Democratic Republic of the Congo

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The Democratic Republic of the Congo ; often shortened to DRC or D.R. Congo) is the largest and most populous country in Central Africa. It straddles the Equator and is surrounded by Angola to the southwest; Angola's Cabinda exclave and the Republic of the Congo to the northwest; the Central African Republic to the north; South Sudan to the northeast; Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania in the east from north to south; and Zambia to the southeast. This country is also frequently called Congo-Kinshasa to distinguish it from its northwestern neighbor, the Republic of Congo (also known as "Congo-Brazzaville"). In the past, the DRC has been known as the Congo Free State, Belgian Congo, the Republic of the Congo, Congo-Leopoldville, or Zaire. On this and other guides within the DRC, "Congo" refers to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. (less...) (more...)

Population: 75,507,308 people
Area: 2,344,858 km2
Highest point: 5,110 m
Coastline: 37 km
Life expectancy: 56.14 years
GDP per capita: $400
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About Democratic Republic of the Congo

Climate

The country straddles the Equator, with one-third to the North and two-thirds to the South. As a result of this equatorial location, the Congo experiences large amounts of precipitation and has the highest frequency of thunderstorms in the world. The annual rainfall can total upwards of 80 inches (2,032 mm) in some places, and the area sustains the second largest rain forest in the world (after that of the Amazon). This massive expanse of lush jungle covers most of the vast, low-lying central basin of the river, which slopes toward the Atlantic Ocean in the West. This area is surrounded by plateaus merging into savannas in the south and southwest, by mountainous terraces in the west, and dense grasslands extending beyond the Congo River in the north. High, glaciated mountains are found in the extreme eastern region.

Geography

The DRC is truly vast. At 2,345,408 square kilometres (905,567 sq mi), it is larger than the combined areas of Spain, France, Germany, Sweden, and Norway—or nearly three and a half times the size of Texas.

The defining feature of the country is the second largest rainforest in the world. Rivers large and small snake throughout the country and with a poor road network remains the main means of transport to this day. The Congo River is the third largest river in the world measured by discharge—it even continues into the Atlantic, forming a submarine canyon roughly 50 mi (80 km) to the edge of the continental shelf! It also has the distinction of being one of the deepest rivers in the world with depths up to 220 m (720 ft). Because of the huge volume of water, depth, and rapids, the Congo River is home to a large number of endemic species. The Congo River "begins" at Boyoma Falls near Kisangani. Above these falls, the river is known as the Lualaba River, whose longest tributary extends into Zambia. The Obangui River forms the border between the DRC and CAR/Congo-Brazzaville before flowing into the Congo River.

The Albertine Rifft—a branch of the East African Rift—runs along the eastern border of the DRC. It is responsible for Lakes Tanganyika, Kivu, Edward, & Albert. The rift is flanked by a number of extinct volcanoes and two volcanoes that are still active today. The Rwenzori Mountains and Virunga Mountains along the border with Rwanda are quite scenic, rising in the midst of lush tropical forests and sometimes eerily shrouded in mist. Several peaks are over 4000m (13,000 feet). Mount Nyiragongo contains one of only four continuous lava lakes in the world.

The only part of the country not covered by lush forests is the south, around the Kasai Province, which contains mostly savanna and grasslands.

Activities

Congo is the centre of popular African music. The rhythms are irresistible, once you get the feel for it. Try visiting a local bar or disco, in Bandal or Matonge (both in Kinshasa), if possible with live soukouss music, and just hit the dance floor!

Food

Congo has one national dish: moambe. It's made of eight ingredients (moambe is the Lingala word for eight): palm nuts, chicken, fish, peanuts, rice, cassave leaves, bananas and hot pepper sauce.

Drinks

Do not drink the local water. Bottled water seems to be cheap enough, but sometimes hard to find for a good price. The usual soft drinks (called sucré in Congo) such as Coke, Pepsi, Um Bongo and Mirinda are available in most places and are safe to drink. Local drinks like Vitalo are amazing. Traditional drinks like ginger are also common.

The local beer is based on rice, and tastes quite good. It comes in 75 cL bottles. Primus, Skol, Castel are the most common brands. Tembo, Doppel are the dark local beers.

In rural areas, you may try the local palm wine, an alcoholic beverage from the sap of the palm tree. It is tapped right from the tree, and begins fermenting immediately after collection. After two hours, fermentation yields an aromatic wine of up to 4% alcohol content, mildly intoxicating and sweet. The wine may be allowed to ferment longer, up to a day, to yield a stronger, more sour and acidic taste, which some people prefer.

Beware of the local gin. Sometimes unscrupulous vendors mix in methanol which is toxic and can cause blindness. Some people believe that the methanol is a by product of regular fermentation. This is not the case as regular fermentation can not yield methanol in toxic amounts.

Shopping

There are some supermarkets in Gombe commune of Kinshasa that sell food and drinks, soap, kitchen devices and bazar: City Market, Peloustore, Kin Mart, Hasson's.

SIM cards and prepaid recharge for mobile phones are available in the street and at Ndjili airport, at a reasonable price.

Money

The local currency is the Congolese franc, sometimes abbreviated FC and sometimes just with a capital F placed after the amount, for which the ISO 4217 international currency code is CDF. The currency is freely convertible (but impossible to get rid of outside the country) and, as of September 2013, trades at approximately:

Banknotes are issued in denominations of CDF50, 100, 200, 500, 1000, 5000, 10,000 and 20,000. The only Congolese bank notes currently in circulation in most places are the 50, 100, 200 and 500 franc notes. They are almost worthless, as the highest valued banknote (the 500 franc note) is worth only about USD0.55

US dollars in denominations above $2 are much preferred to francs. In contrast, US coins and $1 and $2 US dollar bills are considered worthless. If you pay in dollars, you will get change in francs. Though francs may sometimes come in bills so old they feel like fabric, US dollar bills must be crisp (less than 3 folds) and be printed in or after 2003, or they will not be accepted.

In some shops, the symbol FF is used to mean 1000 francs, and 1 US dollar is considered equivalent to 1000 Francs.

MasterCard/Maestro ATMs are available now in Kinshasa at the "Rawbank" on boulevard du 30 Juin (Gombe District), and in Grand Hotel. It spits out US dollars. Visa card is also usable with "Procredit" bank ATMs in Kinshasa, avenue des Aviateurs, or outside in front of Grand Hotel (only USD20 and USD100 bills).

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Democratic Republic of the Congo on Wikivoyage.

Popular cities in Democratic Republic of the Congo

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States in Democratic Republic of the Congo

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Points of Interest in Democratic Republic of the Congo

The "Academie des Beaux-Arts" is often considered a touristic site and is in itself and with its gallery a good place to meet the famous artists of this country. Big names like Alfred Liyolo, Lema Kusa oder Roger Botembe are teaching here as well as the only purely abstract working artist Henri Kalama Akulez, whose private studio is worth a visit.

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