Give us a moment. We have to write about yet another large African city in a largely unstable country with all kinds of travel warnings against it. Excuse us if we can't really muster much enthusiasm to do so. OK, we've taken a breath, so here we go with some of the basics. Kinshasa is the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and one of Africa's largest cities nearing the 10 million mark. It is located at the Congo River in the far west of the country and used to be called Leopoldville, while Congo itself used to be Zaire. Interestingly, Kinshasa is the largest Francophone city in the world.
As it goes with African megacities, words like bustling, colorful and vibrant tend to be thrown around a bit too easily to describe them in some of the better known travel guides. We don't really subscribe to using real estate euphemisms when describing travel destinations, so we would propose a few words of our own that we think to be more appropriate for Kinshasa. Rather than bustling and vibrant we might choose the words chaotic, dirty, overall unpleasant and unsafe (although the US State Dept describes Kinshasa as "relatively safe during daylight hours", wow, hold us back).
Even if calm and safety returned to the country, we would still not be fully sure that it would be worth it to give Kinshasa a visit. For starters it is not an easy city to get around in. The buses are terrible, the taxis effectively function like buses and to get from A to B you might have to hop on and off a crowded "taxi" 2 or 3 times. Which is a great way to go around a sprawling megacity, of course. On top of that, the main attractions are markets like Marche de Valeurs, apparently a thiefs' favorite (some locals replace "Valeurs" with "Voleurs", meaning thiefs). Of course if you can get out of the city to check out the Zongo Falls or the Bonobos at the Lac de Ma Vallé or Lola Ya Bonobo, you may have a decent experience.
But yeah, it is *relatively safe* during daylight hours so I'm sure you're just going to go right ahead and book your ticket, aren't you? Did we mention yet that this place is really rather expensive? [Review by travelindicator]
- Kinshasa is a city in DR Congo. It has a population of 9,046,000, is situated at an altitude of 925ft and the best airport to fly into is FIH (N?djili International, Kinshasa)
- The main spoken language here is French, and the average English skill is low
- Note: Kinshasa is a good point of entry for trips to DR Congo as it is well internationally connected (by air)
- The currency used in DR Congo is the Congolese franc (CDF)
Historical average maximum temperature per month (℉):
Historical average rainfall per month (inches):
More Kinshasa travel resources
Quite tellingly, you won't find all that much about Kinshasa online. The Lonely Planet keeps it short and sweet (and negative), while Wikitravel has trouble coming up with attractions to visit. More useful are Brendan's Adventures and Famous Wonders.