Democratic Republic of the Congo

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Monday, 23 June 2014.   This advice contains new information in the Summary and under Where to get help (the Canadian Embassy in Democratic Republic of the Congo can provide consular assistance to Australians). We continue to advise Australians to reconsider their need to travel to the DRC due to the unpredictable security situation, ongoing armed conflict in the east of the country and the very high level of crime. We advise Australians not to travel to eastern and north-eastern regions of the DRC, including Goma, North and South Kivu Provinces and the Ituri district of Orientale Province.

Democratic Republic of the Congo overall

Eastern and north-eastern regions, including North and South Kivu Provinces and the Ituri district of Orientale Province

Summary

  • We recommend that you reconsider your need to travel to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) due to the unpredictable security situation, ongoing armed conflict in the east of the country and the very high level of crime.
  • There were shooting incidents in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi, Katanga Province, and Kindu, Maniema Province in December 2013. The security situation remains fragile.
  • We strongly advise you not to travel to eastern and north-eastern regions of the DRC including Goma, North and South Kivu and the Ituri district due to the highly volatile security situation. There has been intermittent armed conflict between rebel groups and the Congolese Army (FARDC) in recent months. In October 2013 fighting broke out to the north of Goma, close to the Rwandan border. Further conflict is likely.
  • The unstable security situation in the east and north-east has led to an increase in violent crime including an increased threat of kidnapping.
  • Political and ethnic protests and demonstrations occur throughout the country and have become violent in the past. You should exercise extreme caution and avoid all large gatherings, protests and demonstrations as they may turn violent.
  • The DRC’s borders with Angola, Rwanda and Burundi can close at short notice. The border crossing between DRC and Uganda at Bunagana remains closed due to military action.
  • Kinshasa’s main airport, Ndjili International Airport, and ferry terminal can close at short notice.
  • Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in DRC. The Canadian Embassy located in Kinshasa, provides consular assistance to Australians in DRC. This service includes the issuance of Provisional Travel Documents. The Australian Embassy in Zimbabwe can also assist Australians in DRC.
  • Due to the unpredictable security situation in the DRC, we strongly recommend that you register your travel and contact details with us, so we can contact you in an emergency.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
    • organise comprehensive travel insurance and check what circumstances and activities are not covered by your policy
    • subscribe to this travel advice to receive free email updates each time it's reissued.
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Entry and exit

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of the DRC for the most up to date information. Travellers are advised that visas are not available at point of entry into the DRC.

DRC is listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as endemic for yellow fever. Yellow fever is a serious and potentially fatal disease preventable by vaccination. A valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate is required for entry into the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

For more information about yellow fever, including Australian re-entry requirements, see the Department of Health website.

On arrival at any DRC port, visitors are required to declare any satellite telephones or GPS equipment.

All passengers departing DRC by air are required to pay a departure tax. Departure tax passes can be purchased at airports or from designated counters at banks.

All foreigners, resident and non-resident, must declare upon entry all amounts of currency exceeding the equivalent of US$10,000. Similarly, foreigners leaving the country must declare all amounts exceeding the equivalent of US$10,000 in foreign currency.

Make sure your passport has at least six months validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas. Australian Provisional Travel Documents issued by the Canadian Embassy in Kinshasa, on behalf of the Australian Government, are not acceptable for travelling or transiting through South Africa.

Safety and security

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General advice to Australian travellers.

Civil unrest/political tension

We recommend that you reconsider your need to travel to the DRC due to the unpredictable security situation and ongoing armed conflict. We strongly advise you not to travel to eastern and north-eastern regions of the DRC including Goma, North and South Kivu and the Ituri district in Orientale Provincedue to the highly volatile security situation.

There were shooting incidents in Kinshasa in December 2013 in the vicinity of the national television and radio station, the airport, the main army barracks and Ministry of Defence at Ngaliema. There were also reports of fighting in Lubumbashi, Katanga Province and in Kindu, Maniema Province. The security situation remains fragile and you should continue to exercise caution.

The security environment is unpredictable and may deteriorate with little warning. Political campaigning has been marked in the past by political unrest and violence. There continue to be risks of political or ethnic demonstrations giving rise to violent incidents across the country. You should avoid all civil disturbances, protests or demonstrations because they may turn violent.

You should monitor the media for possible risks to your safety and security. Local curfews can be imposed with little warning. You should follow the directions of local authorities.

Clashes between armed groups:

Clashes between various armed local groups including the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF-NALU), Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR), the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), Mai-Mai groups, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the Coalition of Congolese Patriotic Resistance (PARECO), and government forces are common in the DRC.

There are numerous government security forces stationed in urban areas, including Kinshasa. Local authorities, including the police, often have limited or no capacity to control the situation or provide assistance.

There is also a large UN military presence (the United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or MONUSCO) and several humanitarian organisations operating in the DRC. Over 2.6 million people have been internally displaced and you may be affected by refugee flows to, and from, neighbouring countries.

Eastern, north-eastern regions:

We strongly advise Australians not to travel to the eastern and north-eastern regions of the DRC, including Goma, North and South Kivu Provinces and the Ituri district of Orientale Province, because of the dangerous and unstable security situation and armed conflict throughout these areas.

In November 2012, the rebel group, M23, carried out a number of attacks in North Kivu and South Kivu and took control of Goma.

There was renewed fighting in the area around Goma in August and October 2013, causing civilian deaths and injuries. The security situation in Goma, and in the wider area of eastern DRC, remains extremely volatile and the Congolese military regularly conducts operations targeting rebel groups.

Several local NGOs have suspended or reduced operations in North and South Kivu due to the unstable security situation. If, despite our advice, you choose to remain in North and South Kivu provinces, you should stay in close contact with the Canadian Embassy in Kinshasa for the latest developments on the ground. The ability of the Canadian Embassy to provide consular assistance in this region is extremely limited.

Other armed groups continue sporadic fighting in the east, including North and South Kivu, Katanga and Orientale Provinces. Some armed groups are taking advantage of the instability to increase attacks. The Lord’s Resistance Army in particular is active in north-eastern DRC (Orientale Province) and the regions bordering Central African Republic and Sudan. Fighting in the region has led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people.

The United Nations reports that government soldiers and rebel groups have been responsible for politically-motivated killings, looting, sexual violence, kidnapping, carjacking, and instability in these regions. For more information about kidnapping, see our Kidnapping threat travel bulletin.

The Australian Government's longstanding policy is that it does not make payments or concessions to kidnappers. The Australian Government considers that paying a ransom increases the risk of further kidnappings, including of other Australians. If you do decide to travel to an area where there is a particular threat of kidnapping, you should ensure you have personal security measures in place, seek professional security advice and take out kidnapping insurance.

Crime

There is a very high level of crime throughout the DRC and risks increase after dark. You should avoid all travel after dark.

The unstable security situation in the east and north-east has resulted in increased violent crime in these areas.

Security authorities may target foreigners to solicit bribes, for example at roadblocks. Arbitrary arrests of foreign nationals by security authorities can occur. Australians are advised to be respectful and courteous in all interactions with security authorities and to avoid sensitive areas, including military facilities. There have been reports of criminals using roadblocks and posing as police or military personnel to rob people travelling at night. Do not permit soldiers or police officers to enter your vehicle and avoid entering the vehicle of anyone purporting to be a security officer. Carry colour photocopies of your passport and other identity documents and, when requested, hand these to security officials rather than the originals.

Vehicle thefts, burglaries and carjackings are common. When driving, keep doors locked and windows closed at all times and keep valuables out of sight. You should not drive off the main thoroughfares or park your vehicle in unsupervised areas.

Street crime and violent robbery is common, especially in Kinshasa. Foreigners have been targeted by criminals. You should avoid displaying valuables and cash.

Walking alone in the capital, including in daylight hours, is not recommended.

Money and valuables

Before you go, organise a variety of ways of accessing your money in the DRC, such as credit cards, and cash. US dollars are widely accepted in the DRC but should be in good condition (not torn) and issued after 2006. One dollar notes are rarely accepted. You should examine US notes before accepting them to ensure they are legitimate; counterfeit currency is widely circulated. Currency exchange should be conducted only at reputable banks and not on the street. Travellers' cheques are not accepted in Kinshasa and credit cards are only accepted at some major hotels. You may experience difficulties withdrawing cash from international accounts at ATMs, even at major hotels. You should consult your bank to find out whether your ATM card will work in the DRC.

Make two photocopies of valuable documents such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.

While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.

As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from The Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

Australians are required to pay an additional fee to have their passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.

Local travel

Kinshasa’s main airport (Ndjili International Airport) and ferry terminal can close at short notice. Civil unrest has resulted in the cancellation of some flights to Kinshasa.

If travelling by air to Kinshasa, we strongly recommend that you arrange to be met on arrival at the airport. Local immigration and customs procedures at Kinshasa Airport are difficult and you may need assistance from people familiar with requirements.

There is no reliable public transport.

Only taxis from some major hotels are reliable.

Driving in the DRC can be dangerous because of aggressive driving practices and low driving standards. Most roads are in poor condition with insufficient or non-existent signage and lighting. For further advice, see our road travel page.

Military and police roadblocks are common throughout the country, including in Kinshasa, particularly after dark. They may not be clearly marked. You may be required to show identification documents, including car registration and ownership papers. There have been reports of criminals using roadblocks and posing as police or military personnel to rob travellers.

There are risks involved in travelling by ferry or boat. Many are overloaded, lack necessary lifesaving equipment and are not sea worthy. Rail services are also unsafe due to poor safety standards.

Official clearance from the relevant DRC Ministry or Government Department is required before visiting any mining district.

The borders with Angola, Rwanda and Burundi can close at short notice.

The border crossing between DRC and Uganda at Bunagana remains closed due to military action.

Airline safety

We recommend against travel on domestic airlines. Local airlines have poor maintenance and safety standards. Please refer to our air travel page for information about aviation safety and security.

Laws

When you are in the DRC, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

Penalties for possession of illegal drugs include potentially harsh prison sentences and fines.

Any offence leading to a person's death is punishable by the death penalty.

Pedestrians and motorists are expected to stop beside the road when sirens or security forces announce the presence of the presidential and official motorcades. Photography of the motorcades is not permitted. Security personnel will give permission when bystanders can proceed.

Traffic and pedestrians are required to stop when passing a government installation during the raising and lowering of the national flag at approximately 7.30 a.m. and 6.00 p.m. every day. Police and military personnel often detain people who neglect to do so.

Curfews may be imposed with little or no warning.

We recommend you carry your passport and visa or immigration permit at all times. Police and immigration officials can request to see your passport and immigration stamp/visa at any time. Failure to produce these documents may result in detention. Failure to adhere to immigration requirements could result in imprisonment and/or deportation.

Photography of or near government buildings or other infrastructure, including airports, is prohibited.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Information for dual nationals

The DRC does not recognise dual nationality. This may limit our ability to provide consular assistance to Australian/DRC dual nationals who are arrested or detained.

Dual nationals should carefully consider which passport they use to enter the DRC. Passengers who are unable to produce the same passport on exit may face difficulties and may be stopped from continuing their journey.

Our Dual nationals page provides further information.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

The standard of medical facilities is basic in Kinshasa and inadequate outside of the capital. Doctors and hospitals generally require up-front payment before commencing treatment. In the event of a serious illness or accident, medical evacuation to a destination with the appropriate facilities would be necessary. Medical evacuation costs can be considerable.

It may be difficult to find certain medications. If you require regular medication, you should ensure you take a properly marked supply for the duration of your time in the DRC.

Outbreaks of poliomyelitis occurred in the DRC in 2011. All Australian travellers to polio infected countries such as the DRC should ensure they have completed a primary course of polio vaccinations and a booster dose prior to travel. If you are unsure of your polio vaccination status, check with your doctor or travel clinic at least eight weeks before you depart.

Malaria occurs widely and throughout the year in the DRC. Other insect-borne diseases (including filariasis, plague and African sleeping sickness) also occur. We encourage you to consider taking prophylaxis against malaria and to take measures to avoid insect bites, including using insect repellent at all times, wearing long, loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing and ensuring your accommodation in mosquito proof.

DRC is listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as endemic for yellow fever. Yellow fever is a potentially fatal viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes, which is preventable by vaccination. We strongly recommend that you are vaccinated against yellow fever before travelling to the DRC. See the Entry and Exit section for important information about vaccination certificate requirements. For more information about yellow fever, see the Department of Health website.

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including HIV/AIDS, cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, tuberculosis, meningitis, rabies, monkeypox and haemorrhagic fevers) are prevalent with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. Outbreaks of the human form of the Ebola virus have occurred in recent years. Don’t eat “bush meat” as this is widely thought to be responsible for a number of diseases, including Ebola.

We recommend you boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food. Do not swim in fresh water to avoid exposure to certain water-borne diseases such as bilharzia (schistosomiasis). Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

Where to get help

Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. By agreement between the Canadian and Australian governments, the Canadian Embassy in Kinshasa provides consular assistance to Australians in DRC. This service includes the issuance of Provisional Travel Documents. The Canadian Embassy is located at:

Embassy of Canada, Kinshasa

17 Avenue Pumbu
Commune de Gombe, Kinshasa
Telephone: +243 996 021 500
Facsimile: +243 99 602 1510 or +243 996 021 511
E-mail: knsha@international.gc.ca
Website: www.canadainternational.gc.ca/congo/

You can also obtain consular assistance from the Australian Embassy in Zimbabwe:

Australian Embassy, Harare

1 Green Close
Borrowdale
Harare, Zimbabwe
Telephone: (263 4) 853 235 55
Facsimile: (263 4) 870 566
E-mail: zimbabwe.embassy@dfat.gov.au
Website: www.zimbabwe.embassy.gov.au.

If you are travelling to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we strongly recommend that you register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

In a consular emergency, if you are unable to contact the above embassies you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

The DRC is subject to earthquakes. An earthquake hit the towns of Bukavu and Goma in February 2008. Many people were injured and property was damaged.

Volcanic eruptions have occurred at the Nyiragongo volcano in 2002 and the Nyamulagira volcano in 2006 and January 2010.

The rainy season is April to October in the north and November to March in the south. Landslides and flooding may occur during these periods which can affect transport infrastructure.

Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service. In the event of an earthquake, volcanic activity or other natural disaster, follow the advice of local authorities.

For parents

For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling with children page.



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.