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Sloppily edited, inaccurate information and riddled with errors
on 17 October 2008
Note: This review refers to the Katanga, Central Congo and Kinshasa chapters and the chapters with general information on the country, as I have visited only the aforementioned places.
Two details from the Kikwit and the Ilebo chapter make me wonder how carefully the information in this guide book has been researched. The guide book says that there are a Hotel A and a Hotel BCD in Kikwit. In reality there are no hotels with these generic names in Kikwit, and it is very unlikely that they ever existed as no one in Kikwit had ever heard of the Hotel A and the Hotel BCD. But what one can find on the web is a travel map of Kikwit, drawn and published by a traveller who has been in Kikwit in 2007 (google for steve is lost). On this map this traveller has labeled what is the Hotel Walir with A and a row of hotels (flophouses in reality) with B, C, D.
Another example, from the Ilebo chapter. Again, on the travel map one finds the Hotel da Palma, and the prices for the different room types are listed - Ordinary, Suite and Apt. What one can find in the Bradt guide book are a Hotel Palma, a Hotel Apt, a Hotel Suite, and a Hotel Grainary (which is probably corresponding to the ordinary on the travel map - the handwriting on the travel map is not clearly legible.). Of course, in reality no Hotel Apt, Hotel Suite and Hotel Grainary exist in Ilebo and it is very unlikely that they ever did as the guys of the DGM (Direction general de migration) had not heard of these places (and they are the ones who should know even if the most obscure place in Ilebo).
Apart from these embarrassing coincidences, much of the information is inaccurate, the book is riddled with errors, and the maps are only approximate (especially true for the Lubumbashi and Likasi map).
Even taking into account that there are no other guide books on the Congos and that writing a guide book on these two countries is not an easy task, overall this guide book can hardly be recommended. The general information on history, nature and culture is decent (though not much information on demographics and the arts), but there is nothing one cannot find on Wikipedia. There is not much practical information, and what practical information one can find is in large parts inaccurate (though the Kinshasa chapter is somewhat better than the Katanga and the Central Congo chapters, albeit at the price of being a bit thin and incomplete). Of course information can change, but some things never change such as the street layout or the location of historical buildings. Given that in many instances the Bradt Congo does not even get these things right makes me doubt that changing circumstances are the reason for the poor quality of the practical information in this guide book. In fact, the fifteen year old Lonely Planet Central Africa was sometimes a more reliable guide than the two month old (at the time of my travel) Bradt Congo.