How to Avoid Crime in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Crime can occur in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but there are things you can do to minimize the risk and stay safe. Here are our tips to avoid trouble.

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Matadi, DRC Photo © Getty Images/Fabian Plock / EyeEm

Crime is a way of life in the DRC. With most normal facets of life collapsing on a regular basis, many people have turned to crime.

Travellers need to pay close attention when they are entering the country and when moving across DRC's enormous interior.

Coupled with the constant security instability, crime in the Congo is out of control, a perfect example of a failed state in the heart of Africa.

So get ready to grow eyes in the back of your head.

Hotspots

Kinshasa remains a critical crime threat area, and foreign citizens continue to be the victims of serious crime, including armed robbery.

This sort of violent crime happens at all hours of the day, so don't think daylight will save you.

Most of this violent crime is perpetrated by groups posing as police in both rural and urban areas. So prepare yourself and be smart.

Travel in many sections of Kinshasa, Kisangani, Lubumbashi and most other major cities is generally safe during daylight hours, but travellers are urged to be vigilant against criminal activity that targets non-Congolese, particularly in traffic jams and areas surrounding hotels and stores.

Outlying, remote areas are less secure because of high levels of criminal activity and the lack of adequate training, supervision, and salary for security forces.

What To Watch Out For

So you want to still go to the DRC for a trip? Here are some tips:

  • Avoid walking alone and displaying cash and other personal property of value.
  • Avoid taking photos in public, especially of the river, government buildings and the airport, which are viewed as places of national security, since doing such may lead to arrest.
  • In the DRC, deteriorating economic conditions continue to foster crime, especially in urban areas. So avoid areas considered risky by locals, they warn you for a reason.
  • Don't trust anyone offering you help on the spot. It;s a sad part of travelling through the Congo, but it will keep you safe.

What To Prepare For

Below are some common crimes you may experience in the Congo, most are violent and not what travellers want.

Security officials and individuals purporting to be security officials have detained and robbed foreigners in Kinshasa. This type of crime occurs more frequently during the Christmas and New Year's holidays and prior to the beginning of school years.

Vehicle thefts, burglaries, and armed robberies occur throughout the country; there have been reports of car-jackings in the North Kivu area, resulting in deaths.

If confronted by members of the military or security forces, visitors should not permit soldiers or police officers to enter their vehicles nor get into the vehicle of anyone purporting to be a security official. If confronted, remain courteous and calm and, if threatened, do not resist.

Street children, particularly in Kinshasa, can be aggressive, persistent and involved in criminal activity.

Kidnapping is also a real threat in the Congo. Well-planned attacks against foreign nationals, so watch your step.

Big Tip

Try to always move with an experienced tour group. They will help you avoid problems and keep you safe. In the Congo, that's what you want.

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17 Comments

  • Ernest Tufft said

    I traveled to DRC--to Kinshasa, Bandundu, and Mai Ndombe Provinces--in Feb-March of 2016, and found none of the risk mentioned in this article. Since there are so few tourists and no guidebooks, I think that it's important to not generalize about safety. How many people were robbed last year? I'll bet fewer than you think. Robbery in the interior rainforest village regions of Bandundu and Mai Ndombe Provinces is certainly very rare even compared Kinshasa.

  • Joshua Harris said

    @Ernest Tufft omg no-one cares...

  • Blank Blankson said

    @Joshua Harris Don't put this guy down. This guy is just trying to help others.

  • Steve King said

    Very interesting, the article, but more importantly to me, the comments made by @Ernest Tufft, I am interested in hearing more from him, certainly not from @Joshua Harris, if he doesn't care, why is he on here reading this in the first place. Anyways,... I am writing a song about the Congo, partially to bring attention to the problems there. The main idea, other than entertainment of course, is to bring some light to the issues with the fact that we are mining a ton of there minerals to make the capacitors we use in all electronics in every country, and the death and problems, and power struggle that occurs to make that happen, so, I'm more interested in hearing from someone who has had the guts to go there and has gotten their information first hand, so...If anyone is listening, I'm going to book mark this page, in hopes that someone will provide some more personal experience, and hopefully useful info from their journeys. thanks!

  • Capt Herc said

    This article is accutate and a very good description of the possible perils traveling in the DRC.
    I am an airline pilot and was on a 2 day layover in Kinshasa after having delivering a airliner to a local airline from California. Since the next Air France flight was the following day we decided to have our hotel driver take us to the Congo River to take some pictures.
    We both took turns taking pictures of us standing on the river rock wall.
    Suddenly we were surrounded by a band of AK47 wielding young guys.
    I honestly thought it was the end of our lives as they screamed at us in harsh African dialect. Our driver was able to communicate with the eight of them and although they are nationally took our cell phones and wallets after about 20 minutes our driver gave them a lot of money to release us. Sadly the other pilot I was with had a heart attack while driving home from the Atlanta airport the next day which I assume may have been from the trauma of this incident.
    Heed the warning's of this previous article this is not a place to randomly tour without a very good reason and full knowledge of the real risks.

  • Rob said

    Ok, change of plan.... I won't visit Congo

  • Balthazar Rodrigue Nzomono-Balenda said

    I have origins in both the DRC and Congo-Brazzaville; I agree with this blogger that the DRC is a dangerous country.

  • Gregory Mackenzie said

    In April - June 2018 I traveled up the Congo River from Kinshasa to Kisangani by open barge, and then overland through Uturi to Beni in North Kivu before exiting into Uganda. One needs to be very aware at all times. Seemingly calm circumstances can change very quickly. Stay off the streets after dark. DRC is an extraordinary country to visit and the pulse of humanity is like few other places but it is not for the gung ho, naive or fragile.

  • Christian said

    Kinshasa is simply a big city. If you're not used to London, New York, Nairobi etc then you will find it intimidating.
    But, it's NOT the lawless hellhole it is painted out to be.
    As you would in any strange city, be aware of your surroundings, don't be a d**k, take advice from locals/ex-pats who know the area(s) and you will be fine.
    I found some areas of Wales more intimidating and cr*ppy than Kinshasa.
    If you are a switched on cookie, you will be fine.
    Remember also that if you wander around looking scared, you may as well have a target on you. Like anywhere.

  • Koen said

    Kinshasa is rather save, but stick to the city center and use private transport. Public transport should only be taken if you know French and your way around. Kidnapping in Kinshasa mostly happens to local girls and more frequently than one would think. Do not walk by yourself at night.

    Mai Ndombe is not safe at the moment and has tribal wars going on and genocide.

  • Simone said

    A great tip is to always keep a pack of cards handy. Then, in the event of a dangerous situation you can show the aggressors a card trick. This will either calm the situation down, or best case scenario they will become distracted so you can make a dash for it. If that fails and you end up getting kidnapped, then at least you have some cards to keep you occupied as the negotiations for the ransom are figured out.

  • Cat Powers said

    @simone - def true love you!

  • Gregory said

    I doubt the benefits of card tricks under hostile circumstances. Belief in juju / giri-giri is very widespread in DRC and "magic" card tricks may be superstitiously seen as acts of the devil. Your trick may save you or kill you, and that outcome will be difficult to gauge in advance. Good luck in keeping your hands steady!

  • @malabinuana said

    i came from the congo and saw some bad stuff happen

  • @malabinuana said


    rester en groupes et rester à l'écart de la police car ils peuvent être strictes/ learn basic french and u can slither and bribe out of troube

  • Thinking said

    @malabinuana were you traveling alone or with group? I'm thinking to go there and walk mostly with locals friends.

  • Just been there said

    Just spent two weeks in Kinshasa in the places where didn't see foreign people and moving everywhere with locals. Yes, people were paying a lot of attention to white young mundele but I didn't get robbed and didn't feel like someone wanted to hurt me at any point of the time. Not even after darkness. The biggest problem was traffic and motos. You have to be careful not to get under one.

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