Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of the Congo, and Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, are the two closest capital cities anywhere in the world, facing each other from opposite sides of the Congo River just under four miles apart. The two capitals are very different, Brazzaville having a population of around 1.8m, whilst Kinshasa is home to around 17.07 million (2021). Many ferries cross the River Congo as well as canoes and other boats, and the Pool Malebo region where the crossings take place, is the scene of frequent accidents as many of the boats are in a poor state of repair.
Ferries operate every two hours between the two countries from 8am until mid-afternoon and cost around 9UK for the twenty minute crossing, however travellers are recommended to take the more expensive Carnot Rapide VIP Ferry which, although costing more at 21UK, is a modern boat with less passengers making for a safer crossing. And safety is something of an issue for the Congo ferry. In July 2010 eighty people died after their ferry hit a rock, in 2009 ninety people died after their supposedly non passenger logging boat sank. In one of the worst disasters in 1993, 147 citizens of the Democratic Republic of Congo drowned after the ferry leaving the Republic of Congo left the quayside prematurely pushing passengers into the water, and then, when the ferry made a hasty return after realising what had happened, it crushed many of those in the water. In 2021, in one of the most recent accidents, 60 drowned and hundreds have died over the intervening years, not least because many in Africa simply have never learned how to swim.
You could, of course, also hire one of the speed boats available but then you really would be taking your life into your own hands as operators seemingly haven't heard of safety and just want to get you across the Congo in the fastest way possible even if that means bouncing off rocks along the rapids! If making the journey ensure you have a valid passport and visa as, whilst arriving in the Republic of Congo is relatively hassle free, the same cannot be said for arrivals at Kinshasa especially for lone travellers outside government and NGO operations where 'additional funds' are normally required to 'facilitate' the entry process!. The video below gives insights into the ferry trade across and along the Congo River. It's probably the best way to experience the journey as doing it for real may not be covered by your travel insurance!
Congo Ferry: Volunteer in Congo Brazzaville
Congo Ferry: Volunteer Congo Kinshasa
Congo Ferry: Kinshasa Profile
Congo Ferry: Congo Brazzaville Profile
Details of current volunteer work
opportunities in each of the
countries of Africa.
Discover all about Africa, its tourist
attractions, history, people, culture
and daily life there.
A treasure trove of African
resources from webcams to
free downloads and news.