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U.S. Department of State
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Washington, DC 20520

Consular Information Sheet

 


Please click on this link to read important information you should see before you travel abroad

This information is current as of today,

Congo, Democratic Republic of the

Americans planning travel to Congo, Democratic Republic of the should read Travel Warning for Congo, Democratic Republic of the Intercountry Adoption Democratic Republic of the Congo and Worldwide Caution  Public Announcement available on the Department of State web site at http://travel.state.gov

June 05, 2006

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:The Democratic Republic of the Congo (Congo-Kinshasa) located in central Africa, is the third largest country on the continent.  The capital is Kinshasa.  French is the official language.  Years of civil war and corruption have badly damaged the country's infrastructure.  Read the Department of State Background Notes on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:  A passport, visa and evidence of yellow fever vaccination are required for entry.  Some travelers arriving in the DRC without proper proof of yellow fever vaccination have been temporarily detained, had their passports confiscated, or been required to pay a fine.  Visas should be obtained from an embassy of the DRC prior to arrival. 

Dual nationals arriving in the DRC should carefully consider which passport they use to enter the DRC.  For departure from the DRC, airlines will require a valid visa for all destination countries before they will issue a ticket or allow a passenger to board.  Airlines also require that the passenger have the correct entry stamp in the passport they wish to use to exit the country.  Passengers who are unable to leave the country on the passport they used to enter the DRC may not be able to continue on their travel itinerary.   

Additional information about visas may be obtained from the Embassy of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1726 M Street, N.W. Washington, D.C.  20036, tel. (202) 234-7690, or the DRC's Permanent Mission to the U.N, 866 United Nations Plaza, Room 511, New York, NY 10017, tel. 212-319-8061, fax: 212-319-8232, web site http://www.un.int/drcongo.  Overseas, inquiries should be made at the nearest Congolese embassy or consulate.  See our Foreign Entry Requirements brochure for more information on the DRC and other countries. 

See Entry and Exit Requirements for more information pertaining to dual nationality and the prevention of international child abduction.  Please refer to our Customs Information to learn more about customs regulations.

SAFETY AND SECURITY:  See the Department of State’s Travel Warning for the Democratic Republic of the Congo

The DRC remains unstable despite significant efforts to advance the peace process since the April 2003 formation of a power-sharing government of transition.  Democratic elections have been announced for July 30, 2006 and the electoral process may create additional tensions as this transition government winds down.  During civil disturbances there have been incidents of hostility towards U.S. citizens and other expatriates.

Both inside and outside Kinshasa, there can be military roadblocks, especially after dark.  Vehicles are often searched for weapons and valuables, and travelers are checked for identity papers.  Troops regularly seek bribes.  If confronted with such a situation, it is suggested that U.S. citizens remain courteous and calm.  If detained, report the incident to the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa as soon as possible.

Attacks against isolated villages continue sporadically in the Ituri region of Orientale province, and in North Kivu, South Kivu, and Maniema provinces, where illegal armed groups that have yet to cede control to the authority of the new transitional government continue to mount periodic attacks.  They include individuals who perpetrated the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.  The large number of rebel and government soldiers to be decommissioned as a result of the peace process is another source of potential security concerns. 

The United Nations has authorized up to 16,700 military personnel to deploy in the Congo and their operations in the east are ongoing.  Prior to the upsurge in violence in May and June 2004, security had been improving in most areas where the U.N. Mission to the DRC (known by its French acronym, MONUC) has deployed.  Elsewhere, it remains tenuous. 

Regional Terrorism also exists.  One of the many extremist rebel factions in the Great Lakes region, the Rwandan Force for Democracy and Liberty, has committed violent acts against American citizens and interests.  This faction was responsible for the March 1999 kidnapping and murder in Uganda of several western tourists, including Americans.  In April 2001, six employees of the International Committee of the Red Cross were murdered while working in the DRC, near Bunia in Orientale province.  In May of 2001, irregular Congolese Mai-Mai forces kidnapped more than 20 individuals employed by a Thai logging company in North Kivu Province.  In northeastern Congo, members of the Lord’s Resistance Army have made incursions into the DRC from southern Sudan, near the DRC border, in and around the area of Garamba National Park. 

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s Internet web site , where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444.  These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.  For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.

CRIME:  In the DRC, poor economic conditions continue to foster crime, especially in urban areas.  Travel in many sections of Kinshasa, Kisangani, Lubumbashi and most other major cities, is generally safe during daylight hours, but travelers are urged to be vigilant against criminal activity which targets non-Congolese, particularly in highly congested traffic and areas surrounding hotels and stores.  Outlying areas are less secure due to high levels of criminal activity and the lack of adequate training/supervision of the security forces present. 

Vehicle theft, burglary, and armed robbery occur throughout the country.  Driving with doors locked and windows closed is recommended at all times.  Carjacking occurs in some regions.  If confronted by members of the military or security forces, visitors should be wary of permitting soldiers or police officers to enter their vehicles or of getting into the vehicle of anyone purporting to be a security official.  It is recommended that in such instances U.S. citizens remain courteous and calm and, if threatened, not resist.  All incidents should be reported to the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa.  Consistency in administering laws and regulations is notably absent.  Travelers should note that in cases of theft and robbery, legal recourse is limited.  Therefore, valuable items may be safer if kept at home or another secure location.  Individuals purporting to be legitimate police authorities have detained and later robbed American citizens in the city of Kinshasa.  This type of crime has increased in recent months, but generally occurs more frequently during the Christmas and New Year's holidays.

Travelers using public transportation or visiting high pedestrian traffic areas of any type are advised to be vigilant against pick pocketing which is a persistent problem in all major cities in the DRC.

INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:  The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.  If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for assistance.  The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred.  Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed. 

See our information on Victims of Crime .

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:  In the DRC, medical facilities are limited, and medical materials are in short supply.  Travelers should carry properly labeled prescription drugs and other medications with them and should not expect to find an adequate supply of prescription or over-the-counter drugs in local stores or pharmacies.

For planning purposes, the minimum estimated cost of medical air evacuation to the nearest suitable health care facility (in South Africa) is $35,000. 

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel.  For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en.  Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

MEDICAL INSURANCE:  The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.  Please see our information on medical insurance overseas .

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:  While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.  The information below concerning the DRC is provided for general reference only, and may vary according to location or circumstance.

Inter-city roads are scarce, in poor condition, and often impassable in the rainy season.  When driving in cities, keep windows up and doors locked.  At roadblocks or checkpoints, documents should be shown through closed windows.  In the event of a traffic incident involving bodily injury to a third party or pedestrian, do not stop to offer assistance under any circumstances.  Proceed directly to the nearest police station or gendarmerie to report the incident and request official government intervention.  Attempting to provide assistance may further aggravate the incident, resulting in a hostile mob reaction such as stoning or beating.

Presidential and other official motorcades pose serious risks to drivers and pedestrians in Kinshasa.  When hearing sirens or seeing security forces announcing the motorcade's approach, drivers should pull off the road as far as possible, stop their vehicles, and extinguish headlights.  Vehicles should not attempt to move until the entire motorcade has passed by; the security forces will physically indicate when this has occurred.  Failure to comply may result in arrest. 

Public transportation of all forms is generally unsafe and unreliable.  Taxis, mini-buses, and trains are in poor mechanical condition and are invariably filled beyond capacity.

Visitors who wish to travel in the mining areas must first obtain government approval.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. 

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of the DRC as not being in compliance with ICAO international aviation safety standards for the oversight of Congo’s air carrier operations.  For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa/.

In-country air travel schedules are unreliable and aviation safety varies widely between airlines.  Planes may often be overloaded with passengers and/or cargo and mechanical maintenance standards are below US industry standards.  Numerous airplane crashes in recent years resulted in the deaths of several dozen passengers.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:  Drivers should stop their cars and pedestrians should stand still when passing a government installation during the raising and lowering of the Congolese flag.  This ceremony occurs at roughly 7:30 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.

Travelers should note that photography in public places in Kinshasa and around any public or government building or monument is strictly forbidden.  Persons caught photographing such sites will likely have their photographic equipment confiscated and risk detention and possible arrest.

Ferry service to and from Kinshasa and Brazzaville stops running in the late afternoon, does not operate on Sundays, and may close completely with minimal notice.  If ferry service is functioning, a special exit permit from the DRC's Immigration Service and a visa from the Republic of the Congo (Congo-Brazzaville) are required for U.S. citizens to cross the Congo River from Kinshasa to Brazzaville.

Ferry and riverboat service to the Central African Republic is suspended due to rebel control of the Ubangui River.

In the DRC, cellular phones are the norm, as other telephone service is unreliable.

U.S. currency is widely accepted, but most vendors and banking institutions will accept only new Series 1996 bills, with the large, off-center portraits, that provide stronger protection against counterfeiting.  In addition, new bills must be in near perfect condition; even those with minor stains or small tears will often be rejected.  U.S. bills should be examined before they are accepted to ensure that they are legitimate. 

CRIMINAL PENALTIES:  While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.  Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.  Persons violating Congolese laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.  Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in the Congo are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.  Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.  Please see our information on Criminal Penalties. 

CHILDREN'S ISSUES:  For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children’s Issues website. 

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:  Americans living or traveling in the DRC are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy through the State Department’s travel registration website, so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within the Congo.   Americans withoutInternet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy.  By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency.  The U.S. Embassy is located at 310 Avenue des Aviateurs, tel. 243-081-225-5872 (do not dial the zero when calling from abroad).  Entrance to the Consular Section of the Embassy is on Avenue Dumi, opposite the Ste. Anne residence.  The Consular Section of the Embassy may be reached at tel. 243-081-884-6859 or 243-081-884-4609; fax 243-081-301-0560 (do not dial the first zero when calling from abroad).

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This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated October 14, 2005, to update sections on Entry Requirements, Safety and Security, Crime, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, Aviation Safety Oversight, and Special Circumstance.