Congolese Franc (CDF), US dollar (US$)
Budget: Less than US$100
- Hotel room: US$30–60
- Budget two-course dinner: US$20
- Beer: US$3
- Taxi ride in Kinshasa: US$1
- Midrange hotel room: US$60–150
- Two-course dinner: US$20–30
- Flight Kinshasa–Goma: US$300
- Museum entry: US$10
Top end: More than US$250
- Top end hotel room: from US$150
- Two-course dinner at a smart restaurant: US$25–50
- Gorilla trekking permit: US$400
- 4WD rental with driver: US$200–300
Bargaining is perfectly acceptable with taxi drivers and at the market in DRC, but it is not the norm in shops. Hotels can also sometimes be negotiated with to offer lower room prices, but this is the exception not the rule.
US dollars are accepted everywhere and moneychangers are omnipresent in DRC's cities. Somewhat reliable, internationally linked ATMs are common in the large cities.
Internationally linked ATMs are now common in Kinshasa, Goma, Kisangani, Matadi and Boma, though it's not unknown for them to run out of money or be out of order, so always carry back-up cash.
The local currency, the Congolese franc (CDF), is worthless outside of DRC. CDF1000 – just under one US dollar – is currently the biggest bill commonly available (though CDF5000 notes do exist), resulting in a big bundles of banknotes when you change money. For that reason most people pay for bigger items in US dollars.
Five-dollar US bills and upwards are fine; they just need to be clean and unmarked (not necessarily pristine). One-dollar notes are not usually accepted, so just use CDF1000 notes instead (it's widely accepted that US$1 is equal to CDF1000, despite it actually being slightly more).
Credit cards are accepted in many DRC hotels, restaurants and upper-end shops, but fraud is a problem so cash is still best. In Kinshasa, Rawbank cashes American Express travellers cheques in US dollars and euros, with a 5% commission.
Moneychangers work on nearly every block of every city in DRC. They all change US dollars, plus sometimes euros and currencies from nearby countries. Rates are invariably better than the banks, but check your notes carefully.
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
Tipping is expected in smarter restaurants – around 5% to 7% is normal. Taxi drivers do not expect tips, though some will ask for one. It's a good idea to keep a stash of small bills (CDF500 is good) to tip with.