COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: The Republic of the Congo (Congo-Brazzaville) is a developing nation in Central Africa. The official language is French, and Lingala, Kikongo, and Kituba are also widely spoken. The largest cities are the capital, Brazzaville, located on the Congo River, and Pointe Noire on the Atlantic coast. Parts of the capital and large areas in the south of the country were damaged during civil conflicts from 1997 to 1999. 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 Fact Sheet on Republic of Congo for additional information on U.S.-Republic of Congo relations.
SMART TRAVELER ENROLLMENT PROGRAM (STEP) / EMBASSY LOCATION: If you are going to live in or travel to the Republic of the Congo, please take the time to tell Embassy Brazzaville about your trip by enrolling in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). If you enroll, we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements. It will also help your friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency. You should remember to keep all of your information in STEP up to date. It is important during enrollment or updating of information to include your current phone number and current email address where you can be reached in case of an emergency.
Local embassy information is available below and at the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates.
U.S. Embassy Brazzaville
Boulevard Denis Sassou Nguesso (across from Blanche Gomez Maternity Hospital)
Republic of the Congo
Telephone: 242 06 612-2000
Emergency after-hours telephone: 242 04 444-0013
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A passport, visa, and evidence of yellow fever vaccination are required for entry. Visitors to the Republic of the Congo should also have a letter of invitation and/or written proof of a hotel reservation for presentation to immigration officials upon arrival. In some cases, invitation letters must be endorsed by local immigration authorities prior to the bearer’s arrival in the country. Possession of a valid visa is often not sufficient for admission to the Congo as immigration requirements are unclear and arbitrarily enforced. Additionally, local law prohibits exiting the country with the local currency, known as the Central African Franc or CFA. Travelers are advised to limit the amount of CFA they travel with to avoid any unnecessary forfeitures upon departure. See Currency under Special Circumstances below for more information. Until January 2010, Congolese embassies and consulates issued unique visas for entry to the Republic of Congo. Visas should be identical regardless of where they are issued; however, some Embassies and Consulates, including the Congolese Consulate in New York, have not started issuing the new universal visas. The new Congolese visas are a passport-page-sized sticker with a map outline of the Republic of the Congo in the background. If you attempt to enter Congo with one of the old visas, you may be denied 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.
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.
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 page.
THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY: Although the Republic of the Congo is still recovering from its 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.
You should avoid travel in the Pool region south of Brazzaville. Although terrorism has not been a recent problem in the ROC,
the Ninjas (a former rebel group) reside in the Pool Region, especially in and around the village of Kinkala. Although they
do not specifically target U.S. citizens, they do routinely establish roadblocks and conduct highway robberies. For this reason,
the Embassy advises against travel by road between Brazzaville and Pointe Noire. In the past, the passenger train connecting
Brazzaville and Point Noire passed through this region and train passengers have been robbed; however, there has been a recent
push by the government to improve the comfort and safety of the rail connection between Congo’s two largest cities. For more
on these developments, feel free to contact the Embassy as we will continue to monitor these improvements.
You should also pay close attention to events in the Democratic Republic of the 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 the Congo.
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CRIME: Several incidents of petty street crime against U.S. citizens have occurred recentlyand reports of violent crime in Brazzaville, although not specifically targeting U.S. citizens, are not uncommon. Incidents of armed robberies, vehicle break-ins, mugging, and pick-pocketing have been reported near the ports, outside popular restaurants, as well as in the Congolese neighborhoods surrounding the city center in both Pointe Noire and Brazzaville.
U.S. citizens are not typically singled out by criminal elements, but may become targets of opportunity depending on your
dress, actions, behavior, and level of perceived vigilance. In late 2011, criminal elements targeted a few middle-class and
affluent residences for burglary.
You should note that in cases of theft and robbery, legal recourse is limited; leave valuable items at home.
There are no areas that the Embassy considers “off-limits” in Brazzaville; however, in the neighborhoods of Poto-Poto, Bacongo and Makelekele, you can expect to be verbally harassed. Vendors often physically grab potential clients or say, “Moundele” (white/western person) to garner attention, and women traveling alone may experience greater verbal harassment.
Pointe Noire shares similar concerns to Brazzaville with one exception; petty crime is often committed near Pointe Noire’s beaches. The Embassy recommends that you stay on main beaches, secure valuables and avoid all beaches completely at night, when crimes typically occur. You should also use caution when swimming because of riptides. The main areas of concern in Pointe Noire are the coastline (currents), beachside after hours, and market areas (another popular area for petty crime, which you should avoid after dark).
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. We can:
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in the Republic of the Congo is ”112” or 242 06 665-4804. Please note that police resources are limited and response to emergency calls is often slow (45 minutes or longer). In general, response or recourse for victims of crime is extremely limited, if not non-existent in the Republic of the Congo.
Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While you are traveling in the Republic of the Congo, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different from our own. It is important to carry some form of identification at all times in the ROC. Wallets should contain only a small amount of cash and be free of all credit cards. In the Republic of the Congo you may be taken in for questioning if you are stopped by the police and are unable to produce an acceptable form of identification. A common practice among policemen in the ROC is to stop foreigners and accuse them of minor infractions (which may or may not be valid). When this occurs, the police do not want to write a ticket, but rather request the person to pay a fine on the spot. The U.S. Embassy does not encourage anyone to pay fines. The Embassy recommends that all travelers carry a copy of their U.S. passport and Congolese visa to prevent them from being taken by police or armed assailants during an attempted bribe.
If you travel within the Republic of the Congo, you should carry your passport, as you may be asked to register with immigration upon arrival in a new location. It is illegal to take pictures of government buildings, military installations, and other key parts of infrastructure such as ports, train stations, and airports. In general, it is best to keep your camera out of sight and ask permission prior to taking photos. If permission is refused, don’t take the photo.
There are also some things that might be legal in the Republic of the Congo, but still illegal in the United States. You can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. Engaging in sexual conduct with children and using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. If you break local laws in the Republic of the Congo, your U.S. passport will not help you avoid arrest or prosecution. If you are arrested in the Republic of the Congo, you have the option to request that the police, prison officials, or other authorities alert the U.S. embassy of your arrest, and to have communications from you forwarded to the U.S. Embassy.
Currency: The Republic of the Congo is primarily a cash economy and uses the Central African Franc (CFA), a common currency used in Gabon, Chad, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, and Equatorial Guinea. U.S. dollars may be exchanged for local currency, but traveler’s checks are generally not accepted and cannot be cashed at local banks. Some hotels in Brazzaville and in Pointe Noire now accept major credit cards, but cash remains the preferred method of payment. Most businesses accept cash only. Personal checks drawn on foreign accounts are not accepted. Western Union has offices in Brazzaville and Pointe Noire. There is one ATM at the Credit du Congo Bank in Brazzaville which accepts foreign debit cards. ATMs at several of Credit du Congo’s branches in Pointe Noire also accept foreign debit cards. CFA are not available outside the CFA zone and there are tight restrictions on travelling with CFA. If you are caught attempting to leave the country in possession of CFA, airport authorities may confiscate all of your local currency. For this reason, the U.S. embassy recommends that you not travel via air with CFA, even if you are travelling directly to another country in the CFA zone.
Customs: Airport police and customs officials routinely inspect incoming and outgoing luggage, even for in-country travel. For a complete list of prohibited items, please contact the nearest Congolese embassy or consulate. Visitors who seek to export arts and crafts at the airports are frequently subject to an export tax and/or solicitations for bribes from customs agents. There have also been repeated instances of travelers being questioned about how much currency they are carrying and expats have been asked to show customs officials how much money they have in their wallets.
Detention: Local security forces, especially traffic police, routinely detain foreigners to solicit bribes. Detention of U.S. citizens, particularly in remote areas, may not always be promptly reported to the U.S. Embassy by Congolese authorities. You are encouraged to carry a copy of your passport and valid visa for the Congo with you 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.
Ferry Service to Kinshasa: Commercial ferry service between Brazzaville and Kinshasa normally operates from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Sunday, but the ports may close completely with minimal notice. A special exit permit from the Republic of the Congo’s Immigration Service and a visa for the Democratic Republic of the Congo are required to cross the Congo River from Brazzaville to Kinshasa. Likewise, an ROC visa is required when arriving by boat in Brazzaville.
Accessibility: While in the Republic of the Congo, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what they find in the United States. Although local law prohibits discrimination against people with handicaps, this law is not widely enforced. Furthermore, there are no laws requiring access to transportation, communication, or public buildings for persons with disabilities. There are few sidewalks and no curb-cuts. Most buildings do not have functioning elevators. People living in the Republic of the Congo with disabilities must rely on their families for support.
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. The Consular Section maintains a list of clinics in Brazzaville and Pointe Noire. This list is provided as a service for U.S. citizens residing in or visiting the Republic of the Congo and in no way constitutes an endorsement or recommendation of any particular facility. The list is available on the Embassy Brazzaville web site and in person in the Consular Section.
An outbreak of acute poliomyelitis (polio) virus began in October 2010 with cases in Pointe Noire, Brazzaville, and most other parts of the Republic of the Congo. In response to the outbreak, the Government of Congo, in cooperation with the World Health Organization, has launched a nationwide emergency vaccination program. As of January 2011, the vaccination campaign appears to have halted the spread of the virus. It is still extremely important to make sure your polio vaccination is up-to-date prior to travel to the Republic of the Congo. Outbreaks of measles and Chikungunya were declared in June 2011; travelers should carry and use mosquito repellents and sleep under mosquito nets if possible.
Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease that is highly prevalent in cities and rural areas throughout the country in all seasons of the year. If you will be visiting the Republic of the Congo, you will need to discuss with your doctor the best ways for you to avoid getting sick with malaria. A combination of strategies should be taken to diminish the chance of developing malaria and other mosquito borne illnesses such as chikungunya and yellow fever:
All of the following antimalarial drugs are equal options for preventing malaria in the Republic of the Congo: Atovaquone-proguanil (Malarone®), doxycycline, or mefloquine. Chloroquine is NOT an effective antimalarial drug in the Republic of the Congo and should not be taken to prevent malaria in this region. The CDC provides additional information on malaria protective measures.
If you become ill with a fever or flu-like illness while traveling in the Republic of the Congo for up to one year after returning home, you should seek prompt medical attention and tell the physician you have traveled into a malarious area and what antimalarials you have been taking.
Chikungunya fever, an arboviral infection transmitted by mosquitoes, occurs in Brazzaville and the surrounding region. Daytime and nighttime insect precautions are recommended.
African trypanosomiasis is transmitted by the bite of the tsetse fly and is primarily found along the Congo River in the regions of Bouenza (including Loudima, Nkayi, and Madingou), Pool, Plateau (including Gambona), and Cuvette (including along the Likouala and Sangha rivers). Conventional insect repellents (DEET and permethrin) are ineffective against the tsetse fly. Wear light-colored, (not blue, which attracts tsetse flies) heavyweight clothing.
Loiasis, a filarial infection transmitted by large tabanid flies (Deer or Mango Fly), is highly endemic in forested areas. Exposure of longer than just a week or two is generally required for infection. Daytime insect precautions are recommended. Onchocerciasis, another filarial infection which is transmitted by black flies, is highly endemic. Exposure of longer than just a week or two is generally required for infection. Daytime insect precautions are recommended, especially near the shores of rivers.
Schistosomiasis is caused by a parasitic worm and is endemic in the Republic of the Congo. The larval stage of the worm burrows through the skin when in contact with contaminated fresh water. Avoid wading, swimming, bathing, or washing in, or drinking from bodies of fresh water such as canals, lakes, rivers, streams, or springs.
There is a very high incidence of diarrheal diseases throughout the country including in luxury hotels in major cities. Travelers can protect themselves by following good hygiene and safe food preparation. These include scrupulous washing of hands under running water, especially before food preparation and eating, thorough cooking of food, boiling or treatment of drinking water, and use of sanitary facilities. Above all, be very careful with food (especially raw vegetables and leafy salads) and water, including ice.
You can find more information on vaccinations and other health precautions on the CDC website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: You can’t assume your insurance will go with you when you travel. It’s very important to find out BEFORE you leave. You need to ask your insurance company two questions:
In many places, doctors and hospitals still expect payment in cash at the time of service. Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctors’ and hospital visits in other countries. If your policy doesn’t go with you when you travel, it’s a very good idea to take out a specific policy for your trip. For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in the Republic of the Congo, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. Traffic safety in general is hazardous due to high speeds, aggressive driving, poorly maintained vehicles, and general indifference toward the safety of pedestrians and cyclists. 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 from November to May. The National
Highway 2 which links Brazzaville to Pointe Noire is largely unpaved and often impassable in the rainy season. Unleaded gasoline
and diesel fuel are frequently unavailable in the major cities and especially in the more isolated regions of the country.
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.
Bus travel is strongly discouraged. While there are no officially registered taxi companies in Brazzaville or Pointe-Noire, taxis are required to have an operator permit. Many taxi drivers are owner-operators. In the past several years, there have not been any reported criminal incidents involving U.S. citizens using taxis in Brazzaville or Pointe Noire. The Embassy suggests a few guidelines for local taxi usage:
Emergency services are limited within Brazzaville and Pointe Noire and virtually non-existent elsewhere in the Republic of the Congo. Please refer to the medical section above.
There are currently no Distracted Driving Laws in effect in the Republic of the Congo, but police may pull over drivers who talk or text while driving for not following safe driving procedures.
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 safety assessment page.
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This replaces the Country Specific Information for the Republic of the Congo dated July 27, 2012, to update the section on Country Description, Threats to Safety and Security, Crime, Information for Victims of Crime, Medical Facilities and Health Information, and Traffic Safety and Road Conditions.