Travel in Congo
Following the Civil wars that occurred in the Democratic Republic of Congo from the Independence time, the travel in the destination Congo has been limited and only undertaken by the most adventurous or daring travellers along with businessmen.
Fortunately, that Congo is no more. The expanses of Congo stretching from Kinshasa to Goma, the Rwanda border to the Congo River system until its emptying in Atlantic Ocean, destination Congo only features amazing riches of the continent of Africa with diversity of wildlife, scenery and culture all thriving in a tranquil and peaceful environment.
With the assistance of the Chinese, a range of infrastructural developments including roads and rail lines connect Democratic Republic of Congo with the neighbouring states especially the Republic of Congo. The range of Airlines also connect to Congo including; Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airways, South African, African Sky, Air France, Lufthansa and Brussels Airlines. Kinshasa the main capital of Democratic Republic of Congo features a range of twenty (20) carriers that operate flights to it.
The City of Kinshasa is one of the lively cities on the continent of Africa with rich internet access; International cuisine including European, Middle Eastern, Asian, Western and Asian Cuisine is available in most of the restaurants and actually across the main Cities of Congo while the Night life is full of fun listening to the famous indigenous Lingala songs.
At the centre piece of the famous Congo basing ranked as second largest tropical rain forest in the world following the Amazon, there lies the famous Congo River noted to be offering the world’s greatest river journey. Apparently, the cruise along the Congo River is possible subject to correct home work.
Regarding the accommodation, the a range of comfortable hotels and lodges including 5 start hotels are being constructed across the main towns while Safari lodges present accommodation for travellers on Congo Safaris and tours. The Kinshasa Hotels range from around $60 but a Congo safari undertaker friendly room is around $80 – $300.
Best Time to Travel
The average day time temperature in Democratic Republic of Congo is 24 degrees Celsius while the nights are between 16 degrees Celsius and 21 degrees Celsius. The Annual rainfall ranges from 1100mm to 2000mm while seasons of the year are categorized into four namely; October to December which is a long rainy season, January to February is a short dry season, March to April is a short rainy season and May to September is a long dry season.
The Odzala National Park is the main destination in Democratic Republic of Congo and features 1500mm every year and the best time to visit it is May to December.
Kin La Belle stands a long-aged misnomer nestled in its monster of electric African sky as visible across all the streets. Kinshasa stands as one of the vibrant African cities famed for its indigenous music and less dangerous compared to some other African cities. The Lola ya Bonobo is about one hour’s drive from Kinshasa which is the popular site for day excursion from the city.
The Democratic Republic of Congo features the best hotels in the Central of Africa including the famous Kempinski Residence and Fleuve Congo Hotel. Though the nightlife is buzzing in Kinshasa, you can’t take a walk in a range of places at night apart from the areas close to embassies and good hotels.
Kinshasa is popular for its history, music and culture, the neighbouring McVallee Lake and the Bonono Orphanage. The boat ride to Kisangani is a lasting adventure into the Congo’s darkest wild. The Avenue de tourisme presents the best scenic drive along River Congo in Kinshasa.
The men in uniform are common along the road drives in Democratic Republic of Congo and they may or may not request for money from foreigners but it is advisable to carry along a pocket change for a bottle of soda for them. It is important to keep calm and sense of humour as it would help to make things smooth along the way.
If you opt to connect to Kisangani by public ferry, be prepared for an awful but a lasting adventure of its own. It is always expensive if not dangerous to procure or hire own boat to Kisangani. The public Ferry departs Kinshasa with 2 – 4 platforms in tandem that turn into floating dirty market places per 10 – 20 days.
Connecting to Kisangani takes about 15 – 20 days and the boat does not pass through the secluded and beautiful parts of Congo River. There is need for flexibility until you land on a bunk and though you may be required to secure a four bed room alone, the guarantee is low that you will have it yourself. Mosquitoes and Theft are common along the Ferry and this is not a cruise ship thus hot, not clean and unsafe. It is always exciting to see some fish being sold some of which have never been documented in science prior.
The private boat operators also exist and can as well be used where you travel in a covered boat marked by powerful engines along with a full team of porters, cooks, camping gear and permits.
On a sad note, at about 400km River Congo stretch in the south of Kisangani has developed the man eating crocodiles and canoeing and kayaking should be avoided along that area.
IS CONGO SAFE?
It can be noted that Congo is Safe. The Kinshasa City is recorded to be even safer than Johannesburg and Nairobi where crime rate is high. However, like other cities, there are parts on Kinshasa that one should not walk in alone at night.
Despite the negative media coverage positioning Congo as a land of war torn people, the destination Congo is steadily rising from the civil war conflict especially to the east of the country and presents harmonious travel platform for the world travellers. But the issues of men in uniform still remain though could be avoided with a friendly gesture and compliance.
CONGO VISA INFORMATION AND AIRPORT HASSLES IN KINSHASA
The travellers intending to take up Democratic Republic of Congo Safaris and tours require a valid passport and tourist Visa.
The Passport should be valid for six (6) months with at least one blank passport page on which the Visa can be stamped.
You require a letter of invitation from your host company in Democratic Republic of Congo which you will attach on the Visa application letter submitted to the local embassy or online at travisa. The letter of invitation has to specify the period of stay, place stay and contact information.
The computer generated flight itinerary from a travel agency or an airline detailing the port of entry and exit from Democratic Republic of Congo is as well required.
Other requirements include; the birth certificate copy and a notarized consent letter for minors, medical requirements especially the International Yellow Fever Vaccination and financial statement with enough money to sustain you during the entire period of stay in DR Congo.
Important to note is that Democratic Republic of Congo is usually given as Congo- Kinshasa to avoid confusion with the neighbouring Congo Republic.
The duration of the Congo Tourist Visa which can be obtained at all accredited Congo Consulates world over is 90 Days for Single entry but Multiple Entry Visas are as well available.
Kinshasa Airport though not so developed handles considerable traffic compared to the Brazzaville across the River. At Kinshasa, you may have issues going through the Immigration formalities in terms of delay and intensive scrutiny but a small tip can take you through such hurdles.
HEALTH CONSIDERATIONS IN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO
The travellers planning a safari to Congo are advised to consult with their doctors for any necessary medical arrangement. But generally on top of yellow Fever Vaccination, the traveller has to take along Malaria medicine as recommended by his / her doctor.
It is always advisable to have travel insurance or look out for embassy assistance in case of an emergency to advise on recommended hospitals though emergency evacuation to South Africa or Europe is much better if the problem is too serious.
GETTING TO & AROUND DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO
A range of Airlines connect to Kinshasa from Johannesburg, Nairobi and Addis Ababa along with a range of other European cities. Asia and America have not yet had direct flights to Kinshasa.
In DR Congo, the Korongo Airlines is the dominant carrier operated by Brussels Airlines and it flies between Kinshasa and Lubumbashi and Johannesburg.
The African low cost carriers though affordable haven’t reached Kinshasa but once they do, it will be great.
The Plane Charters of up to 10,000 connecting to Basankusu with thousands of Bonobos in the heart of Congo can be arranged either from Entebbe Uganda or Kinshasa.
Democratic Republic of Congo can as well be accessed overland through a range of border posts including Bunagana for Uganda and Goma for Rwanda for those interested in Congo Gorilla Safaris in Virunga National Park.
It is also possible to enter close to Bangui in Central Africa Republic or from Cameroon and these borders are less troublesome so long as you are in possession of a visa. While entering through Angola is still a challenge due to a range of illegal stops along the road by even people who pose as officials.
Crossing at Ndola close to Lubumbashi from Zambia is possible and would cost $40 – $60 for the Visa with no questions. But Lubumbashi is quite far from Kinshasa.
Katanga region has good road access constructed by the French, Chinese and African hands as they seek to connect to the mineral rich region to the ports of Atlantic Ocean at Matadi.
There are buses from Kinshasa that connect to the main towns including Matadi costing $13 and Boma $20.