Likes & Dislikes

Opinions

“I think there might be something wrong with me, but I’m starting to like this country. No, not Pointe Noire – that didn’t do it for me at all, especially when I was sitting by the beach and someone ran off with my backpack, which was 20cm from me at the time. True, when they realized there was nothing valuable in it, they threw it away 100m down the trail, but still, I decided I’d had enough of the place.

My accommodation was with a French Couchsurfing host, and I even had my own room, but in the room, it’s 30°C until three in the morning, and there isn’t even a fan. Even if there had been, the electricity often cuts off, as does the water. I’ve seen good accommodation, so it does exist, but I’m on a low-budget tour.

I also didn’t get to see the fantastic national parks. The only gorillas I’ve seen were on billboards, and I don’t expect that to change any time soon.
Instead, I spent 8-10 hours a day exploring the city, and sometimes the surrounding area as well. Not that everything here is beautiful – far from it – but it is very interesting. There are lots I’d like to show, but people here have a fit whenever they see you pull out a camera. Then, of course, there’s the other extreme: the ones who present themselves as models. Of course, all this adds up to an interesting experience, and I hope others will enjoy it too.

Prices, though, are surprisingly high: A pizza at Pointe Noire would have been $20-22. At a restaurant which was recommended to me – and which isn’t in the city center  At least the local beer, Primus, is cheap, and I like it. In a local joint, you can get a .65l bottle for about $1. In a big hotel, it would be more like $4.”
(K-T. G, 2015)


Republic of Congo - burden - k-t.g. photo

Republic of Congo - street life - k-t.g. photo

Practicals

Transport

Most of the roads are in deplorable condition. There are many traffic accidents because of the road's poor condition, the obsolete car fleet, and the locals' irresponsible driving styles. Many cars don't even use lights after dark.

There are many reckless drivers and almost wrecked trucks on the highway N1. There are frequent checkpoints and barriers on the N2.

Driving at night or travel by taxi or bus is not recommended on highways, especially not during the rainy season (April-October). 

Taxis are the main transport in the towns. You have to negotiate the price before getting the ride. Prices can be as low as 1000 XAF (less than two USD) for nearby locations and can go up, depending on your haggling skill.

Republic of Congo - Brazzaville - k-t. .g. photo

Republic of Congo - shared taxi bus - k-t.g. photo

Republic of Congo - taxi drivers - k-t.g. photo

Republic of Congo - road after rain - j.k. photo

Republic of Congo - Brazzaville - road in front of the Ministry of Health and Population - a.a. photo

Republic of Congo - goat in high position - j.k. photo

Accomodation

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Republic of Congo - hostel reception - security - k-t-.g. photo

Food

The most common meals are mashy dishes made from cassava,  plantains, millet, corn, yams, rice, and sweet potatoes.

Fish and meat are sometimes part of soups and stews (chicken, lamb, goose, beef, and rabbit. As a delicacy, even antelope, snake, and monkey meat are on offer with pineapple, mango, peanut, or bananas.

African specialties in the restaurants are:
Piri piri (chicken with pepper).
Mohombi (chicken in palm oil).
Ishu (boiled yam cubes) cassava leaves in palm oil and fish dishes.
Desserts: typical local fruits such as pineapples, dates, bananas (plantains), mangoes, coconuts, papayas, and lemons.

Republic of Congo - restaurant sign - Hanbouger-Chawama-Sawich (sic) - k-t.g. photo

Shopping

Supermarkets are available in the towns (Geant Casino, Asia, and Pard and Shop, to name a few. There are also many small stores along the roads with prices similar to the larger stores. There are also shops/stores in Total gas stations, and prices are not higher.

Soft drinks are called sucré in Congo. Apart from Coke, Pepsi, there are Um Bongo, Mirinda, and Vitalo in almost every convenience store.

The local beer is based on rice and has relatively good taste, and it comes in 75cl bottles. Primus, Castel, and Skol are the most common brands, and Tembo, Doppel are the most common local dark beers.


Credit card payments are not standard, and foreign currency is just as rarely accepted. There are cash machines (ATM) in larger banks, where you can withdraw money with a credit card, Visa rather than a Mastercard. If you do not change the menu to a foreign language, you will pay less fee at some machines.

As for the cash payments, it is advisable to take a large number of small Euro or USD bills into the country and change them there. In addition to the local currency, the Odzala National Park also accepts Euros and US dollars in its camps.

Republic of Congo - 30 (USD) cent per piece - k-t.g- photo

Republic of Congo - market - k-t.g. photo

Republic of Congo - Shopping center - k-t-g. photo

Fun

In Brazzaville, in the evenings (especially Friday nights and Saturday nights), locals bring chairs and tables near the roads. They have good fun, party feeling, stimulated by drinking Ngok and other local beers.

In the countryside, you can try the local palm wine. That is from the sap of the palm tree. It is tapped right from the tree and begins fermenting immediately after collection. After 2 hours, fermentation yields an aromatic wine of up to 4% alcohol content, mildly intoxicating and sweet.


Republic of Congo - table soccer - k-t.g. photo

Public safety

2020 update: Traveling around the capital city, Brazzaville, Pool Department is risky, as the army frequently take up operations against armed rebel groups. Outside the capital, attacks, harassments, and intimidation of public transport vehicles and private vehicles, including kidnappings, are common. Kidnappers often demand a ransom.


Don't travel on the road between Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire, the known coastal resort. It is safer to take a domestic flight. If you cant organize or afford that, then at least travel in a convoy of 4-wheel vehicles.


In both Brazzaville and the coastal region,  pickpocketing, looting, and robbery attempts in the evening are common. The police forces are inefficient in protecting travelers. Throughout your entire stay in the country, you need to be vigilant to secure your personal belongings, valuables, travel documents.


Brazzaville has some unsafe neighborhoods: Ouenze, Talangaï, Bakongo, Poto Poto, Makélékélé, where you shouldn't go to at night


Don't hand over your passport to anyone else than an official (or the hotel reservation staff). Ask for an official ID if you have any doubts about someone asking you to show your passport. Criminals often set up illegal checkpoints and pretend to be the authority. In such a situation, try to stay in the car and show your document through the closed window only. In Brazzaville, there are real police checkpoints at night.


In the larger cities, there are often protest demonstrations, sometimes violent street riots that disrupt traffic and public transport. Stay away from the areas of demonstrations, try to be informed by the local media and follow the authorities' instructions.


Health

The quality of health services is low.

Do not drink tap water; consume bottled water instead.

Republic of Congo - Butcher shop with rubbish too close - k-t.g. photo

Republic of Congo - slimming massage -k-t.g. photo

Brazzavile - mini pharmacy ,,Terminat" - a.a. photo

Others

1. Very few people understand English. Some knowledge of French can help a lot.

2. Wireless connections work better than landline connections. Network coverage is limited to Brazzaville, Point Noire, and the larger cities in the south and the central part.

Internet access is available in some lodges in the national parks such as Odzala, but not with the expected stability.

Roaming connections with European SIM cards may work. Still, Congolese telecommunications providers such as Airtel (formerly Celtel) offer a data volume of up to 30 days and a data speed of up to 4G.


Republic of Congo - guys charging the battery - k-t-g. photo

Republic of Congo - easy bikers - a.a. photo

Background

Republic of Congo - national flag - m.j. photo

Republic of Congo - market life - k-t-g. photo

Destination in brief

Republic of the Congo in brief
 
The Republic of the Congo is located in the southernmost part of West Africa (some say in West Central Africa) Neighbors: Cameroon, Central African Republic (north), DR Congo (east and south), Angola (south), Gabon (west). The country’s southwestern part has a short coast on the Atlantic Ocean.
 
The country was a French colony (Congo Brazzaville) until 1960.   
 
The Republic of the Congo is not to be confused with the neighboring, much larger Democratic Republic of Congo, a former Belgian colony.
 
Size: 342,000 km² (132,047 mi²) – About 70% of the country’s territory is covered by rainforest, which is under ever-increasing exploitation pressure.
 
Capital city: Brazzaville – it is a major inland port on the Congo River 

Population: 5.4 million (2020) - About half of the country’s inhabitants identify as belonging to the Kongo ethnic group.
 
The birth rate is among the world’s highest, and about two-fifths of the population is under the age of 15.
 
There are probably 30,000 Pygmies living in the northern and western parts of the country, mostly deep in the forests. They secure their livelihoods by hunting and gathering. Most Pygmies grow to less than half the average adult human height. 

Languages: French is the official language, but two local languages – Lingala and Monokutuba - are also widely spoken – French is mostly used in the administration, education, or as a lingua franca – Only the urban elite speaks French in private.   
 
Religions: 33% Roman Catholic, 22% Awakening Church (a Christian revival trend), 20% Protestant
 
Political & economic situation: Presidential republic – The current head of state, Denis Sassou Nguesso, is one of Africa's longest-serving leaders, having first come to power almost four decades ago. To put it mildly, he is not an exemplar of democracy. Corruption is the principal occupation of the political elite.
 
After almost three decades of Marxist–Leninist rule, Congo adopted a multiparty, democratic system in 1992. Democratic norms and practices, however, are far from being seriously upheld.
 
Oil accounts for 85% of the state revenue.
 
Currency: Central African franc (CFA)
 
The average net monthly salary of urban employees: 460 USD (2020) – nearly half of the population lives in poverty, without a regular income
 
Most common surname: Ngoma
 
The Republic of the Congo is nicknamed the “Bavaria of Africa” because of its beer drinking tradition.
 
Safety: It is not really safe to visit the country individually.
 
The Republic of the Congo has a high crime rate. Attacks on cars, robberies, even kidnappings are quite common along country roads. There is also a lot of violence in urban areas.
 
There are, however, many areas that are pretty safe, but the situation is shifting and local guidance is needed to know which areas are mostly risk-free at the moment of one’s visit.
 
When to visit?  (If the safety situation will ever improve) July-September
 
Top tourist attractions:
 
Brazzaville, Odzala-Kokoua NP (gorillas), Nouabal-Ndoki NP (called the “Last Eden” by National Geographic magazine), Dioss Gorge (“the Grand Canyon of Congo”), waterfalls of Boma


Geography

Large areas of the country consist of swamps, savannas, and dense forests.
The forests cover over 50% of the country with many forest islands, called "bais". The rivers are often the only connections to the interior of the country.

Tourist highlights are undoubtedly the rare lowland gorillas and extremely shy forest elephants that live in the north-western national parks of Odzala and Nouabalé-Ndoki in the rainforest.

The Republic of the Congo has access to the primal, mythical Congo River in the east of the country through a narrow coastal basin, overgrown with swamp and alluvial land, mangroves, and tropical rainforest. The interior of the country extends up to 800 meters high hill country with wet savannah vegetation.

In the west of the country, the republic has a small entrance to the Atlantic Ocean with beaches, lagoons, and sea, behind which the Mayombe Mountains tower up.


Republic of Congo - Lango Camp within the Ozala National Park - o.t. photo

Climate

The climate is tropical, high temperature and humidity are constant all year long, especially in the equatorial areas. The period of tropical cyclones, the rainy season usually lasts from March to June, the dry season lasts from June to February. Try to get well informed about the prognoses of cyclones when planning the trip.

History

Between 1970 and 1990, the party that ruled the country was Marxist. The same party's leaders then became adherents of the market economy, although they did not give up much of their authoritarian habits.

Nowadays

The strong effects of colonization and Western mass culture are apparent in how the local people dress, social customs, religion, and the French language's importance. The dressing, though, mixes European and African elements.

The Republic of the Congo's economy traditionally relies on oil and forestry. The oil export creates half of the GDP. State-owned enterprises dominate almost all sectors of the economy. The omnipotent, mismanaged government's bureaucracy, the outdated tax system, and unclear commercial laws largely discourage foreign investments.

Extremely high unemployment rate: 27%! 

Republic of Congo - Brazzaville - mail democracy : Inhabitants of Brazzavile Your ideas are valuables Let's build together - k-t.-g. photo

Republic of Congo - getting into the shared taxi - k-t.g. photo

Republic of Congo - basic newsstand - k-t.g. photo

Republic of Congo - nosey kids - k-t.g. photo

Republic of Congo - headquarter of the national oil company k-t.g. photo

People

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Repulic of Congo - girl - k-t.g. photo

Republic of Congo - guy with two cellphones - k-t.g. photo

Republic of Congo - lady - k-t.g. photo

Republic of Congo - man - k-t-g. photo

Republic of Congo - lady - k-t.g. photo

Republic of Congo - man - k-t.g. photo

Tourist etiquette

1. It is forbidden to take photos of government buildings, airports, military objects, police, and government officials. We may feel this kind of vigilance frivolous, but we can get in trouble if we don’t take it seriously.

(Do not hang around or park near military posts or roadblocks.)

2. In the villages, the locals are generously helpful with the travelers, yet they often ask for a gift (cadeau) when we say goodbye. Interestingly, they are most happy to get some reading matter (in French). So have some French magazine with you, if possible.

Attractions

Brazzaville

Must-see attractions:

Market ,,Total", the largest market of the city in the Bacongo neighborhood.

S.A.P.E, Society of Tastemakers and Elegant People—Congolese Dandies Reinterpreting European Fashion - you can make great photos!

L'école Poto-Poto - an art school and artists' cooperative

National Museum - to learn about the history of this country

Basilica Sainte-Anne-du-Congo de Brazzaville (Basilique Sainte Anne du Congo)



Republic of Congo - Brazzaville - Basilique St. Anne - k-t. g. photo

Republic of Congo - Brazzaville - modern - j.k. photo

Brazzaville - the statue of Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza statue in front of his Memorial - He was a French-Italian explorer and governor-general of the French Congo (lived: 1852-1905) - Viktor Ohotin's photo

Conkouati-Douli National Park


,, To visit this park, first, you need to travel 600 km from Brazzaville to Pointe Noire by a regular bus for almost 11 hours. After that, you spend the night in Pointe Noire and then comes another 150 km by car, off-road, crossing a river on an antediluvian ferry. "

,, Evil in women?
Only three adult males live on one of the islands. They live in full harmony; they quite peacefully share the dinner prepared for them. To my question: Why don't they bring a female from a neighboring island where a large family of chimpanzees lives? The guide replied: You can't! These three males would kill each other because of her! " (Viktor Ohotin, 2020)



Republic of Congo - Conkouati-Douli National Park - chimpanzees - Viktor Ohotin's photo

Republic of Congo - Conkouati National Park - lunch time - Viktor Ohotin's photo

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