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:
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:
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:
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of 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.
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:
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.
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.
Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence may contact the Embassy for assistance.
For further 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.
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.
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:
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.
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. 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.