Electricity

Electrical outlets in the Congo usually supply electricity at between 220 volts, 50Hz. European two-pin plugs with round or flat pins are standard.

Language

The official language is French. Lingala and Kituba are widely spoken.

Money

The Central African CFA franc (CDF) is the official currency of the Republic of the Congo (along with five other central African countries). It is divided into 100 smaller units called centime. The Congo is primarily a cash economy. A few hotels in Brazzaville and Pointe Noire accept major credit cards but cash is usually the main method of payment in the country. There are a handful of ATMs in Brazzaville that accept foreign cards and a few in Pointe Noire. It's possible to exchange foreign currency at the larger banks.

Tipping

Small tips are appreciated and often expected in the Republic of the Congo. Generally restaurants don't add a service charge so a tip of about 10 percent is welcomed by waitors.

Health

Malaria is prevalent in the Congo and a prophylaxis with Lariam, Malarone or Doxycycline is recommended for all areas. A yellow fever vaccination is required for all travellers to the Congo over one year of age.

Those who plan on spending a lot of time outdoors and will be at risk of animal bites should consider a rabies vaccination. HIV/Aids is a concern in the Congo and visitors should be sure not to engage in unprotected sex.

Since the outbreak of the Ebola virus in recent years, all visitors to the country are advised to abstain from consuming meat sourced from unknown animals, as it's thought to be responsible for the disease.

Medical facilities in the Congo are extremely limited, particularly in rural areas. Many medicines are in short supply and travellers should bring their own supplies of medications they require, in their original packaging and with a dated and signed letter from a doctor detailing what the medication is and why it's required.

Visitors should not drink tap water unless it has been filtered, chemically treated or boiled, and should also ensure they have comprehensive travel insurance as any serious injury or illness is likely to require medical evacuation.

Safety

There have been hardly any serious episodes of conflict in the Republic of the Congo since the 2003 peace accord. Nevertheless, most travel authorities, including the US Department of State and the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, advise against travel to certain regions of the country.

Brazzaville saw violent clashes in 2016, and tourists visiting the city are advised to maintain a high level of security awareness, abstain from night time travel and avoid all political protests. Travellers should avoid all travel to the Likouala province, which has been flooded by refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo. All but essential travel should be avoided to the Pool region, south of Brazzaville.

Care should be taken on the road between Brazzaville and Pointe Noire, which has a history of roadblocks and robberies. The train route between these two cities is generally safer, although caution is still advised. Visitors should stay well-informed of any disruptions or unrest in the country and in the neighbouring DRC, as violence sometimes spills over the border.

Petty crime is common in the Republic of Congo and there have been incidents of violent crime against tourists. There is potential for vehicle break-ins and muggings, especially near ports, outside popular restaurants and bars, and on the beaches, which should be avoided completely at night. Travellers should stay alert and take all safety precautions possible.

Local customs

There are a variety of customs and cultures in the Congo, with many communities having their own traditions and beliefs. Casual clothing is acceptable but keep in mind that the Congolese take great pride in their appearance, and an overly casual appearance may be frowned on. Photographing military, government and banking buildings is prohibited.

Doing business

The Republic of Congo is one of the lowest-ranked countries in the world for ease of doing business due to the country's history of poverty, conflict and corruption, but the Congolese people are renowned for their friendliness and are generally very welcoming of foreigners.

Forestry is a large part of the economy of the DRC, with roughly 60 percent of the country covered in tropical rainforest. Other potential cash crops include sugar, coffee and cocoa, and other exports include petroleum and diamonds.

Business practices are fairly formal but due to the hot climate, suits are often worn only when meeting with officials. The society is patriarchal and women should generally avoid wearing trousers to business meetings. Handshakes are the acceptable mode of greeting.

Office hours are generally from 8am to 12pm and 2pm to 3pm from Monday to Friday, and 8am to 12pm on Saturday. One of the main obstacles to doing business in the Congo is the lack of high-quality communications infrastructure, making it difficult at times to get reliable phone lines or high-speed internet connections.

Duty free

Visitors to Congo do not need to pay import tax on one bottle of spirits and one bottle of wine and an amount of perfume reasonable for personal use. Men may import up to 200 cigarettes or one box of cigars, while women may only bring cigarettes.

Communications

In Brazzaville and Pointe Noire and a number of hotels and restaurants offer free WiFi. The international access code for the Republic of Congo is 242, with the area code for Brazzaville being 28 and Pointe Noire being 29.

Passport & Visa

Visitors require proof of sufficient funds to cover their stay and in addition to a visa, visitors must hold a letter of invitation or a hotel reservation. Visa can only be issued on arrival to those passengers in possession of a letter (Visa Volant) issued by the Ministry of Interior and Security. Visitors not holding visas issued in the country of residence could be refused entry. Visas issued in another country will only be accepted when there is no embassy of Congo (Dem. Rep.) in the country of residence. It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

Entry requirements

US citizens must have a valid passport and a visa to enter the Republic of the Congo.

British citizens must have a valid passport and a visa to enter the Republic of the Congo.

Canadian citizens must have a valid passport and a visa to enter the Republic of the Congo.

Australian citizens must have a valid passport and a visa to enter the Republic of the Congo.

South African citizens must have a valid passport and a visa to enter the Republic of the Congo.

Irish citizens must have a valid passport and a visa to enter the Republic of the Congo.

New Zealand citizens must have a valid passport and a visa to enter the Republic of the Congo.

Useful contacts

117 (Police), Fire (118)

Embassies / consulates in other countries

Republic of Congo Embassy, Washington (also responsible for Canada). Tel: (202) 726 5500.

Republic of Congo Honorary Consulate, London. Tel: (203) 077 9958.

Congolese (Dem) Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 230 6582.

Republic of Congo Embassy, Pretoria. Tel: (012) 342 5508.

Embassies / consulates in Congo

United States Embassy, Brazzaville. Tel: (242) 06 612 2000.

United Kingdom Honorary Consul, Brazzaville. Tel: (242) 066 473 23/ (242) 055 513 251.

Canadian Embassy, Kinshasa (also responsible for Republic of Congo). Tel: (243) 99 602 1500.

South African Embassy, Brazzaville. Tel: (242) 660 0211.

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