Kinshasa at A Glance

I could never imagine to step my feet in Africa. No offense, in my thoughts, Africa was far-away place, and sometimes I even thought that it’s located out of our Milky way galaxy. Visiting Africa was beyond my imagination, it looked like going to fairy land or to the middle earth countries as I read from the books of Tolkien.

However, I made it. In February 2010, I left Indonesia behind, headed to Kinshasa, the capital of Democratic Republic of the Congo to live there for the next three years. I arrived in Ndjili Airport, wondered, confused and no word could described how exhausted I was. The weather was really hot, and there was no air conditioning at arrival hall. People screamed and shouted (lately I realized that it was the way they talk without any intention), tried to find their luggage which were lying on the floor.  I struggled for one hour to find my bag after talking loudly to a man who was trying to grab my bag. However, to whom who want travel to Kinsahasa this time, don’t worry. The government had improved the airport that I can guarantee it’s much better compared to the first time I landed in the country.

Kinshasa itself is not so popular among travelers. Ongoing civil wars, expensive prices, high living cost for expatriates and street boys walking around the city has made this city become the least favorite tourist destinations.

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Kinshasa in February 2010, when I came for the first time

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View from my apartment, showing one narrow street in Kinshasa

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Skyline of Kinshasa. Old gallery Presidential, is apartment building where I stayed for four months

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I’m at the terrace of my apartment, showing Congo River, the longest river in Africa

Nevertheless, during my stay in Kinshasa, I tried to make my life as easy as I could. I managed myself to go to the restaurants every two weeks with my good friend Oliva, who was being my partner in crime in food hunting. We both agreed that after working so hard in fourteen days, we deserve to treat ourselves with the nice food. We visited different restaurant just to know how delicious the food is or how beautiful interior design those restaurants have.

When I came to Kinshasa at the first time, I didn’t find any clue how the city was. Therefore, through this blog, I would like to share some information that might be useful for visitors who come for their first time. I would give ideas, where to stay, where to eat, how to get around, etc when you’re in Kinshasa.

How to Get There

There are so many flight options to come to Kinshasa. Kenya airways and Ethiopian Airlines fly in daily basis. If you come from Europe, Air France and Brussels Airlines fly three to four times a week (you need to check more for the schedules). Turkish Airlines fly in daily bas, with delicious food on board. If you have long enough transit time in Istanbul, you can get around the city or stay at nice hotel provided by the airlines.

Where to Stay

As I said, Kinshasa is expensive city, especially for hotels and accommodation.  There are some hotels which are quite cheap, but I can’t guarantee the safety. Hotels below are the one that I can recommend to stay when you are in Kinshasa.

  1. Grand Hotel. The best in town (while I was there). Price range approximately 250 – 300 USD per night.
  2. Hotel Memling. Located in the downtown. Price: 250 USD per night
  3. Kempinski Hotel fleuve Congo. Price: 300 USD per night

Where to Eat

This the the results of my food hunting with Oliva, and they are our favorite ones.

  1. Al’ Dar. The best Lebanese restaurant in town with delicious food and reasonable prices. Their shawarma and fish steak are my favorite ones.
  2. Chez Gaby. This is my favorite one too and Oliva agreed with me. Portuguese restaurants with nice food (their shrimps are amazing) and beautiful interior designs. The price is bit expensive, around 30 – 40 USD per person
  3. Limoncello. Italian restaurant with beautiful dining room. The foods are also awesome
  4. O’poeta. I love their pizza. It also has cool bar to hang out.
  5. Chez Pilo. Congolese restaurants with delicious foods and nice place to hang out. You can eat crocodile here. Don’t ask me how it is since I never tried.
  6. Green Garden. Indian restaurant with delicious foods and big garden inside.
  7. Musafir restaurant. The other Indian restaurant, located in the down town. Be careful with the street boys around the street. Foods are OK.
  8. Spice restaurant. The other Indian restaurant, with nice bar to hang out.
  9. Chez Maman Colonel. The chicken was amazing. You must try it.
  10. La Piscine. A Greek restaurant with nice swimming pool in the middle. Their calamari is my favorite one.
  11. Inzia. Congolesse restaurant with beautiful atmosphere.
  12. Fleur De Sel. Expensive and food is average. But they have beautiful outdoor terrace.
  13. Sir Harry’s. It was new when I left Kinshasa three years ago. It has Indian and Western foods with beautiful top roof.
  14. Le Roi du Cosa. They have the best shrimps ever.
  15. Muzik Café. Located on Boulevard, easy to find, amazing foods and lovely terrace to hang out.
  16. Le Mandarin. If you want to try Chinese food in Kinshasa, you should try this one.
  17. Nice Cream. Good place to hang out while enjoying a or two cup of ice cream

Night Life

I am not a night life lover. However, sometimes, when I had good companions, I would spend my Saturday nights to hang out to these places:

  1. Los latinos. Nice bar with Latino music
  2. Ibiza bar. They have nice live music. But be careful with street boys along the road,
  3. VIP Club. The musics are good and up to date.
  4. Black and White Club. They have salsa night every Wednesday.
  5. Fiesta
  6. Grand Hotel

Sports

Usually, in the weekend, I spent my afternoon by walking along around Congo river in most prestigious area, called as Diplomat area, which is full with embassy offices and houses. You will find many people doing jogging, walking or just sitting on the grass to enjoy the scenery. However, if you want to go to the sport center, there are some places that might get your interest to enter.

  1. Grand Hotel Gym and Swimming Pool. They also have tennis court, squash area, and sauna for its members.
  2. Elais Sport Club. Their swimming pool is amazingly beautiful and clean. It also has nice restaurants within the compound, located next to the swimming pool.
  3. Shark Club. I just went there once to swim. Swimming pool is not really clean compared to Grand Hotel and Elais.

How to Get Around

Transportation is a big issue in Kinshasa. There is no proper public bus operating in the city. Some private taxis are available with various prices. Be careful when you bargain. Once the drivers know that you’re foreigner, they will charge you with high prices. Try to bargain in French. If you know Lingala, it will help you more. If your budget is big enough, buying a private car could be the best.

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View of Sunset with Congo River in the background from my Apartment

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Congo River seen from Diplomat area

Where to Buy

There are some super markets around, still with the expensive price. For example, four pieces of apples, it can cost you eight dollars.

  1. City market. They have many goods and stuffs inside. Located in the down town. Be carefull with the street boys.
  2. Kin Mart
  3. Kin Marche
  4. Shoprite
  5. Hasson
  6. etc

Don’ts:

  1. Never show your camera in public places. The thief will try to catch it at the first place. Or, a policeman can come anytime by the reason it’s not allowed to take pictures at government building / area. This is why I don’t have so many photographs showing the city of Kinshasa while I was living there.
  2. Never wear expensive jewelry when you’re standing on the street. As I said, street boys will catch you as soon as they can.
  3. Never answer your phone while you’re on the street. Thief will grab it before you realize.
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Kinshasa before I left, with huge good boulevard

I hope this information could give you a few descriptions how Kinshasa looks like. Good Luck and enjoy your stay in Kinshasa.

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