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So You Want to Take a Trip to Congo?

May 14, 2012

Some people have expressed interest (or bizarre curiosity) in visiting us.  Perhaps you’re interested, too, but have too many questions to come out and ask us.  Well, this post will be a treat, then!  Before too much time has passed and I forget, I hope to outline the steps you would take in order to pay us a visit.  Pay…ha ha…it’s a pun.  Because it’ll be expensive.  But, really, it’s worth it!

Step 1: Passport

Of course, you need a current passport.  A real passport, not one of those cards to get you into Canada and Mexico (assuming you’re from the US).  It is recommended that it be current at least six months through when you plan to leave, so no cutting it close!

Cost: $120 + photos (If that price is wrong, I apologize…the screen wouldn’t load…yay for slow internet connections, right?)

Step 2: Medical Visit

Make an appointment with a doctor.  Your family practice doc might be able to help you if you describe why you need to come in, but more than likely they will recommend a travel doctor.  These docs specialize in overseas needs and care.  They also have the proper vaccines on site.  Note, this visit will not be covered by insurance unless you’re really spoiled.  Prepare to pay for the entire bill out of pocket UNLESS you do what we did.  We did not have insurance at the time and we only raised funds to cover part of the visits.  So, I asked about a reduction in costs because we are cash-paying patients, filled out some paperwork, including sending a letter detailing our circumstances and the reason we were traveling.  This clinic (the University of Washington Travel Clinic) forgave the entire remainder of our bill (we had only paid a down payment).  They get to write it off and we suddenly didn’t owe anyone nearly $1000.  So, it was worth the effort on our end…you never know!

Everyone knows that going to Africa means lots and lots of shots.  It’s true.  The latest recommendation (as it was given to us by our travel doctor) is that you be current on the CDC recommended vaccines, including Hepatitis A & B.  Other highly recommended shots are typhoid, meningococcal, and the rabies series.  However, if you decide to skip ALL of those, you MUST have the yellow fever vaccine.  It is required to enter this country.  Unless you’re under one year old.  Then it’s ok, right Amelia?  The doc will give you a yellow fever card saying you’ve been vaccinated.  Save this, make a copy of it…you’ll need it in a bit.

The other important thing is the prevention of malaria.  You need it.  Malaria is as common as a cold here, and can be deadly if left untreated.  Since you’re only coming to visit, get whatever version of pill you and your doctor decides is best (they have daily and weekly versions) and take it.  If you’re staying longer than a few months, the views split on whether it is worth it.  I could probably do an entire blog post on the argument for either side, but long story short: get the preventative medication and you will sleep better at night.  (Because night time is when malaria-carrying mosquitoes are on the hunt, see?)

Cost: Variable, but I would estimate after the doc’s visit, vaccinations, and medications, roughly $500 per person to be safe.

Step 3: Letter of Invitation

Once you are ready to book your tickets (but before you do), you’ll first need a letter of invitation.  To obtain one, have your friends in the DRC request one from authorities here.  It will be required before you get your visa (step 5)!

Cost: I actually don’t know if this costs anything…seeing as I forgot we had to get one to begin with!

Step 4: Plane Tickets

This is pretty straight forward.  Pick a date, buy tickets, sell first born to pay them off.  No, not really, but I think the current price to fly round trip from the US runs at about $1500 per ticket.  I’m sure you can find great deals and I’m sure you can spend more.  Note: don’t take any Congolese Airline.  They don’t fly out of Africa because no other airport will allow it.  MAF doesn’t allow us to fly on them.  They’re not safe.  We had a great experience on Brussels Airlines and would highly recommend them.

Cost: $1500 round trip, give or take…

Step 5: Visa

So, even if you’re just visiting, you need a visa.  You send your current passport (the actual book, not a copy), your yellow fever card (the one from your doc, not a copy), and a copy of your itinerary to the DRC embassy in Washington DC, with a visa application.  The reason for your travel is to visit friends.  They’re very generous, so I’m told, and you should have it back in just a few weeks, stamped in your passport.  As the Target Lady would say : “You’re approved!”

Cost: $200 per person

Step 6: Get Over Here!

Fly here, and we will take care of the rest.  You’re welcome to stay with us.  I’ve seen hostels and hotels, but I haven’t been inside.  Besides, staying with us would be more fun, right?  I can’t promise YOU won’t have a cockroach in your mosquito net, but you did come for adventure, right?  We will take you shopping, to church, to meet our group of friends, both nationals and ex-pats, and show you how one part of the third world lives.

Maybe, if you’re really really awesome, we can talk a pilot into flying you out to some bush station for an hour or day or two.  Maybe.

One cost you’ll have to endure is transporting stuff to us…what stuff?  Whatever we decide looks good on amazon, because we can’t get it here!  And we thank you ahead of time for that!

Cost: Whatever you have left… 🙂 

So, you’re going to come visit now, right?  Yes, please!  Don’t let the cost dissuade you, perhaps you, too, can have others support you.  Visiting the mission field to encourage missionaries is a mission unto itself and you will be blessed as you bless us!

One Comment leave one →
  1. May 14, 2012 0829

    Sounds fun! I think I’ll try it in a couple weeks.

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