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Republic of Congo Facts

Political Climate
Before the 1997 war, the Congolese system of government was similar to that of the French. However, after taking power, the current president, Sassou-Nguesso, suspended the constitution approved in 1992 upon which this system was based. The 2002 constitution provides for a 7-year presidential term, limited to a maximum of two sequential terms. There is a parliament of two houses that include a National Assembly and a Senate, and members serve for 5 and 6 years, respectively.

Geography
Situated in West-central Africa, it spans an area of 342 000 sq. km. Its highest point is Mount Berongou at 903 meters and the Atlantic Ocean borders the western part of the country along a 170km coastline. Although still physically demanding, the altitude is low and the terrain is not mountainous. Also, there is a navigable river system that meanders through the rain forest which covers more than half the area of the Congo.

Capital
Brazzaville

Languages
French, Lingala and Kituba are the most common languages spoken with French being the official language. English is spoken in some hotels and tourist areas.

Currency & Banks
Congo uses the CFA (Communaute Financiere Africaine) franc (XAF) with notes in denominations of XAF10 000, 5 000, 2 000,1 000 and 500 and coins in denominations of XAF250, 100, 50, 25, 10, 5 and 1.

Diner's Club and MasterCard have limited use in the Congo and cannot be depended upon. Hotels in Brazzaville do accept major credit but prefer cash. The few ATMs that do exist in Brazzaville only accept Visa. Please note that the maximum amount of cash one can withdraw is the equivalent of USD1 000. Banking hours are Monday to Friday 06h30 to 13h00 with counters closing at 11h30. US Dollars and Euros (USD are preferred) in large denominations can be exchanged in the main cities. It is recommended that you get all necessary money exchanged before travel. Travelers? cheques are accepted in the larger cities but are not recommended as they carry a high commission rate and it is a very lengthy procedure to exchange them. If you do, however, wish to use travelers' cheques, please make sure you have your original Travelers? Cheque purchase receipt.

Climate and Best Time to Travel
The climate in the Congo is the same across the country, with slight variations between the northern and southern regions. The north is equatorial, hot and humid, while in the south the climate is tropic and humid with slightly less rain from October to May and a dry period from June to September. The centre is distinguished by a sub-equatorial climate marked by a very pronounced dry season. In general, the year is divided into four seasons: a long rainy season from October to December, a short dry season from January to February, a short rainy season from March to April, a long dry season from May to September.

People & Population
The population is sparse, numbering just over 4 million people; the capital of Brazzaville with a population of almost 2 million people. Some 70% of the population lives in urban areas, with Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire being the two main population centers. The population is thus concentrated mainly in the south-west of the country, leaving vast areas of the north – covered in rainforest and the like – almost unpopulated.

Entry Requirements
All visitors must have an original, signed passport valid for 6 months beyond stay, with at least one blank visa page available for visa stamp(s). Amendment pages in the back of the passport are not suitable for visa stamps. All visitors need a visa, which is to be obtained from their nearest Congo embassy or consulate prior to travel. United States citizens are required to have a valid passport and a Visa, issued by the Kenya Consulate Office in Washington, DC.

Health
The Yellow Fever vaccination is compulsory; you will need a certificate as proof to enter the Congo.

The following vaccinations are recommended: Typhoid fever – vaccination is particularly important because of the presence of S. typhoid strains resistant to multiple antibiotics in this region, Hepatitis A or Immune Globulin (IG), Hepatitis B or Immune Globulin, Meningitis, Polio, Rabies – if coming into contact with wild or domestic animals, and Tetanus/diphtheria. Plasmodium falciparum malaria is the dominant type of malaria in the Republic of Congo. It is resistant to the anti-malarial drug chloroquine and travelers to the Republic of the Congo are advised to take one of the following anti-malarial drugs or to contact their nearest travel-health clinic for advice: Mefloquine doxycycline, or Atovaquone/ proguanil (Malaronetm).

Travelers who become ill with a fever or flu-like illness while travelling in a malaria-risk area and up to one year after returning home should seek prompt medical attention, informing the physician of their travel history and the anti-malarial they have been taking.

Communications
General assessment: services barely adequate for government use; key exchanges are in Brazzaville, Pointe-Noire, and Loubomo; intercity lines frequently out-of-order. Domestic: primary network consists of microwave radio relay and coaxial cable. International: satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean). Limited Radio, Television, and Internet usage.

Electricity
220v with 2 or 3 pin sockets. A European adaptor is required.

More Information: Congolese Embassies and Consulates worldwide - http://www.embassypages.com/congorepublic.php