How to Get a Visa for the DR Congo
Central Africa is known for being tough on tourist visas. However, if you agree to pay $105 USD for one of the following they will allow you to enter the country:
- Mountain gorilla trek permit
- Nyiragongo trek permit
- Book and pay for accommodation at the Mikeno Lodge
From there you must pay the for the park permit which is an additional $300 USD. The total cost to enter the Eastern DR Congo is $405.
Rwanda-DR Congo Border Crossing
I was touring East Africa with Gorilla Trek Africa and they helped me arrange visas and permits before I arrived. The only additional paperwork I needed to enter the DR Congo was my yellow fever card. Don’t forget this or they will not allow you to enter.
The border crossing from Rwanda to DR Congo is simple. There is a line for immigration just like anywhere else in the world. You will need your visa, yellow fever information, and passport.
My guide, Rock, recommended we arrive early to beat the crowds and he was right. At 8am there was a line but it didn’t take more than 30 minutes to enter DR Congo. From here we met our driver and we drove into the border town of Goma. Views of Nyiragongo Volcano were in sight shortly after and that is when the real excitement sank in.
Trekking to the Top of Nyiragongo Volcano
The trek starts at the bottom of the volcano in Goma. The paved road quickly turns to dirt and gravel and you will need to stop at the Virunga National Park office to sign-in with your guide. This is the starting point for the daily groups hiking to the top of Nyiragongo Volcano. Group sizes can range from a couple of peoples to 12 depending on the day. Since you will be the only ones hiking the volcano this is not a big concern. There are plenty of sleeping huts at the top for everyone.
The trek to the top of Nyiragongo Volcano takes around 4 hours. I had recently climbed Kilimanjaro but this felt more challenging than any day on that trek. It was very hot, steep at times, and somewhat unstable terrain. I also wasn’t used to hiking as quickly because on Kilimanjaro you must trek slowly to acclimatize. That is not a concern here and the majority of my group had no problem reaching the top of the volcano.
Nyiragongo Volcano Trekking Essentials
Porters are optional for the trek. I didn’t hire a porter but they are available before you start for around $15. My guide carried our food up but I carried camera gear, 3 liters of water, and snacks.
The porters and guides will also bring food and water for the group to prepare dinner. Carry the following:
- 3 liters of Water (if you need more ask a porter to carry some for a tip)
- Beer/wine- Everyone in my group carried something to celebrate with at the top. I carried local beer but the South Africans had whiskey and the guy from Zimbabwe had wine.
- Portable Batteries
- Sleeping bag
- Trekking poles (optional)
- Hiking Boots/Shoes
- Rain Jacket
- Warm clothes for the summit
- Change of clothes are nice after a hot hike to the top to sleep in
- Cash for tipping the cook, porter, guide, rangers- they are keeping us safe and making this trek possible.
You can rent a sleeping bag for $20 before you start the trek. A porter will carry it if you don’t have room just don’t forget to tip.
View from the Top of the Crater!
When you reach the top of the volcano you won’t believe your eyes. You are standing at the edge of a very active volcano in the middle of the DRC and it doesn’t get much better than that.
Sleeping at the Rim of Nyiragongo Volcano
When you arrive at the top of Nyiragongo Volcano there is plenty of light and time to relax. Everyone sits at the rim for photos and gets ready for the night.
This was one of the most amazing views I have ever seen in my life and made the entire trip worth it.
As night falls everyone gathers at the rim again after dinner to watch the glowing red lava spill over the sides of the crater. You are safe (as you can be) up at the rim from the lava bursting from the center but don’t lean in too close.
The sleeping huts were rebuilt in 2016 and are nice and warm. The old huts can be seen falling down the side of the mountain. Don’t worry they weren’t destroyed by guerillas even though they appear that way. There is room for two in your hut but if you’re trekking solo as I was you can have it all to yourself.
Trekking Down Nyiragongo Volcano
The descent from the rim of Nyiragongo Volcano starts off a bit challenging. The loose lava rock that wasn’t a challenge to climb becomes slippery on the way down. I did not bring trekking poles but these would be helpful on the way down and a few people in my group used them. Depending on how much experience you have trekking and hiking you might want to consider bringing at least one trekking pole. You can see the old huts slipping down the steep terrain which is also your hiking path until the trail resumes.
Visiting the Democratic Republic of Congo
I have traveled to over 100 countries and this is by far one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. Sometimes it is alright to ignore the travel warnings if you understand the risks and this was one of those times. I only scratched the surface of the DRC, a massive country, but this is a great place to start.
My guide was professional and most importantly a lot of fun to trek with. I would do it again next time I am in Rwanda as long as the border crossing is deemed safe by the locals. It was one of the best travel experiences I have ever had in my life.
Plan Your Trip to the DRC
Who I Used: Gorilla Trek Africa