Travel Information for Rwanda Travellers

Location of Rwanda

The Republic of Rwanda is a land-locked country located in central Africa. It is bordered on the east by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with which it shares the shores of Lake Kivu; on the north by Uganda; on the west by Tanzania; and on the south by Burundi. Rwanda is a small country with an area of 26,338 square kilometers (10,169 square miles). Comparatively, Rwanda is about the size of the state of Maryland. The capital city of Kigali is in the center of the country.

Climate-The average daytime temperature is around 24°C, except in the higher mountains, which take up a lot of the country, where the range is 10°C to 15°C. Rwanda can be visited at any time of year. The dry season from mid-May to mid-October is easier for tracking mountain gorillas, but the endless hills are barren, a contrast to the verdant greens of the wet season. Peak season for gorilla tracking is July and August; travelling outside this time means it is easier to arrange a permit.

It rains more frequently and heavily in the northeast, where the volcanoes are covered by rainforest. The summit of Karisimbi (4507m), the highest peak in Rwanda, is often covered with sleet or snow.

Language-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 centres, many people speak English.

Economy-Primarily a subsistence agriculture economy, Rwanda nonetheless produces for export some of the finest tea and coffee in the world. Other industries include sugar, fishing and flowers for export.

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.

Religions-The majority of Rwandans, about 65%, are Roman Catholic, with another 9% Protestant. Only about 1% of the population is Muslim. About a fourth of Rwandans are adherents of indigenous beliefs. However, these numbers and divisions are not clear cut. Many Rwandans practice both their traditional religion and Christianity at the same time.

Public Holidays-Good Friday and Easter Monday, which fall on variable dates, are recognized in Rwanda. Other public holidays are:

1 January (New Year’s Day); 1 February (National Heroes Day); 7 April (Genocide Memorial Day); 1 May (Labour Day); 1 July (Independence Day); 4 July (National Liberation Day); 15 August (Assumption Day);1 October (Patriotism Day); 25 December (Christmas Day), and 26 December (Boxing Day).

Currency

The Rwandan Franc (Frw/Rwf) is the legal currency in Rwanda. American Dollars and Euros are accepted in some hotels and restaurants however expect to receive your change in Rwandan Francs.

What is the Geography of Rwanda?

Rwanda is a landlocked republic in Equatorial Africa, situated on the eastern rim of the Albertine Rift, a western arm of the Great Rift Valley, on the watershed between Africa’s two largest river systems: the Nile and the Congo. Much of the country’s 26,338 km2 is impressively mountainous, the highest peak being Karisimbi (4,507m) in the volcanic Virunga chain protected by the Volcanoes National Park. The largest body of water is Lake Kivu, but there areother numerous lakes around the country, notably Burera, Ruhondo, Muhazi and Mugesera, some of which have erratic shapes following the contours of the steep mountains that enclose them.

Getting to Rwanda

The main airport in Kigali is the Kanombe International Airport. It is located 10 km east of the Kigali centre.

Kigali currently receives direct flights from Nairobi, Entebbe, Bujambura, Addis Abeba, Kilimanjaro, Brussles, Amsterdam, Dar es Salaam, Istanbul, Johannesburg, Juba, Lagos and Dubai via Mombasa.

It is also possible to take a bus from neighboring countries.

Getting Around

Rwanda has possibly the best roads in East Africa. Most visitors who have booked through our company will be provided with good private vehicles, usually 4-wheel drive. All of the major centers are connected with local and luxury bus services. Air charter services are available anywhere in the country.

Short distances within cities can be travelled either on foot or by taxi-velo (bicycle taxi). These are relatively inexpensive.

Motorcycle taxis (taxi moto) are the most popular in Kigali. These taxis can be identified by their jerseys and they always have an extra helmet. Most drivers speak basic English or French. Laws require moto-bikes to use helmets, and Rwandans abide by this.

Taxis are common and can be found at taxi stands in Kigali and provinces and they have specific bus stops. One may hire a special taxi or by calling them or if at any hotel, one may get the hotel reception calling taxi as most of hotels have a taxi station near them. They are more expensive than motorcycle taxis and other public buses.

“Matatus” are the white with green or yelow minibuses that travel across the country. Rwanda has a good local transportation system for inter-region connectivity, good road system, and has plenty of well-maintained and modern minibuses. Cars and drivers can be hired from Kigali, and most of the roads are well maintained. To make your trip more interesting, if consider driving from Kigali to other provinces of Rwanda, eg. Along lake Kivu, it is recommended that you get a 4×4 and travel with someone who knows the area or use the public transport (Matatus) as from the regional cars parking at Nyabugogo, each 30 minutes there are buses from different transport agencies linking Kigali to other cities of the country. Back country driving is perfect for anyone with a sense of adventure.

How to Communicate in Rwanda

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 centers.

What time zone is Rwanda?

The entire country of Rwanda is in Central Africa Time Zone (UTC+02:00)

Is Rwandan Visa Required when under taking Safari to Rwanda?

A Rwanda Visa is required for all visitors except for nationals of the UK, Germany, Sweden, Canada, USA, Hong Kong, Burundi, DRC, Kenya, Mauritius, South Africa Tanzania and Uganda (for a duration of less than three months).

For the rest of the unmentioned countries, the cost goes for about USD60, depending on the place of issue.  For fly in travelers, visas of recent are being issued at Kigali airport on arrival, and you can also usually buy visas at overland boarders.

Nationals of countries without an embassy can also obtain a visa on arrival by prior arrangement with their hosts, who can arrange a facilitate de’ entrée.

In case you plan on hiring a vehicle while in the country, do organize an international driving license (via one of the main motoring associations in a country in which you are licensed to drive), which you may be asked to produce together with your original license.

For Identification and security concern, just in case the worst comes to the worst, it’s advisable to detail all your identification information, make copies of it and distribute a copy into your luggage, your money-belt and definitely give some to close relatives and friends; make sure it includes; travelers cheque numbers and refund information, travel insurance policy details and 24-hour emergency contact number, passport number, details of relatives or friends to be contacted in an emergency, bank and credit card details, camera and lens serial numbers.

Importantly, include also email and contact information of your destination, company, organization or friends and family.

What are the recommended Vaccinations one must take before travelling to Rwanda?

The following vaccines may be recommended for your travel to Rwanda. All travelers should visit either their personal physician or a travel health clinic 4-8 weeks before departure.

Recommended Vaccinations and Preventive Medications

Types of Diseases Travellers
Hepatitis A Recommended for all travelers
Typhoid Recommended for all travelers
Yellow fever Required for all travelers greater than one year of age
Meningococcus Recommended for all travelers
Polio One-time booster recommended for any adult traveler who completed the childhood series but never had polio vaccine as an adult
Hepatitis B Recommended for all travelers
Rabies For travelers spending a lot of time outdoors, or at high risk for animal bites, or involved in any activities that might bring them into direct contact with bats
Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) Two doses recommended for all travelers born after 1956, if not previously given

 

Tetanus-diphtheria Revaccination recommended every 10 years

How to stay healthy while on Rwanda Safari

Wash your hands often with soap and water or, if hands are not visibly soiled, use a waterless, alcohol-based hand rub to remove potentially infectious materials from your skin and help prevent disease transmission.

In developing countries like Uganda, drink only bottled or boiled water or carbonated (bubbly) drinks in cans or bottles. Avoid tap water, fountain drinks, and ice cubes. If this is not possible, learn how to make water safer to drink.

Take your malaria prevention medication before, during, and after travel, as directed. (See your health care provider for a prescription.)

To prevent fungal and parasitic infections, keep feet clean and dry, and do not go barefoot, even on beaches.

Always use latex condoms to reduce the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Protect yourself from mosquito insect bites: Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats when outdoors. Use insect repellents that contain DEET (N, N-diethylmethyltoluamide). If no screening or air conditioning is available: use a pyrethroid-containing spray in living and sleeping areas during evening and night-time hours; sleep under bed nets, preferably insecticide-treated ones.

What you are supposed to do while on your Gorilla trekking safaris in Uganda.

Do not eat food purchased from street vendors or food that is not well cooked to reduce risk of infection (i.e., hepatitis A and typhoid fever).

Do not drink beverages with ice

Avoid dairy products, unless you know they have been pasteurized.

Do not swim in fresh water to avoid exposure to certain water-borne diseases such as schistosomiasis.

Do not handle animals, especially monkeys, dogs, and cats, to avoid bites and serious diseases (including rabies and plague). Consider pre-exposure rabies vaccination if you might have extensive unprotected outdoor exposure in rural areas.

Do not share needles for tattoos, body piercing or injections to prevent infections such as HIV and hepatitis B.

Avoid poultry farms, bird markets, and other places where live poultry is raised or kept.

Do I need Malaria Medicine?

Even though less prevalent than other African countries, Malaria does exist in Rwanda. While there is no vaccine against malaria, prophylactic drugs along with prevention will significantly reduce the risk of getting it.

We recommend you consult your doctor on malaria medicine prior to traveling to Rwanda.

What kind of insurance/guarantee is there in case of any risk during safari?

We do our best to minimize or eradicate risks in all safaris organized by Africa Adventure Safaris. Nevertheless we encourage you, before commencing your safari, to seek travel insurance cover in respect to delays and unexpected cancellations; loss of baggage, etc.  We advise our prospective guests to contact reliable Insurance companies such as World Nomads & Worldwide Travel Insurance for excellent coverage

Some of our safaris in East Africa may require proof of vaccinations, medical coverage or evacuation coverage before we allow you to proceed with confirmation of your safari.

Which currency do i need when travelling to Rwanda?

The Rwandan franc (FRW, and possibly RF o RWF) is the Rwandan currency. It is subdivided into 100 centimes. A proposal exists to introduce a common currency, a new East African shilling, for the five member states of the East African Community. The Rwandan exchange rate was last updated on October 22, 2013 from Yahoo Finance. The RWF conversion factor has 5 significant digits. Banknotes and coins are both used as legal tender for Rwanda.  You can exchange money in the several exchange bureaus in Kigali city, right from the airport. However it is advisable to exchange foreign currency outside Kigali city.

Most Banks open from 08.00 am – 8.00pm on weekdays (Monday to Friday) and on Saturday 8.00am 1.00 pm; on Sundays 10.00 am to 6.00pm. On the Umuganda Day banks in Kigali open from 2.00 to 6.00pm. Credit cards are acceptable at most supermarkets, restaurants and accommodation in Kigali. In the rural areas it is only money in Rwanda Francs that they can comfortably accept.

Most banks in East Africa have difficulty accepting MasterCard. In Kigali counter service for withdrawals at Ecobank and Access Bank accept MasterCard withdrawals at a price.

Which banks in Kigali accept Visa cards?

Bank of Kigali (In Town)

ATMs at bank of Kigali accept international visa cards. They offer 2 options: either Rwanda francs or Dollars. However they are inconsistent as they are on and off. Many times, one has to walk to the bank counters with a visa or MasterCard, Pin number and the passport to be helped though at a small cost.

Access Bank (Inside UTC 2nd Floor)

To withdraw money from your debit or credit card, one has to go to the counter and show a passport.

Fina Bank ATM (In downtown past the Gorilla roundabout towards Serena Hotel)

Note:  – ATM withdrawals have a limit of $700 a day.

Be aware that plastic bags are strictly not allowed in Rwanda. Ensure you use paper bags for packaging.

Which airlines are operating in Kigali airport?

Kigali airport is a small but well organized airport by international standards. There are several international flights operating in this airport including:-

Local Flights

Daily flights from Entebbe

3 flights daily from Nairobi

2 flights a week Mon and Fri Kilimanjaro

From Bujumbura 5 flights a week Tue, Thur, Fri, Sat, Sun

Rwandair, the national carrier, has several daily flights to various African destinations, as well as Dubai in Middle East.

Ethiopian Airlines operates daily between Addis Ababa and Kigali

International

Brussels 3 flights a week Tue, Thurs and Sat

Johannesburg 3 flights a week Wed, Fri and Sun

South African airways has daily flights between Kigali and South Africa

Turkish Airlines begun flights to Kigali from Istanbul in May 2012

Prime Safaris and Tours can help you to book flights for you.

It is advisable to have a Yellow Fever certificate before boarding any plane to destinations such as Tanzania and South Africa. Immigration Officials at the airport will not hesitate to request for it. Some announcements are not loud enough. So as you sit in the café at the airport be very attentive as most times there are overbookings on some airlines whereby you may end up left at the airport.

Electrical tips for Rwanda travellers

In Rwanda, the electrical sockets (outlets) used are the “Type C” Euro plug and the “Type E” and “Type F” Schuko. Often times we advise our guests to travel with plug adapters since many of our guests to Rwanda end up crossing to Uganda as well where the sockets are also different.

The Rwanda electrical sockets (outlets) supply electricity at between 220 and 240 volts AC. If you are to plug in an appliance that was built for 220-240 volt electrical input, or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then you need an adapter.

Travel plug adapters do not change the voltage.  The electric current coming through the adapter has to be the same 220-240 volts the socket is supplying. United States of American sockets supply electricity at between 110 and 120 volts, far much lower than in most of parts of the world.

What is the best month to undertake safari to Rwanda.

Rwanda is mountainous country in nature. Owing to her closeness to the Equator, Rwanda enjoys a tropical temperate climate. Her average annual temperature ranges between 16 and 20°C. In the Volcanoes national park area the temperature may at times get as low as 0°C.  In the intermediary altitude (the lowland East and West), average temperatures vary between 19 and 21°C. Winds are normally around 1-3 m/s. Rainfall is quite enough despite some irregularities at times.  Rainfall ranges from about 900 mm in the east and southeast to 1500 mm in the north and northwest volcanic areas of Ruhengeri.

Rainfall is generally well distributed throughout the year, with some spatial and temporal variability. Eastern and southeastern regions are the most affected by prolonged droughts while the western and northern areas receive heavy rainfall that at times culminate into soil erosion, landslides and flooding. The spatial variability is due to the complex topography and the existence of large water bodies within the Great Lakes Region.

Rwanda travel advice: safety information for travelers to Rwanda

Is Rwanda a safe country for tourists?

Rwanda is a very safe country to visit.

Although Rwanda has lived through a turbulent history, the country is safe, stable and welcoming. Rwandan’ hospitable nature is legendary! You will be warmly welcomed wherever you go by the country’s friendly residents.

If you are unsure about the safety of travel to Rwanda, please contact Prime safaris and Tours Ltd. At Prime Safaris and Tours, your safety is our absolute priority and you can be rest assured that we will always give you the best Rwanda travel advice.

Is Kigali City a safe city for tourists?

Kigali is one of the safest capital cities in (East) Africa – although, as anywhere, petty thieves may try and take advantage of people who leave phones and valuables unattended. Your driver guide will give you all the information you need to make sure your trip is safe and incident-free. Feel free to ask questions!

Tipping in Rwanda

It is customary to tip for service in restaurants and bars. A tip of 5% is very acceptable and a tip of 20% is very generous. It is also customary to tip your driver/guide at the end of a safari or hike, as well as the cook and/or porter that may accompany to you. Tipping is not at any fixed amount and may depend on personal wish.

Is it safe to take water in Rwanda?

Unfortunately, it is not recommended to drink the tap water during your time in Rwanda. It is important to stick with bottled water, even when brushing teeth.

Can i use internet in Rwanda?

Wifi is available in most hotels, free of charge. It is quite easy to find Cafés in Kigali with wifi, but it is not always guaranteed so it is best to check beforehand if you are planning on using internet. The lodges in the countryside are also equipped with wifi, however, cafés and restaurants outside of Kigali generally do not.

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