The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is the second largest country in Africa (after Algeria) and the largest country in sub-Saharan Africa. In fact, its surface area of 2.3 million square kilometres spans the equivalent of two-thirds of the European Union.
Located in Central Africa its neighbours are Angola to the south, the Republic of Congo to the north west, the Central African Republic to the north, South Sudan to the north east, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania to the east and Zambia the the south east.
According to the World Bank, with 80 million hectares of arable land and over 1,100 minerals and precious metals, the DRC has the potential to become one of the richest countries in Africa.
The DRC has 11 provinces. They are: Bandundu, Bas-Congo, Équateur, Kasai-Occidental, Kasai-Oriental, Katanga, the city-province Kinshasa, Maniema, Nord-Kivu, Orientale and Sud-Kivu.
The largest cities and towns are: Kinshasa, the capital, Lubumbashi in the Katanga province, Mbuji-Mayi and Kananga in Kasai-Oriental, Kisangani in Orientale and Goma in North Kivu.
The DRC has over 200 African ethnic groups but the four largest tribes are the Mongo, Luba, Kongo and the Mangbetu-Azande.
French is the official language, followed by Lingala (a lingua franca trade language), Kingwana (a dialect of Kiswahili or Swahili), Kikongo and Tshiluba.
The local currency is the Congolese Franc, which is roughly 925 to the US Dollar. US Dollars are, however, widely used and accepted. Note that Dollars should be in good condition and issued after 2001.
Since March 2015 new visa requirements mean that it is no longer possible to buy a short-term pass on entry into the DRC. Check your visa requirements with the DRC Embassy nearest to you at least three weeks before the time of your planned visit. Some types of visa applications are referred to Kinshasa for a decision. In these cases you will need a formal letter of invitation from the person or organisation you’re visiting and this needs to be stamped by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kinshasa.
Proof of a Yellow Fever vaccination could be required on arriving in the DRC. Failure to do so could require a vaccination at the airport.