The Republic of the Congo is primarily a cash economy and uses the Central African Franc (CFA), a common currency used in Gabon, Chad, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, and Equatorial Guinea. U.S. dollars may be exchanged for local currency, but traveler’s checks are generally not accepted and cannot be cashed at local banks. Some hotels in Brazzaville and in Pointe Noire now accept major credit cards, but cash remains the preferred method of payment. Most businesses accept cash only. Personal checks drawn on foreign accounts are not accepted. Western Union has offices in Brazzaville and Pointe Noire. There is one ATM at the Credit du Congo Bank in Brazzaville which accepts foreign debit cards. ATMs at several of Credit du Congo’s branches in Pointe Noire also accept foreign debit cards. CFA are not available outside the CFA zone and there are tight restrictions on travelling with CFA. If you are caught attempting to leave the country in possession of CFA, airport authorities may confiscate all of your local currency. For this reason, the U.S. Embassy recommends that you not travel via air with CFA, even if you are travelling directly to another country in the CFA zone.
Photography: Photography of government facilities or infrastructure is illegal. Taking photos of such places may result in arrest and confiscation of camera equipment.
Customs: Airport police and customs officials routinely inspect incoming and outgoing luggage, even for in-country travel. For a complete list of prohibited items, please contact the nearest Congolese embassy or consulate. Visitors who seek to export arts and crafts at the airports are frequently subject to an export tax and/or solicitations for bribes from customs agents. There have also been repeated instances of travelers being questioned about how much currency they are carrying and expats have been asked to show customs officials how much money they have in their wallets.
Detention: Local security forces, especially traffic police, routinely detain foreigners to solicit bribes. Detention of U.S. citizens, particularly in remote areas, may not always be promptly reported to the U.S. Embassy by Congolese authorities. You are encouraged to carry a copy of your passport and valid visa for the Congo with you at all times so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship is readily available. If detained or arrested, U.S. citizens should always ask to be allowed to contact the U.S. Embassy.
Ferry Service to Kinshasa: Commercial ferry service between Brazzaville and Kinshasa normally operates from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on Sunday, but the ports may close completely with minimal notice. A special exit permit from the Republic of the Congo’s Immigration Service and a visa for the Democratic Republic of the Congo are required to cross the Congo River from Brazzaville to Kinshasa. Likewise, a visa for the Republic of the Congo is required when arriving by boat in Brazzaville.
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