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Travel Information

So you want to come to the DR Congo?  This page is full of useful information on how to get here.  Travel in Africa can be quite the interesting adventure so the best thing to pack is a flexible attitude and an overdose of patience.
The overall political environment of the DR Congo and international travel can change quickly, so be sure to check with us before finalizing your plans to come.  We try to keep this page up to date but things change so we cannot guarantee what you read here reflects the current reality.  When on doubt be sure to contact us.  Click this link to send us an email.
Formal registration as a team:  Unfortunately we live in a litigious, "I will sue your pants off!" world.  Registration as a ministry / construction team with our mission headquarters in Springfield, MO, is necessary to cover the liability release forms and temporary insurance in order to avoid undesirable complications in the future.  This is done through the MAPS office, tel# 417-862-2781, ext. 2380 or online.   This takes several weeks to process so do not delay in starting this important step.  If you are an EngageCONGO student, you do this as a part of your approval process.
Immigration/Visa requirements:  A passport and an entry visa are required for the DR Congo, and this must be obtained before arrival.  I highly suggest you use a travel document service such as Travel Document Systems to process your visa application.  They are fast and reliable.  They do charge a handling fee but it is worth it.  Follow the directions on this web page which give the details on what is needed for a tourist visa.  You will need to have a letter of invitation from us to include with your application so do not wait until the last minute to apply for your visa.  Plan to apply at least two months before your intended travel date.  Apply for a tourist visa and use the Washington DC office of TravelDocs.  Overnight mail is a good idea and be sure you have the capability to trace your documents when they are mailed.  This visa application process can easily take over two weeks, so be sure to leave enough mailing time.  You must also arrive in the DR Congo within ninety days of the issue date of the visa for it to remain valid.  The visa is good for one to six months (depending on what type of visa you request) after you arrive in the country.  Make a photocopy of the inside information page of your passport and your visa page and carry it elsewhere in the event you lose it.  BE SURE TO CONSULT BOTH THE TRAVELDOCS SITE AND WITH US AS VISA REQUIREMENTS CAN CHANGE.
No visa is needed for your stop in Europe or in South Africa/Johannesburg if you should want to leave the airport or spend some time there after your visit.  If you stop in Nairobi, Kenya and leave the airport there is a visa you can receive at the airport.  It is $50.  Any overnight layover in Ethiopia includes a temporary visa process that we can explain to you if that is the travel route you are taking.    
Travel:  We have an international airport in Lubumbashi (airport code: FBM) so this should be your destination.  DO NOT travel through Kinshasa as the experience of national flights from there to Lubumbashi is not one you want to have.  Generally your best route is to fly roundtrip on Ethiopian Airlines through Addis Ababa to Lubumbashi.  Kenya Airways has flights to Lubumbashi from Nairobi as well.  Currently the cheapest flight is on Ethiopian Airlines, originating in Washington DC.  This flight does not require an overnight stay in Addis Ababa and Ethiopian Airlines flies out of 17 American cities. 
Luggage limits:  Luggage limits are unstable so be sure to verify with your airline to avoid huge excess baggage fees. Be aware of changes in baggage allowances that can happen if you fly a different carrier from Europe to Africa. You want to check your bags in the USA and not have to retrieve them in your hub city in Europe.  The same is true for Kenya Airways or another airline that flies from the hub cities of Johannesburg or Nairobi.  Their luggage limits may be different from the other international airlines.
Should other items meant for the team (tools, food items, etc.) require additional space, use old suitcases purchased at Goodwill that you will leave behind.  The medium size 24 gallon Action Packers, (Google it to check on the best price) are also good for travel and accepted by the airlines.  They can be closed with a TSA-approved combination lock and a nylon luggage strap.
You can arrange extra days in your European hub city (Paris, London, Amsterdam) for tourism but do this on your return flight, not going over, since doing this on the way over will change your baggage allowance.
Travel agents:  We have used SIAMA, a Dutch company.  We also check online for ticket prices through the usual travel websites (Travelocity, etc.) We use Ethiopian Airlines most of the time as they are usually less expensive.  Electronic tickets are fine, but it is highly recommended to pay a bit more and have tickets that are at least date-changeable.  The best is a ticket that is refundable.  Stable political conditions are not guaranteed and anything can happen at the last minute which could delay your coming.  To pay extra is better than losing the whole ticket if the trip is for some reason cancelled.  You may want to consider trip insurance as well, but read the fine print.  Between mid-December to mid-January and throughout the summer are considered high season flight times so tickets will be more expensive and seats scarcer, so do not wait too long to purchase your tickets.  
Transit instructions (if flying through Adis Ababa, Ethiopia) and Arrival formalities:
Be sure to contact us if traveling through Bole Intl Airport in Addis Ababa.  The airport is not complicated but should you have a layover the process of securing your hotel room for the night can be a bit daunting.  On arrival at the Luibumbashi airport you will pass through immigration/visa control before collecting your bags.  They will ask you for our address here in Lubumbashi, and possibly our phone number (#8 Route Kinsevere, Lubumbashi, tel# 085 492 3163). We normally have someone to help you through customs and the collection of your checked bags as this can be quite the hassle. 
Packing:  Pack one change of clothes and the basic toiletries in your carry-on in the event your checked bag gets delayed or lost.  Any personal medications should be in your carry-on bag with prescriptions in the event you are challenged by customs officials.  Valuables such as cameras and laptops should not be checked but carried on as well.  Make sure your carry-on bag is not too large because airlines are more restrictive now than before.  They may take oversize cabin bags at the boarding gate, thus defeating the purpose of having spare clothes in your carry-on. 
The general rule for international travel is to take half as much clothing
and twice as much money as you think you will need!

What to Bring

Please check with us on what to bring as situations change from time to time. 
here is a sample of the things we suggest you bring:
Mosquito net-single bed size.  The best thing to do with this net before coming is have someone sew an eight inch strip of cotton fabric (doubled over the net) around the bottom of the net so you can easily tuck it in under your mattress.  We are firm believers in nets- before we used them we had malaria ALL THE TIME.  After starting to use nets, we RARELY had malaria.  NO JOKE!!  More important than the malaria medications, but NOT a substitute.  (We can purchase these from you when you leave if you wish.)  Check with us before coming to confirm you need to bring a net.
Set of single bed flat sheets.
Small regular pillow.
Towel and wash cloth.
Water bottle-dehydration is a problem so your own water bottle is a good idea.  Salt tablets or a Gatorade/Chrystal Lite powder are a very good idea as well.
Cameras are not a problem, but video cameras are.  Limit the video cameras to a maximum of two for the entire group, and carry them VERY discreetly.
Sun screen, hat, and sun glasses.

AA Maglite LED flashlight with extra batteries is very useful.
Zip-Lock type bags to keep the dust and moisture out of stuff.
2 - 3 packets of moist towelettes or Purell hand cleaner.
Bandana-seems to be a jack-of-all-trades, a useful item.
For construction teams: Bring a pair of leather work gloves and an extra pair of the same quality for your Congolese workers. Check with us before bringing any other tools.

Note:  Contact lenses are difficult to use due to the high amount of dust, and solutions are not available on site.  Pack what you need but bring regular glasses in the event your contacts get contaminated.
Munchies of some kind can take the edge off the end of a day when you are exhausted, and the heat, dust or smell finally get to you.  Some comfort food is not a bad idea.  (This is another place where zip-lock bags are indispensable-keeping the ants out of your junk food!)
Construction work clothes-a pair of jeans or cotton trousers plus a tee shirt.  Shorts are not really acceptable for Americans to wear in public, unless you want to be confused with the typical European grunge tourist who passes through occasionally.  In this case be sure to wear sandals and dark socks, and do not wash your hair!
Dress shirt and slacks for Sunday are fine. Preachers can wear a shirt and tie and a suit coat.  Bring a coat if you have one but do not buy one.  there is a very active used clothing market in Lubumbashi and we can fiond one to fit you for next to nothing.
Walking shorts for relaxing after work at the house.
Sandals/flip flops, but you can buy a pair here for about $2.00.
Shoes-one pair to travel in and wear on Sunday and one pair to work in.

Women's clothing notes:
AVOID shorts, sleeveless or open shoulder tops, low cuts.  MODESTY is the key.
Same as for men, with the following:
1 nicer skirt or light-weight dress for use in restaurants or at church
Another skirt (lightweight denim or sturdy cotton) useable for working or marketing
Cotton undies and bras are more comfortable in the tropics than "silkies"
Slip and lightweight sleepwear
Feminine hygiene products are available unless you must use your brand only, then talk to Sonia to see if it is available here.
We have a washing machine so a one-week supply of clothes will be enough.

Travel Budget: 
Airfare:  Between $2,000-$2,300
Travel immunizations and visa:  The visa is $150-$600, then immunizations around $100-$300
Local transportation:  $50
Food and Lodging: plan on $20/day, includes meals taken at restaurants
Extras: (offerings, souvenirs) $100
Int'l travel expenses:  (overstay in Paris, etc.): variable
TOTAL:  Between $2,350-$3,000

Friendship gifts for co-workers:  You can bring some gifts for the church members who will be working with us if you wish.  I suggest things like medium quality ink pens, baseball caps, small tools, or another possibility would be clothing items-maybe something you brought but can leave behind.  French is the official language, so any literature you bring needs to be in French.

There are also a few items we cannot get here for our own use and we would like each member of the team to bring some of these, as space in your luggage allows (We will reimburse you for these items.)  A list will be provided before you come.

Lodging:  You will be staying in a guest house and possibly sharing a room with common bathing and toilet facilities.  If the team is too large there is the possibility of sleeping on a mattress on the floor.  Do not expect AAA service-this is definitely Africa.  NOTE:  We have a 220 volt electrical system but will provide step down transformers for whatever electrical appliances you may have, so there is no need to purchase transformers or special appliances for the trip.  Your American electrical stuff will work here through our transformers.

Food:  Most meals will be eaten in our home.  An opportunity to eat Congolese food will be provided, and we will eat out in a restaurant once or twice.  There is nothing to fear but fear itself- remember-- it all tastes like chicken!
Money issues:  In the Congo American dollars are the preferred currency- in $50 and $100 bills.  Newer bills (no older than 2009) are necessary, since the exchange bureaus will not exchange the older ones with smaller faces.  Be sure your dollar bills are in pristine condition- no tears, or they will be rejected.  There is an ATM available that does not charge a high user fee.  We can exchange any left over local money with a dollar check at your departure. 
Souvenirs can be purchased on the last day of the trip.

Medicines/Health issues
Yellow Fever is the only required vaccination.  It may be difficult to find an office that will have it in stock, so take care of this as soon as you can.  Check the local county health department for this.  There is a long list of other vacinnations available.  Consult your personal physician
An international certificate of vaccination is required for entry (called the yellow card normally), so be sure to have this issued to you as well and bring it with you.  The yellow fever vaccine is good for 10 years so if you have already traveled to Africa before you should be covered.

Tetanus shots need to be up-to-date.
Your local health department will want to stick you with a variety of other vaccines (typhoid fever, various hepatitis, meningococcal, MMR, maybe even tuberculosis and rabies.)  All of these diseases exist here, and it is a question of the odds- as missionaries we take all of these injections because the risk of exposure for us is greater since we live here all the time.  If you are only visiting for about two weeks you may want to consider only the yellow fever injection, but all it takes is one little virus or bacteria to make you sick.  The decision to have these other vaccinations is yours and therefore the responsibility is yours as well. Consult your personal physician on this.
We do recommend oral typhoid and meningococcal vaccine.
Malaria prevention medicine is necessary, so follow your doctor's advice on which one.  They will probably recommend Larium or Meflaquine, although we use Proguanil (Paludrine).  This is not usually available in the USA, though.  We use doxycycline (100mg daily) which is less expensive.  The idea behind malaria medication is it slows down BUT DOES NOT PREVENT the onset of malaria.  Slowing it down gives you sufficient time to be tested and treated before the parasite has a chance to reproduce.
It is good to know your blood type so in the event of an emergency we know what to pump into your body!
Allergies:  Please let us know by email if you have any food allergies that may require adjusting meal selections.
Special note on medical realities:  Medical emergency facilities here are some of the best we have seen in our 29 years of service but still not at an American level of standards here in the DR Congo.  You need to be in good health-NO EXCEPTIONS!!  Any medical risks are increased significantly due to this fact so caution and common sense are the rule of the day.

Over the counter drugs that may be helpful: Excedrin or Tylenol PM to help you sleep and get over jet lag, some kind of headache relief, Tums and then Imodium for stomach troubles, allergy tabs if you are prone to pollen, dust or mold induced allergy attacks.  
Calendar/Ministry Plan:  Interaction with the local church members and community is encouraged, and you will be working together with Congolese people.  This requires more patience (language and cultural barriers can be a real pain), but in the long term this produces a better result for you and for us.  It is important to instill a sense of ownership, and this helps in the long-term development of the ministry here in the Congo.  Efficient is not always effective!
The schedule of activities will be finalized before the trip but again flexibility and expecting the unexpected are both survival skills.  If your team is here for construction that will be the focus for the first week but will taper off as we get closer to your departure unless unexpected delays in construction hinder the progress of the work.  If things move along well in the construction phase we will finish with some kind of evangelism or spiritual emphasis event.
And with all of that, you are now ready to come to the DR Congo!



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