How to Avoid Crime in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

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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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26 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.

  • saara said

    Congo, one of the richest lands in Africa and the most pillaged and kept in poverty by the west. That said any poverty struck inner city areas in the UK can get u..robbed.. killed..and god knows what else if u don't have ur wits about you. Be smart and/ or if you have a social conscience & be part of the solution in any way you can.

    One Love xx

  • Aaro Vaalanne said

    Hi, I have been to DRC many times as I’m an aid worker working for Médecins Sans Frontières. I speak fluent French so it has been easy to work there. I have witnessed some pretty bad things in Bunia and nearby areas. Luckily I’ve had a licence for a gun while working there as it is dangerous to go anywhere when the sun goes down. My weapon of choice is AK-47 and I carry it always when I leave my house. Best thing is that I live in Finland so I can always escape the chaos in DRC to Finland. I won’t recommend anyone traveling to DRC especially the eastern part of the country as many rebel groups operate there.

  • Catherine said

    Aaro - I work for a nonprofit that partners with eye surgeons/hospitals in-country to provide vision care services. I have a US doctor who is planning a trip to Bukavu. In your experience, would you say this location is safe? o

  • Bernard said

    “None of our staff would ever carry a gun. Any portrayal that suggests otherwise is dangerous, misleading and wrong,” MSF said in a statement .

    What MSF section do you work for Aaro?

  • Whites are not safe said

    I have been to this region a few times for business. As a middle aged white American male I can say it is dangerous for people like myself to go here unless you have an experienced guide and an armed detail. The people in this city behave like animals and have no real skills to offer humanity. It’s a shame but that what you get from these people.

  • Andy said

    Im a combat veteran and I am very worried about people saying this article paints DRC as a “hell hole” . This article is merely repeating and expanding on advice from the US State Department. People who go and say it’s totally safe because they themselves didn’t get held at gunpoint are being irresponsible.

    The article isn’t saying don’t travel, it’s saying know the risks. Those are very different.

    Yes, crime is everywhere but it varies in frequency and severity. No, traveling in Kinshasa is not the same as traveling in London because crime is more frequent and severe in Kinshasa. But yes, London also does have crime, both violent and non violent.

    You’re not guaranteed safety anywhere, but some places you need to weigh the likelihoods of violence and the frequency of violence in order to decide where to travel to and who to travel with.

    If the State Department is warning against travel, then reconsider travel. If the State Department is saying you need to reconsider traveling by yourself, reconsider it. Ultimately the choice is yours. Just make it with good information.

  • Peter said

    @andy

    well said

  • George Keller said

    I plan to visit the DRC, as a Black man I find there is trouble everywhere. The Congo has always been my dream vacation. If crime is out of control why go there, I’m from ew York city and I love to flash money where I go. I will make sure I have my people around me at all times,
    I can’t be afraid of Blacpk people when I’m black as night. Love and peace.

  • ANWAR SHAIKH said

    The safety shoul be kept in all parts of DRC as i have personally faced a armed robbery at our store and seen one local personal being shot here near our residence .
    I m working in lubumbashi and i am a accountant and is one of my job to handle cash , if you think that the robberies are just un planned you are wong they watch you where you live how often you visit a place ,what things you carry with you , This happened with me when one day the govt here decided to to give an official holiday due to covid-19 and the same day the evening when my collegues and my bosses left us that means yes we were only two people at our store engaged in our day end processess one a sales person and the other one is myself sitting at the back office waiting for the person and suddenly when my collegues come running and saying there are few people stepped in the store and tried to catch me and they were drunk as it was not the time we take customers into the shop and the sales man took the customer in to sell one more item not knowing the customer is with the robbers and was just posing to be a customer . ok so where was i yes my collegeu came running to the b-office and explained me without wasting my time i told him to close that door , unfortunately the door was a door of glass and the around 4 to 5 people pushed from the outside as my collegeue tried to close the door and one of the robber hit the glass door with something sword like looking object and it was just a matter of time when the security turned the main switch and suddenly everything was dark . Our security guard who used to work was part of that gang too and he was the one to inform his other robber friends about the money beacuase he noted the trail of the money everyday where it went , to whom it went and at what time . so back to when their was not a single light in the office they turned their phone flashlights on and thretend with that sword to me so that i dont try to do anything which will make their plan a flop , and my collegeue who pushed them and ran away got a tight slap from a robber before lights turned off for escaping from them as thye saw me surrendered and standing on my desk they told me to step away from desk and asking me where is the money and all those bullshit again and again in the swahili langauage and one robber trying to search my office looking for money and as ive told the guard already saw the trail of the whereabouts of the our everyday sales , in matter of time they found the vault where we kept the money and still they were not satisfied they asked me where else is the money i know there is huge sum of money here with you people . and trashed the office , my locker ,my cupboard where i kept my files and even those idiots searched a water cooler as if we lived in fancy land and we kept our money in the fridge lol . Those guys were so drunk they tied my collegue with a tape around his hands and head as they didnt tied me up i just sat down surrendered when they left from the office to search for more money i un tied my collegue bc he was uanable to breath .when one person came back to ask me again tell me and whereelse is the money he saw that the person is free and does not have a cello tape on his face and hands he tied me with my hands also with the cello tape and he was so drunk he tied my hands like a baby and pulled a wire from nearby fan and tied that wire on the collegues hands and then he left after i told him the whatever we had you took now there is nothing , he took my laptop and cellphone and took them away , then again he left and we freed ourselves as he he was so drunk and couldnt tie us properly and again when the other person came who was drunk but in control saw us untied and tied us with ziplocking wire we usulally use in tires and wires to tie them and that is so strong that the only was to free your hand from that is only to cut it with blade or break your fingures and when they left and thretend to kill us if we do it again and when they left and didnt came for around 5 minutes i told my collegue to search for a cutter as ive kept it on my desk for stationary use told him to cut the ziplocking wire and then i took the cutter from him and did the same , there were all shreds of glass pieces around the floor and during thye procees of freeing ourselves with tied hand we got cuts on palms . those guys were so drunk that they came and asked me for more money and i told them there was nothing left around for 10 to 15 times , they left and forgot again one person comes and i said the same thing in my broken swahili languauge . during this scene he also told me not to inform on the security guard orselse he will kill me and the other person told me he had killed the our security guard as he tried to escape and will kill us also if i didnt give him more money , they took my laptop my boss laptop from his office whick company gave us for the use they took all the monitors of the front sales desk ,took some shop sellinf items which was around 2 to 3k dollars after they left and we didnt hear a single noise from the front m collegeue told me lets go but iwasnt ready as i saw them so many times coming and leaving into the office i beliived they would attack us if they found us try to leave and i told my collegue if we are leaving we should head to our boss office beacuase that is where i kept my personal cell phone in his desk and used the company phone throughout the day as per his instrcution to all and if the cellphone is not robbed we can use it to call someone and as a result it went the same way they didnt search the office as the lights were completly shut down and was dark it is not possible to search for everything with a small keypad phone flash light , we got our mind together and went to the front of the store looking for the phone and i found my phone and switched on the flash light and went to see if they are gone . i did not worry about my phone ringing and robber to look where the phone is ringing bc i had a habit of keeping phone on silent and even if anyone called me to see if i was ok it would not ring this habit is not good but it saved my phone at thhis time but my collegeu lost his phone as he already took his phone from the desk to put a sales report on whatsapp , we managed to get the keys of the door of back side and turned the main switch on but i dont know only the ware house lights got turned on , because of the lights we didnt catch them on camera stealing but we did catch that bastard security guard runnning and turning off the electric switch off . i was so angry and exausted i just thanked god that they didnt harm us in any way just that my collegeue got a tight slap for runing after when i came to my office saw that all the money is gone my laptop our company and personal phones as they didnt find more then 2000 to 3000 $ bc we moved more of the balances to the bank the money we had during the robbery was the that day sales and money of deposits from customers . I called my boss told him that there was robbery and they came along with the other collegeues who left for the home after work . we also found the sword and two other knives lying around which those idiots forgot to take them . When we othe rcollegeues came and we found our place in such a total mess and thats all i had to tell about the incident which really mad eme mentally ill for few weeks and beacuse of that i now have trusting issues with everyone after a month nearby our house some people came in car dressed as a police robbed a locla guy who sat doing phone recharges and m pesa etc . They even put a bullet in his leg which we even heard when we were home but ignored it beacuse we never heard a gun shot in our life . So there are the things you will learn from my incident is
    1) Alaways stay together and leave together if your boss tells you to come and go alone after evening or close your store with a few people they genrally dont care because they are safe 5:30 pm is evening and they already leaving for home but does not see the risk of leaving the employees alone .
    2) Keep rotating your money of the shop dont keep it in one place as a fixed deposit .
    3) Dont let anyone know where you keep money ? when do you move money and with whom? ,
    4) Dont take visiotors in your home or at you businness place meeting at an unexpected timings .
    5) Avoid carrying things as much as you can .
    6) If you find yourself in such a scene tottally surrender and request them to leave you alone and give them whatever you have as ive told you my collegeue got a tight slap and was tied with tapes and was unable to breath and would be probably dead if i wouldnt tried to help him .(The ladies especially have a high risk of getting harmed if they find them self in such situation specially foreigners )
    7) Avoid to travel in night as much as you can and in africa there is no daylight or night darkness you will get robbed if someone wants to .
    8) Avoid africa visits or business until and unless you have important business to attend and make sure you have a driver or a local with you , but after this incident i dont belive them too beacuse of the security guard Son of a bitch .
    9 and 10) Keep these things in mind and tell your collegues also and your boss too and if they still take it lightly then they dont care what happens to you beacuse i have a similar problem of my boss not concerned for safety or else such a incident would not have happend if his ass wasn't on fire to go home and leave his employees at the store . This incident looks like a story but i have lost my confidence of speaking, trust issues ,strange phobia when someone enters the room with knocking, or suddenly lights goes off , Always remember that you should develop such a habits that even if it gets you into this situation you should face minimum loss . Thank you if you have read so far .
    These a

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