but is only operative currently in Kinshasa.
- Assist you in seeking medical assistance and provide a list of doctors.
- Assist you in reporting the crime to the police, explain legal processes in general terms, and provide a list of lawyers. It is important to remember that Congolese authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting criminal and civil cases in the DRC.
- Contact relatives or friends at your request and with your written consent.
- Replace a stolen passport.
Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim assistance and compensation programs in the United States.
Local Laws & Special Circumstances
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: All international visitors to the DRC are subject to its laws, including U.S. citizens. U.S. citizen travelers have reported denial of freedom to travel, detention, and other legal difficulties with varying justifications given by Congolese authorities. In the DRC, you may be taken in for questioning for different reasons such as if you are not in possession of your passport or if you take pictures of certain buildings. In some places, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs could land you immediately in jail. If you break local laws in the DRC, your U.S. passport will not help you avoid arrest or prosecution. As the U.S. Embassy does not have legal jurisdiction in the DRC, the embassy will be limited in ways it can assist you, even if the reasons for your legal difficulty are obscure.
There are also some things that might be legal in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but still illegal in the United States.
It is a crime prosecutable in the United States to engage in sexual conduct with children and use or disseminate child pornography in a foreign country. You can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods, regardless of local law.
According to international convention, local authorities should notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested in a foreign country, but this does not always occur in practice. In the event of an arrest or detention, ask the police and prison officials to notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate as soon as possible.
Photography: It is illegal to take pictures of government buildings, military installations, and other key infrastructure. Persons caught photographing such sites will likely be fined, have their photographic equipment confiscated, and risk detention and possible arrest. Keep your camera out of sight in such locations, and do not take photos of Congolese without permission.
Phone Service: Cellular phones are the norm, as other telephone service is unreliable and landlines are nearly non-existent. Depending on the type of phone, it may be possible to purchase a SIM card locally and use a U.S.-compatible cell phone in the DRC.
Currency: U.S. currency is widely accepted in urban areas, but most vendors and banking institutions will accept only bills printed from 2006 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. Examine U.S. bills before accepting them to ensure that they are legitimate; counterfeit currency is widely circulated. Currency exchange should be conducted only at reputable banks and not on the street.
WOMEN TRAVELER INFORMATION: If you are a woman traveling abroad, please review our tips on the Women Travelers page.
LGBT RIGHTS: Consensual same-sex sexual relations are not illegal in the DRC. Prejudice against LGBT persons is widespread however. In the past year, individuals engaging in public displays of same-sex sexual conduct were subject to prosecution under public indecency provisions in the law on sexual violence and to harassment by the state security forces. Same-sex sexual orientation remains a cultural taboo. The DRC does not recognize same-sex marriages.
For more detailed information about LGBT rights in the DRC, see the State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013. For further information on LGBT travel, please read our Information for LGBT Travelers page.
ACCESSIBILITY: Persons with disabilities traveling in the DRC face limited access to transportation, communication, accommodations, and public buildings. There are few sidewalks and no curb-cuts, and most buildings lack functioning elevators. Persons with disabilities often find it difficult to obtain employment, education, or government services.
Consult the CDC website for the Democratic Republic of the Congo prior to travel for the most up to date health information. Travelers should consult with their healthcare provider before traveling to the DRC for applicable vaccinations and malaria prophylaxis. Travelers should make sure their health insurance covers them while overseas and consider supplemental insurance that includes medical evacuation.
Medical facilities are severely limited and payment for any medical services is expected in cash, in advance of treatment. Medical materials and medicines are in short supply. Carry a sufficient supply of prescription and over-the-counter medication in its original packaging for the entire trip. Due to the high levels of air borne irritants, individuals with respiratory illnesses should carry all their necessary medications and equipment with adapters.
Disease Outbreaks: U.S. citizens die from malaria every year in the DRC which has extremely high malaria transmission. Malaria prophylaxis is strongly recommended for all areas below 1700 meters. Other mosquito borne illnesses such as dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever are major problems throughout the country and prevention of bites and proper immunizations are important for all areas. Use mosquito repellents containing either 20 percent DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535 to help diminish bites from mosquitoes as well ticks, fleas, chiggers, and other pests, some of which may also carry infectious diseases. Sleep under insecticide-impregnated mosquito nets if possible.
Individuals who become ill with a fever or flu-like illness while traveling in the DRC and for up to one year after returning home, should seek prompt medical attention. Tell the physician you have traveled into a malarial area and what antimalarial medication you have been taking.
Diarrheal diseases are prevalent throughout the country. Follow scrupulous hygiene and safe food preparation. Wash hands thoroughly before eating, preparing food, and after using sanitation facilities. Be very careful with raw vegetables, leafy salads and water, including ice which could be contaminated.
All routinely recommended immunizations for the US should be up to date. Measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, pertussis and chickenpox are much more common than in the United States, especially among children. Additionally, hepatitis A and typhoid immunization is recommended for all travelers. Hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for all those who may have sexual contacts, tattoos or require medical treatment while in the DRC. Yellow Fever vaccine is required for all those more than one year old and recommended for all those more than nine months old.
Rabies immunization is recommended for all travelers staying for more than four weeks or who will have remote, rural travel or expect animal exposure. Even in urban areas dogs may have rabies and bites and scratches from dogs, bats or other mammals should be immediately cleaned with soap and water and medical evaluation sought to determine if additional rabies immunization is warranted.
Meningococcal meningitis is much more common than in the United States and immunization with the quadrivalent meningococcal vaccine should be given to all children and health care workers, it should be considered for all adults.
Schistosomiasis is caused by a parasitic worm. Avoid wading, swimming, bathing, or washing in, or drinking from bodies of fresh water. Risk is highest in lakes Tanganyika and Kivu and other bodies of water near the eastern border.
African trypanosomiasis is transmitted by the bite of the tsetse fly and is found throughout the DRC except in North Kivu and South Kivu provinces. Conventional insect repellents (DEET and permethrin) are ineffective against the tsetse fly. Wear light-colored, (not blue, which attracts tsetse flies) heavyweight clothing.
HIV/AIDS: 15 percent of sex workers in Kinshasa are estimated to be HIV positive. Travelers should clearly understand sexually transmitted disease concepts and risks for HIV transmission.
Tuberculosis (TB) is more than 20 times more common in the DRC than in the United States. Those planning long term travel or living in the DRC should consider tuberculin skin testing before travel and then again six to 12 weeks after returning from the DRC. Please consult the CDC's information on TB.
Travel & Transportation
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: Road conditions in DRC are generally poor and deteriorate significantly during the rainy season from October to May. Traffic safety is hazardous due to lack of infrastructure, poorly trained/disciplined drivers, poorly maintained vehicles, and indifference among many drivers toward the safety of pedestrians and cyclists. Use of cell phones while driving is prohibited in the DRC. As with other traffic regulations, enforcement of this law is inconsistent. Distracted drivers pose a threat.
Lock vehicle doors and keep windows closed when driving. At roadblocks or checkpoints, open the driver’s side window slightly in order to communicate and show documents through closed windows. In the event of an automobile accident, remain inside the vehicle and wait for police. If a hostile mob forms or you feel your safety is in danger, leave the scene and proceed directly to the nearest police station or gendarmerie to report the incident. Do not stop at the scene of an accident or at intersections where people have gathered, as mobs can develop quickly. In heavy traffic, be wary of gangs of street children who may open doors and steal belongings.
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. Taxis, mini-buses, buses, and trains are in poor mechanical condition and are often filled well beyond their intended capacity. Be particularly vigilant at airports where criminals have been known to use luggage tag information to present themselves as pre-arranged drivers. Overcrowded vans and taxis, which often do not meet Western safety standards, serve as public transportation in Kinshasa. Few independent taxis are available, and most do not meet U.S. safety standards. Reputable car rental firms include drivers in all rentals. The DRC has few viable highways or railways. Although boat transport is widely used, vessels are often overloaded and/or poorly maintained; accidents are commonplace and often fatal.
Official motorcades pose serious risks to drivers and pedestrians in Kinshasa. Drivers should 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. Failure to comply may result in arrest or vehicle damage with possible personal injury.
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 at roughly 7:30 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.
Ferry service between Brazzaville and Kinshasa may close completely with minimal notice. A visa for the destination country (DRC or Republic of Congo) is required to cross the Congo River between Brazzaville and Kinshasa.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
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.
Assistance for U.S. Citizens
U.S. Embassy Kinshasa
310 Avenue des Aviateurs
Democratic Republic of the Congo