Rwanda Travel Advice
Rwanda is the home of legendary Volcanoes National Park and its habituated but still wild gorilla families. It is on the slopes of Virunga Volcanoes that the film Gorillas in the Mist was shot. Rwanda is most popular for its memorable wildlife encounters, the gorilla trekking.
Rwanda, Land of Thousand Hills and home of Mountain Gorillas, is situated in Central Africa and covers 26, 338 sq km with an estimated population of 9 million. The capital city is Kigali with a population of 800,000. Other major towns are Gitarama, Butare, Ruhengeri and Gisenyi. The terrain is largely uplands and hills, large part of the country is 1,500 meters above sea level. Rwanda has five volcanoes and 23 lakes.
Rwanda has temperate climate with two rainy seasons. The long rains from February to May and the short rains from September to December. The dry season is from June to September and this is the best time to do gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park.
Spoken languages are Kinyarwanda, French and English. French is widely spoken throughout the country. In the capital and other tourist centers, English is widely spoken.
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.
As one always should when traveling to any remote area, it is wise to consult your doctor two months prior to departure for updated advice on health care and precautions. All towns normally have a well-stocked pharmacy although the individual traveler should bring any known personal medication along. Yellow fever vaccination is required for all visitors and will be checked upon arrival to Rwanda. Malaria is less prevalent but it does exist in most parts of Rwanda. Using prophylactic drugs and preventing mosquito bites will reduce the risk of getting malaria. It is also important to try and avoid mosquito bites between dusk and dawn, as this is the period when the malaria-carrying mosquito is most active.
Passports and Visas
Foreign Nationals wishing to obtain Rwandan Visas, submit their applications to Rwandan Embassies or Diplomatic Missions of their Country of residence for processing. In the case of those coming from countries where Rwanda doesn’t have an Embassy or Diplomatic Mission, they should request for an entry facility on line which will be used to obtain a visa on any official point of entry in Rwanda. The website is www.migration.gov.rw
A valid passport with visa is mandatory. In view of the bilateral agreements, nationals of the following countries may visit Rwanda without visa for a period up to 90 days: USA, UK, Germany, Canada, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sweden, Mauritius, South Africa and Hong Kong. Visas can be applied before or bought upon arrival. All international flights arrive at Kigali International Airport, just 10 Km from Kigali city centre. International flights that operate to Kigali are SN Brussels, Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, Air Burundi and Rwandair Express.
Your safari driver-guide is a part of your safari experience. You will be together the entire duration of the safari as he narrates the geography, history and of course the wildlife. The driver-guides have exceptional knowledge in areas such as local flora, fauna and tribal lore. It is customary to tip the driver-guide at the end of the safari. The amount is dependent on your evaluation of the quality of the service offered. An average of USD10 per guest per day is suggested. The amount is however at your discretion, you could provide additional compensation.
Make a List
About a week or so before the trip, make a list of items you don’t want to forget. It’s easiest to have a travel list saved in Google Doc so as to access it online and edit it as needed.
Make Copies of Important Documents
Take photos of the passport and driver licenses and keep them in Google Docs and in files on your phone. You just never know when you need a backup.
Plan for the weather forecast to be wrong
Be sure to bring some extra items for weather conditions you don’t expect.
Get into the habit of using sunscreen. Use it daily, regardless of the weather. You will likely be walking a lot more than you think, and even if the sun isn’t literally shining, you can get sunburned. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen to your hands and arms as well as your neck, chest, and ears, and don’t forget to reapply. Take a small lightweight container of sunscreen with you in the bag.
• Pack light casual wear in neutral colours
• A pair of decent walking shoes
• Warm jacket for evening game drives
• Swimsuits for beach holiday. Most Hotels on Safari have swimming pools
• A sunhat is vital
• A camera with spare batteries or a charger
• Memory cards
• Camera bag
• Zip lock bags (dust proof ) Not plastic bags as they are banned in Kenya
• Beanbag for Camera stability during photography
• Insect repellent
• Malaria prophylactics if necessary
• Water bottle
• Raincoat with head covering
• Waterproof footwear
• Comfortable socks and T-shirts
• Long trousers to protect against stinging nettles
• Back pack for carrying change of T-shirt, socks, sweets, camera, raincoat, snacks etc
• Walking stick
• Re-hydration mixture