Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo Travel Guide

Oh Kinshasa, you devil.  You fooled me didn’t you?  After hearing a countless number of horror stories about Kinshasa, I was a bit apprehensive coming into the city.  But although I was expecting trash, traffic, and scams, I arrived to big open freeways, monuments, and even a couple nice people.  It only took about 12 hours, however, for me to realize that the rumour of Kinshasa’s demise have not been exaggerated.  Never on the planet have I ever felt more nervous just being.  I was pushed around by men claiming to be police, a man helping me book a flight for Anne Murray was beaten, and at every turn people were asking, nay, telling me to give them money.  It’s not a cheap city either, all the prices are grossly inflated.  Honestly, if you can, skip Kinshasa head somewhere friendlier and safer if you can.  It’s one place that you’d have to pay me a great deal to re-visit.


Things to do and see in Kinshasa

Believe it or not, there are things to do in and around Kinshasa.  In fact, if it wasn’t such a hassle to get through the city to do them, it’d be worth it.  Outside of town, you have the Zongo Falls, but the road to get there is rough.  You also have the Bonobo Sanctuary, which is meant to be interesting if you can get there.  There are also some interesting monuments throughout the city to see as well.  If you’re into markets, the Marche de Valeur is crazy, but can be fun.  Be warned though, the locals call it the thieves market.

Where to Eat in Kinshasa

There really are just two kinds of food spots in Kinshasa: the fancy French-style spots and the street side eateries.  If you’re on a budget, you’ll need to spend your time eating at the street side beer spots.  One of the best areas in town for that is Bandalungwa.  There are dozens of places strewn along the sidewalk and though most just serve drinks, most will also be able to serve a quick meal.  If you’re set on eating at the restaurants, be prepared to pay as much as $20-30 for a meal.  In some of the richer hotels, the price of a pizza can be as high as $40.  It’s outrageous.

Where to Stay in Kinshasa

My only statement is: “goodluck”.  If you’re on a budget, you’ll likely find yourself in a dark power-free hole like I was in the Bandalungwa area.  I won’t give you the name of my hotel because it wasn’t nice enough to recommend.  It was also likely a bit unsafe.  If you’re desperate though, it was across the street and down an alley from the nice, but much more expensive Hotel Finesse which I would recommend.  The Catholic Mission, Procure St. Anne, is also nice but is often completely booked up.  A mid-range option which is a favourite of the UN-types is the Hotel Fantana Inn which will likely cost about $70 a night.

Getting out of Town

  • Boat: You can catch the boat across the river to Brazzaville.  The ferry area is complete and utter chaos and if you have a car it’s a nightmare, but it’ll get you over eventually.  Moreover, you’ll be gifted with the much easier way of life across the river in the Congo.
  • Train: There used to be a line across the DR Congo.  However, in recent years it’s all but disappeared.  There are still train lines running, but the service is beyond sporadic and travellers should likely make other plans instead.
  • Bus: Buses and shared cars shoot off in all directions from Kinshasa, but is certainly not the preferred way to travel either as the roads are horrendous.
  • Plane: Both the downtown and international airport service flights throughout the country and abroad.  CAA seems to be the most reputable in the DR Congo, and they have flights just about anywhere you need to go, including Lubumbashi.

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