Welcome to the ultimate travel guide to Rwanda.
RWANDA TRAVEL TIPS
Alliance Express flies directly from Kigali to Entebbe (Uganda), Johannesburg (South Africa), Nairobi (Kenya) and Bujumbura (Burundi). In partnership with SAA and SA Alliance Air, it also flies from Kigali to the USA via Johannesburg and to London via Entebbe. Other international flights are with Sabena (Brussels), Kenya Airways (Nairobi), Ethiopian Airlines (Addis Ababa), Air Tanzania (Dar Es Salaam) and Air Burundi (Bujumbura). All international flights arrive at Kanombe Airport, 10km from central Kigali. An airport tax of US$20 is levied upon departure.
Passport and visas:
A valid passport is mandatory. Visas, required by all visitors except nationals of the USA, Germany, Canada, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo, cost US$35 upwards depending on place of issue. Nationals of countries without an embassy can obtain a visa on arrival by prior arrangement with their hosts, who can arrange a facilité d’entrée.
A certificate of yellow-fever vaccination is required. Much of Rwanda lies at too high an elevation for malaria to be a concern, but the disease is present and prophylactic drugs are strongly recommended. It is advisable not to drink tap water. Bottled mineral water can be bought in all towns.
The unit of currency is the Rwanda franc, which traded at around US$1 = Rfr 400-450 in September 2000. The US dollar is the hard currency of reference. It may be impossible to exchange travellers’ cheques at a good rate (or at all) away from the capital.
Best time to Visit:
Rwanda can be visited throughout the year. Gorilla tracking and other forest walks are less demanding during drier months. The European winter is the best time for birds, as Palaearctic migrants supplement resident species.
What to bring:
A pair of binoculars will greatly enhance game drives and forest walks, as will a good field guide – for birders, Van Perlo’s Illustrated Checklist to the Birds of Eastern Africa is the only guide to describe all the species found in Rwanda. Bring a camera and an adequate stock of film. Toiletries and other essentials can be bought in the cities, but it is easier to bring all you need with you.
230/240 volts at 50Hz.
In addition to the indigenous language of Kinyarwanda, French and English are official languages. French is widely spoken throughout the country. In the capital and other tourist centers, many people speak English.
International business hotels exist in Kigali and Gisenyi, while comfortable midrange accommodation is found in all main tourist centers.
Good western food with a discernable Belgian influence is served in tourist-oriented restaurants and hotels in all centers. Rwandan favorites include goat kebabs, grilled tilapia (a lake fish), ugali (a stiff maize porridge), matooke (cooked banana) and potatoes.
Banking and business hours:
Most banks, shops and offices are open from 8am to 5pm on weekdays, with a lunch break being taken between noon and 2pm. Banks are open from 8am to noon on Saturdays.
GETTING TO RWANDA
One can fly to Rwanda with SN Brussels, Alliance Express/Alliance Air, Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways, Air Tanzania and Air Burundi. All international flights land at Kanombe Airport which is 10kms away from central Kigali.
PASSPORTS AND VISAS:
A valid passport is mandatory. VISAS ARE NOT REQUIRED FOR NATIONALS OF THE USA, GERMANY, CANADA, UGANDA, TANZANIA, KENYA, BURUNDI AND THE DRC. For further information, please call the Rwandan Embassy/Mission nearest to you. (Phone numbers provide below and in the Useful Contacts section of this website).
A certificate for yellow fever vaccination is required. Malaria is present and anti-malarial drugs are recommended. Bottled mineral water, which is available in all major towns, is recommended instead of drinking ordinary tap water.
The unit of currency is the Rwandan franc, which is traded at US$1=Rfr 430- 450 in April 2001. The US dollar is the hard currency preference. It may be impossible to exchange travelers cheques at a good rate (or at all) away from Kigali. All major credit cards can be used at hotels and good restaurants in Kigali.
In addition to the indigenous language, Kinyarwanda, French and English are the official languages. French is widely spoken throughout the country, while many people speak English in Kigali and the main tourist areas. Kiswahili is also widely spoken around the country.
WHEN TO VISIT:
Rwanda can be visited throughout the year. Gorilla tracking and other forest walks are less demanding during the drier months. The European winter is the best time for birds, as Palaearctic migrants supplement resident species. For a complete safari in Rwanda, you can visit Nyungwe Forest National Park, Volcanoes National Park, Lake Kivu and Akagera National Park in Rwanda.
WHAT TO WEAR:
Dress codes are informal. Daytime temperatures are generally warm, so bring lots of light clothing, supplemented by light sweaters for the cool evenings and heavier clothing for the Parc des Volcans and Nyungwe. When tracking gorillas, wear sturdier clothing to protect against stinging nettles, and solid walking shoes. A hat and sunglasses provide protection against the sun, and a waterproof jacket may come in handy in the moist mountains.
WHAT TO BRING:
Binoculars will greatly enhance game drives and forest walks, as will a good field guide to East African birds. Bring a camera and an adequate stock of film. Print film is available but transparency film is not. Toiletries and other essentials can be bought in the cities.
Rwanda has an excellent cell phone network covering almost the entire country.
International phone calls can be made easily. Appropriate SIM cards for the network are readily available everywhere, even in remote towns, and cell phones can be purchased or rented from major shops in Kigali. Most towns of any size will have several Internet cafes and computer centres.
Rwanda has possibly the best roads in East Africa. Most visitors who have booked through a tour company will be provided with good private vehicles, usually 4-wheel drive. All of the major centres are connected with local and luxury bus services. Air charter services are available anywhere in the country and well advertised.
HIKING AND BIKING:
The fine road network, with little traffic, offers wonderful opportunities for long bicycle trips across the verdant hills and valleys. Mountain biking and hiking can be enjoyed on the thousands of kilometres of fine rural trails linking remote villages, criss-crossing the entire country.