Are you thinking of traveling to Rwanda? My recent 3-part series on Rwanda spurred questions about traveling to this charming scenic country… Here is a quick Travel Guide, with a few insights I picked up, that may help in planning your next trip to this beautiful destination. 🙂
How to Get There
Rwanda,the captivating land of a thousand hills, is located in East and Central Africa, bordering Uganda and Congo.
You can get to Rwanda by road, or by air. Traveling by air is most convenient as it saves you time to savor the place. The more affordable options are Rwanda Air or Kenya Airways. For those travelling from beyond the western yonder, there are also KLM and Qatar Airways flights to Kigali, with stop overs in Entebbe or Nairobi.
My experience on the road was unpleasant, thanks to a disappointing bus company, and a landslide that delayed us on the road by a day. 🙁 However, if you are a die-hard road trips’ fan, it can still be done 😀
It take about 25 hours, if you are travelling from Nairobi, with stops in Kisumu, and Kampala. The beauty of going by road is that you get to travel through the expanse of Uganda. You may even choose to stop-over in Uganda to rest and do some exploration.
Wanjiku Thuo used Kampala Coach recently, and spent 48 frustrating hours on the road. I would recommend taking either of these two bus companies- Modern Coast or Mash East Africa. They currently provide the most reliable services for direct trips to Kigali from Nairobi, and the probability of delays is low.
Cheap is certainly expensive-so choose wisely. 😉
How to Get Around
There are a number of options: buses, cars for hire, cabs, motorbikes and PSV vans that are referred to as ‘Taxis’. Having a local to take you around helps because Rwandans mostly speak ‘Kinyarwanda’ and ‘French’.
Walking is a great option too, as Kigali is safe and clean. It affords such delightful views, because you are almost always at a high point, thanks to the hilly terrain.
Should you opt to use a cab, then be sure to ask the driver to ‘Run the Meter.’ It is a government requirement for the drivers to have a meter installed in their cars. However, not all of them are willing to do it.
Rwandans are generally kind people, but you will not miss a con wherever you go. I encountered a crafty cab guy who seemed friendly at first. He declined to run the meter giving some excuse about the government, and I was naïve enough to buy the excuse. I paid for my naivety later on, when he charged me three times the cost! I did not realize I had been overcharged until some local friends told me that he’d made a killing out of me.
Find out in advance whether they have a functional meter and insist on it!
Where to Stay and Eat
An ever-growing and vibrant city, there are many options of places to stay in Kigali. Depending on your need, you can easily find hotels, lodgings or self-catered apartments for rent. The self-catering apartments’ rates are quite pricey and may not be feasible for a short-term stay.
Harry’s restaurant, at City Blue is a great place to stop over for lunch. The creative menu at Select hotel is also quite enticing.
We grabbed a quick Frozen yogurt at a Milk bar, and went out for bowling and dinner on one night. I noticed many promising restaurants and coffee shops around Kigali. I would have loved to visit more places to get a taste of Rwandan cultural foods.
Things to Do in Rwanda
Rwanda is the kind of place you want to visit when you are not in a hurry. It is rich with activities and you will not fail to find something amazing to do.
Kigali Genocide Memorial
Visiting the Genocide Memorial sites is a popular tourists activity. The site was established to commemorate the people who were massacred during the Rwanda genocide in 1994. It is a sobering, key part of Rwanda’s history, while also giving insight into what the country has evolved to.
The entrance fee costs $15 for adults, and $5 for students.
There are about 8 more Memorial sites in Kigali and its environs: Gisenyi, Murambi, Nyamata, Musozi, Nyanza Bisesero, Ntarama, Nyarubuye.
Inema Art Centre
Art is a big part of Rwanda’s social culture. There are a couple of art galleries in Kigali that you can explore : Ivuka Arts Studio, Inema Arts Centre, Tongo Art Gallery.
Our time at Inema Art Centre was a delight. It is a place of unique creativity and artistic expression. You can visit at any time and there are no entrance fees.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY: WANJIKU THUO & MARION MITHAMO
Mountain Gorilla Trekking
Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, is one of the only three places with Mountain Gorillas in the world. It is part of the Virunga Volcanic Mountains that extend across the borders of Uganda, Congo and Rwanda.
The Gorilla Trekking Safaris, are organized in small group tours of about 3 days. The best times of year to go Mountain Gorillas’ trekking is in the dry months of December to February, and June to Mid-September.
If you love hiking, the outdoors and engaging with nature, then this is ideal for you.
Helpful Tips: Do’s and Don’ts
Convert. Convert. Convert!
Be sure to research on the money conversion rates in advance. The dollar is widely accepted in Rwanda, but they mostly transact in Rwandan Francs. You will need Francs for small shops and kiosks, where they do not accept foreign currencies.
If going by road, convert some money into Uganda shillings at the Kenyan border, in case of delays. If traveling by air, you can convert some money at Kigali International Airport.
Learn the Language Basics
Rwandans mainly speak French and Kinyarwanda. The most useful word I learned during my stay was ‘Oya’ which means ‘No’. Apparently it is better to say No, than to walk away rudely because you don’t understand.
English is not commonly spoken in Rwanda, hence it is a good idea to learn the basic Kinyarwanda phrases:–
Thank you- Urakoze
Rwanda happens to be one of the cleanest and safest countries in Africa, thus the environment is high on their priority list. To this end, non-biodegradable plastic bags are banned in Rwanda.
When traveling to Rwanda, particularly by road, any non-biodegradable plastic bags in your possession will be confiscated. Do not hide them in your luggage, because they search through everything. They are less severe at the airport, but it is better to be safe than sorry.
Rwandans use small sacks and brown bags for groceries at the market. You can pack brown bags or newspapers to wrap such things as dirty shoes, on your trip back home.
Ranking highly on security, Rwanda is strict on adherence to the law. If you are found in violation of the law, you may be arrested and imprisoned for 2 weeks, before a court hearing is held. Do not litter, and ensure you always put on the seat belt in both public and private vehicles, to avoid arrest.
I hope this quick guide has been insightful to you. 😀 If you have any questions or comments, share them on the Comments’ Section below 🙂
If you are interested in a trip to Rwanda, you can send me an email on my Contact Form.
Stay Inspired Always. 🙂