DR Congo A-Z Travel Guide and Tips for Tourists

DR Congo A-Z Travel Guide and Tips for Tourists – At 2,345,410 square km, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the third-largest country in Africa. Located in the central-western part of sub-Saharan Africa, the DR Congo stretches along the equator and is bordered by the Central African Republic to the north, the Republic of the Congo in the northwest, South Sudan to the northeast while Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi are found to the east and lastly, Tanzania to the south.

It has a population of nearly 89,780,875 people, 45.6% of whom live in urban areas like the country’s capital. The DRC’s capital, Kinshasa, is at 9,965 square km and with a population of 13,743,000, one of the largest cities in the sub-Saharan Africa. French is the DRC’s official language, widely used in government and education.

From the desert of Kipushi to the highlands of the Albertine Rift Valley, the savannah grasslands of the Kasai province, to the ice glaciers, and tundra of its highest peak on the Rwenzori mountains. From the equatorial rainforest of the Salonga that is the second biggest forest after the Amazon, it numerous rivers that are at over 200 in number giving way to some of the most spectacular water falls in Africa. The DR Congo is also known for its clear waters in its uncountable lakes that are dotting every corner of its territory.

For your information, apart from having the world’s second longest river, the Congo, DR Congo has a 40 kilometer long beach on the Atlantic Ocean home to its only marine park, Parc Marin des Mangroves and this is where the Congo River meets the Atlantic Ocean at the Banana Point. away from the forest, there are the Big 5 and other animals on its vast savannas in the Garamba National Park in the north and also in Kundelungu and the Upemba National Parks in the southeastern part of the country.

If you’re a battered old Africa hand, sick of safaris and savannas of East Africa, it may be time to add a stamp to the Democratic Republic of Congo to your passport. After a dark past, the DR Congo slowly writing a new chapter on tourism and this effort goes to the DR Congo tour companies based in the eastern part of the country and the dedicated conservation work of the western mountain gorillas in the Parc National des Virungas.

The Geography of the DR Congo

What to know about Africa safaris

The DRC is truly vast. At 2,345,408 square kilometers, and larger than the combined areas of SpainFranceGermanySweden, and Norway or nearly three and a half times the size of Texas.

The defining feature of the country is the second largest rainforest in the world and the world second longest river. Many rivers both large and small snake their way throughout the country and offering another mode of transportation considering that DR Congo still has a poor road network.

The Congo River is the third largest river in the world measured by discharge it even continues into the Atlantic, forming a submarine canyon roughly 80 km long! River Congo also has the distinction of being one of the deepest rivers in the world with depths up to 220 meters.

Because of the huge volume of water, depth, and rapids, the Congo River is home to a large number of endemic species. The Congo River “begins” at the Boyoma Falls near Kisangani. Above these falls, the river is known as the Lualaba River, whose longest tributary extends into Zambia. The Obangui River forms the border between the DRC and CAR/Congo-Brazzaville before flowing into the Congo River.

In the eastern part of the country, the Albertine Rift Valley, which is a branch of the Great Rift Valley, runs along the border with Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania. It is responsible for Lakes Tanganyika, Kivu, Edward, and Albert. The Albertine Rift Valley, is flanked by a number of extinct volcanoes and two volcanoes that are still active to date.

The Rwenzori Mountains and Virunga Mountains along the border with Rwanda are quite scenic, rising in the midst of lush tropical forests and sometimes eerily shrouded in mist. Several peaks are over 4000 meters. Mount Nyiragongo contains one of only four continuous lava lakes in the world. The only part of the DR Congo that is not covered by lush forests is the south, around the Kasai Province, which contains mostly high plateaus, savannah and grasslands.

The Climate

The country straddles the equator, with one-third to the north and two-thirds to the south. Because of this equatorial location, the DR Congo experiences large amounts of precipitation and has the highest frequency of thunderstorms in the world.

The annual rainfall can total upwards of 80 inches 2,032 mm in some places, and the area sustains the second largest rain forest in the world (after that of the Amazon). This massive expanse of lush jungle covers most of the vast, low-lying central basin of the river, which slopes toward the Atlantic Ocean in the west.

This area is surrounded by plateaus merging into savannas in the south and southwest, by mountainous terraces in the west, and dense grasslands extending beyond the Congo River in the north. High, glaciated mountains are found in the extreme eastern region.

Best Time to Go

Due to the size and location on the equator, the topography of DR Congo is very diverse making its to vary greatly. DR Congo attracts travelers throughout the year due to its tropical weather. While you can visit the DR Congo almost anytime throughout the year, you might still face rain and thunderstorms occasionally.

The southern highlands tend to be cooler and drier than the hot and muggy equatorial river basin. In the north of the equator, the wet season runs between April to October, and the dry from December to February. Further south, the wet season falls November to March, and the dry from April to October. Plan carefully, as temperature and rainfall can be extreme.

Visa and other Entry Requirements

If you are from Burundi, Congo, Rwanda, or Zimbabwe, you can travel to the Democratic Republic of Congo without a visa for 90 days. Likewise, travelers from Kenya, Mauritius, and Tanzania will acquire a visa good for a week upon arrival.

Everyone else will need to apply for a DRC tourist visa at the Embassy or Consulate of the Democratic Republic of the Congo or a visa application center. Once confirmed, you can get a visa good for 7 days upon arrival at a designated port of entry such as airports or harbors. While the DRC plans on issuing electronic visas in the future, you can now contact a local tour operator from Virunga National Park to get your visa as part of their tour programs.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is not one of the easiest countries to enter, even for citizens of various African countries. The DRC has very few visa-free arrangements in place, and thus visas are required for almost everyone.

Citizens of BurundiRwandaRepublic of the Congo, and Zimbabwe can enter the DRC visa free for up to 90 days. Citizens of KenyaMauritius and Tanzania can obtain a visa on arrival, valid for only 7 days.

Getting to DR Congo

Being on Africa Safari

Kinshasa-N’djili Airport

The main gateway to the DRC is Kinshasa-N’djili airport (FIH ). Built in 1953, it hasn’t had much in the way of upgrades and certainly doesn’t rank among the continent’s better airports.

From Africa: South African Airways, Kenyan Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, & Royal Air Maroc serve Kinshasa-N’djili multiple times a week from Johannesburg, Nairobi, Addis Ababa, & Casablanca (via Douala), respectively.

Other African airlines serving Kinshasa – N’Djili are: Afriqiyah Airways (Tripoli); Air Mali (Douala, Bamako); Benin Gulf Air (Cotonou, Pointe-Noire); Camair-co (Douala); CAA (Entebe); Ethiopian/ASKY (Brazzaville, Cotonou, Douala, Lagos, Lome); RwandAir (Kigali); TAAG Angola Airways (Luanda).

From Europe: Air France & Brussels Airlines have regular direct flights. Turkish Airlines will begin service from Istanbul in August 2012. You can also try booking travel through one of the major African airlines like Eithiopian, South African, Kenyan, or Royal Air Maroc.

Luano International Airport, Lubumbashi (FBM)

This is DR Congo’s  second largest international airport served by Ethiopian Airlines (Lilongwe, Addis Ababa), Kenya Airways (Harare, Nairobi), Korongo (Johannesburg), Precision Air (Dar es Salaam, Lusaka), & South African Express (Johannesburg).

Other airports with international service are Goma (GOM) with service by CAA to Entebbe (Kampala) & Kisangani (FKI) which is served by Kenya Airways from Nairobi.

Being On Safari

Being on Africa Safari

At Oluokos, we take you on a very different and unique African safari. When it comes to exceptional, authentic wildlife experiences, our experience stands out as second to none. We have chosen to shift away from the traditions of game-viewing activities by offering our guests a wide range of variations according to destination, wildlife behavior, migration trends and the season. This allows us to share with our guests experiences as crafted by our finest in-house Experience Designers. Below, please find how we handle our day on safari:

The Climate

Travelling with children Africa

Money in DR Congo

Africa Travel Tips on Accommodation

The local currency is the Congolese franc, sometimes abbreviated FC and sometimes just with a capital F placed after the amount (ISO international currency code: CDF). The currency is freely convertible (but impossible to get rid of outside the country).

Banknotes are issued in denominations of FC50, 100, 200, 500, 1,000, 5,000, 10,000 and 20,000. The only Congolese bank notes in circulation in most places are the 50, 100, 200 and 500 franc notes. They are almost worthless, as the highest valued banknote (the 500 franc note) is worth only about US$0.55.

US dollars in denominations above US$2 are much preferred to francs. In contrast, US coins and one and two US dollar bills are considered worthless. If you pay in dollars, you will get change in francs. Though francs may sometimes come as notes so old they feel like fabric, US dollar bills must be crisp (less than 3 folds) and be printed in or after 2003, or they will not be accepted.

In some shops, the symbol FF is used to mean 1,000 francs.

MasterCard/Maestro ATMs are available now in Kinshasa at the “Rawbank” on boulevard du 30 Juin (Gombe District), and in Grand Hotel. It dispenses US dollars. Visa card is also usable with “Procredit” bank ATMs in Kinshasa, avenue des Aviateurs, or outside in front of Grand Hotel (only US$20 and US$100 bills).

You can withdraw money with a Mastercard or Visa card at all Ecobank or Equity banks ATMs in DRC.

Health in DR Congo

Africa Travel Tips on Accommodation

Excellent medical care is almost entirely non-existent in DR Congo, especially for non-citizens.

Ebola Virus – a virus which killed 49 people in DRC during a three-month outbreak in 2014 – remains present in the equatorial forest region of Bas-Uele province bordering Central African Republic.

On 1 August 2018, the Ministry of Health of the Democratic Republic of the Congo declared a new outbreak of Ebola virus disease in North Kivu and Ituri Provinces. Travellers should avoid eating bush meat, avoid contact with persons that appear ill, practice good personal hygiene and seek medical advice before travel.

You will need a yellow fever vaccination in order to enter the country by air or land. There are health officials at some major entry points, such as the airport in Kinshasa, Goma and Lubumbashi, who check this before you are allowed to enter the country.

Congo is malarial, although slightly less in the Kivu region due to the altitude, so use insect repellent and take the necessary precautions such as sleeping under mosquito nets. The riverside areas such as Kinshasa are quite prone to malaria. Please, take all the necessary precaution.

If you need emergency medical assistance, it is advised that you contact your nation’s embassy. The embassy doctors are normally willing and skilled enough to help. There are safe hospitals in Kinshasa, Goma and Lubumbashi that are private and established by European doctors (a visit costs around US$20).

Drink lots of water when outside. The heat and close proximity to the equator can easily give those not acclimated heatstroke after just a few hours outside without water. There are many pharmacies that are very well supplied but prices are a few times higher than in most other parts of the world.

Do not drink tap water. Bottled water seems to be cheap enough, but sometimes hard to find for a good price.

Top Tourist Attractions in DR Congo

Africa Travel Tips on Accommodation

Whether you’re searching for adventure, culture, sightseeing, wildlife safaris or the gorillas and chimpanzees in the heart of Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo has some of the best places to visit. Our travel choices are based on our personal experiences, recommendations and research, written by locals and other travel experts with deep familiarization of the DR Congo tourist destinations.

It’s true that the Democratic Republic of Congo also known as the DRC and formerly Zaire has a history that’s difficult to brush away. However, at a global level DR Congo isn’t the only country that has gone through the dark past.

DR Congo’s begun from the mismanagement of Belgium’s King Leopold, to the corrupt leader Mobutu Sese Seko, to the battlegrounds of Africa’s horrific war the country has experienced long periods of instability.

Luckily, the second largest African nation is staging a steady comeback and by most accounts, is headed in the right direction.  There are quite a number of countries who went through the same wrong path as DR Congo did and interestingly, have managed to bounce back as excellent tourist destinations.

On the internet, there are regularly travel advisories for DR Congo, but the real story on the ground is quite different. Congo is a vast country and at times the epicenter of the troubled points could be as afar as 1000 plus away from some of the destinations that we promote. On top of this, we have our team on different parts of DR Congo ensuring that we are informed on any security threats that could hinder our operations. We will do our very best to ensure that your safety remains at the core of our priorities. DR Congo stability, guarantees the magic of its sheer wilderness. Please, come and discover DR Congo with us. 

The Democratic Republic of Congo with long raging rivers, astounding bird species, active volcanoes, the most inviting communities with an intriguing culture, a tantalizing gourmet, haven to some endemic wildlife species, home to over 5 UNESCO designated wildlife habitats and of course the Big 5 animals! In DR Congo, embrace the Africa that you don’t know….

Kinshasa is the capital city of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The city bustles with real energy of over 10 million residents. Established by Henry Morton Stanley in the late 19th century as a trading post it’s now likened to an African New York City. 

Explore the colourful Marche des voleurs, or the city market, its pomp and loads of fun. There is a great street art culture here and if you sit in one of the small cafes off the 30 Juin Boulevard, the artists will come up and show you their pieces for sale.  It’s a great way to talk to locals and relax.

You can also njoy a boat ride on the Congo or a BBQ picnic on its shores.

This tantalizing beautiful park remains unexplored by tourists in spite of it having so much to offer. The Upemba National Park straddles the River Lualaba and is accessible from the towns of Lubumbashi and Kolwezi.

It includes several lakes and picturesque riverine sections inhabited by hippos, crocodiles and over 400 species of birds.

Like the rest of DR Congo, Upemba National Park equally, has a dark past. Loss of its wildlife due to poachers and warlords but are slowly returning with the help of the Frankfurt Zoological Society Forgotten Parks Foundation and other partners.

Hang out with Bonobos for a life-changing experience at the Lola Ya Bonobo Sanctuary. Located 90 minutes outside of Kinshasa, the sanctuary provides a home for orphaned bonobos. These inherently peaceful primates, who resemble chimpanzees, are incredibly intelligent and known for solving most of their problems with sex.

This noble sanctuary for orphaned Bonobos and one of the most popular tourist attractions around Kinshasa. The bonobos are hunted for bush meat, and when a mother is killed, the babies are often taken and sold on the black market as pets.  The sanctuary tries to recover as many as possible so that they can live out their lives in safety.  The sanctuary covers 30 hectares of forest and you can visit the several feeding stations that the staff use to help track the apes.  The sanctuary also accepts volunteers.

The serene, lakeside town of Bukavu stands in the southern end of Lake Kivu and serves as an arrival and the departure point for Kahuzi-Biega National Park and the Idjwi Island. The former is home to eastern lowland gorillas and some great primate and the park also offers some birdwatching hiking opportunities. Idjwi is the second-largest lake island in Africa and a perfect spot to chill for a few days if you want to enjoy the beauty of relaxing on Africa’s inland beaches.

The park was created in 1970 in order to protect the Eastern Lowland Gorillas and just ten years later was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Gorilla poaching has been a problem for decades but thanks to the park authority, a dedicated education effort that was initiated and still ongoing.

Getting the name after the Kahuzi and the Biega mountains, this spectacular national park is located in the South Kivu Province and stretches from the Congo River basin to Bukavu.

Kahuzi and Biega are extinct volcanoes that apart from sheltering the gentle giants, other primates and birds, has some incredible hiking opportunities.

Today, the gorillas are still endangered, but their quality of life has improved and conditions are improving year each year.

The park also offers eye-opening biological diversity in the park like endemic birds, plants, elephants, chimps, genet, antelope, butterflies and serval.

The impressive falls are an easy hike from the resort and about 130 km  by road from the capital city Kinshasa. The Inkisi Falls 60 meters high and the massive complex of caves that are tucked around them which can also be visited during the one day combined tour. However, for the guests who stay at the pleasant resorts of the Mbanza-Ngungu town will have a great opportunity to explore the falls and the neighborhoods in 3 or 4 days.

This is one of the best geological feature that dominates Goma’s skyline for the best part of the year. The iconic Nyiragongo, an active volcanic mountain in the Democratic Republic of Congo, last erupted in the year 2021. This unbelievable, 3470-meter volcano stands like a sentinel around Goma with black solidified lava so wide that the place looks like an above the ground coal mine. Its crater has an active lava lake which we can help you to visit when the conditions allow.

Garamba National Park was established in 1938 and covers an area of 4,900 km2 in northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is bounded by Gangala-na-Bodio Hunting Reserve on the west, south, and east, and borders South Sudan on the north and northeast.

Garamba is part of the Sudan–Guinean savanna zone. The park is one of Africa’s oldest protected areas. It lies in the transition zone between two centers of endemism: Guinea-Congolian and Guinean-Sudanese savanna. These two biogeographic zones support a variety of wildlife, which have experienced population declines in recent decades because of poaching. ICCN rangers, augmented with soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, work to protect Garamba from poachers and rebel groups.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this stunning national park located in the northeast of DR Congo boasts a staggering array of habitats, from open undulating savanna grasslands to dense rainforests. Managed by African Parks since 2005, Garamba was once home to the last population of wild northern white rhinoceros and still boasts large elephant, hippo and giraffe populations.

Situated along the borders of Rwanda and Uganda, Virunga National Park is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

As the DR Congo’s oldest national park, it’s also the most biologically diverse national park probably in Africa. 

In the Virunga National Park, you’ll find lava plains, savanna grasslands, forests, valleys, active volcanoes, swamps, and even glacier peaks in the Rwenzori Mountains.

Globally, roughly, 25% of endangered mountain gorillas call the Virunga National Park home, and in Africa, Virunga is the only park to have three of the four great apes in one place.

The Okapi, an endangered species that looks like a cross between a giraffe and a zebra, also make the park their home.  You can spot hippos, lions, elephants, and a number of rare and exotic birds.

The park has three distinct areas, all worth a visit:  The Rwenzori Mountains, Lake Edward area, and the Mikeno volcano sector

Being one of the well know lakes, Lake Kivu is one of the African Great Lakes. It lies on the border between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda, and is in the Albertine Rift, the western branch of the East African Rift. Lake Kivu empties into the Ruzizi River, which flows southwards into Lake Tanganyika.

Lake Kivu is approximately 42 km long and 50 km wide. Its irregular shape makes measuring its precise surface area difficult; it has been estimated to cover a total surface area of some 2,700 km2, making it Africa’s eighth largest lake. The surface of the lake sits at a height of 1,460 meters above sea level. The lake has a maximum depth of 475 meters and a mean depth of 220 meters making it the world’s twentieth deepest lake by maximum depth.

Salonga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the Africa’s largest tropical rainforest. It’s located in the Congo River basin and covers a staggering area that measures about 36,000 km2.

Extending into the provinces of Mai Ndombe, Equateur, Kasaï and Sankuru, the forest holds significant place in the world. In 1984, the national park was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List for its protection of a large swath of relatively intact rainforest and its important habitat for many rare species. Laater in 1999, the forest was listed as endangered due to poaching and unsustainable harvesting of it forest resources. Following the improvement in its state of conservation, the site was removed from the endangered list in the year 2021.

The park is in an area of rainforest about halfway between Kinshasa, the capital, and Kisangani. There are no roads and most of the park is accessible remotely only by river. This has made  some sections of the national park almost completely inaccessible and have never been systematically explored. 

The southern region inhabited by the Iyaelima people is accessible via the Lokoro River, which flows through the center and northern parts of the park, and the Lula River in the south. The Salonga River meanders in a generally northwest direction through the Salonga National Park to its confluence with the Busira and eventually contributing the waters of the Congo River.

The Okapi Wildlife Reserve is a wildlife reserve in the Ituri Forest in the north-east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, near the borders with South Sudan and Uganda. At approximately 14,000 km2, it covers approximately one-fifth of the area of the forest. In 1996, the Okapi Wildlife Reserve was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, due to its large population of endangered okapis and its high overall biodiversity.

The wildlife reserve makes up roughly one-fifth of the total area of the Ituri Forest. As a Pleistocene refugium, the forest contains dense evergreen and semi-evergreen forests, dominated by Mbau trees (Gilbertiodendron dewevrei). The NepokoIturi, and Epulu rivers flow through the reserve, surrounded by swamp forests. The granite outcrops in the north of the reserve protect critical habitat for Encephalartos ituriensis, a threatened species of cycad. 

Because of its relatively stable climate during the repeated ice ages, the wildlife reserve, and the Ituri Forest as a whole, protects a unique biological community. As its name implies, the Okapi Wildlife Reserve is home to many okapis. As of 1996, the number was estimated at 3900–6350, out of a global population of around 10,000–20,000.

Other mammals identified within the reserve include the leopardforest buffalowater chevrotainbongoBates’s pygmy antelope, and giant forest hog. The Ituri Forests is home to 17 primate species have been observed within the reserve, have the highest primate species richness of any African forest.

The reserve has over 370 species of bird, and is one of the most important sites for bird conservation in mainland Africa. Many of the bird species found in the reserve are endemic to the Congo Basin, including the endangered Congo peafowl.

In 1949, the Belgian colonial administration created the Bakumu Hunting Reserve (Bakumu, meaning “The Kumus”, the native tribe in the region) on an area that would later encompass the boundaries of the Park as we know it today. The original plans for the area is believed to have aimed at preventing the exploitation of mineral resources rather the protection of the nature and the wildlife.

On November 20 of 1970, the Presidential Decree no 70-312 which is bound to the law that had created the ICCN previous year, was signed into force by Joseph Désiré Mobutu. This document asserted the Maiko National Park to be a full-fledged nature protection area.

Located in a remote area, Maiko National park is the Democratic Republic of Congo’s most inaccessible national park.

It is also the only park where you’ll find all three of the country’s endemic species: the Okapi, the Congo Peafowl, and the Grauer Gorilla.  Others animals to found here include; chimpanzees, elephants, leopards, and bongos alongside numerous species of birds.

Maiko national Park is on the list of the not well known or well visited parks. Howvere, the forest represents an enormous carbon sink and its future protection is of the global importance to addressing climate change. 

Eastern and Central Africa is awash with diverse and stunning accommodation options to call home while you are on safari.

Eastern and Central Africa is awash with diverse and stunning accommodation options to call home while you are on safari.

Eastern and Central Africa is awash with diverse and stunning accommodation options to call home while you are on safari.

Eastern and Central Africa is awash with diverse and stunning accommodation options to call home while you are on safari.

Eastern and Central Africa is awash with diverse and stunning accommodation options to call home while you are on safari.

Eastern and Central Africa is awash with diverse and stunning accommodation options to call home while you are on safari.

Eastern and Central Africa is awash with diverse and stunning accommodation options to call home while you are on safari.

Eastern and Central Africa is awash with diverse and stunning accommodation options to call home while you are on safari.

Eastern and Central Africa is awash with diverse and stunning accommodation options to call home while you are on safari.

Travel Documents & Other Requirements

Travel Documents for Africa Travel

Before embarking on your Africa safari there are quite a number of things to put in order, but nothing’s more important than ensuring your passport, visa and health requirements are all sorted out. Start planning early so you’ve got plenty of time to take care of the following:

Tipping During & After Safari

Tipping during and after Africa safari
error: Content is protected !!