Looking for important travel information while backpacking in Congo? Here you will find information on working in Congo, entry visas, Congo hostels, and much more.
Table of Contents
- Facts About Congo
- Entry Visa Requirements for Congo
- Foreigner Work Permits and Backpacker Jobs in Congo
- How to Say Common Phrases in Kituba
- Congo Hostels
Facts About Congo
The Congo is best known for the corruption and civil wars that have plagued the country since independence was granted in 1960. The long years of conflict have taken their toll on both the economic and natural state of the country, but there are still many sites of immense beauty across the Congo that are rarely seen on our televisions.
Situated along Africa’s west coast and bordered by Angola, Central Africa Republic, Cameroon, and Gabon, the Congo is a fusion of grassland, inland highlands and equatorial rainforest which account for its fascinating selection of wild animals and colourful birdlife.
‘The Congo’ is the name given to two smaller countries: the Republic of Congo (ROC) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo). It is the DR Congo that has seen the worst of the Congo’s conflict. Since the end of the country’s five-year civil war in 2003 a fragile peace has reigned, but there are still large areas of the DR Congo over which the Kinshasa government has little control, and in those areas tensions have remained particularly high and sporadic violence is commonplace. The British Foreign and Commonwealth Department urges UK nationals to seek the latest advice when planning a visit to any part of the Congo and visitors are advised to be particularly careful when travelling around the DR Congo.
Climate in Congo
The Congo has a tropical climate, remaining consistently hot and humid all year round, particularly in its equatorial regions. Annual temperatures average between 21C and 27C. The rainy season lasts from October to May with the Congo’s northern rainforests having an annual rainfall of 1100 mm.
Things to do in the Congo
Whilst tourism has not thrived easily in either of the Congolese countries, the Republic of Congo (ROC) is more accommodating to visitors than the Democratci Republic of Congo (DR Congo) and it is relatively easy to access any of the major towns situated in the ROC. A good way to get an idea of what to do is to scan the activities offered by Viator. They work directly with local tour operators, so you won’t have to scour the internet or roam around town trying to find the best deal.
Brazzaville, Capital of the ROC
Once the seat of French colonial rule and today the capital city of the ROC, Brazzaville is one of the Congo’s safer cities. Situated on the bank of the Congo River, it was once a major trading point before the civil war broke out. Today, locals are still trying to recover from the damage of the war, but the city’s PotoPoto district has a thriving nightlife and it is safe enough for visitors to wander about the candlelit night market and experience the Congolese music playing in the roadside bars and nightclubs. During the day-time, the national museum is well worth a visit as is the Basilica of St Anne, the municipal gardens and the house constructed for de Gaulle when the city served as the capital of Free France.
Pointe Noire, ROC
The coastal town of Pointe Noire in the Republic of Congo is the country’s official tourist resort and a lively beach town which has become wealthy through oil and wood exports, although very few locals have seen the fruit of its wealth. The town has an abundance of lively bars and restaurants and is one of the few places where backpackers are likely to meet fellow travellers.
Whilst the Pointe Noire has a long stretch of coastline its beaches are largely dirty and overcrowded. For a more peaceful alternative backpackers should head 15 miles north to the town of Pointe Indienne where few visitors populate the beach and the jungle provides shelter from the sun’s oppressive rays.
Wildlife in the Republic of Congo
As well as mountain and jungle, the Congo is dotted with freshwater lakes. In the Republic of Congo, Lac Bleu offers some good fishing opportunities. Waterskiing has become a popular activity on the Congo and Kouillou Rivers since the war ended.
In addition to its wealth of lakes and rivers, the Congo is marked by numerous tumultuous waterfalls. The Loufoulakari Falls are held to be the most impressive falls in the Brazzaville region and the Gorges of Dissio run through spectacular cliffs in the village of Loango, 20 miles from the popular city of Pointe Noire.
Kinshasa, Capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo)
Over to the east, Kinshasa is the capital city of the DR Congo and is most renowned for the rich collection of prehistoric and ethnographic artefacts at Kinshasa University. The city is neighboured by the fishing port of Kinkole and the beautiful Gardens of the Presidential Farm of Nsele. Like Brazzaville, Kinshasa has a lively nightlife and vibrant markets, but its districts sprawl with shanty towns and there is a large amount of poverty and political unrest in the city.
Wildlife in the Democratic Republic of Congo
One of the most amazing aspects of the Congo is its wealth of wildlife, which is best experienced in any of the country’s national parks. In the DR Congo, the Upemba National Park is intersected by the River Lualaba and marked by several lakes which are home to crocodiles, hippos and many species of birds.
The Garamba National Park covers 990,000 acres of parkland and is host to lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards and giraffes. Lions and elephants are also found in the Virungu National Park which, situated across two mountain ranges, is most renowned for its mountain gorillas.
Located at the border of the DR Congo and Uganda is Lake Albert, which contains more fish than any other in Africa. Nearby you’ll also find Lake Edward, which is home to a breathtaking selection of colourful birdlife. In the southwest of the DR Congo lie the Inkisi Falls, a spectacular display of water which falls an impressive 60m.
Close by, in the region of Mbanza-Ngungu are a network of caves which, coupled with its good climate, make the region a popular site for visitors. Also in the Mbanza-Ngungu region are the Gillet Botanical Gardens, where an extremely rare breed of orchid famously blooms.
The DR Congo also hosts the Ruwenzori range of mountains, peaking at the Pic Marguerite which stands at a breathtaking 5119m, with the snowline starting at 533m. The mountains offer some of Africa’s most spectacular scenery although much of the landscape was damaged when the Nyiragongo volcano erupted in 2002.
Travel to Congo
The Republic of Congo has an international airport at Brazzaville which is served by Sabena airlines, and it also has domestic flights which travel from Brazzaville to Point-Noire, stopping in Loubomo and Ouesso.
If you’re flying to Congo or plan to take short flights within the country, we recommend using a few different flight comparison search engines. Kiwi is a new favourite among travellers. On average, we have found the cheapest flights with them compared to the other websites out there.
Of course, it is always worth checking Skyscanner to guarantee you’re getting the best deal. Both websites offer great flexible search options, allowing you to search the whole country of Congo to find the cheapest airport to fly into, and also see prices for a full month if you’re flexible on travel dates.
Travel within Congo
A train service runs three times a day from Brazzaville to Point-Noire, via Loubomo and from Loubomo to Mbinda and there are also steamers and barges which run up the Congo and Ubangi Rivers linking Kinshasa to Brazzaville. Alternatively, taxis and mini-buses link most major cities and are probably the most efficient way of commuting around and between cities.
It is possible to hire cars in Brazzaville but very few of the roads are sealed meaning they are virtually impassable during the rainy season. Whilst Brazzaville and Pointe Noire are relatively secure, the consulate is currently advising that visitors make every effort to travel between the two towns by air rather than by road as the risk of hijacking between cities is high.
Health care issues in Congo
It is useful to remember when visiting the Congo that, if any medical treatment is required medical providers may not accept payment through an insurance company and you will have to be paid for in full immediately following the treatment. It is advisable to have access to cash from credit card or wire transfer and to accept treatment from licensed medical personnel in order to claim a full insurance reimbursement later on.
It is also highly recommended that travellers seek medical advice regarding the necessary vaccinations as the risk of disease is high, particularly in the DR Congo.
Entry visa requirements for Congo
To gain entry to the Congo it is necessary for all travellers to have a visa (with the exception of French nationals). Fifteen-day and multiple-entry visas can be obtained from the Congo’s borders or from Brazzaville if travelling by boat from Kinshasa, but these can be very expensive and visitors are advised to get visas from their own country or from an embassy where possible.
Foreigner work permits and backpacker jobs in Congo
There are very few opportunities for paid employment in the Congo and the work that is available is likely to be poorly paid and dangerous. There are, however, numerous initiatives available that offer accommodation in return for voluntary work; a good way to experience the Congo and make a difference to those whose lives have been ruined by the violence and disease caused by civil war. Volunteers for peace has an extensive directory of opportunities across the Democratic Republic of Congo offering various short-term projects that have arisen from grassroots needs.
Congo Hostels and Budget Accommodation
With its turbulent economic climate, the Congo is an extremely cheap backpacking destination and budget accommodation in the Republic of Congo is available in Brazzaville, Pointe Noire and Loubamo. In other towns accommodation is sparse and there are very few hotels or hostels anywhere in the DR Congo.
The average cost of a basic hotel room anywhere in the Congo is between FC3 and FC7 per night with high standard rooms being as little as FC15 per night, but self-catering accommodation is a much more expensive alternative.
In general, hotels in Brazzaville are cheap but of a very poor standard with the exception of ‘Le Meridien Brazzaville.’ A beautiful hotel situated in a peaceful residential area close to Brazzaville’s city centre, ‘Le Meridien Brazzaville’ has good facilities with an excellent restaurant selling French and African cuisine.
On the whole, hotels in Pointe Noire are cleaner and of a higher quality than those in Brazzaville although as with most accommodation in the Congo, facilities are still relatively basic.
We have had good experiences finding hostels on HostelWorld. They have the largest inventory of hostels worldwide, and with over 10 million reviews and ratings from other travellers, you know exactly what to expect.
Another good way to find accommodation in Congo is by checking hotels.com and booking.com. With both sites, you’ll not only find hotels, but also homestays, hostels, and other unique accommodation. We have discovered some great finds and have appreciated the ability to book ahead. You can use their advanced filtering to narrow your results by budget, location score, overall review score, and amenities. Many of the places on booking.com also offer free cancellation, which takes the pressure off the planning phase of your trip.
Hostels are a cheap form of accommodation, and so they are essential to backpackers and other budget travellers. HostelWorld or booking.com are two great places to start. They both have a huge inventory of hostels worldwide.
Useful links for travel in Congo
- Foreign and Commonwealth advice London provides up to date advice for travelling to the Congo
- Accommodation available in the Republic of Congo
- Kiwi, Skyscanner, and Opodo – Flight comparison search engines to find the cheapest flights to Congo and within the country
- Viator – a collection of local tours and activities. Also offers Skip the Line tickets for crowded attractions
- HostelWorld – #1 hostel search website. Thousands of hostels and millions of reviews from fellow travellers
- Booking.com – commonly used booking site. Hostels, hotels, and other unique accommodation with advanced filtering and millions of reviews
- Travel Insurance – read our comprehensive overview of Travel Insurance and some recommended providers
There you have it, the ultimate Congo backpacking guide. We hope you have found all the information you need for backpacking around Congo.