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Summary: Located in Central Africa to the north of Angola and south of the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, commonly shortened to DRC and called Zaire between 1971 and 1997, the terrain features a vast central river basin with mountains in the east and a small strip that extends to the Atlantic Ocean. Known for being the cradle of humanity, and for its diamonds and cobalt mines, the DRC economy is also based on agriculture, with tourism expected to increase as stability continues.

Capital: Kinshasa
Time Zone: UTC+1
Population: 58,317,930
Languages: French, Lingala, Kingwana, Kikongo, Tshiluba
Power: 220V, 50 Hz
Currency: Congolese Franc - Currently 1 CDF = 0.0018 USD $
Climate: The Democratic Republic of Congo has a tropical climate that is hotter and humid in the equatorial river basin, cooler and drier in the southern highlands, and cooler and wetter in the eastern highlands. The seasons are reversed on either side of the equator, with a wet season from April to October in the north occurring during the dry season in the south.

Kinshasa: The capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo sits on the mighty Congo River with markets, scenic views around the capital and Ma Vallee, rainforests and national parks to keep visitors busy. Kinshasa University, with several small museums with exhibits on the country's history, and the National Museum, home to the best collections of art, are both worth an afternoon to enjoy, then see the pagodas of the Gardens of the Presidential Farm of Nsele, and the Park of the Nsele, with a zoo and picnic facilities.


Safety and Security: The current peace is tenuous, and the border areas with Sudan, Uganda and Rwanda should be avoided, along with the district of Ituri. Steer clear of demonstrations, as well as the local police and military, treating them with respect otherwise, and UN forces delayed in the area are the most trustworthy. Bring a copy of your travel documents and keep the copy handy, and be wary when traveling at night.

Congos: The Congo River splits what is often called the Two Congos. Although they are officially named the Republic of Congo (RC) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), they are aften referred to by their capitals: Congo-Brazzaville and Congo-Kinshasa, the latter of which has not been called Zaire since 1997.

Local Culture: In keeping with the heat, casual dress is the norm in the Democratic Republic of Congo, although bathing suits should be kept to the beach. Using the local landline phone service is problematic, enough that locals often use cell phones instead. Avoid taking pictures of military or government buildings, and get a permit if you plan on taking any pictures while you’re here.

Cash and Banking: Banks are open every weekday during the morning hours, and credit cards and traveler's checks have limited acceptance outside hotels and banks. The black market typically exchanges more currencies at better rates than the banks.

Tipping: Follow standard tipping rules for an additional 10% on top of your bill.

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