The Brazzaville to Kinshasa river crossing is known to be quite disorganised and unpleasant, however, our experience wasn’t as bad as we were anticipating. We crossed over on a Sunday morning, perhaps it was less hectic than doing so on weekdays. Here’s all the information you’ll need to to get from Brazzaville to Kinshasa.
In Brazzaville, we stayed at Résidence Hôtelière de Moungali and we were very comfortable here. The rate is around USD $50 p/night (twin room) with A/C, cable TV, good wifi and it’s super clean. The rate includes a great breakfast each morning too.
The restaurant serves good food in the evening, the location is convenient and the staff were fantastic. We took a taxi from this hotel to the port, it only takes ten minutes or so.
The taxi costs 1000 XAF or USD 1.60. We arrived at 8.45 am.
How much does it cost?
There are two options for crossing the river. You can take the slow ferry (which is predominantly used to transport goods, it’s very slow and unorganised) or the fast one. My advice is to pay extra and take the fast boat called ‘canot rapide’ (it is much quicker, safer and much less hassle). The price for this ticket, including taxes, is 16,400 CFA each. We’re told that everyone pays the same, foreigners and locals.
There are many formalities and checks (well, this is Africa) that you need to do at the ferry port so we decided to pay a guy (known as a fixer) an additional 3500 CFA (USD 6.00 ) each to take care of it all for us on this side. This amount included his fee too. It’s common here that small tips and bribes are paid to officials to get things done. If you want to get things done quicker, it’s worth your while to pay a little extra.
Today we were happy to pay a bit more to move faster through the formalities and be on the next speedboat to cross the Congo river from Brazzaville to Kinshasa.
The process from start to finish
Once you step out of the taxi at the port, there is a small office (two windows, choose the one on the right).
We gave our fixer 20,000 CFA each and our passports here to take care of our tickets, additional payments/bribes and his fee included.
Give your passport to the guys in this office and pay them 16,400 CFA (USD 28.00) for the ticket. Stand and wait near this office and within ten minutes, our passport, ticket for the ferry and tax receipts are returned to us. Move towards the right-hand side where there are policemen sat here.
Show your passport and documents to them, they want to see your visa for Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). If all is OK, then walk through this gate.
Continue walking forward and on the left, there is an immigration office. Walk inside and take a blue departure slip and complete. Our fixer then gave our passports with our completed blue slips to the immigration officer and slipped him some cash.
This officer checks your passport and stamps you out of The Republic of Congo.
Just out of this office, there is a man sitting at a desk. Give him your passport, he will want to see your entry/exit stamps and Republic of Congo visa.
Wait patiently for your passport
Leave your passport with him (and sit on the nearby wooden seats with your eye on your passport in the stack of others) as he records in a notebook the details of all passengers travelling on the next boat.
Notice the woman sitting at the desk only five metres away who is selling yellow fever booklets. Very handy for anyone who doesn’t have the booklet or the actual vaccination. The yellow fever booklet is compulsory to show once you arrive into DRC.
Within 15 minutes or so, the stack of passports is then handed to another man (sitting in the desk next to the lady selling yellow fever booklets). He looks through them and checks something else off in a book.
Collect your passport and go towards the ferry
He then starts calling the passenger names. Once you hear your name, take your passport from him and walk over towards the ferry entrance. Our fixer directed us towards the ferry and said goodbye to us, it was helpful to have his assistance, however, we could have done this ourselves and worked it out.
Change some currency here before you cross the river
TIP: It’s a good idea to exchange at about 4000 CFA for 10,000 Congolese francs in the port of Brazzaville (there are many money-changer guys walking around with stacks of cash). You’ll need this as soon as you arrive on the other side.
Pay a fee for Customs before you depart
Before you pass the immigration officers and police here, you must clear customs with the lady sitting at a desk to the right of the ferry entrance. You must declare how many mobile phones and bags you have, also how much money you are carrying. It’s very unofficial really. You must pay 1000 CFA to this woman and keep that ticket.
Get on the ferry
Go to immigration and show your passport and ticket. Cross the large rusty barge to jump onto the very small speedboat with your bags and take a seat. You’ll be given a life vest to wear which is so old that it wouldn’t save you if you fell in, but you must wear it.
The speedboat departs and within 15 minutes, you’ll be across the water in Kinshasa.
Marty on the ferry – from Brazzaville to Kinshasa
Arriving in Kinshasa – Let the security checks begin!
Try to be the first person off the boat. As you disembark, the first check is from a guy standing here to check your visa.
Five metres along, the second check is passport control. A lady took our passports and asked us to keep moving forward. A guy appears in a white jacket that works at the port and ushered us forward towards clearing other checks. It’s hard to keep moving when you’re not sure where your passport is or when you’ll be getting it back, however, just trust it. To be honest, you don’t really have a choice but to keep moving.
The third ‘check’ is some officers blocking the walkway and asking for 3500 CNG payment each for ‘import tax’.
The fourth check is a lady checking that you have a yellow fever booklet. Easy. She just needs to visually see it and you continue moving forward.
The guy in the white coat ushers us further along and asked us to wait on the side for our passports. Around 5-10 minutes later, the woman who initially took our passports returned with them and asked us to follow her.
Fifth check: Another lady who is ‘customs’ asks to inspect our bags. First, she requests 2500 CNG each (USD 1.50). We show her the small ticket that we already paid for customs on the other side. She requests the payment again. We refused to pay and quickly popped open our bags. She barely looked at them and moved us along.
The lady directs us into another small office, it looked like immigration. We were asked to sit down and wait and within ten minutes, she returns with our passports which have been stamped.
Where to Stay in Kinshasa
We followed the lady out to the parking lot where we jumped in a taxi and told him we’d pay him 5000 CNG (USD 3) to take us to Hotel Kirakou which is less than five minutes drive away.
This hotel is priced from USD 75 per night, which includes breakfast. This is a mid-range hotel with A/C, decent wifi and a small supermarket nearby. It’s well located in Kinshasa.
The manager of this hotel, Christian is very friendly and helpful and he speaks perfect English. He explained to us his future plans to improve tourism in the DRC. He’d like to create opportunities for tourists to easily visit more of the DRC when they visit. This was great to hear as currently, it isn’t easy or affordable to explore the highlights of this country.
If the above hotel is a little pricey or you’re travelling solo, another option for comfortable budget accommodation is Kalz Guest House. This place is priced from USD 45 per night, is in a good location has a great customer rating from past guests.
If you have the budget to stay somewhere a little more comfortable in Kinshasa, the Leon Hotel is a great choice with rooms from USD 135 per night. This hotel is located in the city centre and offers a superb breakfast in the room rate.
Our hotel room in Kinshasa
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