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Democratic Republic of the Congo

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Summary

  • Reconsider your need to travel to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) due to the volatile security and political situation, armed conflict in the east, and the very high level of violent crime.
  • Do not travel to Kasai, Kasai Central, Kasai Oriental, Sud-Kivu, Nord-Kivu, Ituri, Maniema, Tanganyika, Bas-Uélé and Haut-Uélé provinces due to ongoing armed conflict and the threat of kidnapping. Armed conflict between the Congolese Army and armed groups in these provinces caused hundreds of deaths in 2017.

  • Do not travel to Virunga National Park in Nord-Kivu. Due to security concerns, the park will be closed to visitors until at least 2019.

  • Large-scale demonstrations or riots could occur at any time and lead to violence in Kinshasa and other large cities. Avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings. See Safety and security.

  • Riots and demonstrations, especially along the Matidi Road in Kinshasa, cause road closures with little or no notice. During unrest, the only road to the N'Djili Airport in Kinshasa may be blocked and flight schedules may be disrupted. See Local travel.

  • There is an increased risk of violent crime and kidnapping in eastern and north-eastern DRC. Foreigners are often targeted. See Safety and security.

  • Armed groups are likely present in Virunga National Park in North Kivu, a 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 the DRC but its ability to provide assistance outside Kinshasa is limited. Register your presence online with the Canadian Embassy in Kinshasa or by contacting the office directly at knsha@international.gc.ca. 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

Visas

You'll need a visa to enter the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).  

Visas are not available on arrival – you'll need to get your visa before you travel. The closest Embassy of the DRC to Australia is in Tokyo.

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact an Embassy or Consulate of the DRC for up-to-date information

Other formalities

You'll need a valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate to enter the DRC. Yellow fever is a serious and potentially fatal disease that is preventable by vaccination. It is endemic in the DRC. Read Yellow fever for information on re-entry to Australia following exposure to yellow fever.  More information: Yellow fever risk and certification requirements (by country, WHO)

On arrival, you must declare any satellite telephones and GPS equipment.

You'll need to pay a departure tax if you leave the DRC by air. Departure tax passes can be purchased at airports or from designated counters at banks.

Passport

Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months from the date you intend to return to Australia.

Your passport is a valuable document and attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place.

Be aware of attempts to obtain access to your passport by deception. If you're forced to hand over your passport, contact the Australian High Commission for advice.

If your passport is lost or stolen, you must notify the Australian Government as soon as possible.

If you need to replace a lost or stolen passport in the DRC, the Canadian Embassy in Kinshasa can issue you an Australian Provisional Travel Document. You can't travel to, or transit through, South Africa on a provisional travel document so you'd need to leave Uganda using another route.

Money

The local currency is the Franc Congolais (CDF). Declare all local and foreign currency in excess of USD10,000 on arrival and departure.

The USD is widely accepted. USD notes need to be in good condition (not torn) and issued after 2006. One dollar notes are rarely accepted. Counterfeit currency is widely circulated. Examine USD notes before accepting them to ensure they are legitimate.

Only exchange currency exchange at licenced commercial banks and exchange bureaux – not on the street. Western Union and other money transfer agencies operate in most main towns.

Travellers cheques are not accepted. Credit cards are accepted at some major hotels.

A limited number of ATMs are available in Kinshasa and major centres. You may experience difficulties withdrawing cash from international accounts at ATMs, even at major hotels.

Safety and security

Civil unrest and political tension

A political agreement to end armed conflict was reached on 31 December 2016 but the security situation remains volatile.

Large-scale demonstrations could occur at any time and lead to violence in Kinshasa and other large cities. Security incidents, such as riots, demonstrations and attacks on vehicles, occur sporadically along the Matidi Road in Kinshasa, causing road closures with little or no notice. During demonstrations, the only road to the N'Djili Airport in Kinshasa may be blocked and flight schedules may be disrupted.

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.

Armed conflict is ongoing or a serious threat in:

  • Kasai, Kasai Central and Kasai Oriental provinces, where clashes caused hundreds of deaths in 2017
  • Sud-Kivu, Nord-Kivu, Ituri, Maniema, Tanganyika, Bas-Uélé and Haut-Uélé provinces, where fighting has displaced hundreds of thousands of people in recent years.

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.

  • Reconsider your need to travel to the DRC.
  • Do not travel to Kasai, Kasai Central or Kasai Oriental provinces.
  • Do not travel to Sud-Kivu, Nord-Kivu, Ituri, Maniema, Tanganyika, Bas-Uélé and Haut-Uélé provinces.
  • Do not travel to Virunga National Park in Nord-Kivu. Due to security concerns, the park will be closed to visitors until at least 2019.

If you travel to the DRC despite the risks,

  • avoid all protests, demonstrations and large gatherings.
  • monitor the media for news of planned or possible unrest and avoid affected areas
  • follow the advice of local authorities
  • adopt appropriate personal security measures
  • keep adequate supplies of water, food, fuel, cash and medications
  • keep your passport and other travel documentation up-to-date
  • regularly review your contingency plan in light of local developments and your personal circumstances
  • be ready to leave the DRC at short notice if there is a deterioration in the security environment.
  • seek and implement professional security advice if you travel to 'do not travel' areas despite our advice.

Kidnapping

There is a persistent risk of kidnapping in the DRC, particularly in the eastern and north eastern regions. Foreign nationals are often targeted.

Areas with a particularly high risk of kidnapping include:

  • Virunga National Park in North Kivu, where armed groups are likely present
  • Kasai, Kasai Central and Kasai Oriental provinces
  • Sud-Kivu, Nord-Kivu, Ituri, Maniema, Tanganyika, Bas-Uélé and Haut-Uélé provinces.

The Australian Government's longstanding policy is that it does not make payments or concessions to kidnappers.

If you decide to travel to an area where there is a particular threat of kidnapping,

  • seek professional security advice
  • have effective personal security measures in place
  • be alert to possible threats at all times
  • vary your routes and patterns of movement.

More information: Kidnapping

Crime

There is a very high level of crime throughout the DRC. Risks increase after dark. Street crime, violent robbery, vehicle thefts, burglaries and carjacking are common, especially in Kinshasa. Foreigners are sometimes targeted.

There are reports of criminals using roadblocks and posing as police or military personnel to rob people travelling at night.

Security authorities may target foreigners to solicit bribes, for example at roadblocks. Arbitrary arrests of foreign nationals by security authorities can occur.

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

  • Reconsider your need to travel to the DRC.
  • Carry only what you need - leave other valuables in a secure location.
  • Carry colour photocopies of your passport and other identity documents. When requested, hand these to security officials rather than the originals.
  • Don't tempt thieves – avoid displaying expensive watches, jewellery, phones and cameras.
  • Keep vehicles doors locked, windows up and valuables out of sight at all times, including when moving.
  • Don't drive off the main thoroughfares.
  • Don't park your vehicle in an unsupervised location.
  • Secure your accommodation against intruders, including when you're in it.
  • Be alert to your surroundings at all times.
  • Avoid travelling after dark.
  • Avoid walking alone in Kinshasa, including in daylight hours.
  • Avoid sensitive areas, including military facilities.
  • Be respectful and courteous in all interactions with security authorities.
  • Do not permit soldiers or police officers to enter your vehicle.
  • Avoid entering the vehicle of anyone purporting to be a security officer.

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. More information: Terrorist threat worldwide

Local travel

Borders

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

Mining districts

You'll need official clearance from the relevant DRC Ministry or Government Department before visiting any mining district. More information: Ministry of Mining (French only)

Road travel

You're five times more likely to be killed in a motor vehicle accident in the DRC than in Australia. Hazards include aggressive driving practices, low driving standards, roads in poor condition and lack of street signage and lighting.

Military and police roadblocks are common throughout the country, including in Kinshasa, particularly after dark. Following large-scale prison breaks in Kinshasa, Béni and Kasangu, local authorities increased the number of checkpoints at night, especially in Gombe, Limete, Ngaba, Kintambo, Ngaliema, Ndjili, Mont Ngafula and around Camp Kokolo.

There have been reports of criminals using roadblocks and posing as police or military personnel to rob travellers. See Safety and security.

  • Familiarise yourself with local traffic laws and practices before driving.
  • Drive defensively.
  • Be alert to possible hazards, especially at night.
  • Don't drink and drive.
  • Carry government-issued identification (carte rose, carte grise and driver's license) at all times.
  • If approached by an officer, ask to see credentials.
  • Take security precautions – see Safety and security.
  • Get up-to-date local advice on road conditions, including security risks and road closures, before travel outside Kinshasa.
  • If you travel outside Kinshasa, have contingency plans and take emergency equipment such as a satellite phone.
  • Comply with local authorities' instructions.

More information: Road travel

Driver's licence

You can drive in the DRC with a valid Australian driver's licence and an International Driving Permit (IDP). You must obtain your IDP before departing Australia.

Motorcycles

Check with your travel insurer whether your policy covers you when using a motorcycle, quad bike or similar vehicle. Your policy may not cover you for accidents that occur while using these vehicles. Wear, and ensure your passenger wears, a correctly fastened and approved helmet.

Taxis

Due to the high risk of crime, use only registered taxis and limousines, preferably those arranged through your hotel. Do not use unofficial taxis or taxis hailed on the street as robberies occur.

Public transport

Do not use public transport. Bus and rail services are unsafe due to poor safety standards. Crime also occurs on public transport.

Boat travel

There are risks involved in travelling by ferry or boat. Many are overloaded, lack necessary lifesaving equipment and are not sea worthy.

Kinshasa's main ferry terminal is heavily congested and can close at short notice. Pay close attention to your personal security in and around the ferry terminal.

Air travel

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

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

Avoid travelling 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 the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in the DRC.

More information: Air travel

Laws

You are subject to the local laws of the DRC, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. Research laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

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.

Drug laws

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

Other laws

The death penalty applies to a number of offences.

You must 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.

Curfews can be imposed with little or no warning.

Pedestrians and motorists must stop beside the road when sirens or security forces announce the presence of a presidential or other official motorcade. Security personnel will give permission when bystanders can proceed.

Traffic and pedestrians must stop when passing a government installation during the raising and lowering of the national flag at approximately 7:30am and 6:00pm every day.

Activities that are illegal in the DRC include:

  • photography of or near government buildings or other infrastructure, including airports
  • photography of a presidential or other official motorcade
  • failing to produce your passport and visa or immigration permit on request
  • failing to stop when required for a motorcade or flag raising or lowering.

Australian laws

Some Australian criminal laws apply overseas. If you commit these offences, you may be prosecuted in Australia. Laws include those relating to:

  • bribery of foreign public officials
  • child pornography
  • child sex tourism
  • female genital mutilation
  • forced marriage
  • money laundering
  • terrorism.

More information: Staying within the law

Dual nationals

The DRC doesn't recognise dual nationality. This may limit our ability to provide consular assistance to you if you're an Australian-DRC dual national and you're arrested or detained.

You need to enter and exit the DRC using the same passport. If you can't produce the same passport on exit, you may be prevented from departing or face other difficulties. If you're a dual national, carefully consider which passport you use to enter the DRC.

More information: Dual nationals

Health

Travel insurance

Take out comprehensive travel insurance before you depart to cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation.

You're likely to require a specialised insurance policy for any travel to 'do not travel' destinations. Some Australian insurance policies may not cover you for travel to 'do not travel' destinations.

Regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government won't pay for your medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

Confirm:

  • what circumstances and activities are and are not covered under your policy
  • that you are covered for the whole time you will be away.

Physical and mental health

Consider your physical and mental health before travelling, especially if you have an existing medical condition.

  • At least eight weeks before you depart, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and implications for your health.
  • Get vaccinated before you travel.

More information:

Medication

Not all medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia are available in other countries. Some may be illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.

Before you leave Australia, check if your medication is legal in each country you're travelling to and find out if any quantity restrictions or certification requirements apply. Consult your doctor about alternatives well in advance of travel

Take enough legal prescription medicine with you to last for the duration of your stay so you remain in good health. Carry copies of your prescription and a dated letter from your doctor stating what the medicine is, how much you'll take and that it's for personal use only.

More information: Prescription medicines

Health risks

Ebola virus disease (Ebola)

Outbreaks of Ebola have occurred occasionally in DRC, often in remote areas.

Polio

Outbreaks of polio occurred in the DRC in 2011.

  • Make sure you're up-to-date with vaccinations against polio, including a booster dose if required. Speak to your doctor if you're unsure whether you're fully vaccinated for polio.
  • Carry evidence that you have received a dose of polio vaccine within 12 months prior to departure from the DRC.

More information:

Insect-borne diseases

Yellow fever is endemic and malaria occurs widely throughout the year in the DRC. Other insect-borne diseases (including filariasis, plague and African sleeping sickness) also occur.

Protect yourself against insect-borne diseases:

  • get vaccinated against yellow fever before you travel
  • consider taking malaria prevention medication
  • ensure your accommodation is insect proof
  • take measures to avoid insect bites, including using insect repellent and wearing long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing
  • seek medical advice if you have a fever, muscle pain, rash or severe headache.

More information:

HIV/AIDS 

HIV/AIDS is prevalent. Exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in activities that expose you to risk of infection.

Other infectious diseases

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

  • Use good hygiene practices including frequent handwashing.
  • Boil all drinking water or drink bottled water.
  • Avoid ice cubes.
  • Avoid raw and undercooked food.
  • Don't swim in fresh water to avoid exposure to certain water-borne diseases.
  • Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering diarrhoea.

Medical facilities

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.

If you become seriously ill or injured, you'll need to be evacuated to a destination with appropriate facilities. Medical evacuation can be extremely expensive.  

Natural disasters

You could encounter earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, flooding and/or landslides in the DRC.

If a natural disaster occurs:

  • secure your passport in a safe, waterproof location or carry it on you at all times (in a waterproof bag).
  • closely monitor local media and other sources such as the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System
  • follow the advice of local authorities
  • contact friends and family in Australia with regular updates about your welfare and whereabouts.

Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions

The DRC experiences earthquakes. An earthquake hit the towns of Bukavu and Goma in February 2008. Many people were injured and property was damaged. More information: Earthquakes

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

Exposure to volcanic ash can harm your health, particularly your breathing. The ash, dust and toxic fumes emitted following an eruption are a significant health risk, especially to those with existing respiratory problems.

If there is a volcanic eruption:

  • stay inside with the windows and doors shut and place damp towels at door thresholds and other draft sources, if ash is falling in your area
  • when ash has ceased to fall or you need to go outside, wear a disposable face-mask if available and change it frequently
  • wear long-sleeved clothing and long pants to protect your skin, and goggles to protect your eyes
  • avoid unnecessary contact with ash
  • follow the advice for all natural disasters above.

Floods and landslides

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.

Where to get help

Depending on what you need, 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.

Emergencies

There is no national emergency number in the DRC.

Always get a police report when reporting a crime.

Tourism services and products

For complaints relating to tourism services or products, contact your service provider directly.

The Australian Government

Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.

Australia doesn't have an Embassy or Consulate in the DRC. The Canadian Embassy in Kinshasa provides consular assistance to Australians in the DRC and can issue Australian Provisional Travel Documents. Its capacity to provide services is limited, particularly in areas outside Kinshasa. Register your presence online with the Canadian Embassy, as well as on Smartraveller.

Embassy of Canada, Kinshasa

17 Avenue Pumbu
Commune de Gombe, Kinshasa
 Phone: +243 996 021 500   
Fax: +243 99 602 1510 or +243 996 021 511
Email: knsha@international.gc.ca
Website: canadainternational.gc.ca/congo

You can also get consular assistance from the Australian Embassy in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Australian Embassy, Harare

1 Green Close
Borrowdale
Harare, Zimbabwe
Phone: +263 24 2853 235 55, +263 24 2852471-6
Fax: +263 24 2870 566
Email: zimbabwe.embassy@dfat.gov.au
Website: zimbabwe.embassy.gov.au

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

If you are unable to contact one of these embassies in a consular emergency, contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305, or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Additional resources