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Democratic Republic Of The Congo Travel Information

The Basics

Time

GMT +1 in the west (Kinshasa) and GMT +2 in the east.

Electricity

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

Language

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

Travel 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. Large numbers of cases of acute watery diarrhoeal syndrome have been reported in North Kivu province (east DRC) since September 2008. In many instances these have been fatal. In areas of poor sanitation it is not advisable to drink water unless it has been treated by boiling and filtration or with a chemical purifier. 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 endemic 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. An outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus occurred in September 2007 and again in July 2012.

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, therefore consume only imported bottled water and avoid dairy products.

Tipping

A 10 percent service charge is included in restaurant and hotel bills and further tipping is unnecessary. In general, tipping (known as 'Mahtabish' or 'something extra') is a way of life and it is routine to give some small change for all services.

Safety Information

Travellers are advised against all but essential travel to the Democratic Republic of the Congo because of continuing tension and insecurity. The east and north east of the country are insecure and travellers should be cautious if travel to the region is necessary, particularly near the borders with Uganda and Rwanda. All travel to Bas-Congo should be avoided. There are frequent armed clashes in the district of Ituri near the Ugandan border, as well as Kivu province and northern Katanga. 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. Do not display valuables on your person, walk the streets alone or carry large amounts of money, and keep car doors and windows locked. Demonstrations and political gatherings should be avoided. Boats and ferries are poorly maintained and have low safety standards. The DRC also has one of the world's worst air safety records.

Local Customs

Photography is technically illegal in the Democratic Republic of the Congo without a permit. Even with a permit though, one must never take photos of police or military personnel, official buildings or motorcades. The Congolese may get very upset if you take pictures of them, or of 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.

Business

By rights, the Democratic Republic of Congo should be one of Africa's richest countries due to its abundance of natural resources, yet it has suffered from corrupt leadership and extensive civil war; however its biodiversity, abundant forest and mineral resources, and agricultural potential offer many opportunities for foreign investment. Some key areas with potential for investment include mining, oil, energy, fishery, timber, railroads and telecoms.

The business world in the DRC is still developing, and the country is currently ranked among the most difficult for ease of doing business; one 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.

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). International direct dialling is available. Domestic telephone connections are unreliable. There are GSM 900 and 1800 networks with variable coverage and roaming agreements covering Kinshasa, but it is unwise to use a mobile phone in public because of the likelihood of robbery. There are some Internet cafes in Kinshasa, but power failures can be a problem.

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.

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