Getting to Rwanda
The main airport in Kigali is the Kigali International Airport. It is located 10 km east of the Kigali centre. Kigali currently receives direct flights from Nairobi, Entebbe, Bujumbura, Addis Abeba, Kilimanjaro, Brussels, Amsterdam, Dar-es-Salaam, Istanbul, Johannesburg, Harare, Juba, Lagos, Mumbai, Lusaka and Dubai. It is also possible to take a bus from neighboring countries.
Getting Around Rwanda
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 motor-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 by calling them or if at any hotel, reception can call a recommended driver for you. These are more expensive than motorcycle taxis and other public buses.
There are also white coaster buses that travel across the country and bigger buses that travel out of Rwanda. Rwanda has a good local transportation system for inter-region connectivity, a good road system, and has plenty of well maintained and modern buses.
Cars and drivers can be hired from Kigali, and most of the roads are well maintained. To make your trip more interesting, you could consider driving from Kigali to other provinces of Rwanda, for example 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 departing from the Nyabugogo bus terminal. Each 30 minutes buses from different transport agencies leave Kigali for other cities of the country and abroad.
Back country driving is perfect for anyone with a sense of adventure. Be sure to rent a 4×4, get good maps, and a working phone before leaving.
Rwanda’s unit of currency is the Rwandan franc (Frw). It is best to arrive in Rwanda with US dollars or Euros in cash, which can be exchanged either at the airport or at any FOREX bureau or bank. The most useful bank branch would be the Banque de Kigali, which offers cash advances on credit cards and also accepts travelers cheques, which is not possible in the provinces. There are ATMs throughout Kigali that are accessible to visitors. Credit cards are accepted in some upmarket restaurants and hotels, but it is best to confirm prior to ordering.
Bureaux de change (FOREX Bureaus) are mostly located in Kigali and can offer a slightly better exchange rates than most banks. All banks and most bureaux de change are closed on Sundays, and on the last Saturday of every month until 11:00 am for the national day of community work, “UMUGANDA”.
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.
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, café’s and restaurants outside of Kigali generally do not.
Phone and SIM Cards
Pay as you go SIM cards and phones are available from most major retailers around Kigali. There are also multiple phone registration kiosks and stands around the city where you may purchase and register SIM cards.
Temperatures average around 24°C (75°F), except for in the higher mountain areas where it ranges from 10°C to 15°C (50°F to 60°F). Rwanda can be visited and enjoyed any time of the year.
Dry Season: mid-May to mid-October. This is the time that is easiest to track the gorillas, however, it is not as “green” as the wet season.
July and August are peak season for visiting the gorillas, which means that traveling outside of these two months is easier to obtain a permit.
Wet Season: mid-October to mid-May.
The Northeast has a lot more rain due to the volcanoes being covered in rainforest. Karisimbi (the highest peak in Rwanda at 2,507 meters) is usually covered with snow.
Visiting Rwanda International flights arriving in Kigali can be booked with SN Brussels, KLM, Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, Air Burundi and Rwandair Express.
All international flights arrive at Kigali International Airport, 10 Km from central Kigali. There are two flights a day from Nairobi, two per week direct from Brussels and two per week from Johannesburg. For information on connections from Nairobi, Entebbe and Johannesburg, please contact Rwanda Air Express on www.rwandair.com
A valid passport is mandatory. For visas, please refer to the following official government portal.
Money The unit of currency is the Rwanda franc. The US dollar is the hard currency of preference. It may be impossible to exchange travellers’ cheques away from the capital. Credit cards are usually only accepted at the major hotels in Kigali.
Language In addition to the indigenous language of Kinyarwanda, French, English and Swahili are official languages. French is widely spoken throughout the country. In the capital and other tourist centres, many people speak English.
Good Friday and Easter Monday, which fall on variable dates, are recognised in Rwanda.
Other public holidays are: January 1 (New Year’s Day); February 1(National Heroes Day); April 7 (Genocide Memorial Day); May 1 (Labour Day); July 4 (National Liberation Day); August 15 (Assumption Day); October 1 (Patriotism Day) and December 25 (Christmas Day).
When to Visit Rwanda can be visited throughout the year. Gorilla trekking 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.
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 forest. 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. Bring a camera too. 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 centers.
Getting Around 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.
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.
Gorilla Permits Gorilla Permits can be arranged by your tour operator of choice , or can be purchased directly through the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) at the headquarters in Kigali.
Safety and Health A certificate of yellow-fever vaccination is required. Much of Rwanda lies at too high an elevation for malaria to be a major 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. Hospitals are located in all major towns.
Seasons and Climate A combination of tropical location and high altitude ensures that most of Rwanda has a temperate year-round climate. Temperatures rarely stray above 30 degrees Celsius by day or below 15 degrees Celsius at night throughout the year. The exceptions are the chilly upper slopes of the Virunga Mountains, and the hot low-lying Tanzania border area protected in Akagera National Park. Throughout the country, seasonal variations in temperature are relatively insignificant. Most parts of the country receive in excess of 1,000 mm of precipitation annually, with the driest months being July to September and the wettest February to May.