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Democratic Republic of the Congo

If you’re travelling to the Democratic Republic of Congo, our travel advice and updates give you practical tips and useful information.

Get travel and medical insurance

Before travelling, the Department strongly recommends that you obtain comprehensive travel insurance which will cover all overseas medical costs, including medical repatriation/evacuation, repatriation of remains and legal costs. You should check any exclusions and, in particular, that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.

Overview

Security status

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade advises against all travel to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Irish citizens currently in DRC should consider leaving the country as soon as possible in light of potential disturbances that may arise there over the coming weeks.

If you decide to remain in DRC you should avoid travelling around Kinshasa and other large cities on and around days of planned protests, including to and from N'djili (Kinshasa) International airport. If protests are taking place you should monitor local media for updates, avoid moving around urban areas and stay indoors. If you encounter a demonstration you should leave the area immediately. Under no circumstances should you attempt to watch or photograph demonstrations.

You should also make contingency plans in the event of demonstrations, including keeping a stock of essential supplies and up-to-date travel documents and visas. Be aware however that, if unrest in the country worsens, commercial flights may be suspended and border crossing points closed. This will restrict your ability to leave the country.

Emergency assistance

Please note that Ireland does not have diplomatic representation in DRC and, as a consequence, we can offer very limited support for Irish citizens who find themselves in difficulty or distress there. Please note also that other EU Missions, including the UK, have withdrawn non-essential staff and therefore will only be able to provide limited consular support should the need arise. 

The best help is often close at hand so, if you have problems, try talking to your local contacts, tour operator representative or hotel management.

If there is an emergency, or if you need help and advice, you can contact our Irish Embassy in Pretoria or our Consular Assistance Unit at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Dublin on +353 1 408 2000.

Other EU embassies

You can also try contacting the Embassies, Consulates of other EU countries for emergency consular assistance, advice and support. Please note however that the lack of infrastructure throughout the country and continued insecurity in eastern DRC often prevent these Missions from providing normal levels of consular assistance.

Our tips for safe travels

  • Purchase comprehensive travel insurance which covers all your intended activities
  • Add an alert for your destination within the Travelwise App.
  • Register your details with us so that we can contact you quickly in an emergency, such as a natural disaster or a family emergency
  • Follow us on twitter @dfatravelwise for the latest travel updates
  • Read our Topical 'Know Before You Go' guide.

Safety and security

Unrest

The political situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is fragile. Things can deteriorate quickly and dangerous incidents can happen. For this reason, we advise against non-essential travel to the country, particularly all travel to the eastern, north-eastern and Bas-Congo areas, including the town of Goma.

Be aware that if unrest in the country worsens, commercial flights may be suspended and border crossing points closed. This will restrict your ability to leave the country.

Border areas

If you are travelling to the DRC, avoid entering or leaving overland from Uganda, Rwanda or Burundi except via Bukavu and be extremely careful at crossing points. You must have the correct documentation for to enter the country, including a visa issued by the nearest DRC Embassy to your country of residence. It is no longer possible to buy a short-term pass at the border to enter the country.

Demonstrations

Avoid demonstrations and public gatherings, which can sometimes turn confrontational. Always keep yourself informed of changes to the political situation by monitoring local and international media and staying in contact with your hotel or tour organiser.

Crime

Crime is on the rise, particularly in Kinshasa, and you should be extremely careful, especially at night and always take sensible precautions: 

  • Don’t carry your credit card, travel tickets and money together - leave spare cash and valuables in a safe place. 
  • Don’t carry your passport unless absolutely necessary and leave a copy of your passport (and travel and insurance documents) with family or friends at home.
  • Avoid showing large sums of money in public and don’t use ATMs after dark, especially if you’re alone. Check no one has followed you after conducting your business.
  • Avoid dark and unlit streets and stairways, and arrange to be picked up or dropped off as close to your hotel or apartment entrance as possible.
  • Keep a close eye on your personal belongings and hold on to them in public places such as internet cafés, train and bus stations.

Street crime

In Kinshasa, robberies by gangs of street children are increasingly common and becoming more aggressive. You should always stick to the main thoroughfares when driving and make sure that you park in a supervised area.

Reporting crime

There’s no emergency services number in the Democratic Republic of Congo, equivalent to the 999 service in Ireland.

If you’re a victim of crime, notify the nearest police station or gendarmerie. However, you should be aware that laws and regulations are not administered consistently in the DRC and legal recourse in cases of theft and robbery is limited. If you need assistance, you can contact us at the Irish Embassy in Pretoria.

Driving

If you’re planning to drive in Democratic Republic of Congo, you should be extremely careful. Roads are generally in poor condition, and often impassable in the rainy season. If you want to drive:

  • Bring your full Irish driver’s licence and your international driving permit and make sure you have adequate and appropriate insurance
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is against the law
  • Be aware of Democratic Republic of Congo’s traffic laws, such as speed limits
  • Keep your vehicle doors locked and your bags kept out of sight to prevent opportunistic bag-snatching if you’re stopped at traffic lights
  • Stick to the main routes  and always park in a supervised area

Roadblocks

Travellers are frequently detained and questioned by poorly disciplined security forces at numerous official and unofficial roadblocks and border crossings throughout the country. Requests for bribes in such instances are common, and security forces are reported to have occasionally injured or killed people who refuse to pay.

Hiring a vehicle

If you’re hiring a vehicle, we advise you not to hand over your passport as a form of security. If you’re allowing your passport to be photocopied, keep it in your sight at all times.

Check that you have adequate insurance and read the small print of the vehicle hire contract (particularly any waiver that will come into effect if the vehicle is damaged).

Local laws and customs

Practical advice

  • Read our travel advice, inform yourself before travelling and get advice locally when you arrive
  • Remember, the local laws apply to you as a visitor and it is your responsibility to follow them
  • Be sensitive to local customs, traditions and practices as your behaviour may be seen as improper, hostile or even illegal

Photography

Taking photos of, or near, military or security installations and staff, and some public buildings, is prohibited and can result in arrest and detention.

Health

Get travel and medical insurance

Before travelling, the Department strongly recommends that you obtain comprehensive travel insurance which will cover all overseas medical costs, including medical repatriation/evacuation, repatriation of remains and legal costs. You should check any exclusions and, in particular, that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.

Medical facilities

The Centre Prive d'Urgence (CPU) clinic in Kinshasa is able to cope with basic health problems and to stabilise a patient after most serious accidents. Medical evacuation is advisable as soon as possible. Outside Kinshasa, western standard medical facilities are practically non-existent.

Malaria

Malaria is prevalent in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Before travelling, get up-to-date medical advice as to whether you will need anti-malarial medication. When you arrive, avoid being bitten by mosquitoes by using bed nets and repellents, and wearing closed shoes, long sleeves and trousers.

Other illnesses

Rabies, polio, meningitis and cholera are also common. Plague is endemic in North Eastern Province Orientale. There have also been recent reports of an outbreak of Ebola haemorrhagic fever in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

HIV and AIDS

HIV/AIDS is prevalent in the Democratic Republic of Congo. You should exercise necessary caution if engaging in activities that expose you to possible infection. If you suspect that you have been exposed to possible infection, you should seek immediate medical attention.

Vaccinations

Check what vaccinations you may need for your trip at least eight weeks before you travel. We can’t advise you on vaccinations, but you can get information about vaccinations from your local GP or an International Health and Travel Centre.

Evidence of vaccination (in the form of a certificate) can be a requirement for entry to some countries.

Medication

Make sure you bring enough medication for your entire trip and for any unexpected delays. You may wish to also bring copies of your prescription in case you lose your medication.

Medical emergency facilities

In Kinshasa:

  • Centre Prive d’Urgence (CPU), Corner of Avenue Commerce and Bas-Congo, Kinshasa-Gombe, DRC, Telephone: + 243 89 50 302. Open 24 hours for emergency treatment.
  • Centre Medical de Kinshasa (CMK), Avenue Wagenia No 168, Kinshasa-Gombe, DRC, Main Telephone: +243 89 50 300 or +243 99 82 65004, Emergency number: + 243 90 884 0277. Open 24 hours. Offers general and emergency medical services.
  • CMM Emergency Medical Centre, Avenue 48 de la Mongala, Kinshasa, DRC, Telephone: +243 81 884 1774, Offers general medical services.

In Goma:

  • Maison Medicale Du Centre (MMC), 20 Avenue Kamina, Goma, DRC, Telephone: +243 80 84 20 442 or 99 77 57 226 or 80 85 92 778

Additional information

Visas

All Irish nationals need a visa issued by the nearest Democratic Republic of Congo Embassy. It’s no longer possible to buy a short-term pass at the border to enter the country.

You can also check with the Embassy how long your passport must be valid for.

Passports

It’s advisable to take a number of photocopies of your passport with you when travelling to the Democratic Republic of Congo and you should carry a photocopy of your passport at all times during your stay.

If your passport is lost or stolen while you’re abroad, we can help.

What we can do:

  • Issue you a replacement passport that will let you finish your trip, or;
  • Issue you with an emergency travel document to get you home.

We’ll do our best to help you as quickly as possible but this can take some time. Your location and circumstances may limit the help we can give you. As Ireland does not have an Embassy or Consulate in the Democratic Republic of Congo there may be additional complications in processing and application for a new passport.

You should contact our Irish Embassy in Pretoria to find out what you need to do to apply for a passport. They will also be able to advise you on the fees which apply.

Climate

The climate in the Democratic Republic of Congo is tropical. It’s generally hot and humid in the equatorial river basin. The southern highlands are cooler and drier. The eastern highlands are cool and wet. 

As the country is located on the equator, there are climatic variations to the north and south. North of the equator the rainy season is from April to October, the dry season lasting from December to February. South of the equator the rainy season is from November to March, the dry season lasting from April to October.

Earthquake

Earthquakes occasionally take place in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The most recent one occurred in 2009 and measured approximately 5.0 on the Richter scale.

If you’re travelling to or living in the Democratic Republic of Congo, make sure you know what to do in the event of an earthquake.

Volcanos

Mount Nyiragongo in the north east of the country (20 km from Goma) is an active volcano and local authorities, the UN and local NGOs continue to monitor its activity. If you are in the area (against our travel advice) then you should follow local advice in the event of an eruption.

Drought

There are occasional droughts in the dry season.

Flooding

The Congo River floods during the rainy season causing widespread disruption in the river basin.

More advice

Ireland doesn’t have an Embassy or Consulate in the Democratic Republic of Congo so we can’t verify detailed travel advice to ensure that it’s accurate, appropriate and up to date. However, we encourage you to conduct your own research and to read these links to travel advice from other foreign ministries: