Democratic Republic Of The Congo Travel Information
GMT +1 in the west (Kinshasa) and GMT +2 in the east.
Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. Various plugs are in use, but two-pin attachment plugs and round pin plugs with grounding are common.
French is the official language, but Lingala, Kingwana, Kikongo and Tshiluba are also spoken.
A 10 percent service charge is included in restaurant and hotel bills and further tipping is unnecessary. In general, tipping ( Mahtabish, meaning 'something extra') is expected.
The east and north east of the DRC can be insecure and travellers should be cautious if travel to the region is necessary, particularly near the borders with Uganda and Rwanda. There is a high level of street crime and armed robbery, particularly in Kinshasa, where armed gangs or criminals posing as plain-clothes policemen regularly attack foreigners.
Security officials have also been known to arrest foreigners and demand payment for their release. Do not display valuables on your person, walk the streets alone, or carry large amounts of money, and keep car doors and windows locked. Demonstrations and political gatherings should be avoided. Boats and ferries are poorly maintained and have low safety standards.
Photography is technically illegal in the Democratic Republic of the Congo without a permit. Even with a permit though, one must never take photos of police or military personnel, official buildings or motorcades. The Congolese may get very upset if you take pictures of them, or their children, without permission. At 6am and 6pm the national flag is raised and lowered, and all traffic and pedestrians are expected to stop for this ceremony, as well as for any official motorcade.
By rights, the Democratic Republic of Congo should be one of Africa's richest countries owing to to its abundance of natural resources, yet it has suffered from corrupt leadership and extensive civil war; however its biodiversity, abundant natural resources, and agricultural potential offer many opportunities for foreign investment. Some key areas with potential for investment include mining, oil, energy, fishery, timber, railroads and telecoms.
The business community in the DRC is still developing, and the country is currently ranked among the most difficult for ease of doing business. Travellers must ensure business is conducted with the correct (legal) establishments, and it is crucial to work with a local attorney in order to avoid mistakes caused by unfair competition, scams, or simple ignorance. Most foreign investors will find that a good deal of homework combined with respect for the local culture will make them welcome in the DRC.
The principal language used is French, and interpreters are available. It is important to establish a good personal relationship with business connections, as these relationships are often given preferential treatment. Business tends to be formal: men wear light suits while women should avoid trousers. Formal suits and ties are generally worn only when meeting dignitaries or government officials. Business hours are usually 8am to 4pm Monday to Friday, closing at 12pm on Saturdays.
The international dialling code for the DRC is +243 and the outgoing code is 00, followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). International direct dialling is available. Domestic telephone connections are unreliable. There are GSM 900 and 1800 networks with variable coverage and roaming agreements covering Kinshasa. There are some internet cafés in Kinshasa, but power failures can be a problem.
Visitors to the DRC may import 100 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250g tobacco; one bottle of alcohol; perfume for personal use and a camera to be used for touristic purposes, without paying customs duty.