There are various ways of getting to Virunga National Park, each of which has a different cost implication with the normal options being road, air and water transports.
The southern sector (Gorillas and Volcano) of Virunga National Park is easily accessible in a number of different ways, the most common being; Overland via Uganda where you cross the border in Bunagana, from where the mountain gorilla sites Jomba and Bikenge are easily accessible within 1 hour.
The border crossing is easy, and a local visa can be bought at the border for only US$50, however this visa is not a fully recognized visa and can only be used to visit the park and subsequently leaving the country at the Bunagana border post again.
Virunga can also be accessed by overland via Rwanda where you cross the border at Gisenyi/Goma, the border crossing is easy if you prearranged a visa.
If not it will be difficult or expensive (US$280 if bought at the border); Guests can also fly into Goma, from within the Democratic Republic of Congo many flights connect to Goma, from outside the DRC, Entebbe is the only city connected by TMK.
Once again make sure you have a prearranged visa. Today tourists visiting the Virunga National Park or Kahuzi Biega National Park for Congo gorilla tours can get the tourist visa through the reliable tour operators like the Eco Tours Congo and this is acquired after you have made the payment of the safari in Democratic Republic of Congo.
Accessing Virunga by road;
Most of DR Congo’s gorilla trekkers fly to Kigali International Airport (in Rwanda) and take the 5 hours’ drive to cross the border at Gisenyi/Goma.
Since some of the international flights arrive to Kigali in the late afternoons and evenings, guests are emphasized to spend the night in Kigali, for such arrivals, because the border doesn’t work 24/7.
After spending the night in one of Kigali’s best hotels, you will then leave the city in the following morning to Goma.
Your tour agency will help you in the process of getting for you a tourist visa that will enable you cross the border to Goma.
On road, it takes 4 hours driving from Kigali city to Gisenyi, the nearest town to Goma, and after crossing the border it takes on only one hour and 30 minutes driving to reach the Virunga Park’s headquarters (Bukima).
For those coming from Uganda it is a bit tiresome to cross as the guest may beg for an overnight stay in Kisoro and then cross to DR Congo in the following morning via Bunagana border and take the 30 minutes’ drive to the Park’s headquarters.
However for you to be hired a 4×4 safari vehicle, you should owe a valid driving permit or else you should order for an experienced driver-guide from your tour company/agency that will have organized your safari.
Driving conditions and standards are well below those in Europe and USA, and traffic accidents are common due to the country’s poor roads, thus it is recommendable for you to order for an experienced driver-guide who has a glance about the bad-conditioned roads.
Roads in Goma are however well maintained but outside Goma and other main cities in Congo, most roads are barely drivable even with the 4×4 vehicles, worse during the rainy season.
Accessing Virunga Park via Air;
Guests can also enter Virunga by air whereby they will land at the Goma International Airport. Though it was affected by the eruption of Nyiragongo volcano in 2002, Goma has acted as the main airport and it was re-developed to boost tourism in the eastern parts of Congo, with the most international airline flying there once ever week being Ethiopian Airlines.
However, guests should take note that return flights have to be got from Rwanda unless when the stay is for 7 days or more. There is also an added tax of US$ 50 for all travelers flying out from Goma.
Some of the important points to consider while accessing Virunga may include;
-Traveling overland can be rough and thus 4×4 safari vehicles are recommendable to use though it is also not advisable to drive at night while crossing the borders to Goma.
-Travelers should also have valid yellow fever vaccinations and confirmed.
-Make sure that all of your paper work is finished in order to satisfy the custom and immigration staff, especially at the quiet borders, which there may be a considerable wait.