Electricity

Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. Various plugs are in use, but two-pin attachment plugs and round pin plugs with grounding are common.

Language

French is the official language, but Lingala, Kingwana, Kikongo, Swahili and Tshiluba are also spoken.

Money

The official currency is the Congolese franc (CDF). ATMs are available in Kinshasa and other major centres, though it may be difficult to withdraw cash from international accounts, even at major hotels. Some major hotels accept credit cards. US dollars are widely accepted; counterfeit currency is common.

Tipping

A 10 percent service charge is included in restaurant and hotel bills and further tipping is unnecessary. In general, tipping ( Mahtabish, meaning 'something extra') is expected.

Health

Yellow fever vaccination is a requirement for entry for everyone over one year old, and vaccinations against cholera, meningitis, typhoid, and polio are highly recommended.

There is a significant malaria risk throughout the country, and advice should be sought in advance about preventive measures. HIV/AIDS is prevalent. Rabies is common to the DRC, and monkeypox occurs, which is a virus usually transmitted to humans from infected ground squirrels and rodents. Regular outbreaks of pneumonic plague also occur, particularly in the district of Ituri, and is fatal if left untreated. The country has also experienced a number of ebola outbreaks over the last decade.

The Centre Prive d'Urgence (CPU) clinic in Kinshasa is able to cope with basic health problems and to stabilise a patient after serious accidents. However, medical evacuation to South Africa (or elsewhere) would be advised as soon as possible. Outside Kinshasa, western standard medical facilities are practically non-existent. Visitors are advised to take their own basic medical supplies with them, as medicines are in short supply. Medical insurance with provision for emergency air evacuation is essential for visitors.

All water should be regarded as contaminated, and milk is unpasteurised, meaning visitors should consume only imported bottled water and avoid dairy products.

Safety

The east and north east of the DRC are not secure and travellers should be cautious if travel to the region is necessary, particularly near the borders with Uganda and Rwanda. There is a high level of street crime and armed robbery, particularly in Kinshasa, where armed gangs or criminals posing as plain-clothes policemen regularly attack foreigners.

Security officials have also been known to arrest foreigners and demand payment for their release. Visitors should not display valuables on their person, walk the streets alone, or carry large amounts of money, and should keep car doors and windows locked. Demonstrations and political gatherings should be avoided. Boats and ferries are poorly maintained and have low safety standards.

Local customs

Photography is technically illegal in the Democratic Republic of the Congo without a permit. Even with a permit, visitors must never take photos of police or military personnel, official buildings, or motorcades. The Congolese may get very upset if visitors take pictures of them, or their children, without permission. At 6am and 6pm the national flag is raised and lowered, and all traffic and pedestrians are expected to stop for this ceremony, as well as for any official motorcade.

Doing business

The Democratic Republic of Congo's abundance of natural resources should make it one of Africa's richest countries, but corrupt leadership and extensive civil war have been detrimental to its economic development.

However, biodiversity, minerals, and agricultural potential offer many opportunities for foreign investment and companies are beginning to see this. Areas with potential for investment include mining, oil, energy, fishery, timber, railroads, and telecoms.

The business community in the DRC is still developing, and the country is currently ranked among the most difficult for ease of doing business. Travellers must ensure business is conducted with the correct legal establishments, and it is crucial to work with a local attorney in order to avoid mistakes caused by unfair competition, scams, or simple ignorance. Most foreign investors will find that a good deal of homework combined with respect for the local culture will make them welcome in the DRC.

The principal language used is French, and interpreters are available. It is important to establish a good personal relationship with business connections, as these relationships are often given preferential treatment.

Business tends to be formal: men wear light suits while women should avoid trousers. Formal suits and ties are generally worn only when meeting dignitaries or government officials. Business hours are usually 8am to 4pm Monday to Friday, closing at 12pm on Saturdays.

Duty free

Visitors to the DRC may import 100 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250g tobacco; one bottle of alcohol; perfume for personal use and a camera to be used for touristic purposes, without paying customs duty.

Communications

The international dialling code for the DRC is +243 and the outgoing code is 00, followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). Domestic telephone connections are unreliable. Visitors can purchase local SIM cards for unlocked phones; major hotels offer WiFi.

Passport & Visa

All foreigners entering the DRC require a visa obtained in advance, as well as a yellow fever vaccination certificate. Visas issued by any country other than the home country of the traveller may be refused, unless there is no embassy of Congo (Dem. Rep.) in the home country. Passengers with a letter issued by the Ministry of Interior and Security can obtain a visa on arrival for a maximum of seven days, and can apply to extend their stay. It is highly recommended that travellers' passports have at least six months' validity remaining after the intended date of departure from their travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

Entry requirements

US nationals require a passport valid for the period of intended stay, and a visa, to enter the DRC.

British nationals require a passport valid for the duration of intended stay, and a visa, to enter the DRC.

Canadian nationals require a passport valid for the duration of intended stay, and a visa, to enter the DRC.

Australian nationals require a passport valid for the duration of intended stay, and a visa, to enter the DRC.

South African nationals require a passport valid for the duration of intended stay, and a visa, to enter the DRC.

Irish nationals require a passport valid for the duration of intended stay, and a visa, to enter the DRC.

New Zealand nationals require a passport valid for the duration of intended stay, and a visa, to enter the DRC.

Useful contacts

There is no standard emergency number in the DRC. It is best to look up the contact details of local authorities and embassies in specific cities.

Embassies / consulates in other countries

Embassy of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 234 7690.

Embassy of the Democratic Republic of Congo, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7580 3931.

Embassy of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 230 6582.

Embassy of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 344 6475/6.

Embassies / consulates in Democratic Republic of the Congo

United States Embassy, Kinshasa: +243 81 556 0151.

British Embassy, Kinshasa: +243 81 346 4291.

Canadian Embassy, Kinshasa (also responsible for Australia): +243 996 021 500.

South African Embassy, Kinshasa: +243 81 556 6586.

Irish Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa (also responsible for DRC): +27 12 342 5062.

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