Rwanda is a small landlocked country in the Great Lakes region of East-Central Africa. It is bordered by Uganda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Tanzania. It has a high population density, and is a verdant country of fertile and hilly terrain. Most visitors leave Rwanda with an extremely enthusiastic impression of a stunningly beautiful, clean, friendly, safe and well organised country. We hope you will too.
Rwanda is happily situated just below the equator, so enjoys a tropical temperate climate all year round influenced by altitude, sometimes a little too hot, sometimes a little grey and chilly, but mostly very pleasant.
There are two rainy seasons – one from March to May, and another from October to December. During this time, there are many short sudden downpours which are usually preceded by extremely hot sultry weather and accompanied by lots of thunder and lightning. Occasionally, however, it can rain all day without stopping!
The period from January to February is generally dry and hot with very occasional light rain. However, the real dry season is from June to the end of August. It can get very dry and dusty during this time, especially in the countryside.
Rainfall is heaviest in the west and decreases in the central uplands and to the north and east. Average rainfall precipitation in Kigali is 1000 mm and average temperature ranges from 19 degrees Celsius in January to 28 degrees Celsius in July.
The sorts of clothes suitable for early summer in Europe are useful here: short sleeved shirts, blouses and tops, light sweaters or jackets, cotton skirts and trousers. It can be very hot during the day, with a heavy thunderstorm followed by a fairly cool evening. An umbrella and a lightweight waterproof jacket are essentials when out and about.
Rwandans generally dress very smartly and often like to wear coordinating colours. Plastic flip-flops are called ‘bathroom slippers’ for wearing inside the house only and scruffy jeans are not often seen, though smart jeans are fine. Dress smartly and professionally if you want to be taken seriously, especially in schools and with government officials.
Although not a huge problem in Rwanda, are prevalent particularly in some parts of Kigali. If you are not able to cover up with long sleeves and long trousers in the evenings, remember to carry some insect repellent with you. The area around the British Council office has a significantly higher number of mosquitoes than in other parts of Kigali.
Contact your GP or travel nurse well in advance of your departure to ensure that you have all necessary vaccinations and anti-malarial medication as there is a high risk of malaria in all areas of Rwanda, including Kigali. Please follow the FCO Travel Advice on www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/rwanda
There are good doctors and dentists in Kigali who can deal with the majority of routine complaints, though in the event of serious accident or illness an evacuation by air ambulance to Kenya or South Africa may be required.
There is a BUPA approved hospital in Kigali, King Faisal Hospital. More information can be found at www.kfh.rw/ with contact information at www.kfh.rw/about-us/contact-us/ or phone (+250) 252589905, (+250) 252589577, (+250) 252588888, (+250) 252582659, (+250) 252582655.
There are many well stocked pharmacies, many being open even on Sundays. You do not always need a prescription for medicines. Visitors should take out comprehensive medical insurance before leaving their home country.
Drink bottled or filtered water only to avoid health problems and to stay hydrated. Bottled water is readily available in all shops and restaurants, and all brands (Inyange, Huye, Nil, drop,Yego) are fine.
HIV and Aids, and other sexually transmitted diseases can be caught in Rwanda. In the 2012 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic the UNAIDS/WHO Working Group estimated that around 180,000 adults aged 15 or over in Rwanda were living with HIV; the prevalence percentage was estimated at around 2.9% of the adult population compared to the prevalence percentage in adults in the UK of around 0.2%.
As of 1st November 2014, British nationals are now required to pay a $30 visitors’ visa (one-month) to enter Rwanda. This can be purchased at point of entry into the country. If you intend to travel to Rwanda more frequently, or you are working there, you should contact the Rwandan Immigration Department in Kacyiru for a longer duration visa and a green card. Further information and visa application forms can be found at www.migration.gov.rw
If you are not a British National, please check on www.migration.gov.rw to find out if you need an entry visa, and for a simple application process.
Please note that if you are planning to apply for work/resident/business visas upon entry to Rwanda you will need to have obtained UK police clearance before arrival in Rwanda (or police clearance from the country where you have been living most recently). The police clearance must have been obtained within the past 6 months and should cover the previous 2 years. We advise you to obtain police clearance before travelling as this takes a minimum of 40 working days to process. If you are a UK citizen, it is able to possible to obtain a basic disclosure police clearance certificate online from Disclosure Scotland, www.disclosurescotland.co.uk/basicdisclosureonline you will also need original degree certificates and certified copies for work permits. Certified copies of documents can be obtained from your local post office in the UK. It is also advisable to bring a small stock of passport photos, although these can be obtained in Rwanda.
You must hold a valid passport to enter Rwanda. Your passport must be valid for the proposed duration of your stay and for 6 months from the date of entry into Rwanda.
A Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate is an official requirement for entering Rwanda. You may be asked for your yellow fever vaccination certificate on arrival or departure at Kigali International Airport, especially if you are entering Rwanda from a country where yellow fever is present. A Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate can also be requested on departure from Rwanda so please keep it with you throughout your stay in Rwanda.
By law, for environmental reasons, plastic bags are prohibited in Rwanda. Visible plastic bags will be confiscated on arrival at the airport, and baggage may be opened to check for plastic bags inside.
The only international airport is Kigali International Airport in Kanombe, although there are plans for a new bigger airport in Bugesera, South East of Kigali. There are regular flights throughout the East African region, and Rwandair are increasing their flight destinations across Africa. There are regular direct flights to Europe, landing in Amsterdam (KLM) and Brussels (Brussels Airlines), or via Nairobi (Kenya Airways), Addis Ababa (Ethiopian Airlines), Doha (Qatar) or Istanbul (Turkish Airlines).
Driving from the city centre to the airport can take from 20 minutes to 40 minutes during rush hour, and should cost approximately 6,000 RWF in a city taxi.
Airline offices, for flight alterations and purchasing tickets, can be found in the city centre, not at the airport. The Kenya Airways-Air France-KLM office and Ethiopian Airlines offices are in the UTC building, Brussels Airlines are found at the Mille Collines hotel, South African Airlines are at KCT, and Turkish Airlines are at the Grand Pension Plaza.
The road infrastructure from Kigali to all major towns is good. There can be landslides on some of the major roads across the country during the annual rains in March/April and October/November. Road travel out of town after dark should be avoided as roads are unlit and driving standards are poor.
Taxis (often called ‘taxi car’ or ‘taxi voiture’) are not too expensive, are generally reliable and will take you anywhere. They can be booked by telephone, or if you pick up a taxi on the street, make sure that it is a white car with a yellow stripe along the body of the car, or a Kigali Taxi Service car. Unless the taxi has a meter (only Kigali Taxi Services), make sure that you negotiate the price before departure. The following are the most common:
Kigali Taxi Services – call 3122
Bosco (a taxi driver used regularly by British Council) – 0788527252
Regis (a taxi driver used regularly by British Council) – 0788519047
There are also a number of reliable car hire firms, for trips out of town. Hire costs are reasonable. Regular express buses also go to the provinces and all main towns across Rwanda. These can be taken from the main bus park at Nyabugogo, not far from the city centre, or you can rent a car (saloons or jeeps) with or without a driver.
Many people travel using local buses and motorbike taxis (the latter, known as ‘motos’ are not recommended by the British Council for safety reasons). Local buses (known as ‘taxis’ or ‘matatus’) can be taken almost anywhere in Kigali to access all other parts of Kigali. They are cheap and regular, if a little squashed inside.
If you do decide to take a motorbike taxi, make sure that you wear the obligatory helmet, that the helmet fits well and the strap is secure, that the motorbike has both rear mirrors intact, and that you feel comfortable with the driver. If you are unsure about any aspect of safety, maintenance or the driver, don’t use that ‘moto’.
Hotels: There is a good and growing selection of 3-5-star hotels in Kigali catering for all price ranges. We suggest that you use an up to date guide book or refer to www.lonelyplanet.com/rwanda for the latest rates and contact details.
Popular hotels in Kigali- many with swimming pools - include the luxury Serena Hotel (in Gisenyi too), Hotel des Milles Collines in the city centre, Stipp Hotels, Chez Lando, Beauejour Hotel, City Blu and Blu Urban, and the Umubano Hotel (previously known as Novotel.).
Restaurants: Kigali has an increasing number of restaurants and bars of different descriptions, including Indian, Chinese, Thai, Ethiopian, French and Italian restaurants. There are also lots of local bars and restaurants all over the city selling local favourites such as ‘brochettes’ (meat or fish on a stick), grilled or fried green bananas, ‘akabenzi’ (delicious fried pork) or ‘mélange’ (a buffet meal with a wide selection of local foods).
Shopping: There are a couple of main supermarkets in Kigali city centre (Nakumatt in the UTC building, Nakumatt in the new Kigali City Towers) and Simba Supermarket that are modern and provide a range of goods, including foods from Europe. There are an increasing number of small grocery stores which provide a smaller, but generally well stocked range of foodstuffs, such as La Galette and La Sierra supermarkets in the town centre, Sawa city supermarket and Ndoli’s Supermarket in the Sonatube area. All of them stock a range of brands of internationally renowned good Rwandan coffee and tea.
There are many local markets across town –in particular the big open markets in Nyarugenge and Kimironko - lots of colour, sights, sounds and smells, and the hustle and bustle of a real African market. They sell everything from fabric and kitchen utensils to huge amounts of fresh and tasty fruit and vegetables.
There are several craft shops in Kigali selling all sorts of Rwandan and African crafts, clothes, material and artwork. There are several next to La Galette in the town centre. The largest permanent craft market is Caplaki, near to Circle Sportif, in Kiyovu, which has a number of stalls selling arts and crafts from Rwanda and East Africa.