The Republic of Congo is a developing nation in Central Africa. Civil conflict in 1997, late 1998 and early 1999 damaged parts of the capital and large areas in the southwest of the country. Peace accords were concluded in November and December 1999 that have largely brought an end to the conflict. Restoration is now underway in Brazzaville and other cities; however facilities for tourists remain limited.
A passport and a visa are required. Information on entry requirements may be obtained from the Embassy of the Republic of Congo, 4891 Colorado Ave., N.W., Washington D.C. 20011, telephone 202-726-0825 or from the Permanent Mission of the Republic of 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 capital, Brazzaville, and second-largest city, Pointe Noire, are typical small central African cities. Disorganized bands of armed former militiamen and rebel elements remain a security threat in areas of the southwest of the country. Travel to these regions is not recommended. Night travel outside of Brazzaville should be avoided.
U.S. citizens should avoid political rallies and street demonstrations and maintain security awareness at all times.
Petty street crime, targeting foreigners is relatively rare, but nighttime mugging sometimes occurs, especially in Pointe Noire.
Medical facilities were limited before the 1997 war and have worsened as a consequence of subsequent conflicts. Some medicine is in short supply, particularly outside the larger cities. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost thousands of dollars. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services.
U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide for payment of medical services outside the United States. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas may face extreme difficulties. Check with your own insurance company to confirm whether your policy applies overseas, including provision for medical evacuation. Ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death. Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via its home page at http://travel.state.gov.
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 Congo is provided for general reference only and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor to Non-existent
Road conditions are generally poor and deteriorate significantly during the rainy season, November-June. Maintenance of the few paved roads is limited. Overland travel off the main roads generally requires a four-wheel drive vehicle. Poorly marked armed checkpoints, often manned by undisciplined soldiers, exist throughout the country. Train travel between Brazzaville and Pointe Noire has not resumed due to sabotage of the tracks and bridges in parts of the Pool and Bouenza regions in 1998-1999.
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 law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in the Republic of Congo are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.
The U.S. Embassy in Brazzaville suspended operations at the time of the outbreak of the 1997 civil war and has not re-opened. The Brazzaville U.S. Embassy Office, located in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo may, in some circumstances, be able to provide emergency U.S. citizen services. U.S. citizens living in or visiting the Republic of the Congo are encouraged to register with the Brazzaville Embassy Office or the Consular Section, both located at the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa at 310 Avenue des Aviateurs. The telephone number is 243-88-43608, and the mailing address from the U.S. is Brazzaville Embassy Office, American Embassy Kinshasa, Unit 31550, APO AE, 09828.