Some Friendly Advice
Those who have travelled in Africa will appreciate that each country is different and each has its own idiosyncrasies. For example, the Democratic Republic of Congo. There’s the perception that at most airports on the continent there is a small group of people using the regulations as a means of generating income, and Kinshasa is no exception.
It’s occasionally a gamble, especially if you arrive at the Kinshasa departures lounge without a printed itinerary. It can be done, but it’s advisable to print out an itinerary before you leave the hotel, as people here respect official pieces of paper. The Grand Karavia and Hotel Grand Kinshasa both offer VIP arrival assistance, for $50. These services save considerable time and also remove much of the risk.
When navigating the Kinshasa departures lounge, prepare yourself for at least five bag searches. A word of advice – don’t get frustrated. There is a departure tax of $50 that has to be paid. Another word of advice, don’t try to avoid the payment booth outside the front of the departures lounge, as the receipt must be presented at the bottom of the aircraft steps. It’s not negotiable. In terms of inoculations and vaccinations, don’t get caught without your Yellow Fever card. In fact, it’s a good idea to pick-up a spare, if the opportunity presents itself. At Kinshasa airport you will be asked for the card on arrival and departure.
Here’s a handy tip: the same Passenger Form needs to be completed upon arrival and at departure, so it’s a good idea to take a few forms with you when you arrive. This will reduce the time spent in the departures lounge. The official language in the DRC is French, so it is suggested that you brush up on a few phrases before leaving for Kinshasa or Lubumbashi. With just a few words and a smile, you can probably navigate your way through most situations. Just remember to be respectfully polite and appear confident when dealing with the authorities.
Ewan Cameron, CEO: Lonrho Hotels