Most nationals will require a visa to visit the DR Congo. Congolese Embassies or Consulates can be found in major cities around the world including London and Washington. At the time of writing the visa costs £40 in London. You will be required to produce a ‘notarised’ Letter of Authority. In addition the London embassy and possibly others, will require an ‘Engagement de Prise en Charge’ document authorised by the country’s Interior Ministry. These documents will be provided by Undiscovered Destinations and should be requested at the time you make your balance payment. Please allow 2 weeks for these documents to be issued. You may also be asked to produce a letter from your employer and possibly a recent bank statement as proof of sufficient funds. A valid Yellow Fever certificate will also be required to obtain your visa.
Regulations do frequently change though, so we advise that you check the current requirements with your nearest embassy or visa agency.
There is departure tax of US$50 for international flights and US$10 for internal flights, which must be paid at the airport. Please note that there are no taxes to be paid upon arrival, despite what airport officials may tell you. If you are asked for payment upon arrival, you should insist to see a representative from our local partner.
Health and Immunisations
As with travel to most parts of Africa, we strongly recommend that you contact your doctor’s surgery or a specialist travel clinic for up-to-date information, advice and the necessary vaccinations. For a visit of less than one month, almost certainly you will be advised to have immunisations against the following: Diphtheria and Tetanus, Hepatitis A and B, Polio and Typhoid.
Anti-malaria medication will also be required and the use of a DEET-containing insect repellent is highly recommended.
In addition you must hold a valid Yellow Fever Certificate and this will be required to support your visa application.
What should my travel insurance policy cover?
• Medical and health cover for an injury or sudden illness abroad
• 24 hour emergency service and assistance
• Personal liability covers in case you’re sued for causing injury or damaging property
• Lost and stolen possessions cover
• Cancellation and curtailment (cutting short your trip) cover
• Extra cover for activities that are commonly excluded from standard policies, such as certain sports
The policy should cover the whole time that you are away.
Your policy may also have:
• Personal accident cover
• Legal expenses cover
Common travel insurance policy exclusions
Always check the conditions and exclusions of your policy:
• Most policies will not cover drink or drug-related incidents
You must take reasonable care of your possessions or your policy will not cover you.
The local currency is the Franc Congolais (CDF). For current exchange rates visit www.xe.com. Our advice is to travel with US dollars cash. Notes should be new or in a good condition. We recommend that you keep your money concealed at all times in a money belt.
Where currency can be exchanged
Exchange facilities are available at Kinshasa’s airport and the capital’s major banks. Outside of Kinshasa facilities will be limited.
Credit cards and travellers cheques
As a general rule we advise against taking travellers’ cheques as these will be difficult, if not impossible to change. The use of credit cards is limited to the top hotels in Kinshasa. As a sensible ‘back-up’ your card provider may be able to arrange an over the counter cash advance from a Kinshasa bank – but you should check with your card issuer before travel.
Best time to go
Apart from high altitude areas, most of the country is hot the year round, lingering around 30°C during the day, with some relief at night. Rainfall is scant along the tiny coastline and increases further inland. A dry period affects most of the country between June and September.
As a general guide the best time to visit is December to February for north of the equator and April to October when travelling south of the equator. For our Congo Explored trip, the drier periods in Equateur Province are from January to March and July to September.
The official language is French. There are many local languages, the most widely spoken being Lingala, Swahili, Tshiluba and Kikongo. Other than with your guide, you will find little English is spoken.
Approximately 50% Roman Catholic, with the remainder of the population following other beliefs, including indigenous religions.
Food and drink
On our tours in the Congo you will be accompanied by a cook. Breakfast is usually continental style, including sliced bread and rolls with butter, cheese, ham/salami and jam. Lunch and dinner consist mainly of local specialties. Fresh fruit and local snack foods are served as lunch on board. The main course of dinner normally consists of meat, poultry, fish or pasta with vegetables, rice, potatoes or ‘Foufou’, a local side dish made from the manioc plant.
If you have any special dietary requirements you must notify us at the time of booking. While we will make every effort to cater for you, we cannot guarantee that this will be possible.
Your tour includes all meals, with drinking water when travelling outside of Kinshasa. You will have the opportunity to purchase local alcoholic beverages and other drinks. Prices start at $1 for a local beer. Congo is generally a cheap country and you can assume a simple lunch will cost no more than a few dollars.
Our tours in the Democratic Republic of Congo use 4wd vehicles – typically Land cruisers.
We also use scheduled flights. It should be noted that Congolese carriers do not meet the standards required and accepted in Europe and the United States and are prohibited from operating in the EU.
Our River Expedition uses a 34m long wooden boat, equipped with two powerful outboard engines. Although a traditional boat it is of course equipped with full safety equipment, toilet facilities, a generator, lighting and freezers for food and drinks. A cook and an English speaking guide accompany the trip throughout.
Our Congo Explored trip will also use dugout canoes, approximately 15 metres in length and a metre or so in width.
Travelling in the destinations that we visit requires a good deal of understanding that often standards simply won’t be as they are at home. While we aim to make your trip as comfortable as possible, please be aware that we are often visiting remote or less developed regions that may have little infrastructure. While we aim to make your trip run as smoothly as possible there may be times when we need to ask for your patience while we rectify any problems.
The Congo is not an ordinary holiday destination. It is one we do not recommend for first time visitors to Africa. Endemic corruption is a way of life and part of the country’s culture
What to take with you
First Aid Kit
The first thing on your list should be a first aid kit. Whilst there is no undue cause for alarm, travellers are best advised to travel well-prepared: adequately immunized, with sufficient supplies of prescription drugs, along with a medical kit.
When it comes to clothing it is usually recommended that lighter clothes are worn through the day, and warmer ones at night. A hat is also advised to be worn through the day to protect from the sun, along with at least one piece of waterproof clothing for any days that the weather may be wet or windy.
You will need to bring a light sleeping bag or sleep sheet on our trips in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Footwear is a main priority on this tour. Comfortable walking shoes/boots are recommended. For our Congo Explored tour we recommend taking some shoes to walk through water – some trails can be partially flooded.
Your luggage should not exceed 20kgs (44lbs). One large rucksack, and one small hand luggage rucksack is acceptable. We advise you to travel with a rucksack or soft bag rather than a suitcase.
Suncream/sunblock is a must. When out on tour, it is important to have suncream with you, as there will not be any services nearby in which to provide it.
Insect repellent, including a bite spray will be useful to have. As our tours in the Congo involve camping, a torch (flashlight) is essential.
If you will be using a camera which needs film, it is recommended that a supply is taken with you, as it is not always available locally. For those with digital cameras, we would advise you to take a spare battery.
This tour does not require any special degree of fitness but you will find it more enjoyable if you are reasonably fit.
Cultural and environmental guidelines
You may come across beggars while on tour. Every traveller has different perspectives on this and ultimately the choice is up to you. Many sources recommend that you watch to see if local people give, and then follow their lead with genuine beggars. We do not recommend giving money, sweets, pens etc to children as this can encourage a begging mentality and can lead to children choosing to beg rather than go to school.
Haggling is a way of life in Africa when making many purchases, especially with tourist souvenirs. Usually, but not always, the vendor will start with a price that is higher than they are prepared to accept, and the buyer is expected to haggle. There are no hard and fast rules with this – some vendors may initially quote a vastly overinflated price, others may start with a price close to the true value, while others may just present you with one price and not be prepared to discuss it. Although many tourists may feel uncomfortable with this, it’s important to remember that this is best entered into in a relaxed manner. Once you have agreed upon a price, it is extremely bad form to then not pay this. Please also bear in mind that a small amount of money to you can be a relatively large amount for the vendor, and that it is not necessarily best practice to ‘beat the vendor down’ to the lowest possible price. Remember that they also have a living to make.
You will be spending time in some of the most pristine rainforest environments on earth on our tours in the Congo. It is important to ensure that they stay this way. Please make sure that you take any rubbish back to the lodges and camps with you where they can be properly disposed of – this includes cigarette butts as well.
Please do not buy any products made from endangered species – this is not sustainable and hastens the species’ decline.
You should always ask permission before taking anyone’s photograph and respect their decision if they say no. In more remote areas women and older people often do not want to be photographed. Some people may also ask for some money – sometimes a little, sometimes a lot – in return for a photo. Taking photos of military installations, state buildings, and airports can lead to problems with local authorities. If you are unsure about whether it is acceptable to take a photo, please ask your tour leader or guide.
We do not recommend tipping on this trip – all members of staff are paid well and this can cause problems between the guide and other service providers. If you would like to leave some money behind, please speak to your guide about a donation for the development fund, which is reinvested in the communities that you visit.
Foreign Office Advice
At the time of writing the British Foreign Office (FCO) advised against non-essential to travel to the whole of the country. In addition the FCO currently advises against all travel to most north eastern and eastern areas of the Congo, although these are not areas visited on this tour. It is likely travel warnings will remain in place for some time to come, and we are only able to accept a booking on the basis that you are aware this is the case and confirm that you are still happy to travel irrespective of the current FCO advice.
Furthermore, it is the clients’ responsibility to ensure that they hold full travel insurance which includes medical repatriation.
You should check the validity of your insurance with your provider, given the travel warnings in place. We can however, help you organise insurance which will continue to be valid.
It should be noted that this information applies to British citizens. Other nationals are asked to check the current position of their respective government.
Public Holidays in DR Congo:
1 Jan New Year’s Day
4 Jan Commemoration of the Martyrs of Independence
17 Jan National Heroes’ Day
1 May Labour Day
17 May National Liberation Day
30 Jun Independence Day
14 Oct Youth Day
17 Nov Army Day
25 Dec Christmas
Dates are for guidance only and may vary year to year
Generally electrical supply is 220-240V AC (50 Hz) and uses European two circular pin style plugs.
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