Two month trip to Kinshasa
Replies: 11 - Last Post: Feb 20, 2013 2:02 AM Last Post By: MaryAmy
Sep 21, 2012 10:59 AM
Two month trip to KinshasaHello!
I've got quite a few questions and not too many answers (at least on this topic). Hopefully some of you can help me out here.
I'm an American living in South Africa (Johannesburg/Jo'burg) at the moment. I'm taking a team of young adults up to Kinshasa for two months starting in January 2013.
My team consists of two co-leaders, an Indian and a Malagasy (someone from Madagascar). Our students consist of one South African, four Malagasy's, and a Ghanaian. In total we will be 9 people.
Because of the relatively poor backgrounds of my team we're looking at not flying (plus I haven't read good things about the safety of airplanes in the DRC haha). I can't find anything via Google about long distance buses or trains from Jo'burg to Kinshasa. Does anyone have any tips? Cheaper is better but we also have to keep safety in mind.
I'm not French speaking (fortunately all five of my Malagasy's are!). I assume English won't be a problem in most parts of town. My standards aren't high, I've spent quite a bit of time in southern India and assume the ease of finding an English speaker will be similar.
Are there any travel or safety concerns for any of the nationalities on my team (American, India, Ghanaian, South African, Malagasy). Does anyone have any experience with getting a DRC visa from these countries?
All this aside, what is one thing you wish someone had told you about Kinshasa before you arrived that would have made your time there more enjoyable?
Any other tips/tricks/warnings would be much appreciated!
Sep 21, 2012 11:44 AM
There is far too much ignorance on display here. You need French--it's not India, a former English colony; it's DRC, a former Belgian colony. The thought of there being any sort of "long distance buses or trains from Jo'burg to Kinshasa" is a joke--it would take forever, and you'd have a variety of visa problems to solve enroute (which would probably break up your group). Kinshasa is not cheap unless you're planning to live at a very low standard, in which case your French will be even more important and security will be a pressing concern.
If I'm way off base in criticizing, I apologize. However, your presentation strongly suggests exceptional ignorance considering you are planning to "lead" this group. I suggest you contact your Kinshasa organization, if any, for help with transportation, lodging and security issues, and get right to work on getting visas, since these are by no means a given for DRC, and are theoretically only available in your home countries (although this requirement, as most others, is very fluid in DRC).
Lastly, if none of the above applies to you, I hope you'll ignore it entirely.
Hope that helps.
Sep 21, 2012 11:59 AM
2I'll glad ignore your comment about my ignorance. :)
Actually, I won't ignore that. You make a valid point in India being an English colony vs DRC a Belgian colony. That's not a main concern of mine given the five French speakers though. I do appreciate that insight.
I understand Jo'burg to Kinshasa via bus would take forever (52 hours according to Google Maps, not taking into account stops for food, petrol, border crossings, traffic, etc). Financially it's our best option and the one I'm pursuing until all options are exhausted.
Visas are going to be one of our biggest obstacles, especially with the transit through other countries. Again, I feel that I need to pursue the bus option until it closes completely.
I have no contacts in Kinshasa unfortunately. Our desire is to spend the two months working with youth in the city. I imagine we'll be staying in less than desirable accommodations for the majority of our trip. It's not a leisure trip (see my name for reference to what we're doing).
I appreciate the advice you've given Mark, and the thoughts you've provoked. I'll continue doing my research. ;)
Sep 21, 2012 12:05 PM
Sep 21, 2012 12:46 PM
4Reliance on Google Maps to give any sort of information about travel times on Central African roads does not change my initial assessment. This is roughly akin to asking about "long distance...trains."
There are dozens of blogs by people who have done this route overland. Most are written by overland motorcyclists or drivers, but a few are by people who've used local transport. I assume there are also blogs written by NGO workers and others who've lived and worked in Kinshasa. These would make interesting reading for you and your co-leaders. You can find them by Googling.
Sep 21, 2012 7:09 PM
5Gotta agree with Mark on ths one - you sound woefully unprepared!
Although my trip was several years ago and only through eastern DRC, I keep up with the recent blogs and it doesn't sound like things have changed since I was there. Land transportation and barge travel is spotty at best. Expect to pay bribes at every turn, be prepared to be robbed (by citizens as well as "police" and soldiers) and don't even think of adhering to any sort of time table. Traveling by land or river you can expect NOTHING. I've read blogs of people stuck in a no-name village for weeks waiting for the next vehicle or boat to take them toward the interior. Roads can be washed out and stay that way for days as there is no one to "repair" it since government services are practically non-existent.
Along the Eastern side of the DRC I found probably one out of 50 locals that spoke a few words of English. Negotiating paperwork and bribes when you don't speak French will be one more difficulty you can expect to encounter. About the only English you'll hear is from NGOs working over there.
You need to do more homework...especially if you are leading this group!
Sep 21, 2012 11:53 PM
Sep 22, 2012 1:41 AM
7I'd be surprised if there are any buses that would accommodate your whole group on parts of the stretch to Kinshasa ... you may need to break your group up in order to travel. Don't forget it is not worth travelling at night so you'll need to find accommodation en route to take you all (could also be tricky on a budget!)
Seriously I'd find somewhere else that's a little closer to SA!
Sep 22, 2012 12:46 PM
8Guys, I appreciate the comments about my ignorance and being "woefully unprepared". I wish there was a way to be less unprepared, maybe a forum where I could ask questions from other travelers with more experience. If anyone knows of a place like that please let me know. :)
I found a bus company in Jo'burg that will get us halfway and then fly us the rest of the way to Kinshasa. The total price (one way) is about a third of our budget. Too much unfortunately.
We're re-evaluating and considering other locations along the way. I'll continue doing my homework but I'd love any other help aside from comments about my unprepared ignorance.
Oct 3, 2012 2:14 AM
sorry for my english. It is not so good. I don't know what is jour travel plan but i recomand to cross the angola-congo border at moanda(coast) if there is a checkpoint. The road from moanda to kinshasa is not so bad. The chinese made a new road from matadi to kinshasa and the road from moanda to matadi is not so bad. I take three days (i don't remember exactly) from kinshasa to moanda in a 4X4 with a lot of stop on the road for visiting in august 2011. This road is actually the best road of DRC. There is littlle bus that make the trip from moanda to kinshasa, maybe not in one time.
But i don't think it's possible to find a bus direct from johanesburg to kinshasa. I think it's better to take bus from city to city in each country you cross. I don't know the situation in , botswa, nanamibia and angola neither the road, so i can't help for this part.
For visas, i alaways take my DRC visa in my country of residence (Belgium) and there is no problem. But it seems that taking visas from another country for DRC is difficult (see other post in this forum) or impossible. I don't know the situation at the angolese border but at the rwandese border in Goma, you have to pay a lot if you want to get a visa there (like 250$ or more if they're not in good mood!).
I hope it helps you a little.
Oct 18, 2012 1:06 AM
10I'm pretty sure there is a bus service from Johannesburg to DRC. The offices are in the Bruma Lake shopping centre. I've seen the billboards as I drove past.
Feb 20, 2013 2:02 AM
11@markharf - is there a way I could contact you regarding questions I have about life in Kinshasa?
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