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Congo Travel Information

The Basics

Time

Local time is GMT +1.

Electricity

Electrical outlets in the Congo usually supply electricity at between 220 and 240 volts. European two-pin plugs with round or flat pins are standard.

Language

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

Travel 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. Vaccinations are also recommended for hepatitis A, hepatitis B and typhoid. Visitors should also ensure that they are up to date on their vaccinations for polio, MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) and tetanus-diphtheria. 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 common in the Congo and visitors should be sure not to engage in unprotected sex.

Medical facilities are extremely limited throughout the country, 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 is required. Visitors should not drink tap water unless it has been filtered, chemically treated or boiled. Visitors should ensure that they have comprehensive travel insurance as any serious injury or illness is likely to require medical evacuation.

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 10 percent is welcomed by waitors.

Safety Information

Although the Republic of Congo is still recovering from civil war, there have been no serious episodes of conflict or violence 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. Travellers should avoid all travel to the Likouala province, which has been flooded by refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and 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. Armed robberies, vehicle break-ins and muggings are unfortunately quite common, especially near ports, outside popular restaurants and bars, and on the beaches, which should be avoided completely at night.

Local Customs

There are a variety of customs and cultures in the Congo as each community may have their own traditions. Casual clothing is acceptable; however, 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.

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% of the country covered in tropical rainforest. Other potential cash crops include sugar, palm oil, coffee, and cocoa; other exports include sawn timber, petroleum, and diamonds.

Business practices are fairly formal, however in the hot climate, suits are often worn only when meeting with government officials; women should avoid trousers. 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 a good phone line, or high-speed internet connection.

Communications

Landline telephone penetration is low in the Republic of Congo and landlines are often out of order due to extremely limited and poorly maintained telecommunications infrastructure. Cellular phone usage has increased hugely over the last few years. There are numerous internet cafes in Brazzaville and Pointe Noire and a number of hotels and restaurants offer free wireless internet access. The international access code for the Republic of Congo is 242. The area code for Brazzaville is 28, and Pointe Noire 29.

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/50 cigars/227g of tobacco, while women may only bring cigarettes. Cameras may be temporarily imported by tourists, however radios, audio equipment and gifts are subject to import tax.

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