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Democratic Republic of Congo (Kinshasa)
Official Name:

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Last Updated: October 17, 2016
Further Safety and Security Information

Travel Warnings: Issued when Protracted situations make a country dangerous or unstable. Defer or reconsider travel.

Travel Alerts: Issued when short-term conditions pose imminent threats. Defer or reconsider travel.

Embassy Messages: Issued when local security issues arise.

Assistance for U.S. Citizens

Assistance for U.S. Citizens

U.S. Embassy Kinshasa

310 Avenue des Aviateurs
Kinshasa/Gombe

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Quick Facts
PASSPORT VALIDITY:

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6 months

BLANK PASSPORT PAGES:

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1 page

TOURIST VISA REQUIRED:

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Yes, obtain in advance

VACCINATIONS:

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Yellow fever

CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY:

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5 million CDF ($5,400)

CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT:

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Illegal to export CDF

Country Map

U.S. Embassy Kinshasa

310 Avenue des Aviateurs
Kinshasa/Gombe

Telephone: +(243) 97-261-6145 (Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.)

Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(243) 081-556-0151

See our Fact Sheet on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for information on U.S. - Democratic Republic of the Congo relations.

Requirements for Entry

  • Passport
  • Visa
  • World Health Organization (WHO) card with yellow fever vaccination

Visas

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.

Airport Fees

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.

Intending Residents

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

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.

Find information on dual nationality, prevention of international child abduction, and customs information on our websites.

See the Department of State Travel Warning 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.  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.

The kidnapping of humanitarian workers is on the rise as rebel groups look for supplemental means of income. More than 35 humanitarian workers were kidnapped and held for ransom in Eastern Congo in the first half of 2016. There was a series of kidnappings in North Kivu in the area around Goma in 2015 and 2016.

There is also continued potential for civil unrest in parts of Kinshasa and other major cities related to elections.  On September 19 and 20, 2016 large-scale demonstrations erupted into violent clashes resulting in fatalities between demonstrators and security forces in Kinshasa and elsewhere in the country.

Safety Precautions

Avoid demonstrations and public gatherings. Even events intended to be peaceful can become violent and turn deadly.

Monitor consular 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. In emergencies, the Belgian Embassy operates a French-language radio broadcast system at FM 98.8.

Roadblocks: Both inside and around Kinshasa, security forces set up spontaneous roadblocks, especially after dark, to conduct vehicle searches and check passengers for identity papers. They may also solicit bribes.  To protect yourself:

  • Drive with doors locked and windows closed at all times.
  • Do not permit soldiers or police officers to enter your vehicle, and do not get into the vehicle of anyone purporting to be a security official.
  • Remain inside your vehicle with doors locked and open the window slightly to communicate.
  • Carry color photocopies of your passport and other identity documents to give to security or police officials.
  • Remain courteous and calm and, if threatened, do not resist.
  • Report any incident to the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa.

Crime

Armed robberies, burglaries, and vehicle thefts occur throughout the country. Carjackings in the North Kivu area have resulted in deaths. Criminals may pose as law enforcement officials especially after nightfall. Avoid traveling throughout the eastern DRC after dark when robbery and banditry are common.

In Kinshasa, U.S. citizens continue to be the victims of serious crimes, including armed robbery. Be aware of vehicle theft and carjacking by armed gangs. Most criminal incidents involve crimes of opportunity, which include pick-pocketing and petty theft, often committed by gangs of homeless street children called “shegues” who can be aggressive and persistent.

Be vigilant, particularly on public transportation, in traffic jams, and areas surrounding hotels, supermarkets, restaurants, and nightclubs.

In heavy traffic, be wary of shegues who may open car doors and steal belongings.

Avoid walking alone, especially after dark, and displaying cash and valuable personal property.

See the Department of State and the FBI pages for information on scams.

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. This number eventually will be deployed throughout the DRC, but is currently only operative in the communes of Linguala and Gombe in Kinshasa.

Remember local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting crime.

See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas.

We can:

  • 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.

For further information

Consult the CDC website for the Democratic Republic of the Congo prior to travel. There is currently a yellow fever epidemic in the country.

Medical facilities are severely limited. Medicines are in short supply. Carry prescription medication in original packaging, along with your doctor’s prescription.

You are responsible for all medical costs. U.S. Medicare does not cover you overseas. All care providers expect payment in U.S. dollars in full before treatment is performed. Trusted facilities in Kinshasa are often membership based and require monthly payment for access to care.

Medical Insurance: If your health insurance plan does not provide coverage overseas, we strongly recommend supplemental medical insurance and medical evacuation plans.

U.S. citizens die from malaria every year in the DRC. Use mosquito repellents containing at least 20 percent DEET. Sleep under insecticide-impregnated mosquito nets. Malaria chemoprophylaxis is strongly recommended prior to arriving in the DRC and for the duration of your stay.

Due to the high levels of air borne irritants, individuals with respiratory illnesses should carry their medications and complete equipment with adapters. Parts cannot be found in pharmacies (voltage is 220 instead of 110 as in the U.S).

The following diseases are prevalent:

HIV/AIDS: 9.8 percent of female sex workers in Kinshasa are estimated to be HIV positive.

Vaccinations: Yellow Fever vaccine is required. Be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hepatitis B vaccine is also recommended for those who may have sexual contact, tattoos or require medical treatment.

Further health information:

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 Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report.

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.

See our LGBTI Travel Information page and section 6 of our Human Rights report for further details.

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.

Students: See our Students Abroad page and FBI travel tips.

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.

Road Conditions and Safety: Outside of Kinshasa and other main cities, most roads are not drivable, even with an off-road vehicle. Road conditions 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, inadequately maintained vehicles, and indifference among many drivers toward the safety of pedestrians and cyclists. When traveling outside Goma and Bukavu, you should travel in a convoy and avoid all travel after dark due to the threat of roadside hoodlums.

Traffic Laws: You will need an international driving permit 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 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.

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.
  • 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 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. Mini-buses, buses, trains, and ferries are in poor mechanical condition and are often filled well beyond their intended capacity.

Few independent taxis are available in Kinshasa, and most do not meet U.S. safety standards.

Reputable car rental firms will include the services of a driver. Be particularly vigilant at airports where criminals have been known to use luggage tag information to present themselves as pre-arranged drivers.

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.

See 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. 

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