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The Republic of the Congo is in Central Africa. The country is also known as Congo-Brazzaville to distinguish it from its giant eastern neighbour, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Congo-Kinshasa). A former French colony, it boasts a variety of natural landscapes and a rich cultural diversity.

Regions[edit]

While Congo's regions are diverse, there is one constant you can rely on: about 80% of the entire country is covered in the dense Congo Rainforest.

Congo-Brazzaville regions map.png
  Coast and Mayombe
  Congolese Plateau
  Cuvette
  Niari Valley
  Pool (Brazzaville, Kinkala)
Home to the capital Brazzaville and the traveller's main entry point.
  Sangha and Likouala

Cities[edit]

Other destinations[edit]

Landscape at the Alima river, a tributary to the Congo river

Understand[edit]

LocationRCongo.png
Capital Brazzaville
Currency Central African CFA franc (XAF)
Population 5.2 million (2017)
Electricity 230 volt / 50 hertz (Europlug, Type E)
Country code +242
Time zone UTC+01:00, Africa/Lubumbashi
Emergencies 117 (police), 118 (fire department)
Driving side right

Following independence as the Congo Republic on August 15, 1960, Fulbert Youlou ruled as the country's first president until labour elements and rival political parties instigated a three-day uprising that ousted him. The Congolese military took charge of the country briefly and installed a civilian provisional government headed by Alphonse Massamba-Débat.

Under the 1963 constitution, Massamba-Débat was elected President for a five-year term but it was ended abruptly with an August 1968 coup d'état. Capt. Marien Ngouabi, who had participated in the coup, assumed the presidency on 31 December 1968. One year later, President Ngouabi proclaimed Congo to be Africa's first "people's republic" and announced the decision of the National Revolutionary Movement to change its name to the Congolese Labour Party (PCT). On 16 March 1977, President Ngouabi was assassinated. An 11-member Military Committee of the Party (CMP) was named to head an interim government with Col. (later Gen.) Joachim Yhombi-Opango to serve as President of the Republic.

After decades of turbulent politics bolstered by Marxist-Leninist rhetoric, and with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Congo completed a transition to multi-party democracy with elections in August 1992. Denis Sassou Nguesso conceded defeat and Congo's new president, Prof. Pascal Lissouba, was inaugurated on 31 August 1992.

However, Congo's democratic progress was derailed in 1997. As presidential elections scheduled for July 1997 approached, tensions between the Lissouba and Sassou camps mounted. On 5 June, President Lissouba's government forces surrounded Sassou's compound in Brazzaville and Sassou ordered members of his private militia, known as "Cobras", to resist. Thus began a 4-month conflict that destroyed or damaged much of Brazzaville and caused tens of thousands of civilian deaths. In early October, Angolan troops invaded Congo on the side of Sassou and, in mid-October, the Lissouba government fell. Soon thereafter, Sassou declared himself President. The Congo Civil War continued for another year and a half until a peace deal was struck between the various factions in December 1999.

Elephants and African buffaloes in Virunga National Park

In sham elections in 2002, Sassou won with almost 90% of the vote cast. His two main rivals Lissouba and Bernard Kolelas were prevented from competing and the only remaining credible rival, Andre Milongo, advised his supporters to boycott the elections and then withdrew from the race. A new constitution, agreed upon by referendum in January 2002, granted the president new powers and also extended his term to seven years as well as introducing a new bicameral assembly. International observers took issue with the organization of the presidential election as well as the constitutional referendum, both of which were reminiscent in their organization of Congo's era of the one-party state.

Elections in July 2009 were boycotted by opposition parties. Inevitably, Sassou was re-elected, but with a questionably high turnout. Demonstrations in Brazzaville were firmly put down by riot police.

The Republic of the Congo's sparse population is concentrated in the southwestern portion of the country, leaving the vast areas of tropical jungle in the north virtually uninhabited. Thus, the Republic of Congo is one of the most urbanized countries in Africa, with 85% of its total population living in a few urban areas, namely in Brazzaville, Pointe-Noire, or one of the small cities or villages lining the 332-mile (534 km) railway which connects the two cities. In rural areas, industrial and commercial activity has declined rapidly, leaving rural economies dependent on the government for support and subsistence. Before the 1997 war, about 15,000 Europeans and other non-Africans lived in Congo, most of whom were French. Only about 9,500 remain.

Get in[edit]

A map showing the visa requirements of Republic of the Congo

Visa requirements[edit]

The Republic of the Congo is not a country you can just waltz into. There are few visa-free arrangements in place, and thus, almost everyone requires a visa to visit the country.

Citizens of the following countries can obtain a visa on arrival: Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Togo, and the United Arab Emirates.

If you require a visa to visit the country, you must possess a valid passport and you must submit the following: two completed visa application forms, two passport photographs, airline tickets, a travel itinerary, and an invitation letter from a Congolese individual or organisation (a hotel reservation will normally suffice).

Visa fees tend to be very expensive (The Congolese embassy in the United States charges $200 for visa applications), so plan accordingly. Congolese embassies recommend that you submit all relevant documentation (usually a month before your trip) in advance. Visas typically take 7-10 days to process.

If you manage to get your hands on a V.I.P invitation letter, you can enter the country without a visa, but in practice, it is almost impossible to obtain this document unless your inviting organisation or the Congolese individual is well connected, famous, or influential.

By plane[edit]

Maya-Maya airport

Maya-Maya Airport (BZV IATA) in Brazzaville is linked by flights to Paris by Air France, Douala in Cameroon, Addis Ababa and Kinshasa by Ethiopian Airlines, Nairobi, Casablanca and the national carrier, ECAir.

By car[edit]

It's safe to drive in the Republic of the Congo. A good sealed road goes north from Brazzaville, but only as far north as President Sassou's hometown of Oyo. Beyond Oyo, the roads get very bumpy and are totally impassable in the rain. It is also very hard to get a rental car that you can drive yourself.

By boat[edit]

Passenger and VIP ferries operate daily between Brazzaville and Kinshasa roughly every 2 hours between 8AM and 3PM. Prices for the ferries are: US$15 for the passenger and US$30 for the VIP ferry. The VIP ferry is recommended as these are brand new boats and are not as cramped. A valid visa for both countries is required in either direction. The bureaucracy at either end require some time. Entry and exit procedures in Brazzaville are "easy" and straight forward and people are very helpful in assisting to get through without troubles. In contrast, these procedures are a bit difficult in Kinshasa and depend much on whether you are an individual traveller or assisted by an organisation or an official government representative. There are also speed boats to hire, either in a group or alone (price!), however, it is not advisable to book them as they really speed across the river along the rapids.

Barges follow the Congo, then the Oubangui, rivers right up to Bangui.

Get around[edit]

Minibus and taxis in Pointe-Noire

By shared taxi or minibus[edit]

Ridiculously cheap shared taxis and minibuses run on an ad hoc basis between towns and villages, crammed with Congolese villagers taking all sorts of livestock for sale in Brazzaville.

By taxi[edit]

In Brazzaville, taxis are green. FCFA 700 generally gets you around a neighborhood. This goes up to FCFA 1000 at night. Drivers are generally fair with prices, and haggling is not required before getting in.

By train[edit]

Pointe-Noire train station

The Congo-Ocean Railway (COR, or CFCO) links the Atlantic port of Pointe-Noire (now in the Republic of Congo) with Brazzaville, a distance of 502km.

From the start of the civil war in 1997, the line was closed for six years. In 2007 the BBC reported it to be in a "decrepit state with the majority of trains now broken". UNICEF organised a train in August 2007 to distribute malaria nets vital in the prevention of the disease.

Talk[edit]

The official language of the RoC is French. The main indigenous languages are Kituba and Lingala.

See[edit]

Epulu river in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve

Do[edit]

Buy[edit]

Money[edit]

Exchange rates for CFA francs

As of January 2022:

  • US$1 ≈ CFA580
  • €1 ≈ CFA660
  • UK£1 ≈ CFA780

Exchange rates fluctuate. Current rates for these and other currencies are available from XE.com

The currency of the country is the Central African CFA franc, denoted FCFA (ISO currency code: XAF). It's also used by five other Central African countries. It is interchangeable at par with the West African CFA franc (XOF), which is used by six countries. Both currencies are fixed at a rate of 1 euro = 655.957 CFA francs.

The U.S. dollar is not widely accepted.

ATMs[edit]

All Ecobank ATMs in the Republic of the Congo take Mastercard and Visa card for cash withdrawal.

Shopping[edit]

There is an artisan mart and boutiques in the market near the BDEAC (Banque Developpement pour les Etats de l'Afrique Centrale). Really beautiful jewelry, masks, paintings, and other artwork.

All business is conducted in cash. Small change is very scarce and hard to come by. Do not accept torn or taped banknotes.

Eat[edit]

Dried fish for sale at the Oyo river market

There is good and healthy Chinese food at Osaka Restaurant, in Pointe Noire. The average price for a meal is US$12-18. All meals are served in nice clean dishes, the restaurant is indoors and has AC, with a back-up generator, just in case. Some of the workers speak English and French.

There are several great restaurants in Brazzaville. Any taxi driver can take you to one of these nicer places (FCFA 5000-15 000). Most places are closed on Sundays. Expect beers to be overpriced here (FCFA 1000-2000).

Drink[edit]

Palm wine is a local favorite in the village. Beer is the favorite in town next to Fanta, Coke etc. There is also a local red wine (SOVINCO) imported from Gabon and the "brique", a liter of imported, mostly Spanish wine from the box.

There is a big price range on beer (FCFA 500-5,000) depending on what neighborhood and type of bar or restaurant you're in.

Produced in Congo under Heineken supervision: N'Gok (meaning "Crocodile", blond, Congolese), Primus (blond, Belgium, Central Africa), Mütsig (blond, French Alsace Region), Guinness (dark, Ireland), and Turbo King (dark, Central Africa)

Imported: Heineken and Bavaria

If the above is too much there is also water of various local and imported brands sold in 1.5 litre plastic bottles.

Sleep[edit]

Stay safe[edit]

The Republic of the Congo is generally a safe country. Crime rates tend to be low, and people can travel independently without any major worries or concerns. This said, crime such as robbery and assault remains a concern. As in any developing country, don't draw too much attention to yourself and do what the locals do. As the saying goes, "when in Rome, do what the Romans do".

Authorities[edit]

There are numerous police checkpoints throughout the country and it's difficult to know if you're coming across a police checkpoint since many of them are poorly marked. In the event you come across a police checkpoint, the police may ask you for your ID and they may conduct a thorough search of your vehicle. This is purely for security reasons, nothing more, nothing less.

As with all authority figures, always remain calm, firm, and polite. If the police ask you to do something, do it. Don't challenge their authority.

Since members of the police earn low salaries, it's possible you may be solicited for bribes.

Political unrest[edit]

The Republic of the Congo is one of the most corrupt and least efficiently governed countries in the world.

You will very easily learn that the Congolese in general are absolutely frustrated with their government and demonstrations against the government can turn violent. Although no major protests have occurred since 2015, keep an eye out as protests can occur without warning.

Civil conflict[edit]

As aforementioned, many Congolese people are frustrated with their government, and this has often lead to open warfare. The most recent war was the "Pool War", in which more than 13,000 people were displaced in the Pool region. Although ceasefire agreements remain in place, frustrations with the government mean that conflict can erupt at any time.

Stay healthy[edit]

Population estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and death rates, lower population and growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected. In any case use your common sense: do not have unprotected sex.

The likelihood of getting malaria is very high if effective preventative medication is not taken. The malaria caused by Plasmodium falciparum can be very serious. Medical attention should be sought if any symptoms are shown.

Tap water is not drinkable, if it's even running at all.

Medical care is substandard throughout the country. Hospitals lack modern equipment, necessary medical supplies and medications, and well-trained physicians, nurses and support staff.

  • Netcare Clinic:

Address: B.P. 2422, Brazzaville, Congo Tel: 547 0911 (Main Line) or 679 6711

This facility is a franchise from South Africa. It is clean, has facilities for 3 private rooms, an ambulance, a one bed emergency room, basic radiography, pharmacy and a laboratory with microscopy, haematology, and basic chemists. There are two main doctors, Dr. Ali, a Lebanese doctor who considered as the best medic in Netcare, and Dr. Stephan, a French doctor who is also a good doctor.

  • Pharmacie Mavre

Tel: 81 18 39 Located in Centreville, next to the Cabinet Dentaire building Brazzaville boasts a number of pharmacies, but Pharmacie Mavré is recommended. Please remember to always check the expiration dates on boxes before purchasing any products.

Respect[edit]

White travelers should take care while travelling in the Republic. Racial tension and discrimination is not uncommon here, so be safe and keep to yourself.

Connect[edit]

You can talk to your loved ones using any of the three mobile operators MTN, CelTel (now Zain), or Warid.

The local call rate are relatively cheap and cost you around FCFA 20-20 per minute.

This country travel guide to Republic of the Congo is an outline and may need more content. It has a template, but there is not enough information present. If there are Cities and Other destinations listed, they may not all be at usable status or there may not be a valid regional structure and a "Get in" section describing all of the typical ways to get here. Please plunge forward and help it grow!