Despite an end to the country’s civil war in 2003, safety and security in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) remain tenuous, especially in the eastern and border regions. Due to numerous safety concerns, many foreign governments, including the UK and US, advise their nationals to avoid or limit travel to a number of conflict-prone provinces.
Expats travelling to or living in the Democratic Republic of Congo should register their presence in the country with their embassy.
There are several health and safety issues to be aware of living in the DRC; these may differ depending on where an expat lives or is travelling to. We recommend expats follow the local news and advice of foreign and local authorities.
Crime in the DRC
Crime rates are high in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with both petty and violent crimes occurring frequently. Foreigners are often targeted, especially in the vicinity of hotels and crowded areas. It’s best to remain vigilant at all times, never go out on the streets alone and avoid travelling at night.
The eastern provinces are plagued by insecurity and crimes such as banditry, rape, kidnapping and robbery. Women and children are particularly vulnerable to these crimes. Most travel to these areas is strongly advised against, as, despite the presence of Congolese security forces and peacekeeping troops, these crimes occur largely unchecked.
Expats who wish to explore the DRC and go on safari should also understand the risks. In the east of the country, bordering Uganda, lies Virunga National Park, said to be Africa's oldest national park. There are opportunities for gorilla trekking here. However, armed groups have been known to be active in the park, presenting the risk of kidnap or injury.
Protests in the DRC
Given the country's tenuous political and economic situation, civil unrest is common. Protests and political demonstrations take place often, especially in Kinshasa and Goma. These have a tendency to turn violent rather quickly, and it’s recommended that expats avoid all large protest gatherings.
There may also be a military and police presence. Commercial flights and internet connections are known to be suspended when demonstrations turn seriously violent. While this sounds distressing, it is best to be aware of the situation and follow local media surrounding it. Streets may be blocked as a result, so travel and movement are limited. It's advised to avoid travelling around during times of protests.
Conflict in the DRC
Despite an end to the country's civil war in 2003, safety remains a pressing issue in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Numerous armed groups continue to operate in the region, particularly in Ituri, North Kivu, South Kivu, Bas-Uele, Haut Uele, Tanganyika and Haut-Lomami provinces. Foreign authorities also advise against all travel to the Kasai region and eastern provinces. Despite concerted government and UN efforts, violence continues to affect these areas.
Expats living in the Democratic Republic of Congo are encouraged to monitor the situation in the east of the country carefully and should consult with their local embassy before travelling.
Road safety in the DRC
Travel safety is something to be aware of when getting around. Poorly maintained roads and reckless driving contribute to the many traffic accidents. If expats plan on driving in the DRC, they should be vigilant and drive defensively.
Most car rental agencies only allow renting a vehicle with a driver. Many expats prefer this, as the driver will know how to best navigate the roads.
The authorities also recommend sticking to the main routes, locking doors, keeping windows up and keeping valuables out of sight.
When travelling by taxi, it's best to book and contact a private taxi company or driver and not hail one off the street. This is because of cases of people posing as taxi drivers and then robbing customers.