Practical Information for Travel to DR Congo

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This section will give some of the practical information you may need before departing and while on your trip.

 

Basic Information

Official Name: République démocratique du Congo

Area: 2,345,409 km2 or 905,355 sq mi

Language: French, Swahili & Lingala

Population: 6.5 million people.

Capital: Kinshasa

Religious Affiliations:
Christians (47 %), Animists (25 %) and Muslim and syncretic minorities.

 
 

Climate

The Democratic Republic of the Congo lies on the Equator, with one-third of the country to the north and two-thirds to the south. The climate is hot and humid in the river basin and cool and dry in the southern highlands, with a cold, alpine climate in the Rwenzori Mountains. South of the Equator, the rainy season lasts from October to May and north of the Equator, from April to November. Along the Equator, rainfall is fairly regular throughout the year. During the wet season, thunderstorms often are violent but seldom last more than a few hours. The average rainfall for the entire country is about 1,070 mm (42 in)The climate in the Eastern part of DR Congo (north & South Kivu provinces) are similar to neighboring Uganda and Rwanda. The rain season is from October to May but only short rains occur. In the dry season it can be quite dusty so we recommend you to get a dusk mask. The rain season is a good season to travel especially to Kahuzi-Biega national park where the Lowland Gorillas tend to be closer to the headquarters than in the dry season. In Virunga national park it can get quite cold in the evening due to the high elevation. On the top of Mt. Nyiragongo it is also cold especially at night. 

Visa DR Congo

A visa for DR Congo MUST be obtained before arrival from the consulate or embassy in your home country or via the immigration services in Kinshasa. Matoke tours offers visa services at US$ 120 per visa. We strongly recommend clients to use this service for a hassle free experience. You will have a visa acceptance form with a reference number on it and an invoice with your travel itinerary booked with the national park. Once you reach the border with DR Congo you will present both documents and you will receive a stamp in your passport 

 
 

Cash

The official currency of DR Congo is the Congolese Franc and the American dollar. The rates of September 2016:

1 Euro = 1120 CDF

 

1 US$ = 989 CDF

 

 

 

(For the current rates, please see Internet sites such as xe.com)

Many lodge and restaurant prices will be set in US dollars while outside of lodges (souvenirs, snacks, etc.) Congolese Francs will be necessary. Most items can be paid for in dollars as well.

US dollars printed before 2004 are not accepted in the country. When you exchange money, use big notes (50 or 100 US dollar). The exchange rate of smaller notes is much lower. Make sure notes are not cut, or damaged in any way. They will not be accepted.

 

Exchange Rates

It’s good to have some US dollars with you at all times. This is the hard currency in DR Congo and most widely used. For smaller items like souvenirs and local items we recommend you to change some of the dollars to Congolese Francs. This can be done in Goma or Bukavu.

 Exchange Rate for September 2016:

Euro - Dollar

1.13 

Euro – Congolese Francs

1120

US Dollar - Euro

0.88

US Dollar – Congolese Francs

989

Pound Sterling - Dollar

1.31

Pound Sterling – Congolese Francs

1293

 

 

Before leaving the country, you may exchange Congolese Francs into Euros, dollars or pounds (obviously at a less favorable rate).

 
 

ATM & Credit Cards

ATM: you can only find them in major cities like Bukavu and Goma. Do realize that the amount you can take out per day is sometimes limited to about $100,-. Note as well that ATMs can be empty or not working due to power cuts. Make sure you always have enough cash with you as a backup!

Credit Card: Credit cards are only accepted at some lodges. Only at mayor hotels and upmarket lodges can this be used and these will add an extra 5 to 10% to the bill.

Traveler Cheques: Traveler cheques are not commonly used in DR Congo. 

Tipping

In DR Congo, it is customary and often expected that you give a tip to the local staff such as guides, rangers, and drivers.

A common tip of US$ 10 – 15 per person per day can be expected for your tourleader who goes with you the entire tour. For you driver a tip of US$ 10 per day for the entire group is sufficient.

In restaurants, we recommend a tip of about 10% of the bill.

 
 

Plugs and Voltage

In DR Congo, European style plugs: 240 V, 50 Hz are the norm. 

See photo.

Internet

Internet cafes can be found though the connection is generally very slow. WIFI is sometimes available in lodges. In general DR Congo is a country for adventurous travelers and internet resources are very limited to non-existing.

 
 

Charging camera and phone

You can charge your cameras, phones and other electric items in most hotels. If you bring a couple of chargeable items you might consider bringing an adaptor with extra outlets since the amount of outlets is often limited. We'd advise you to bring extra batteries for your camera, since some hotels don’t have power and power cuts might occur.

Luggage

We request you to bring a bag or suitcase made from a soft material. Hard cover suitcases are difficult to place in the car and are likely to break on the bumpy roads. When traveling with 4 persons or more we request you to limit the weight of your bag/suitcase to 15 kg.

 
 

Phone

Mobile telephony has become very big in DR Congo. Throughout the country sim cards sell for less than a US dollar which you then can top up with credit and make reasonably priced calls to most international destinations. Please note that rural areas like Kahuzi-Biega national park and Virunga national park have very poor reception.

The country code for DR Congo is 00243 or + 243

Gay Travelers

Throughout Africa it is generally safe for gay people to travel. Unlike in neighbouring Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, there is no official prohibition against homosexuality in Rwanda and it is unlikely that gay travellers will experience any particular difficulties.

 
 

Health

Contact your general practitioner at least 8 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre, and useful information about healthcare abroad, including a country-by-country guide of reciprocal health care agreements with the UK, is available from NHS Choices.

Medical facilities in Rwanda are limited, particularly outside major towns. Medical help at the scene of an accident is likely to be equally scarce. In the case of a serious accident or illness, evacuation by air ambulance may be required. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and/or repatriation.

We highly recommend you to get a good travel insurance that covers travelling to countries with a negative travel advice. For more information please check the insurance section. 

 

Safety and Risks

Every country in the world has a negative travel advice for traveling in Congo/ DRC. Matoke Tours can only be held responsible for the organization of the trip itself.

Traveling against the travel advice of your country therefore will be on your own risk and you will have to sign for this before going on tour with Matoke Tours. Please check the status from the website of your own embassy and check if this will affect the validation your travel- or medical insurance. You might have to take alternative or additional travel and health insurances to be covered. 

Travel with the right attitude

Although the Democratic Republic of the Congo is no longer considered as risky as it used to be, it remains a destination for only the most seasoned, hardcore African traveller. It is not a country for the casual "tourist": the average backpacker, holidaymaker, and especially those seeking luxury safaris or organized cultural experiences. The DRC remains one of the least developed countries in Africa.  

When you travel expect that almost every activity runs late, people do not speak English and service at hotels and activities are not to be compared with more experienced tourist destinations in Africa. As well information provided by guides and rangers can be a bit poor. 

Be flexible and patient. Those who do brave the elements to travel here are in for quite the adventure.

 

IHI Bupa international insurance

Travelling to an under developed country like DR Congo brings risks. The health facilities are very poor and the nearest evacuation to a good hospital is Kigali in Rwanda. There are only very few insurances that cover travel to countries with a negative travel advise. That is why we highly recommend you to insure yourself with IHI Bupa international. You can insure yourself for a single trip and it gives you premium coverage for medical air lifting in case of emergency. This insurance accepts people from all nationalities. You can book this insurance via this link: http://global.ihi.com/Travel+Insurance/Single+trip.aspx

 

Contacting Matoke Tours

Below you can find emergency contacts to reach Matoke Tours. We request you to use the office phone for all regular questions.

Please respect the privacy of our staff and only use the emergency numbers when it's a real emergency.

 Uganda Office

Contact:

Ilse van Agtmaal

E-mail:

contact@matoketours.com

Office phone:

+256 (0) 392 202 907

Emergency phone:

+256 (0) 783 151 165 (Ilse)

 

+256 (0) 793 850 647 (Anna)

 Goma Office

Contact:

Kevin Siri (Virunga national park)

Office phone:

+44 7511919244

 

Nyiragongo volcano experience

If you are travelling to the Nyiragongo volcano during your visit to DR Congo you will have an overnight backpack provided by Matoke tours. In this backpack you will find a lunch package, drinking water, a sleeping bag and a fleece vest. You will have a personal cook who will prepare a hot meal on the crater rim. If you need a porter to carry your luggage this costs US$ 24 per porter and needs to be paid on ground. You will spend the night in the basic summit shelter on the crater rim of the Nyiragongo volcano. There are no shower facilities on the crater rim only a pit latrine as a toilet. We will guarantee you that it is a once in a lifetime experience you will not soon forget!

 

Other items that we advise you to bring during your hike

  • Good hiking shoes
  • Rain gear
  • Wet towel/wipes for freshen up
  • Long pants and long sleeves short
  • Change of clothing for the next day
  • Warm clothing 
 

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller

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