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Summary

  • Reconsider your need to travel to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) due to the unpredictable security situation, ongoing armed conflict in the east and the very high level of violent crime.
  • The security situation remains volatile across the country, despite a political agreement reached on 31 December 2016. Large-scale demonstrations could occur at any time and lead to violence in Kinshasa and other large cities. During demonstrations, the only road to the N'Djili Airport in Kinshasa may be blocked and flight schedules may be disrupted. Security incidents, such as riots and demonstrations may occur sporadically along the Matidi Road in Kinshasa, causing road closures with little or no notice. Attacks on vehicles along this road are also becoming more frequent. Avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings and monitor media for latest developments. See Safety and security.
  • Do not travel to seven central, eastern and northern provinces: Kasai, Kasai Central, Kasai Oriental, Sud-Kivu, Nord-Kivu, Ituri, Maniema, Tanganyika, Bas-Uélé and Haut-Uélé due to ongoing armed conflict and the threat of kidnapping. Armed conflict in these provinces has caused hundreds of deaths in 2017. Operations by the Congolese Army against armed groups continue. Further conflict is likely. See Safety and security.
  • In March 2017, two foreign workers were kidnapped from mine sites in eastern DRC and killed. There is an increased risk of violent crime and kidnapping in the eastern and north eastern regions of the DRC. Armed groups are thought to be present in Virunga National Park in North Kivu, a known location for gorilla trekking. There are ongoing operations by the Congolese Army (FARDC) against such groups. Further conflict is likely. See Safety and security.
  • Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in the DRC. The Canadian Embassy in Kinshasa provides consular assistance to Australians in DRC, although the Embassy's ability to provide assistance outside Kinshasa is limited. Australians are encouraged to contact the Canadian Embassy to discuss emergency planning arrangements. See Where to get help.
  • See Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.

Entry and exit

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. The closest Embassy of the DRC is in Tokyo. Visas are not available at point of entry into the DRC.

The DRC is listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as endemic for yellow fever. Yellow fever is a serious and potentially fatal disease preventable by vaccination. A valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate is required for entry into the DRC. For more information about yellow fever, including Australian re-entry requirements, see the Department of Health website.

On arrival at any DRC port, visitors are required to declare any satellite telephones and GPS equipment.

All passengers departing the DRC by air are required to pay a departure tax. Departure tax passes can be purchased at airports or from designated counters at banks.

All foreigners, resident and non-resident, must declare upon entry all amounts of currency exceeding the equivalent of US$10,000. Similarly, foreigners leaving the country must declare all amounts exceeding the equivalent of US$10,000 in foreign currency.

Make sure your passport has at least six months validity from your planned date of return to Australia. Australian Provisional Travel Documents issued by the Canadian Embassy in Kinshasa, on behalf of the Australian Government, are not acceptable for travelling or transiting through South Africa.

Safety and security

Civil unrest/political tension

The security situation remains unpredictable in the DRC, despite a political agreement reached on 31 December 2016. Large-scale demonstrations could occur at any time and lead to violence in Kinshasa and other large cities. During demonstrations, the only road to the N'Djili Airport in Kinshasa may be blocked and flight schedules may be disrupted. Security incidents, such as riots and demonstrations may occur sporadically along the Matidi Road in Kinshasa, causing road closures with little or no notice. Attacks on vehicles along this road are also becoming more frequent. Avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings and monitor media for latest developments.

Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in the DRC. The Canadian Embassy in Kinshasa provides consular assistance to Australians in DRC. Australians are encouraged to contact the Canadian Embassy to discuss emergency planning arrangements.

In addition to registering on the Smartraveller website, Australian citizens should also register their presence online with the Canadian Embassy in Kinshasa or by contacting the office directly at knsha@international.gc.ca. See the Where to get help section for more information on seeking consular assistance.

Clashes between armed groups

Clashes between various armed local groups including the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF-NALU), Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR), the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), Mai-Mai groups, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and the Coalition of Congolese Patriotic Resistance (PARECO), and government forces are common in the DRC, particularly in eastern and northern provinces.

There is a large UN military presence (the United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or MONUSCO) and several humanitarian organisations operating in the DRC. Armed conflict has caused widespread displacement of civilians. Several local NGOs have suspended or reduced operations in North and South Kivu due to the unstable security situation.

Kasai provinces

Do not travel to the provinces of Kasai, Kasai Central and Kasai Oriental due to the threat of armed conflict and kidnapping. Armed clashes between local militias and government security forces in the provinces have caused hundreds of deaths in 2017. Foreigners have also been kidnapped and killed in the area (see under Kidnapping below).

Eastern and northern DRC

Do not travel to the provinces of Sud-Kivu, Nord-Kivu, Ituri, Maniema, Tanganyika, Bas-Uélé and Haut-Uélé due to ongoing armed conflict and the threat of kidnapping. In recent years, fighting in these areas has displaced hundreds of thousands of people. Anticipate further violence.

Kidnapping

There is a persistent risk of violent crime and kidnapping in the DRC, particularly in eastern and north eastern regions. In March 2017, two foreign nationals were kidnapped and killed in an area south of Kananga in Kasai Central province. A number of foreign workers were also kidnapped from mine sites in Maniema province in March 2017. Armed groups are thought to be present in Virunga National Park in North Kivu, a known location for gorilla trekking.

The Australian Government's longstanding policy is that it does not make payments or concessions to kidnappers. The Australian Government considers that paying a ransom increases the risk of further kidnappings, including of other Australians. If you do decide to travel to an area where there is a particular threat of kidnapping, ensure you have personal security measures in place and seek professional security advice. For more information about kidnapping, see our Kidnapping threat page.

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Worldwide bulletin.

Crime

There is a very high level of crime throughout the DRC and risks increase after dark. Avoid all travel after dark. Walking alone in the capital, including in daylight hours, is not recommended. Street crime and violent robbery is common, especially in Kinshasa. Foreigners have been targeted by criminals. Avoid displaying valuables and cash.

The unstable security situation in the east has resulted in increased violent crime in these areas.

Security authorities may target foreigners to solicit bribes, for example at roadblocks. Arbitrary arrests of foreign nationals by security authorities can occur. Be respectful and courteous in all interactions with security authorities and avoid sensitive areas, including military facilities. There have been reports of criminals using roadblocks and posing as police or military personnel to rob people travelling at night. Do not permit soldiers or police officers to enter your vehicle and avoid entering the vehicle of anyone purporting to be a security officer. Carry colour photocopies of your passport and other identity documents and, when requested, hand these to security officials rather than the originals.

Vehicle thefts, burglaries and carjacking are common. When driving, keep doors locked, windows closed and valuables out of sight. Do not drive off the main thoroughfares or park your vehicle in an unsupervised location.

Money and valuables

US dollars are widely accepted in the DRC, but should be in good condition (not torn) and issued after 2006. One dollar notes are rarely accepted. Examine US notes before accepting them to ensure they are legitimate. Counterfeit currency is widely circulated. Currency exchange should be conducted only at reputable banks and not on the street. Travellers' cheques are not accepted in Kinshasa and credit cards are only accepted at some major hotels. You may experience difficulties withdrawing cash from international accounts at ATMs, even at major hotels. Western Union and other money transfer agencies operate in most main towns.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

Local travel

Kinshasa's main airport (Ndjili International Airport) and ferry terminal are heavily congested and can close at short notice. Take particular care with personal security in both locations. Civil unrest has resulted in the cancellation of some flights to Kinshasa.

If travelling by air to Kinshasa, arrange to be met on arrival at the airport. Local immigration and customs procedures at Kinshasa Airport are difficult and you may need assistance from people familiar with requirements.

There is no reliable public transport.

Only taxis from some major hotels are reliable.

Driving in the DRC can be dangerous because of aggressive driving practices and low driving standards. Most roads are in poor condition with insufficient or non-existent signage and lighting. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), you are five times more likely to be killed in a motor vehicle accident in the DRC than in Australia. For further advice, see our road travel page.

Military and police roadblocks are common throughout the country, including in Kinshasa, particularly after dark. Following recent large-scale prison breaks in Kinshasa, Béni and Kasangu, local authorities have increased the number of checkpoints at night, especially in Gombe, Limete, Ngaba, Kintambo, Ngaliema, Ndjili, Mont Ngafula and around Camp Kokolo. Carry government-issued identification (carte rose, carte grise and driver's license) at all times and comply with local authorities' instructions. If approached by an officer, ask to see credentials. There have been reports of criminals using roadblocks and posing as police or military personnel to rob travellers.

There are risks involved in travelling by ferry or boat. Many are overloaded, lack necessary lifesaving equipment and are not sea worthy. Rail services are also unsafe due to poor safety standards.

Official clearance from the relevant DRC Ministry or Government Department is required before visiting any mining district.

The borders with neighbouring countries can close at short notice. The border crossing between the DRC and Uganda at Bunagana remains closed due to military action.

If you do decide to travel outside the capital, have contingency plans and take emergency equipment such as a satellite phone.

Airline safety

We recommend against travel on domestic airlines. Local airlines have poor maintenance and safety standards. The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See instead the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in the DRC.

Please also refer to our general air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

You are subject to the local laws of the DRC, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

Penalties for possession of illegal drugs include potentially harsh prison sentences and fines.

The DRC retains the death penalty for a number of offences.

Pedestrians and motorists are expected to stop beside the road when sirens or security forces announce the presence of the presidential and official motorcades. Photography of the motorcades is not permitted. Security personnel will give permission when bystanders can proceed.

Traffic and pedestrians are required to stop when passing a government installation during the raising and lowering of the national flag at approximately 7.30 am and 6.00 pm every day. Police and military personnel often detain people who neglect to do so.

Curfews may be imposed with little or no warning.

Carry your passport and visa or immigration permit at all times. Police and immigration officials can request to see your passport and immigration stamp/visa at any time. Failure to produce these documents may result in detention. Failure to adhere to immigration requirements could result in imprisonment and/or deportation.

Photography of or near government buildings or other infrastructure, including airports, is prohibited.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Information for dual nationals

The DRC does not recognise dual nationality. This may limit our ability to provide consular assistance to Australian-DRC dual nationals who are arrested or detained.

Dual nationals should carefully consider which passport they use to enter the DRC. Passengers who are unable to produce the same passport on exit may face difficulties and may be prevented from departing.

Our Dual nationals page provides further information.

Health

Take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

Consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health pages also provide useful information.

The standard of medical facilities is basic in Kinshasa and inadequate outside of the capital. Doctors and hospitals generally require up-front payment before commencing treatment. In the event of a serious illness or accident, medical evacuation to a destination with the appropriate facilities would be necessary. Medical evacuation costs can be considerable.

It may be difficult to find certain medications. If you require regular medication, ensure you take a properly marked supply for the duration of your time in the DRC.

Outbreaks of Ebola have occurred occasionally in DRC, often in remote areas. On 2 July 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the end of the most recent outbreak of Ebola in Bas-Uélé province.

Outbreaks of polio occurred in the DRC in 2011. Australian travellers to polio infected countries such as the DRC should ensure they have completed a primary course of polio vaccinations and a booster dose prior to travel. If you are unsure of your polio vaccination status, check with your doctor or travel clinic at least eight weeks before you depart.

Malaria occurs widely and throughout the year in the DRC. Other insect-borne diseases (including filariasis, plague and African sleeping sickness) also occur. Consider taking prophylaxis against malaria and take measures to avoid insect bites, including using insect repellent, wearing long, loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof.

The DRC is listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as endemic for yellow fever. Yellow fever is a potentially fatal viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes, which is preventable by vaccination. A valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate is required for entry into the DRC. For more information about yellow fever, see the Department of Health website.

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including HIV/AIDS, cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, tuberculosis, meningitis, rabies and monkeypox) are prevalent with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time.

Boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food. Do not swim in fresh water to avoid exposure to certain water-borne diseases such as bilharzia (schistosomiasis). Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

Where to get help

Depending on the nature of your enquiry, your best option may be to contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurer. Your travel insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.

If the matter relates to criminal issues, contact the local police. There is no national emergency number in the DRC.

If the matter relates to complaints about tourism services or products, contact the service provider directly.

The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and can't do to assist Australians overseas.

Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in the DRC. By agreement between the Canadian and Australian governments, the Canadian Embassy in Kinshasa provides consular assistance to Australians in the DRC, although its capacity to provide services is limited, particularly in areas outside Kinshasa. This service includes the issuance of Provisional Travel Documents.

The Canadian Embassy is located at:

Embassy of Canada, Kinshasa, DRC 

17 Avenue Pumbu
Commune de Gombe, Kinshasa
Telephone: +243 996 021 500
Facsimile: +243 99 602 1510 or +243 996 021 511
E-mail: knsha@international.gc.ca
Website: canadainternational.gc.ca/congo

You can also obtain consular assistance from the Australian Embassy in Zimbabwe:

Australian Embassy, Harare

1 Green Close
Borrowdale
Harare, Zimbabwe
Telephone: +263 4 853 235 55
Facsimile: +263 4 870 566
E-mail: zimbabwe.embassy@dfat.gov.au
Website: zimbabwe.embassy.gov.au

See the Embassy website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

In a consular emergency, if you are unable to contact the above embassies you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305, or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

The DRC is subject to earthquakes. An earthquake hit the towns of Bukavu and Goma in February 2008. Many people were injured and property was damaged. See also our earthquakes page for advice on travelling to and living in an earthquake-prone region.

Volcanic eruptions have occurred at the Nyiragongo volcano in 2002 and the Nyamulagira volcano in 2006 and January 2010.

The rainy season is April to October in the north and November to March in the south. Landslides and flooding may occur during these periods which can affect transport infrastructure.

Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System. In the event of an earthquake, volcanic activity or other natural disaster, follow the advice of local authorities.

Additional Resources