The beauty of Rwanda is personified by its endless mountains which gave it the moniker Le Pays des Mille Collines (Land of a Thousand Hills). This East African landlocked country, just 26,338 Km2 (10,169 sq mi) wide, is bounded to the north by Uganda, to the east by Tanzania, to the south by Burundi, and to the west by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Kinshasa) and Lake Kivu.

Kigali is the Capital City, and the largest, which lies alongside the Ruganwa River, and spans several ridges and valleys in the heart of the country.

In the northwest, the Virunga Mountains poise intimidate anyone who dares approach. But its beauty beckons. Deep within its indigenous bamboo forests are some of the last remaining mountain gorillas. The awe in meeting these primates is overbearing. In the opposite direction, more primates await. The Nyungwe Forest National Park is a mountain rainforest that is home to many species of chimpanzees as well as owl-faced and colobus monkeys. To the west, the volcanoes give way to the inland beaches of Lake Kivu.


Rwanda has three official languages: Rwanda (more properly, Kinyarwanda), English, and French. Swahili is also spoken in the main towns.

Rwanda’s climate is much cooler due to its general elevation, averaging 21 °C year-round. The temperatures drop further down as you climb ascend towards the Northwest region. This is where Mountain gorillas are located deep in the Virunga Mountains. Layer up while you are on that expedition. It also tends to be wetter than the rest of the country experiencing two heavy rainfall seasons; February to May and October to December.

The interior highlands are easy, enjoying a relatively warmer climate. The capital city falls in this region.


While travelling in East Africa, it is advisable to exercise the same caution and awareness normally accorded in any large city.

  • Never walk in solitude in apparently deserted areas, especially within cities.
  • It is preferable (and usually more enjoyable) to walk with a companion or in a group.
  • Beware that pickpockets create a distraction. Hold on to valuables (or money belt) if in such a situation
  • Beware, con artists target travellers. Walk away if an encounter with a local becomes convoluted and involves money or valuables
  • Never carry more than a day's supply of cash.
  • Do not carry travel documents and cash in plain sight.
  • Keep copies of travel documents, flight tickets and passport separately from the originals.
  • Lock all valuables in the hotel safe. In case one is not provided, enquire at the hotel reception.
  • Get adequate travel insurance coverage before travelling.

Passports must be valid 6 months after the anticipated travel date. Leave a blank page for each country to be visited. It is advisable to obtain visas in advance, from Embassies and High Commission or online visa/

VISAS can also be obtained on arrival at all entry points.


The regulations vary depending on nationality and country of origin, and requirements may change. For more information contact the appropriate Kenyan diplomatic/consular authority or the government portal:

As Rwanda enjoys a healthy, invigorating climate, visitors need not feel a concern for their general health during their stay. However, malaria is endemic in certain areas and anti-malarial medication should be taken according to prescription recommendations. Ebola is also recurrent in this region, so exercise caution while eating out. Visitors requiring special medication should pack sufficient supplies in their hand luggage. Chemist shops are well stocked, but the medication may not be always readily available.

During the safari, all your meals will be taken in the hotels, lodges & Camps.

Generally, in Kigali, only breakfast is included with lunch and dinner billed separately.

The food is of an excellent quality.

The meal timings are usually as follows:

  • Full breakfast is served from 07:00 hrs to 09:30 Hrs
  • Buffet lunch is served from about 12:30 Hrs
  • Tea and coffee are served from 16:00 hrs to 17:00 Hrs
  • Dinner is served from 19:30hrs to 21:30 Hrs

Most of the hotels have both local and imported alcoholic and non-alcoholic refreshments available (beers, wines, liquors, liqueurs, and fruit juices).

Drinks are not included (unless otherwise stated).

Special dietary requirements should be communicated well in advance or at the hotel’s reception upon arrival.

Mobile Infrastructure: The mobile network coverage in Rwanda is extensive, almost all the ‘usual’ safari circuit areas including National Parks and remote towns are covered.

Wi-Fi Infrastructure: Most, if not all, major hotels have wireless internet connectivity.

Tipping is optional.

Use the following tipping guidelines, if need be:

  • Many travellers budget between 2% and 3% of their trip cost for all tips
  • If travelling in a group, every group member does not have to give the same amount.
  • At the end of the safari, a volunteer group member can 'pass the hat' and present a collective tip to the drivers/guides.
  • Many travellers give between $5 to $ 10 per safari day. Drivers can also be tipped individually.
  • The preferable tipping currencies are US$ Dollar/Euro/Pound Sterling.
  • A tip of 1 to 2 units is appropriate for airport and hotel porters as well as housekeeping staff.
  • It is not necessary to tip in any establishment if they charge a service fee, usually 10%.
  • Otherwise, a tip of between 5 and 10 % of the total bill is considered usual and customary.

It is recommended to take up a travel insurance cover for compensation in case of loss of items, flight delays, trip cancellations or even medical emergency. Ensure you understand the nitty-gritty of the cover.

Rwanda's electricity supply is at 230 volts AC, 50Hz, using a two-pin plug and socket. Carry plug adapters, if need be.

Some places are serviced by generators, hence, ration electricity (and the lights may be dim).

It is important to charge all devices while there is supply. Travellers dependent on an overnight electrical supply (as in the case of those with sleep apnea) should communicate well in advance.

In general, avoid drinking tap water.

Bottled mineral water is available for purchase throughout.

Purified mineral water is available in the rooms.

While on safari.

SawaSawa Africa provides a litre of bottled water on a complimentary basis per safari day.

Throughout the year, the Standard Time in Rwanda is two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+2), an hour ahead of Central European Winter Time, and seven hours ahead of Eastern Standard Winter Time in the U.S.

There are a few Dos that you need to keep in mind while travelling. Once you arrive at the hotel, you are required to register at the reception to get the room key. Check-in is generally from 11.00 am while check out is at 10.00 am latest. If you book a room for day-use only, you will be required to check out at 6.00 pm. Upon checkout, you are required to return the key to the reception. Settle the bill at the reception on your checkout, or preferably the night before to avoid the long queues in the morning. Once you check out, request for a luggage ticket, which is required to leave the hotel.

  • Leave any luggage that will not be in use during the safari at the City Hotel, for collection upon return.
  • Note that international airlines allow a luggage allowance of 20 – 30 Kgs while domestic carriers allow 15 Kgs.
  • On Check-out / departure day, place all luggage at the door while heading for breakfast to cue the porters to take it to the reception, to await check-out.

While donations may seem charitable, they can be disruptive and intrusive especially when a portion of people get them while the others are left empty-handed. Other times, it could place the traveller in danger of being hustled by a mob. As such, avoid distribution of money, pens, candy, and left-over food to children or adults encountered on the way.

If beggars approach, make eye contact, smile politely and keep moving. Offering anything to one beggar will open the harassment floodgates to the whole group.

During community visits, it is advisable to contribute towards community development as opposed to benefitting a few individuals. For example, instead of giving stationery to a few students, bring a large package of pens or pencils and hand it to the school head or administr ator for distribution.

Every traveller should be mindful of the effects of their actions.

The intention may be good, but the effect may be negative. For example, sweets/candy may cause tooth decay yet remote villages have few, not to mention expensive, dentists. Also, giving out sweets and other gifts encourages children to run to every foreigner in the neighbourhood, leaving their school or house chores undone. It may also project a bad impression of their parents who may not afford the same gifts.

Memories fade, but relics will always stand the sands of time. In many hotels, lodges and camps throughout the country, well-stocked gift shops offer a wide array of traditional artefacts, jewellery, all-purpose fabric wraps and some beautiful stone and wood carvings all inspired by the diverse range of cultures within Rwanda's borders.

These are some of the other shopping places to explore:

  • Abraham Konga Collections: Abraham is a talented jewellery maker working mainly with recycled metals and bone. His store also stocks items from a variety of artisans.
  • COOPAR: Stock up on earrings, necklaces, batik paintings, woodcarvings as well as colourful bowls and clothes.
  • Azizi Life Boutique: They offer creative and interesting items not found elsewhere in the country.
  • La Copabu in Huye in Butare: Large handicraft shop selling woodcarvings, jewellery and baskets, and other souvenir-worthy items.
  • Caplaki: This is Kigali’s largest souvenir-specific market.
  • African Art Gallery in Gisenyi in Rubavu: This small curio store has a varied and colourful collection of handicrafts from the DRC, Uganda and Rwanda, including lots of Congolese masks and other wooden items as well as necklaces, paintings and basket ware.
  • Gatagara Pottery: Much of the pottery you see on sale around Kigali comes from Gatagara Pottery. The pottery has a distinctive chunky style and is often painted in beautiful blues, greys, and browns.
  • Haute Baso: Besides selling bespoke clothing, they have a few home decor items and accessories like scarves and bags.
  • Ibaba Rwanda: They embroider things like baskets, linens, clothes, hats, and purses.
  • Inema Arts Center: It makes a great stop both for paintings and for jewellery, ties, pottery, and other crafts.
  • Inzuki Designs: This is the best place in Kigali to get chunky, colourful, bold jewellery.
  • Kimironko Market: For a good bargain on the usual souvenirs, this is the place to be.
  • Nyamirambo Women’s Center: This small shop is known for making unique items with kitenge fabric. They produce some pretty cool children's items like dresses, pants and hats; baby blankets; and even cute fabric balls to kick around.
  • Rwanda Clothing Company: Swing by to get custom-fit clothing or take a look at their fashion line. They've got a great range of clothes for both sexes made from Rwandan fabrics. Choose a style from their lookbook or choose a style off of the rack. This is the place to get statement clothes. They also sell jewellery, bags, ties, and other accessories.
  • Tubahumurize Association: It is most famous for their custom-made quilts, but has everything from circle scarves to yoga bags to children’s toys and kitchen swag.
  • Umutako: They have a good selection of vases, pots, paintings, candle holders, and fabrics as well as the less traditional Imigongo paintings.
  • Government offices operate from 7.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m, Monday through Friday with a one-hour lunch break.
  • The Private Sector operates from 8.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m, Monday through Friday with a one-hour lunch break.
  • Most private sector organisations work half days on Saturday.
  • All the shops are open from 8.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. from Monday to Friday. Many of them close early on Saturday and remain closed on Sunday.
  • Supermarkets and shopping malls are, however, open 7 days a week.

The stunning landscape of Rwanda is a photographers’ delight. From the mountainous vistas of the lush mountain rainforest of Nyungwe to the inland beaches of Lake Kivu and plenty of primates to go along with them to the culture-centric people and the historic sites; rich colour and good lighting conditions abound.

Note that it is considered rude to take pictures of people without asking for their permission.

Please note that it is prohibited to take photos of:

  • The President and/ or his entourage
  • The police or uniformed personnel
  • Military installations, ministers, official and military buildings, airports, and border posts
  • The national flag and official residences


  • It is recommended to bring a power bank with sufficient storage and memory cards as they may not always be readily available on the ground.
  • Keep cameras in a dust-resistant padded case, away from direct sun.
  • A 200mm (or longer) telephoto lens will prove very useful on safari.
  • An ultra-violet filter and a lens cap are strongly recommended.


The currency unit is the Rwandan Franc (RWF).

For current exchange rates, please refer to the Internet or a newspaper.

The importation and/or exportation of both local and foreign currency is unrestricted. The most popular global foreign currencies can be traded at any of the Forex Bureaus (Bureau De Change) establishments in the main towns. But their rates are usually higher than bank rates.

How to carry your money

Cash is more readily exchanged and accepted and commands a better exchange rate in East Africa.

Try for a diversity of denominations. Plan to exchange a decent amount since most purchases are done in Rwandan Franc. Keep all receipts in case you need to query the exchange rate, and as proof of purchase. Note that the gorilla permits are only sold in USD.

Credit Cards

Major credit cards (and debit cards with Visa or Master Card logos) are a superb emergency back-up. Every traveller is encouraged to carry one, even when there are no intentions of using it – it comes in handy during an emergency, for instance, if you are called upon to fly home or alter your general travel arrangements.

Credit cards are accepted in major hotels and upmarket lodges in Rwanda.

How much money to take<>/strong

You should NOT count on being able to withdraw cash with a credit card, a debit card or an ATM card. Whilst this service is becoming increasingly available, it might not be functional/available in some areas. Plan to carry enough money to cover the expected expenses, plus a small reserve. Credit cards should be a financial emergency kit.

By far, the biggest variable in the travel budget is souvenirs. Further expenses would be bits on laundry and drinks.