Travelling to Democratic Republic of the Congo

By | April 22, 2021

Travel, transportation and traffic

International airlines currently flying to Kinshasa:

  • Brussels Airways
  • South African Airways
  • Ethiopian Airways
  • Kenya Airways
  • Air France

Travel within the country is only possible to a very limited extent. Chaotic conditions prevail in traffic and communication. Overall, the road network is below average. The government speaks of 2,800 km of tar roads, of which only a few hundred kilometers are really passable. The few roads outside of the big cities can almost only be used with four-wheel drive vehicles. Large parts of the road network are impassable during the rainy season. The ideal all-weather vehicle is the all-terrain motorcycle. Bicycles are the only means of transport in many rural areas. The Congo River is navigable for 2,800 km.

The railway line from Kinshasa to Matadi (336km) has been in operation again since 2015, after more than 10 years of construction. There are always organizational and technical problems, but the train runs twice a week between Kinshasa and the port city of Matadi. The plan is eight hours – but it is more realistic to prepare for a day trip. Kinshasa also has a suburban train – the journey here is loud, chaotic and timeless.

In the past few years there have been a large number of train derailments with loss-making accidents. In the first few months of 2019 alone, there were up to 300 rail traffic victims. Apart from rehabilitation attempts in the area around Lubumbashi, the railway network built up during the colonial period has come to a complete standstill.

Many inland towns can only be reached by air. The big cities (provincial capitals) are served by various local airlines – albeit irregularly (see Mobility).

The aircraft are often in poor technical condition. Accordingly, technical breakdowns and crashes often occur. All local airlines are blacklisted by the EU, meaning insurance companies take no risk.

It is mostly Russian pilots who use old propeller machines to transport people, animals and goods through this huge country on their own account. These flights should not be used, and all international organizations advise against using these airlines. In addition to Kinshasa, the cities of Lubumbashi, Kisangani and Goma are served directly by international airlines.

Important locations are currently being networked by the UN and ECHO fleets (European Commission’s service to humanitarian organizations) of passenger and transport aircraft. The UN mission played a particularly important role in the logistical management of the 2006 elections. Air MONUSCO not only transported UN personnel, but also, if there were vacancies, employees of aid organizations, Congolese MPs, election workers and journalists.

MONUC - Evacuation of an injured man to the military hospital in Goma

MONUC – Evacuation of an injured man to the military hospital in Goma

Deadly cruises

On April 17, 2019, another ship capsized on Lake Kivu, drowning up to 150 people. On the waters of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a major country in African continent according to youremailverifier, there are always dramatic ship accidents with many deaths. There are many reasons for this: the often old ships and ferries are heavily overloaded and in a poor technical condition. In addition, lifeboats, life jackets, etc. are often completely missing. Most of the people cannot swim and drown in harmless accidents in the bank area.

Storms and thunderstorms, especially in the catchment area of the Congo River, are underestimated and there are no river and sea maps for orientation. Many boat trips are carried out at night, which reduces the risk of thunderstorms, but promotes collisions and stranding.

In addition, the great poverty forces people to get involved in high-risk and supposedly inexpensive transports.

Money and foreign exchange regulations

500 francs Congolais note

500 francs Congolais note

After several phases of hyperinflation, only banknotes with a denomination of 100, 200, 500, 1,000, 5,000, 10,000 and 20,000 FC are currently in circulation, with notes in denominations of 500, 1,000 and 10,000 FC being particularly common. Payment in foreign currency (mainly US dollars) has been possible since 2001 and is now common. Around 70% of the total money in circulation is US dollars.

The exchange rate was relatively stable until mid-2016. Since then, however, the currency has steadily depreciated. The exchange rate is published by the central bank. For 2018, the Banque Centrale du Congo reported annual inflation of 29.3%.

The use of credit cards is restricted to individual airlines, large hotels and a few supermarkets.

When entering the country, foreign exchange worth over US $ 10,000 must be declared. The export of foreign currency is limited to the equivalent of US $ 10,000 (officially, this restriction does not apply to business trips). Sums in excess of this must be transferred through banks. However, the export of Francs Congolais is prohibited.