Rwanda: General Information
In a nutshell,Rwanda is nature-lover’s paradise, it is also one of the most friendliest of nations. The warm welcome complimented by fine food and rich cultural heritage. As in many African tradition it often happens paradoxically, that the poorer the home, the poorer the person, the richer the welcome.
Language: French and English are the official languages in addition to Kinyarwanda.
Currency: 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 Kigali. Credit cards are usually accepted at the major hotels in the city. Foreign currency can be changed at banks, bureaux de change at the international airport and hotels. Street exchange merchants should be avoided as they operate illegally.
Travel document and Visas
A valid passport with a valid visa is mandatory. Nationals of USA, UK, Germany, Canada, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Burundi, D.R.Congo, Sweden, Mauritius, South Africa and Hong Kong may visit Rwanda without visa for a period of 90 days N.B: But before travel it is advisable to reconfirm with your host on the present status.
Time: GMT +2
Electricity: 230/240 volts, 50Hz.
Communications: The international access code for Rwanda is +250. International Direct Dial is available throughout most of the places, but the service is expensive especially when calling from hotels. All major town areas are covered by the mobile network; the local mobile phone operators use GSM networks that have roaming agreements with most international mobile phone operators. SIM cards for GSM network are readily available on sale everywhere. Internet cafes are widely available in most towns and tourist areas.
Safety and Health
Travellers to Rwanda should get the latest medical advice on inoculations and malaria prevention from their country of origin prior to departure. Immunization certificate against yellow feve is required Much of Rwanda lies at a high altitude, for malaria to be a major concern but the malaria risk is present and prophylatic drugs are highly recommended it is well worth taking this precaution. AIDS is a serious problem in the World of today and the necessary precautions should be taken. Water is of variable quality and visitors are advised to drink bottled mineral water wherever possible. There are hospitals in all major towns but health insurance is essential. Usage of plastic paper bags is forbidden in Rwanda.
Rwanda has possibly the best roads network in East Africa. Most visitors who have booked through a tour company will be provided with a good safari vehicle, usually 4×4.
Most parts of Rwanda receive precipitation in excess of 1 000 mm annually, July to September being the driest months and February to may being the wettest. Temperatures rarely stray above 30 C by day and below 15 C at night the year round, with exceptions are the chilly weather of the slopes of the Virunga mountains and the hot low lying area of Akagera national park near Tanzania border.
Kigali and Butare
Kigali, the capital of Rwanda is both a modern business centre and a lush garden city, sprawling attractively over verdant slopes in the very heart of “The Land of Thousand Hills”. Kigali is the main port of entry, serviced by international airport and zippy surfaced roads to the neighbouring countries. Despite being a concession to modernity, it retains a satisfying organic shape and upretentious low rise charm and is centrally located within 3 hours of most Rwanda’s major tourist sites. The compact city centre surrounds a busy colourful market, is studded with souvenir stalls displaying fine local craftmanship.
Butare, is Rwanda’s second city situated 135 km south of Kigali. Butare is the cultural and intellectual heart of the nation with numerous academic institutions. Butare also houses Rwanda’s National Museum, the finest ethnographic collection in East Africa. And within easy distance one can visit the Royal Palace at Nyanza an enormous traditionally constructed dome, no longer in use, but has been maintained as a museum. Rwanda is a renascent nation, a country looking to its future which it will surely claim its rightful place as one of the world’s finest ecotourism destinations.
The Genocide Memorial Sites
The genocide is history, recent history, perhaps but history all the same. These are sites of senseless massacre where mass killings occurred in 1994. These sites contain bones and skills and in some cases entire bodies still visible. Gruesome yes – but a part of Rwandan history nonetheless. Due to the sensitive nature of this experience we stress that this visit is optional.
Getting Around: with little traffic, the road network offers wonderful opportunities for long bicycle trips across the verdant hills and valleys. Mountain biking can be enjoyed on the thousands kilometres of the fine rural trails. Taxis are widely available and convenient, usually congregated in the street around hotels and areas frequented by tourists. Taxis are not metered and the fare should be agreed upon before departure. Your host or local tour representative will guide you further.
International tourist class hotels and comfortable midrange accommodation exist in Rwanda. Such as Kigali Serena hotel, Hotel des Mille Collines, Alpha Palace hotel, Royale Villas, Hotel Chez Lando. In Musanze district close to Parc national des Volcans: Gorilla’s Nest hotel, Sabinyo Silverback lodge, Volcanoes Virunga lodge, Mountain Gorilla View lodge. Around lake Kivu: Lake Kivu Serena hotel, Belvedere hotel, Stip hotel Gisenyi, Dian Fossey hotel. And in Akagera National Park, the Akagera game lodge.
Upon confirmation of your journey, gorilla permits can be secured by your travel operator, or can be purchased directly subject to availabilty at Office Rwandaise du Tourisme et des Parcs Nationaux (ORTPN) at their headquarters in Kigali or Musanze.
When tracking gorillas, we recommend studier clothing to protect against stinging nettles, a waterproof jacket as rain is so unpredictable and a solid walking shoes.