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Travel Security Advice for the Republic of Congo

 

Republic_of_Congo_National_Flag

Congo_mapDemocratic_Congo_Overview


COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:

The Republic of the Congo (Congo-Brazzaville) is a developing nation in central Africa.  The official language is French.  The largest cities are the capital, Brazzaville, located on the Congo River, and Pointe Noire on the coast.  Civil conflict in 1997 and again in 1998-99 damaged parts of the capital and large areas in the south of the country.  The last rebel group signed a cease-fire accord with the government in March 2003.  Facilities for tourism are very limited.  Read the Department of State Background Notes on the Republic of the Congo (Brazzaville) for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:

A passport, visa, and evidence of yellow fever vaccination are required for entry.  Additional information on entry requirements may be obtained from the Embassy of the Republic of the Congo, 4891 Colorado Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C.  20011, telephone (202) 726-5500, or from the Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Congo to the United Nations, 14 E. 65th St., New York, NY, 10021, telephone (212) 744-7840.  Overseas, inquiries should be made at the nearest Congolese embassy or consulate.

Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website.  For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information Sheet.

SAFETY AND SECURITY:

Although the Republic of the Congo is still recovering from the Civil War, there have been no serious episodes of unrest or violence since the March 2003 peace accord.  Continued security awareness, however, remains a key consideration for all visitors.

In the lead-up to the July 2009 presidential elections, U.S. citizens should take particular care to avoid political rallies and street demonstrations.

Travel in the Pool region south of Brazzaville should be avoided.  The Embassy continues to receive reports of roadblocks and armed robberies from travelers to this region.  The passenger train connecting Brazzaville and Point Noire passes through this region and train travelers have also been robbed.  For this reason the Embassy discourages travel by road or rail between Brazzaville and Pointe Noire. 

Visitors should also pay close attention to events in the Democratic Republic of Congo as unrest in Kinshasa can also affect Brazzaville.  In 2007, stray small arms fire originating in Kinshasa landed in Brazzaville.  For the most up to date security and safety information on the Democratic Republic of Congo, please refer to the Department of State's
Travel Warning and Country Specific Information Sheet for the Democratic Republic of Congo.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ website, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada or, for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.  These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.  For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s information on A Safe Trip Abroad.

CRIME:

In the Republic of the Congo, petty street crime targeting foreigners is rare.  However, incidents of mugging and pick-pocketing have been reported near the ports in Pointe Noire and Brazzaville, as well as in the Congolese neighborhoods surrounding Brazzaville's city center.

Criminal elements are known to target middle-class and affluent residences without 24-hour guards for burglary. 

Travelers should note that in the case of theft and robbery, legal recourse is limited; therefore, travelers may wish to leave all valuable items at home.

INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.  If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for assistance.  The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, help you find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds may be transferred.  Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

While there is no local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in the Republic of the Congo, the Rapid Response Police Team can be reached at 665-4804.  However, police resources are limited and response to emergency calls is often slow (15 minutes or longer).

Please see our information on Victims of Crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES:

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.  Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.  Persons violating Congolese laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.  Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in the Republic of the Congo are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.  Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States. 

Please see our information on
Criminal Penalties.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:


CURRENCY: The Republic of the Congo is primarily a cash economy and uses the Central African Franc (CFA), a common currency with Gabon, Chad, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, and Equatorial Guinea.  U.S. dollars may be exchanged for local currency.  Traveler’s checks can be cashed for a fee at some hotels.  Two hotels in Brazzaville and several in Pointe Noire accept major credit cards but prefer payment in cash.  Prices are usually quoted in CFA or Euros.  Other businesses do not normally accept credit cards.  Personal checks drawn on foreign accounts are not accepted.  Western Union has offices in Brazzaville and Pointe Noire, and one bank in Brazzaville has an ATM.

CUSTOMS: Airport police and customs officials routinely inspect incoming and outgoing luggage, even for internal travel.  For a complete list of prohibited items, please contact the nearest Congolese embassy or consulate.  Please see our
Customs Information.

DETENTION: Local security forces in areas outside Brazzaville and Pointe Noire may detain foreigners to solicit bribes.  Detention of U.S. citizens, particularly in remote areas, may not always be promptly reported to the U.S. Government by Congolese authorities.  U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their passport with them at all times so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship is readily available.  If detained or arrested, U.S. citizens should always ask to be allowed to contact the U.S. Embassy.  Please see the Registration/Embassy Location section below.

PHOTOGRAPHY: In general there are no restrictions on photography; however, photographs of government buildings or military installations, port facilities or the airport should not be taken.  It is best to request permission before photographing people in remote areas where populations adhere to traditional beliefs.  If permission is refused, the photo should not be taken.

FERRY SERVICE TO KINSHASA: Ferry service between Brazzaville and Kinshasa normally operates from 8 a.m. to 4 a.m. Monday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Sunday, but it may close completely with minimal notice.  A special exit permit from the Republic of the Congo’s Immigration Service and a visa from the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s embassy/consulate are required to cross the Congo River from Brazzaville to Kinshasa.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:

Medical facilities are extremely limited. Some medicines are in short supply, particularly in rural areas.  Travelers should carry their own supply of properly labeled medications.

Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease.  Plasmodium falciparum malaria, the type that predominates in the Congo, is resistant to the antimalarial drug chloroquine.  Because travelers to the Republic of the Congo are at high risk for contracting malaria, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that travelers should take one of the following antimalarial drugs: mefloquine (Lariam - TM), doxycycline, or atovaquone/proguanil (Malarone -TM).  Travelers who become ill with a fever or flu-like illness while traveling in a malaria-risk area and up to one year after returning home should seek prompt medical attention and tell the physician their travel history and what antimalarials they have been taking. The CDC provides additional information on malaria protective measures.  

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of the Republic of the Congo. 

For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) websiteFurther general health information for travelers is available from the WHO.


MEDICAL INSURANCE:

The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.  Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.  The information below concerning the Republic of the Congo is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Road conditions are generally poor and deteriorate significantly during the rainy season, November-May.  Maintenance of the few paved roads is limited.  Overland travel off the main roads requires a four-wheel drive vehicle.  Poorly marked checkpoints, sometimes manned by undisciplined soldiers, exist in many areas of the countryside. 

The U.S. Embassy in Brazzaville does not recommend or endorse the use of taxi cabs or other forms of public transportation in the Republic of the Congo.  Most of these vehicles are not equipped with seatbelts or other standard safety features required in the United States.  Please keep this risk in mind if you choose to use this form of transportation.

Traffic safety in general is hazardous due to high speeds, aggressive driving, poorly maintained vehicles and general apathy for the safety of pedestrians and cyclists.

Roads are narrow, dangerously potholed, full of debris and pedestrians, and frequently wash out during rainy season. Emergency services are limited.  Please refer to the medical section above.

Please refer to our
Road Safety page for more information.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:

As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in the Republic of the Congo, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of the Republic of the Congo's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards.  Further information may be found on the FAA's website.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES:

For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:

Americans living or traveling in the Republic of the Congo are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate through the State Department’s travel registration website so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within the Republic of the Congo. Americans without Internet access may register in person at the U.S. Embassy in Brazzaville By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.

This replaces the Country Specific Information for the Republic of the Congo dated August 29, 2008, to update the sections on Safety and Security, Medical Facilities and Health Information, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, and Registration/Embassy Location.

 


 

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office also has information regarding travel to the Republic of Congo HERE....

Looking for an Embassy ?, You can also check out our World Wide Embassy Listings Section HERE (For US Citizens) or HERE (For UK Citizens)......

Regards

The SW Team.....

 

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