Democratic Republic of Congo travel guide
About Democratic Republic of Congo
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is one of the largest and most enigmatic countries in Africa. It has many beautiful landscapes, mainly comprising dense and undulating rainforest interspersed with waterfalls and teeming with fascinating wildlife.
The great body of the Congo River runs across the northern reaches of the country and has long been a site of considerable historic importance, made famous by the explorer Henry Morton Stanley and later used as the backdrop for Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.
In many ways, much of the DRC remains as wild and impenetrable today as it would have been in Conrad’s time. The transport infrastructure built by the brutal Belgian colonial regime has largely been reclaimed by the jungle and there are few links between the country’s vast interior and the urban areas dotted around its fringes.
Kinshasa, the capital, is situated in the far west of the country and, though largely impoverished and crumbling, it is a veritable hub for colourful African music and culture.
DRC’s tourist capital, if such a thing exists, is Goma, which sits on the banks of Lake Kivu in the far east of the country. It is presided over by the imposing Nyiragongo volcano, which sits at the heart of Virunga National Park, the oldest national park in Africa and one of just a handful of places where you can still see mountain gorillas in their natural habitat.
Goma and the mineral-rich Kivu region were hit particularly hard by a civil war from 1998 to 2003 that resulted in the deaths of at least three million people; sporadic bouts of violence since the war officially ended have continued to burden the region’s considerable tourist potential.
However, peace and a semblance of stability have returned to Goma for the time being and small handfuls of adventurous tourists are beginning to trickle across the border once again. Visitors are advised to check the latest travel advice before visiting.
2,345,410 sq km (905,563 sq miles).
79,722,624 (UN estimate 2016).
33.8 per sq km.
President Joseph Kabila since 2001.
Prime Minister Bruno Tshibala since April 2017.
Last updated: 11 December 2018
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to:
- the Boko, Kindamba, Kinkala, Mayama and Mindouli districts of Pool region
- the Mouyondzi district of Bouenza region
- within 50km of the border with the Central African Republic in Likouala region
The FCO advise against all but essential travel to:
- Brazzaville region, except for the city of Brazzaville
- the Ngabe district of Pool region
Previous periods of unrest have seen an increased police and military presence in Brazzaville. You should maintain a high level of security awareness, avoid political protests and avoid travel after dark.
There is no British Embassy in the Republic of Congo and the level of consular assistance the FCO can offer to British nationals is limited. If you need consular assistance you should contact the British Embassy in Kinshasa, DRC.
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in the Republic of Congo, attacks can’t be ruled out.
Safety and security
You may be asked to provide proof of identity by the police. You should carry a colour photocopy of your passport and Republic of Congo visa with you at all times during your stay. If you’re a resident, you should also keep a colour copy of your residency card.
There’s been a steady increase of crime reported in Brazzaville and Pointe Noire. Foreigners in particular may be targeted by criminals. You should take sensible precautions to safeguard yourself and your belongings, particularly in Brazzaville and Pointe Noire. Don’t walk in the streets after dark, or carry large amounts of money or valuables. The chance of being targeted by criminals is higher in rural areas.
Criminals have been known to target the beaches at Pointe Noire. Stay on main beaches, secure valuables, and avoid all beaches at night.
There continue to be reports of sporadic rebel group activity and military operations against them, large numbers of displaced people, and continued instances of crime and armed banditry in the Pool region. Don’t attempt to travel through this region by road or rail. Any attempt to travel by night may be prevented, and a permit from the Congolese army plus a military escort may be required for travel by day.
There are no rail services running between Brazzaville and Pointe Noire. When rail services were running there were several instances of criminal gangs targeting trains on this route.
Avoid travelling anywhere around the country at night.
The river crossing/border with Kinshasa is subject to closure without warning. The ferry stops running in late afternoon, and there’s no service on Sundays. Check the situation locally before travelling.
Road conditions are generally poor and deteriorate during the wet season (November to May). Overland travel off the main roads requires a four-wheel drive vehicle. Lock vehicle doors and keep windows closed when driving; watch out for armed gangs who may target your car. Don’t drive off the main routes or park in unsupervised areas.
There are frequent vehicle checkpoints throughout the Republic of Congo, which can be poorly marked. If you’re asked to produce documents for inspection at a checkpoint, remain in your vehicle and show them documents through closed windows.
All airlines from the Republic of Congo have been refused permission to operate services to the EU because of safety concerns. British Embassy staff aren’t allowed to use any of the airlines operating between Brazzaville and Pointe Noire.
Any periods of unrest are likely to be accompanied by an increased police and military presence in Brazzaville. You should maintain a high level of security awareness, avoid political protests and avoid travel after dark.
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in the Republic of Congo, attacks can’t be ruled out.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
You must get a visa before travel. For more information, see the website of the honorary consulate of the Republic of Congo in the UK.
Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay. No additional period of validity beyond this is required.
Yellow fever certificate requirements
Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.
Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 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 on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.
If you become ill during or immediately after travelling to the Republic of Congo, seek medical advice immediately. Medical facilities in the country are limited, particularly in rural areas, and medical evacuation is likely to be necessary for all but the most basic treatments.
Make sure you have adequate travel and medical insurance to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation; this should specifically include the very high costs of evacuation by air ambulance. If you take medication regularly, bring a properly-marked supply, sufficient for the time you will be in the country.
There have been reported incidents of packs of rabid dogs in Pointe Noire.
Outbreaks of the human form of the Ebola fever have occurred in recent years. Don’t eat bushmeat as this is widely thought to be responsible for a number of diseases, including Ebola. An Ebola outbreak was declared in Equateur province in neighbouring country, Democratic Republic of Congo, in May 2018. The latest updates can be found on WHO’s website.
Travel advice help and support
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCO travel advice
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.