Rwanda is a relatively stable East African country, and easily accessible from Kenya and Uganda. It is relatively easy, safe and simple to travel around. It is landlocked, surrounded by Uganda to the north, Tanzania to the east, Burundi to the south, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west.
Rwanda is not only the land of a thousand hills, but also a country rich in flora and fauna and stunning natural beauty in its scenic rolling and breathtaking green savannah. The country hosts some rare species of animals like the silverback mountain gorillas as well as unique birds and insects in the tropical forest of Nyungwe.
A passport is required to enter Rwanda and a certificate of vaccination for yellow fever is normally required to return back to the country of origin.
Nationals of Hong Kong, Mauritius, the Philippines and Singapore may enter Rwanda visa-free for stays of up to 90 days.
Nationals of Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda will be granted a visitor's pass on arrival for stays of up to 6 months.
Nationals of the Democratic Republic of the Congo will be granted a free visa on arrival for stays of up to 90 days.
Nationals of all other African countries not exempted by other agreement, in addition to Australia, Germany, Israel, New Zealand, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States may obtain a visa on arrival for US$30 for stays of up to 30 days.
Citizens of all other countries must obtain a visa before arrival, either online, or at a Rwandan diplomatic mission. If you are travelling overland, it is no longer possible to obtain a visa at the border. However, visa application can easily be made online. You will within a few days receive an entry visa acceptance by email. Bring this acceptance letter; the visa will be issued at the border. The visa fee is paid at the border. Contact your nearest embassy or consulate for more information.
There are direct international flights into Kigali from Brussels several times a week on Brussels Airlines, and from Istanbul three times per week on Turkish Airlines. KLM also flies to Kigali directly from Amsterdam. RwandAir has, since the end of August 2011, started flights to Dubai (via) Mombasa using its new Boeing 737-800 and separately to Jo-Burg using the same aircraft. There are also daily flights from Entebbe airport in Uganda, Johannesburg and Addis Ababa. Additionally, there are connections twice a day from Nairobi, and several flights a week to Bujumbura. Note that the Rwandan capital is also easily accessible (3h by road) from the Goma airstrip in DRC.
Transport network Road infrastructure The following areas are paved: • Kigali - Kibuye very winding, little traffic, in good condition. • Kigali - Ruhengeri good condition. • Ruhengeri-Gisenyi: Good. • Kigali - Uganda border Byumba: good condition, many trucks. • Kigali - Gitarama: Good. The road network of the city of Kigali and its suburbs, outside the main paved roads, consists of roads in very poor condition. The Kibuye-Gisenyi and Kibuye-Cyangugu tracks remain difficult. The use of an all-terrain vehicle is recommended. Fuel supply is generally provided in the main cities. Generally, drive with caution, particularly at night, given the large number of pedestrians along roads, including children.
In Uganda, several bus companies make the 8 hour journey from Kampala in Uganda to Kigali. As of Jan 2011, it costs 7000 Rwandan francs from Kigali to Kampala on Horizon. Jaguar cost RWF12,000 (June 2013). The most reliable bus company is Kampala coaches, Jaguar and Ontracom from Rwanda.
Tanzania has an open border with Rwanda, but this is a far more difficult way to enter Rwanda as it is remote, and part of the road in western Tanzania remains unpaved. A bus runs from Mwanza to Benako (both Tanzania) and from Benako buses run onto Kigali. Another town to consider on this route is Ngara (Tanzania).
Several buses run from Dar es Salaam via Morogoro and Dodoma (they all leave Ubungo bus station around 06:00-07:00) to Kahama daily. You will have to spend the night in Kahama and then get a minibus or shared taxi to the border. From the Rwandan side of the border, there are minibuses to Kigali.
In Burundi, there are two ways to enter from Rwanda, and security in border areas varies. For the intrepid, there is a daily direct service from Kigali to Bujumbura operated by Yahoo Car, and since 2007, a new luxury service operated by Belvedere Lines. If there are security concerns on the Bujumbura - Huye - Kigali route, it is also possible to go along the road bordering (but not entering) DRC. You will probably have to do this in a series of minibuses via Cibitoke, Bugerama (Rwanda) and Cyangugu (Rwanda). With both of these routes, check the security situation with your embassy (the Belgian embassy has the best information).
For Democratic Republic of the Congo, much of the country remains off limits to many tourists due to instability, though Goma and Bukavu can be visited easily from Rwanda.
Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park is Rwanda’s biggest tourist attraction – and tops many a nature lover’s bucket list. Permits must be booked in advance (only 80 are issued daily) and cost $750, which does price many people out of the trek, alas. Those lucky enough to obtain permits are assigned guides and armed guards (to protect them from marauding buffalo) and get to spend an incredible hour observing one of the habituated gorilla families.
Founded in 2004, the Rwanda Film Festival is held every July at locations across the country. Most of the screenings take place in venues around Kigali, but, as part of a drive to bring culture to the farthest corners of this country, pop-up cinemas are erected in rural Rwanda, showing everything from Hollywood blockbusters to contemporary African documentaries. A highlight in the country’s calendar.
Located on the limpid shores of Lake Kivu, this idyllic resort is a perfect place to unwind. It’s also unremittingly beautiful: steep, forested slopes rise from crystalline waters, which are dotted with canoes and fishing boats. The town itself is full of characterful, with a lively market, and there are a burgeoning range of hotels and restaurants right on the shore. It’s a great place for swimming, kayaking or just kicking back.
Far from being haunted by its tumultuous past, Kigali is quietly getting on with it. Rwanda’s capital is abuzz with hip new bars, restaurants and hotels. Clean and composed, Kigali is very safe city and its rising skyline reflects the country’s lofty ambitions. Head to Hillywood, where talented moviemakers are helping shape Rwanda’s burgeoning film industry, and visit Nyamirambo, where colourful shops sell second hand gear and offer an authentic slice of local life.
The intellectual capital of the country, Butare is home to Rwanda’s national university. The most prominent tourist attraction here is the superb National Museum, which houses perhaps the finest ethnographic collection in East Africa. Absorbing displays of traditional artefacts are illuminated by a selection of turn-of-the-century monochrome photographs, providing insight not only into pre-colonial lifestyles, but also into the subsequent development of Rwanda as a modern African state. Butare also boasts craft shops and a botanical garden.
Rwanda may be landlocked, but you can still hit the beach in Gisenyi: a pretty market town on the edge of Lake Kivu. As well as fine slithers of golden sand, the town lays claim to a large brewery, which proudly produces Rwanda’s celebrated beer: Primus. Bustling Gisenyi is on the border with neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (the frontier is an attraction in itself) and boasts hot springs nearby.
Volcanoes National Park is best known for its mountain gorillas, but visitors can also go in search of golden monkeys, which are also endangered. These elusive creatures hang out quite low down in the vertiginous national park, so are a good warm up for their loftier-living cousins. A permit to see them is also considerably cheaper than it is for the gorillas.
In 1994 approximately one million Tutsis and scores of Hutus – the two main groups in Rwanda – were murdered during the ghastly Rwandan Genocide. The Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre pays tribute to these victims (many of who are buried in a mass grave outside), and chronicles the events that led to the slaughter. It’s heart breaking, of course, but there are uplifting tales amongst the bleaknes
Nyungwe Forest National Park is one of the largest remaining high-altitude rainforests in Africa and is home to the world’s largest troop of colobus monkeys, which have a distinctive black and white colouring. A trek to spot them could have you surrounded by hundreds of the pretty primates, as well as chimpanzees, which are often perched high up in ficus trees. If you’re really lucky, guides might even show you the local mona monkeys too.
After the genocide Akagera National Park was overrun by returning refugees and much of the wildlife was wiped out. But the Rwandan government, with the help of Africa Parks, has rehomed these displaced people and begun restoring Akagera to its former glory – its biggest success to date came in 2015 with the reintroduced of lions. Big cats are the star attraction, but visitors also have the chance to see elephants, leopards, crocodiles, hippos, giraffes, apes and some 500 species of bird.
Perhaps nobody has done more to conserve mountain gorillas than Dian Fossey, an American zoologist who gave up her life to study the primates in Rwanda. Fossey moved to Volcanoes National Park in 1967, where she fought tooth and nail to protect the critically endangered species. She succeeded, but was murdered in the process by an unknown assailant. Her gravestone has become a pilgrimage site for naturalists, who trek four-hours through the steamy forest to pay their respects. Guides are essential.
Opened in 2010, this lofty canopy walk is the first of its kind in the region. Hovering a hair-raising 50m (164ft) above the forest floor, this swaying walkway is not for the faint hearted, but it does offer superb views across the rainforest canopy and, if you’re lucky, you might come face to face with rare birds and monkeys.
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