Democratic Republic of the Congo

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Tuesday, 28 October 2014.   This advice contains updated information in the Summary, and under Health and Entry and exit (the outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease in Equateur province is a separate lineage from the west Africa outbreak). We continue to advise Australians to reconsider their need to travel to the Democratic Republic of Congo due to the unpredictable security situation, ongoing armed conflict in the east of the country and the very high level of crime. We advise Australians not to travel to eastern and north-eastern regions of the DRC, including Goma, North and South Kivu Provinces and the Ituri district of Orientale Province.

Democratic Republic of the Congo overall

Eastern and north-eastern regions, including North and South Kivu Provinces and the Ituri district of Orientale Province

Summary

  • We recommend that you 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 of the country and the very high level of crime.
  • An outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) has led to a number of deaths in Equateur Province in northern DRC. This is a separate lineage of EVD from the west Africa outbreak. Australians in DRC should be aware that many countries in Africa, including the major travel hubs of Kenya and South Africa, have now banned entry to travellers who have been in EVD affected countries.
  • In recent months there have been reports of fighting and unrest in the Ministry of Defence/Camp Tshatshi area of Kinshasa, in Katanga Province in the southeast and in Kindu, Maniema Province, in the east. The security situation remains fragile.
  • We strongly advise you not to travel to eastern and north-eastern regions of the DRC including Goma, North and South Kivu and the Ituri district due to the volatile security situation. Virunga National Park, which offers gorilla experiences, is located in this area. There has been intermittent armed conflict between rebel groups and the Congolese Army (FARDC) in recent months. In October 2013 fighting broke out to the north of Goma, close to the Rwandan border. Further conflict is likely.
  • The unstable security situation in the east and north-east has led to an increase in violent crime and an increased threat of kidnapping.
  • Political and ethnic protests and demonstrations occur throughout the country and have become violent in the past. You should exercise extreme caution and avoid all large gatherings, protests and demonstrations as they may turn violent.
  • Kinshasa’s main airport, Ndjili International Airport, and ferry terminal can close at short notice.
  • Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in the DRC. The Canadian Embassy located in Kinshasa, provides consular assistance to Australians in DRC. This service includes the issuance of Provisional Travel Documents. The Australian Embassy in Zimbabwe can also assist Australians in the DRC.
  • Due to the unpredictable security situation in the DRC, we strongly recommend that you register your travel and contact details with us, so we can contact you in an emergency.
  • See also our general advice for business travellers.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
    • organise comprehensive travel insurance and check what circumstances and activities are not covered by your policy
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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. Travellers are advised that 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 or 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. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas. 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

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General advice to Australian travellers.

Civil unrest/political tension

We recommend that you reconsider your need to travel to the DRC due to the unpredictable security situation and ongoing armed conflict. We strongly advise you not to travel to eastern and north-eastern regions of the DRC including Goma, North and South Kivu and the Ituri district in Orientale Province due to the highly volatile security situation. This area includes Virunga National Park where gorilla experiences are offered.

In July 2014 there were reports of shooting in the Ministry of Defence/Camp Tshatshi area of Kinshasa. In recent months there have also been reports of fighting and unrest in Katanga Province and in Kindu, Maniema Province.

The security environment is unpredictable and may deteriorate with little warning. Political campaigning has been marked in the past by unrest and violence. Political or ethnic demonstrations may result in violent incidents across the country. You should avoid all civil disturbances, protests or demonstrations as they may turn violent.

You should monitor the media for possible risks to your safety and security and follow the directions of local authorities. Local curfews can be imposed with little warning.

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.

There are numerous government security forces stationed in urban areas, including Kinshasa. Local authorities, including the police, often have limited or no capacity to control the situation or provide assistance.

There is also 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. Over 2.6 million people have been internally displaced within DRC.

Eastern regions:

We strongly advise Australians not to travel to the eastern and north-eastern regions of the DRC, including Goma, North and South Kivu Provinces and the Ituri district of Orientale Province, because of the dangerous and unstable security situation and armed conflict throughout these areas.

In November 2012, the rebel group, M23, carried out a number of attacks in North and South Kivu and took control of Goma. There was renewed fighting in the area around Goma in August and October 2013, causing civilian deaths and injuries.

Armed groups sporadically launch attacks in the eastern provinces and in Katanga province in the south-east, making the security situation volatile. Fighting in the eastern provinces has led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people. The Congolese military regularly conducts operations targeting rebel groups in the eastern provinces and in Katanga province.

Several local NGOs have suspended or reduced operations in North and South Kivu due to the unstable security situation.

The United Nations reports that government soldiers and rebel groups have been responsible for politically-motivated killings, looting, sexual violence, kidnapping, carjacking, and instability in these regions. For more information about kidnapping, see our Kidnapping threat travel bulletin.

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, you should ensure you have personal security measures in place and seek professional security advice.

Crime

There is a very high level of crime throughout the DRC and risks increase after dark. You should avoid all travel after dark.

The unstable security situation in the east and north-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. Australians are advised to be respectful and courteous in all interactions with security authorities and to 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 carjackings are common. When driving, keep doors locked and windows closed at all times and keep valuables out of sight. You should not drive off the main thoroughfares or park your vehicle in unsupervised areas.

Street crime and violent robbery is common, especially in Kinshasa. Foreigners have been targeted by criminals. You should avoid displaying valuables and cash.

Walking alone in the capital, including in daylight hours, is not recommended.

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. You should 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 are present 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. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

Review the general advice to Australian travellers for further information on being safe and prepared abroad.

Local travel

Kinshasa’s main airport (Ndjili International Airport) and ferry terminal can close at short notice. Civil unrest has resulted in the cancellation of some flights to Kinshasa.

If travelling by air to Kinshasa, we strongly recommend that you 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. For further advice, see our road travel page.

Military and police roadblocks are common throughout the country, including in Kinshasa, particularly after dark. They may not be clearly marked. You may be required to show identification documents, including car registration and ownership papers. 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 Angola, Rwanda and Burundi can close at short notice.

The border crossing between the DRC and Uganda at Bunagana remains closed due to military action.

Be aware that the Virunga National Park where gorilla experiences are offered, is within the area to which we recommend against all travel.

If you do decide to travel outside the capital, have contingency plans and bringing 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

When you are in the DRC, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research local laws before travelling.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

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

Any offence leading to a person's death is punishable by the death penalty.

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.

We recommend you 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.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of 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

Ebola and other haemorrhagic illnesses: The DRC Government has confirmed that an Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak, including a number of deaths, has occurred in Equateur Province in northern DRC. This is a separate lineage of EVD from that which is currently affecting countries in west Africa. We recommend that you monitor information from the World Health Organization on disease outbreaks.

Separately, since mid-July 2014, hundreds of cases of suspected ‘febrile haemorrhagic gastroenteritis’ have been reported in Equateur province, reportedly causing more than 60 deaths, but these have not been confirmed as EVD.

Australians in DRC should be aware that many countries in Africa, including the major travel hubs of Kenya and South Africa, have now banned entry to travellers who have been in EVD affected countries.

Other health information

We strongly recommend that you 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.

It is important to 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 page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

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. Any evacuation of Ebola patients will be extremely difficult to conduct.

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

Outbreaks of poliomyelitis occurred in the DRC in 2011. All 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. We encourage you to consider taking prophylaxis against malaria and to take measures to avoid insect bites, including using insect repellent at all times, wearing long, loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing and ensuring your accommodation in 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. We strongly recommend that you are vaccinated against yellow fever before travelling to the DRC. See the Entry and Exit section for important information about vaccination certificate requirements. 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.

We recommend you 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 insurance provider in the first instance.

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 it is unlikely to be able to provide assistance in the areas to which we advise against all travel. This service includes the issuance of Provisional Travel Documents. The Canadian Embassy is located at:

Embassy of Canada, Kinshasa

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: www.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: www.zimbabwe.embassy.gov.au
See the High Commission website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

If you are travelling to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we strongly recommend that you register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

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.

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 Humanitarian Early Warning Service. In the event of an earthquake, volcanic activity or other natural disaster, follow the advice of local authorities.



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.