Democratic Republic Of The Congo Travel Information
GMT +1 in the west (Kinshasa) and GMT +2 in the east.
Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. Various plugs are in use, but two-pin attachment plugs and round pin plugs with grounding are common.
French is the official language, but Lingala, Kingwana, Kikongo, Swahili and Tshiluba are also spoken.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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