I highly recommend Lubumbashi. You can get there from Kinshasa by Congo Airways, which is about a two hour flight (though a bit pricey). It’s a new airline, and I can’t get over the Christmas music that plays every time you board and disembark from the airplane, kind of like the Brazzaville bridge lights that wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year every evening. Oh, and that someone’s phone went off mid flight. How did that happen? I’m still not sure.
I decided to explore Lubumbashi during a long holiday weekend. I was met by a driver at the Lubumbashi airport, and from there we went to the zoo and botanical gardens. Taxis are numerous and seem relatively safe to take as well. The zoo was very well-maintained with a tiger, lion, crocodiles and monkeys. Nothing at all like the zoo in Kinshasa so I was relieved. The botanical gardens were a bit underwhelming and pale in comparison to the Kisantu botanical gardens.
I also passed by the TP Mazembe stadium, but unfortunately could not get inside because there was not a match going on. For the most part, I just enjoyed seeing another city which is much calmer and a bit more developed than Kinshasa. Though I was traveling alone, I was fortunate enough to meet many awesome expats at a Saturday “beach” party, and I got a taste of the Lubumbashi nightlife – both the expat-organized events and local bars. The expat scene has a predominantly Greek foundation, and there are many great UN workers from all over the world as well.
If you are traveling in a group, I suggest looking into hiking and camping at Lofoi Falls in Kundelungu National Park, which is the highest waterfall in Africa. Also, Likasi seems to be a place to go to see vestiges of the colonial era. Katanga Provice has a great tourism website.
What to Bring: Everything you’ll need for an overnight trip to any city. There are many supermarkets around if you need toiletries and amenities. If you want to go camping in Kundelungu National Park, then you will need to prepare a bit more. The weather is a bit cooler than the weather in Kinshasa, so bring a jacket.
When to Go: Any time of year.
How to Get There: You can purchase flight tickets from Congo Airways. They post a monthly itinerary on their website, but flights generally run to and from Lubumbashi everyday.
Travel Time: Travel time is about two hours. I had a layover from Kinshasa to Lubumbashi at Mbuji Mayi Airport, which added about an hour.
Risk Assessment: The risk is relatively low. The plane I took seems somewhat new and clean, and Lubumbashi itself is a calmer town than Kinshasa. Walk around and take taxis at your own risk, but most people I met did not worry too much about getting around safely.
Congo Airways: http://congoairways.com