I was recently able to spend a week with several families during their stay in Congo before bringing their children home. Typically families are staying in Congo for three weeks. During this time we discussed how we all would have packed differently in preparation for their stay in DRC. Packing and preparing for an extended stay in Congo is different than preparing for most other trips. In preparing for your trip to DRC you will want to think about not only packing clothing, but also food, money and strategizing for packing luggage in the event luggage is lost.
- Packing- Many items that you will need will be available at markets in DRC, but the items will often be much more expensive than in the US or Canada. One item that is easily forgotten for both parents and baby is a towel. From my now personal experience, forgetting this one item could set you back $36 USD, for one towel. You will also want to pack foods from home like ramen noodles, tuna, peanut butter, bread or crackers, dried fruits, canned fruits or vegetables, granola and any other foods that do not spoil. Families have also packed freeze dried meals that you may use for camping. You will not want to solely depend on the markets in Congo due to cost. For baby or child, you will want to pack age appropriate toys, cloths and food supplies (formula is readily available in DRC). You should bring some warm weather cloths for you and the child(ren). In Congo, many Congolese seem to be very concerned when they see children not wearing long pants and socks, even when it’s warm outside (note that summer in the US is considered cold session in DRC. You will want to bring a variety of age appropriate toys (especially if you are adopting a 7 month old to toddler age child, as the selection of toys for toddler age children will be very limited while in Congo.
- Preparing Your Luggage – First and foremost, you will want to plan for your luggage to be lost for two days or so. You will want to make sure that you have enough supplies and clothing for at least two days in your carry on for both parents and child(ren). Also note that you will be flying on an international carrier that may have different requirements for the size of your carry on bag; make sure to check what that size and weight limit is in advance. Obtaining your luggage when you deplane can be a bit chaotic, to best spot your luggage make sure to tag it with something brightly colored so that it is easy to spot.
- Money – Previously, several of the hotels in Kinshasa were accepting credit cards. However, this does not seem to be the case any longer and families may need to pay for their accommodations in cash. You will want to be prepared with enough cash to do this. While you will want large bills for these larger expenses you will also want to bring plenty of $5 and $10 bills for tips and markets. When you get cash from your bank you will want the bills to be as crisp as possible. US dollars are accepted and often preferred, but they will only be accepting if they are crisp without tears. Prior to your departure you will also want to call your credit card or debit card company to let them know that you will be abroad. You will want to bring a credit card and debit card with you in the event that you need to withdraw cash in DRC.
These are just a few tips for preparing for travel to Congo. I could not possibly share everything you need to know about traveling and getting to DRC. MLJ clients receive an entire Travel Guidebook and travel consultation with their program director in preparation for this experience. If you have advice to share with others, comment or question please add to this advice in the comment section below.
Photo Credit: whatatravisty