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Democratic Republic of the Congo

Democratic Republic of the Congo (D.R.C.)
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Reconsider travel to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) due to crime and civil unrest. Some areas have increased risk. Read the entire Travel Advisory.

Reconsider travel to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) due to crime and civil unrest. Some areas have increased risk. Read the entire Travel Advisory.

Do Not Travel To:

  • North Kivu and Ituri provinces due to crime, Ebola, and kidnapping.
  • Eastern DRC and the three Kasai provinces due to armed conflict.

Violent crime, such as armed robbery, armed home invasion, and assault, while rare compared to petty crime, is not uncommon, and local police lack the resources to respond effectively to serious crime. Be aware that assailants may pose as police or security agents.  

Many cities throughout the country experience demonstrations, some of which have turned violent. Police authorities have at times responded with heavy-handed tactics that have resulted in civilian casualties and arrests.

The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens outside of Kinshasa due to extremely limited infrastructure and poor security conditions.

Read the Safety and Security section on the country information Page.

If you decide to travel to the Democratic Republic of the Congo:

North Kivu and Ituri Provinces

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.

A significant number of both confirmed and probable cases of Ebola have been reported in nine health zones of Congo’s North Kivu and Ituri provinces.

The U.S. government is unable to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in North Kivu and Ituri provinces as U.S. government travel to these areas is restricted.  

Visit our website for Travel to High-Risk Areas.

The Eastern DRC Region and the Three Kasai Provinces

Parts of eastern DRC and the provinces of Kasai Oriental, Kasai Central, and Kasai Occidental are unstable due to armed group activity and military operations.  Major outbreaks of violence include the targeting of civilians in these areas.

The U.S. government is unable to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in eastern DRC region and the three Kasais provinces as U.S. government travel to these regions is restricted.   

Visit our website for Travel to High-Risk Areas.

Last Update: Reissued with updates to the Risk Indicators.

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Embassy Messages

Alerts

Quick Facts

PASSPORT VALIDITY:


6 months

BLANK PASSPORT PAGES:


1 page

TOURIST VISA REQUIRED:


Yes, obtain in advance

VACCINATIONS:


Yellow fever

CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY:


5 million CDF ($5,400)

CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT:


Illegal to export CDF

Embassies and Consulates

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

Destination Description

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.

Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements

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 regulations on our websites.

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.

Safety Precautions:

  • 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.

Crime:

Armed robberies, burglaries, and vehicle thefts occur throughout the country. Criminals may pose as law enforcement officials especially after nightfall.

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.

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:

Local Laws & 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:

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.

Health

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.

Use 20 percent DEET mosquito repellents and mosquito nets. Malaria chemoprophylaxis recommended.

Due to poor air quality, individuals with respiratory illnesses should carry medications with adapters.

Prevalent diseases:

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:

Travel and Transportation

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.

See our Road Safety page for more information. Visit the website of the DRC’s national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety.

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.

International Parental Child Abduction

Review information about International Parental Child Abduction in Democratic Republic of the Congo.  For additional IPCA-related information, please see the International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act (ICAPRA) report.”

Last Updated: November 20, 2018

Travel Advisory Levels

Assistance for U.S. Citizens

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
+(243) 081-556-0151
Fax
No Fax

Democratic Republic of the Congo (D.R.C.) Map