Railway between Kinshasa and Matadi
Everyone traveling to the Congo for any purpose will need a visa. You will need the completed application form, one passport-sized photograph, vaccination certificates, and evidence that you have sufficient funds to cover your stay, which includes evidence of a hotel reservation.
Single-entry visas are not issued. All visas are multiple entry, and can last 15, 30, or 90 days.
Note that if you have a Rwandan or Ugandan stamp on your passport you might have trouble entering the country.
From Africa: South African Airways, Kenyan Airways serve Kinshasa three times a week each. Ethiopian Airlines has daily flights from Addis Abbaba.
From Europe: Air France, Brussels Airlines have regular directs flights. The cheapest flights are on African airlines flying London-Kinshasa and Paris-Kinshasa, roughly $500 per person ($1,000 roundtrip).
Local airlines will transport you inland, mainly with Russian planes: Hewa Bora, Wimbi Dira Airways, Bravo Air, CAA (Compagnie Africaine d'Aviation).
No trains available yet, some short trains in North east, or 100 miles west of Watsa use to have a weekly trip further west.
The roads as a whole are too rocky or muddy for cars without 4 wheel drive. Old VW bugs are ok, but other cars will hang up on the rear axle in no time. Cars are only used around larger cities.
From Uganda to Congo via Bunagana Kisoro Border. There are many buses which operate daily between Bunagana /Uganda and Goma every day between 7AM and 1PM. Prices for the bus is US$5. A valid visa for both countries is required in either direction.Entry and exit procedures at Bunagana border are "easy" and straight forward, and people are very helpful in assisting visitors to get through without troubles.
Passenger and VIP ferries also locally known as 'Carnot Rapide' operate daily between Brazzaville and Kinshasa roughly every two hours between 8AM and 3PM. Prices for the ferries are: 15 US$ for the passenger and US$25 for the VIP ferry (Carnot Rapide). The latter is recommended as these are brand new boats and not cramped. A valid visa for both countries is required in either direction. The bureaucracy at either end require some time. Entry and exit procedures in Brazzaville are "easy" and straight forward and people are very helpful in assisting to get through without troubles. In contrast, these procedures are a bit difficult in Kinshasa and depend much on whether you are an individual traveller or assisted by an organisation or an official government representative. There are also speed boats to hire, either in a group or alone (price!), however, it is not advisable to book them as they really speed across the river along the rapids.
Due to the immense size of the country, the terrible state of the roads and the poor security situation, the only way to get around the country quickly is by plane. This is not to say that it's safe — Congolese planes crash with depressing regularity, with eight recorded crashes in 2007 alone — but it's probably the safest option. The largest carriers are Hewa Bora, Wimbi Dira and Compagnie Africain d'Aviation. Congo Express is a partnership between South African Express Airways and a BizAfrika Congo, using planes leased from SA Express (and therefore likely a safer bet). They fly only between Kinshasa and Lubumbashi.
As smaller vehicles are unable to negotiate what remains of the roads, a lot of travel in the Congo is done by truck. If you go to a truck park, normally near the market, you should be able to find a truck driver to take you where ever you want, conflict zones aside. You travel on top of the load with a large number of others. If you pick a truck carrying bags of something soft like peanuts it can be quite comfortable. Beer trucks are not. If the trip takes days then comfort can be vital, especially if the truck goes all night. It helps to sit along the back, as the driver will not stop just because you want the toilet. The cost has to be negotiated so ask hotel staff first and try not to pay more than twice the local rate. Sometimes the inside seat is available. Food can be bought from the driver, though they normally stop at roadside stalls every 5/6 hours. Departure time are normally at the start or end of the day, though time is very flexible. It helps to make arrangements the day before. It is best to travel with a few others. Women should never ever travel alone. Some roads have major bandit problems so check carefully before going.
At army checkpoints locals are often hassled for bribes. Foreigners are normally left alone, but prepare some kind of bribe just in case. By the middle of the afternoon the soldiers can be drunk so be very careful and very polite. Never lose your temper.
A ferry on the Congo River operates, if security permits, from Kinshasa to Kisangani, every week or two. You can pick it up at a few stops enroute, though you have to rush as it doesn't wait. A suitable bribe to the ferry boss secures a four bunk cabin and cafeteria food. The ferry consists of 4 or so barges are tied around a central ferry, with the barges used as a floating market. As the ferry proceeds wood canoes paddled by locals appear from the surrounding jungle with local produce – vegetables, pigs, monkeys, etc – which are traded for industrial goods like medicine or clothes. You sit on the roof watching as wonderful African music booms out. Of course it is not clean, comfortable or safe. It is however one of the world's great adventures.