COUNTRY PROFILE & TRAVEL TIPS ON RWANDA IN EAST AFRICA
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Read More Information About Rwanda As An East African Country
Deemed “Land of a Thousand Hills,” Rwanda is a beautiful country located in the heart of Africa, about two degrees or 75 miles south of the equator. It has a high elevation ranging from 1,000 to 4,416 meters above sea level, giving it a temperate climate that stays pleasant all through the year, with minor variations. Year-round temperatures range from 24 to 27 degrees Celsius during the day and 14 to 16 degrees Celsius through the night.
A mountainous ridge about 2,416 meters high divides the basins the Congo and the Nile rivers and the Virunga volcanic range, which is home to rare mountain gorillas that touring guests come from almost every corner of the globe to see. Covering an area of 26,338 square kilometers with five extinct volcanoes, Rwanda is completely land-locked. The Karisimbi Volcano dominates the skyline as the highest point in the country.
The Democratic Republic of Congo lies to the west of Rwanda, while Burundi is located in the south. The country shares its eastern border with Tanzania and enjoys Uganda as its northern neighbor. As you travel around the rolling topography, you will be enchanted by lush greenery, which is the result of the 23 lakes and many rivers watering the landscape. The main lakes are Lake Kivu, Lake Mugesera, Lake Muhazi, Lake Ruhondo, Lake Ihema, and Lake Burera, and the 110-200 millimeters of rain that the country receives also contributes the verdant panoramas it’s famous for.
Renowned for its scenic vistas and being one of the largest lakes in Africa, Lake Kivu offers golden beaches and tranquil spots for rest and relaxation for both local and global holidaymakers. The lake houses a collection of islets, which support rare and distinct biomes. The country’s reserves, including Volcanoes National Park, Akagera National Park, and Nyungwe National Park, protect Rwanda’s precious wildlife. The Rwandan people contribute to this conservation in a big way.
Should you vacation in these parks in Rwanda, you will learn that 40% of the mammals in Africa can be seen here, including 402 different species. The country is also famous for being home to 1,061 species of birds, 5,793 advanced plant species, and 293 species of amphibians and reptiles. Despite its small size, Rwanda has a diverse landscape with rolling savannah in the east and lush equatorial forests on the northwest and southwest. The Rugezi swamps and wetlands cover a vast area of 6,735 hectares (16,642 acres).
The nation has a population of close to 13 million residents (2017), of which approximately 51% are women. Kigali is the capital and the people, who call themselves Rwandans or Rwandese, speak Kinyarwanda, English, and French. You will no doubt use the Rwandan Franc during your trip, which is the official currency of Rwanda. Those who will be renting a car and driving themselves around must remember to stay on the right side of the road. The government administration is a multiparty system, with the president as the head of state and a prime minister as second-in-charge.
The population of Rwanda is comprised of close to 13 million people (2017) belonging to three main ethnic groups, which can be classified according to their tribal background. The Twa people were the original settlers in Rwanda and are genetically a subgroup of the African Pygmies, but with a body structure that is larger than pygmy groups. Adult males are likely to weigh about 100 pounds (45 kilograms) with an average height of 5 feet.
They have traditionally lived in the widespread forests around the Virunga Mountains as subsistence hunters and gatherers. As you will learn on your cultural vacation in Rwanda, the Twa people have always been considered inferior and were isolated by the other groups due to their smaller physical build, as well as differing customs and traditions. The Hutu people migrated to Rwanda some 2000 years ago, and, since they were farmers, cut down many of the forests to make way for their farms. The Hutus share a genetic connection with the Bantu tribes that live in Eastern and Central Africa. The males have an average height of around 5 feet 5 inches and weigh about 130 pounds (59 kilograms). Similar to the Twa people, they also have dark skin and a stocky body structure. Both men and women work on the farmlands, and they build prestige on their ability to work hard. With the arrival of Hutus in Rwanda, the number of the Twa people began to decline. Some 416 years ago the Tutsi people arrived in Rwanda as cattle herders, a symbol of wealth and prosperity. Belonging to a Nilo-Saharan genetic pool, members of this group are typically taller than the Hutus and Twa, with the males having an average height of 5 feet 9 inches and weighing around 120 pounds (54 kilograms). They also have a lighter colored skin and a slimmer build. In a culture where a height of 6 feet is highly regarded, the Tutsi came to be considered the elite class and ruled the country in small royal kingdoms prior to colonization.
The Tutsi people were also warriors, so they suppressed the other tribes and created small kingly principalities. Touring the country today, and you will find that Hutus make up about 85% of the population, with the Tutsis and Twa significant minorities at 14% and 1%, respectively. These groups lived in peaceful harmony with each other until the advent of colonialism. Distinctions between Rwanda’s three ethnic groups can only be made on the basis of their historical and genetic backgrounds; aside from this factor, they live interspersed various regions of the country and speak the same language of Kinyarwanda, which was adapted from the Bantu tongue. The groups also follow the same religious and cultural customs and traditions, and your trip to the country will surely be enriched by an introduction to their fascinating ways of life. Interestingly, the sphere of their cultural influence extends into the neighboring countries of Uganda and Congo, where many of the people speak Kinyarwanda.
To maintain control over Rwanda the Belgians fed the belief that Tutsis were the superior race, sowing the seeds of the terrible genocide in which close to a million Tutsis lost their lives. Today, as you travel around Rwanda, you will find that a tenth of the people speak French and a small percentage speak English and/or Kiswahili. In terms of religion, the population is diverse and practices Christianity, Islam, and traditional African beliefs.
Historically, the Twa people were the original inhabitants of Rwanda and lived in the forests around the Virunga mountains. As Pygmy subset, they were primarily hunters and gatherers. The Hutu people are believed to have traveled here between the 5th and 11th centuries and were farmers, clearing the land for cultivation and driving the Twa deeper into the woods. The Hutu social structure was based on the royal clan system, with the Bahinzas (kings) ruling the tribes.
It was believed that the monarchs could prevent insect infestation in the crops, cause rain, and keep the cattle free from disease. The Tutsi people began to arrive in Rwanda around the 14th century and slowly integrated themselves into the local communities. The Tutsis not only owned cattle, which was considered an indication of prosperity and riches, but they were also well-versed in the art of warfare. Tutsis soon took over control of the political and socio-economic framework that the Hutus and Twa had created. As time passed, ownership of land came under the Tutsi king, Mwami; they developed a contract system called Ubuhake, under which Hutus made use of the cattle and land and, in turn, delivered services and agricultural yield to the minority Tutsis. As you learn about Rwandan mythology during your vacation, you will come to understand that the ancestry of the monarchy was traced back to a divine child, Kigwa.
As the Mwami Tutsi kings consolidated their borders, the colonial advent in Rwanda began in 1894 with the coming of the Germans. Rwanda, along with its neighbor Burundi, became a bone of contention between the Germans, Belgians, and British. By 1910, both territories came under the sole control of the Germans, who maintained the existing political system of the Mwami and took areas that still retained autonomy under Hutu chiefs through the use of military force. By the early 20th century, Germany had replaced the traditional barter system with cash and imposed currency taxes. You will find many remnants of the country’s colonial era when holidaying in the various regions. After the fallout of World War I, Rwanda and Burundi came under the control of the Belgians by way of a trusteeship mandated by the League of Nations.
The influence of the Mwami kings began to decline under this rule, and the Belgians removed the existing ubuhake system. Post-World War II, Belgium was forced to allow the Rwandan people into the political framework and implemented the Ten-Year Development Plan in 1952. While this move aimed to bring about socio-economic reforms, political changes, and social peace, it ended up creating discord between the Tutsis and Hutus. The United Nations attempted to defuse tensions by creating a united Rwandan-Burundi state, but in April 1962 the General Assembly voted to give Rwanda its independence. While the country’s three communities had lived co-dependently in the past, the colonial era created significant tension that eventually erupted in the form of a horrific genocide; over 100 days, Hutus systematically decimated the Tutsi population. Elections were conducted soon afterward and, with the coming of President Paul Kagame in 2003, the country was able to leave behind the specter of the genocide and begin rebuilding its social, political and economic structures. Visit this beautiful country and you will be able to tour the memorial shrines in and around Kigali that pay homage to the victims of the dark times.
Rwanda is one of the few countries in Africa where the majority of the population lives in the rural areas; a scarce 8% live in the capital city of Kigali and other towns. The nation is largely dependent on subsistence agriculture, with an annual economic growth rate of 7-8% over the last few years. Rwanda suffers from a shortage of arable land and lack of access to sea routes, limiting the possibility of developing a thriving export industry.
The rapidly growing population and an influx of refugees in the early 1990s added to its woes, and food production is simply not adequate to meet the needs of the people. Consequently, the country is forced to import food and other products, including construction materials, petroleum products, steel, machinery, and tools. Rwanda’s history of social and political unrest contributed to its economic problems. For example, the country’s main crops--tea and coffee--suffered a major setback in 1994. With assistance from global sources this industry is being rejuvenated, and agriculture, including tea and coffee, now represents 32% of Rwanda’s foreign exchange, totaling 2.5 billion dollars of the country’s GDP.
Only about 22% of the population are employed in industrial sectors, like breweries, and small cottage industries such as producing household goods, farm implements, textiles, footwear, furniture, plastics, and cigarettes. Some of the population engages in processing agricultural produce and raising livestock, including sheep, goats, and cattle. Tourism and service-based industries like banking, health, education, insurance, transportation, and real estate account for 45% of all employment. Rwanda is recovering from economic instability, in part thanks to government assistance and liberal economic policies aimed at the privatization of large industries and developing transportation infrastructure. During your tour of urban Kigali, you will notice that numerous construction projects are underway, increasing demand for skilled labor such as carpenters, masons, bricklayers, and other such workers. The government is also attempting to increase exports of its goods to raise foreign exchange. It surprises many vacationers to learn that, according to a 2015 rating by the World Bank, Rwanda has the 14th most favorable environment for starting a new business. The administration is also offering tax benefits and other incentives to invite foreign investment into the country. The low corruption and crime rates are other factors that make Rwanda an attractive destination for living, holidaying, and working. Aside from coffee and tea, the country produces cash crops including potatoes, pulses, sorghum, pyrethrum, and bananas. Rwanda also earns foreign revenue from its mining industry, thanks to substantial deposits of wolframite (tungsten), cassiterite (tin), columbite, tantalite, gold and beryl, and natural gas in Lake Kivu. In addition to encouraging the growth of the travel and tourism industry, the government of Rwanda developed the “Vision 2020” program, under which it aspires to create a country of middle-income people. Accordingly, it is encouraging the development and expansion of technology through the installation of a high-capacity fibre-optic cable network, instituting anti-corruption laws, propagating gender equality, and developing the rural economy. Rwanda trades with countries including China, Uganda, Belgium, Germany, Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya, but must still rely on foreign aid to assist with its national budget.
Rwanda is a Republic and has an executive President at its helm. The people elect their leader by way of a democratic vote, and the President remains in office for 7 years. He or she can be re-elected to office for a second term only. The country’s Parliament also has a Prime Minister, who is nominated by President, and a cabinet of ministers that are selected by recommendation of the Prime Minister.
Rwanda follows a bicameral form of legislature, which includes a Chamber of Deputies and a Senate. The chamber has 80 members that are elected by the people for 5 years. These members represent the entire population demographic with 53 officers, including 24 women, 2 youth, and 1 disabled member. The Senate is comprised of 29 members that serve for 8 years and represent the provincial government councils (12), academic institutions (2), and Parties’ Forum (4). It also has 8 Presidential nominees. While Rwanda achieved independence on the July 1, 1962, the present constitution was instituted as recently as June 2003. Its prime focus is on consolidating the unity of the people, as well as protecting human rights and personal freedoms. Even as you holiday in the country and learn about the terrible genocide of 1994, you will see that the people are trying to make amends for the atrocities and punish those responsible. After bringing the new constitution into force, the Rwandese elected Paul Kagame of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) to office. The former President, Pasteur Bizimungu, was tried for his role in the violence and embezzlement, eventually receiving a 15-year sentence before being pardoned. In November 2006 a French judge issued a global arrest warrant for Kagame for his role as head of the RPF. The party was accused of bringing down an aircraft that was carrying former President Juvénal Habyarimana, triggering the April 1994 genocide. The following year, the government of Rwanda initiated their own inquiry and found that the army, headed by Habyarimana, was responsible for the violence, along with 30 chief French officers. While France and Rwanda sorted through their issues from 2006 to 2009, relations remained tense, with the latter breaking diplomatic ties and resuming them in November 2009. Vacation in the country today and you will find that it has entered an era of economic and social stability under the leadership of President Kagame. When the parliamentary elections were held in September 2008, the RPF won a majority of seats with close to 100% of the population voting. The next presidential election, in August 2010, saw the reelection of Kagame as President for a second term, with 99% of the population casting their votes. Born in the south of Rwanda in October 1957, Mr. Kagame led the RPF through the struggle for independence and, later, in overthrowing the government responsible for the genocide. Today he also leads as Commander in Chief of the Rwandan defense force. On your tour, you will see that President Kagame is revered and respected by his people.
As a landlocked nation, Rwanda does not have a harbor or access to sea routes; the main point of entry into the country is through the international airport at Kigali, its capital. If you opt to visit Rwanda, you will have a wide variety of flight choice from Europe. Brussels Airlines carries passengers from Brussels, while Turkish Airlines flies from Istanbul. Other international airlines offering flights to Kigali include Qatar, Lufthansa, Air France, KLM, Etihad Airways, Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, and EgyptAir. These flights carry you into the country from destinations in Africa including Nairobi in Kenya and Entebbe in Uganda, as well as cities across Europe. In 2011 Rwanda launched its own airline, RwandAir, which ferries passengers to London as well as to Dubai via Mombasa, on its fleet of Boeing 737-800s. The airline also connects through Entebbe in Uganda, Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, Nairobi in Kenya, Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, Lusaka in Zambia, Johannesburg in South Africa and Bujumbura in Burundi. Rwandair offers passengers the option to depart from Goma and Bukavu Airports in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which can be reached by way of a 3-4 hour drive. Since the country does not have a rail network, travelers must use the road or air networks to reach the other safari holiday destinations, parks, and reserves around Rwanda. Driving was once a challenge in Rwanda, with notoriously bad, pot-hole ridden roads awaiting repair. Thanks to the efforts of the government to improve and upgrade them, the country now has some of the best-maintained roads in all of Eastern and Central Africa. Travelers can travel to other countries within the African Great Lakes region by road with ease. These paved roads also serve as the conduits for Rwanda's import and export industries; the major cities and towns, including Kigali, Gisenyi, Kibuye, and Ruhengeri, all have dual carriageways. Note that there are no highways and all national roads that traverse the country are single-lane. Bus service is available for tourists, however, like in many African countries, it can be erratic. State buses are green and carry the Japanese flag on them. We recommend that guests opt for other transportation mediums, such as a bicycle taxi or taxi-velo. These vehicles generally frequent rural areas, as they are not allowed in the major towns. For urban city travel, you can hire a motorcycle taxi, also called taxi-moto. Those who prefer to hire a car taxi will find them lined up at taxi stations and bus stands. Note that your driver may not be familiar with your destination, so be sure to have directions on hand to assist. Minibuses, also called twegerane or matatu, are also available to transport you to various areas in Rwanda during your trip. They are identifiable by their white coloring, whimsical names, and peculiar logos.
Those opting to travel to Rwanda are required to comply with the rules and regulations laid down by the government. Read More
If you have opted for meet-and-greet services with AfricanMecca Safaris, our tour representative will meet you at the arrival section at the airport in Kigali and assist you with moving and handling your luggage to the transfer vehicle. At the accommodation where you have bookings for the duration of your tour, you can expect that the hotel staff will help you carry your baggage to the room.
If you intend to travel to the game parks on safari or on hiking expeditions, you can use the luggage storage facilities at our Kigali team offices or at the hotel where available. Check out of the hotel room and store your baggage safely. You can re-check in when you return. This service will help you save on room charges while you are away exploring the parks and reserves in Rwanda. Please ensure that all baggage is carefully locked when you store it.
Choosing the appropriate clothing to wear while on vacation in Rwanda ensures that you can move freely and are comfortable on your hikes and game drives. Read More
Just as you would when touring any other country in the world, you must take special care of your personal security in Rwanda. Avoid attracting unwanted attention by wearing expensive jewelry — bangles, bracelets, necklaces, earrings, and watches. Keep a watchful eye on your other possessions as well: backpacks, wallets, phones, cameras, and handbags. Despite the high processing charges involved with credit cards, you may want to carry a minimum of cash and use credit cards wherever that is possible.
Pre-paying for your complete tour and hotel stays in Rwanda prior to arrival will allow you to avoid bringing extra cash. Do not leave cash lying around in your room. Bring multiple security envelopes so you can seal your cash in one before depositing it into a safety deposit box, commonly available at tourist camps, lodges, hotels, and most other accommodations in Rwanda. Count the money before sealing the envelope and depositing it, and take care to count it when retrieving the envelope.
While it is always advisable to avoid dark alleys and deserted streets, and refrain from moving around at night, if you absolutely must travel, use a hired, reliable taxi or transfer service. At AfricanMecca Safaris, we can make the necessary arrangements to ensure your safety. If there are any public rallies, political gatherings, or street demonstrations going on in Kigali or in other towns, it is best to avoid them. Your tour representative will keep you informed of such scheduled events and their locations so you can plan your travel routes around them. If you do need any kind of assistance on the ground, you can contact your AfricanMecca Safaris customer care personnel at any time.
While it is not compulsory to tip for the safari or related services you receive, giving a good tip shows your appreciation for the efforts put in to make you comfortable during your travels in Rwanda and the value you have received from it. Read More
No matter what time of year you plan to visit Rwanda, the Land of a Thousand Hills will thrill you with an adventurous, nature-centric vacation. Read More
Rwanda has well-developed systems for communicating with contacts within the country or at home when on vacation. You can use direct dialing services in major towns. Remote areas that do not have direct dialing can be contacted by using mobile phones and direct radio linking services. Should you need to use the postal service, you can expect that mail will take about seven to fourteen days to reach locations in North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.
While in Rwanda, you can ask your tour guide to help you get a local GSM cell number for your use during your stay. He can also help you obtain a basic phone to use with a local SIM card, available in Kigali. Use the local SIM card for calling both local and international numbers instead of your roaming minutes, which can get very expensive.
If you need to use fax services, you can request that at a city hotel where you’re staying, or use a fax machine available at principal post offices. Internet connectivity and emailing are possible from the major cities and many of the smaller towns as well. Main cities and business hubs often have Internet cafes, or you can use Wi-Fi provided by your hotel and at many camps and lodges in Rwanda. You can also use Skype or WhatsApp to call or chat with your family and friends.
Rwandan cuisine is typically cooked using locally available ingredients that people grow on their farms. You are likely to find mild dishes that are delicious in the simple way that they are cooked. While you may not find much meat in rural household kitchens, urban restaurants often serve goat, beef, and chicken. Cattle are considered a symbol of prosperity, and rural people are unlikely to slaughter them for daily food. While on your holiday, try authentic breakfast fare such as the bugali or ugali, a type of porridge made with maize and water and served with sweet potatoes. For the other Rwandan meals you can try dishes like umutsima, made with cassava and corn, or isombe, a delectable dish made using spinach, eggplant, and cassava leaves and usually eaten with dried fish. You will also enjoy mizuzu, or fried plantains; if you prefer the baked or steamed variety, try matoke. Ibihaza is a pumpkin dish cooked along with the peels and mixed with beans. You will find lkinyiga, a paste of peanuts, as an add-on to many meals. Nyama choma and ibirayi are other Rwandan delicacies you can try. If you are looking for a snack in between meals while on tour, opt for the Rwandan way and munch on fruits like papaya, pineapple, mangos, bananas, and avocados. Other staples in the local diet include pulses, maize, corn, peas, and cabbage. If you’re in search of grilled food, try the roasted corn and barbecued meat dishes served up in urban restaurants in Kigali. You must also sample brochettes, which are skewered goat, beef, fish, or chicken, similar to shish kebabs. Guests hungry for fish will find a variety of choice in the areas around Lake Kivu. Those who prefer international cuisine won’t go hungry. Restaurants serving Middle Eastern, Italian, Indian, Greek, Chinese, and Franco-Belgian fare abound. We recommend you also try the locally brewed beer and other wines and spirits.
When traveling, make sure you lock your baggage and have the keys with you on arrival in Rwanda. Customs officials are likely to ask you to open your bags to allow them to check the contents. They might also examine your belongings when you are ready to depart from the country. You are of course permitted to bring in your personal cameras, batteries, laptops, tablets, and other personal gadgets. However, you cannot sell them before leaving. The customs officials at the entry point might make a note of the items you are carrying on arrival and verify on exit that you are still carrying them.
As with traveling in all developing countries, it is advisable that you opt for bottled or boiled water while in Rwanda. When you arrive, the AfricanMecca Safaris guide will direct you to grocery stores where you can buy the bottled water you need. In most hotels and other accommodations, you will find bottled water or a flask of boiled water provided in your room for your use, especially for teeth brushing. But, if you purchase water at your accommodation in Rwanda, you will pay higher prices to cover the transportation costs to remote locations.
Travelers who need to recharge electronics while in Rwanda can expect the electricity supply in the accommodation, whether sourced from the central line or a generator, will be 240 volts AC 50 cycles. The electrical sockets used in the country are similar to the two-prong standard plugs that you find in Europe, namely the "type E" and "type F" Schuko and the "type C" Europlug. Some accommodations may offer use of a hair dryer in the room and have outlets where you can plug in your razor. Smaller, more remote hotels powered by generators may not allow you to use such appliances. Most vacationers choose to carry a travel plug adapter for charging devices. Keep in mind that such adapters merely match the socket shape of your gadget cable to the available socket in Rwanda; these adapters do not convert the voltage. Check before buying a voltage converter: some device charging systems already have transformers rated for both 110 or 220 volt systems. But if you need a converter, you can bring a 110v to 240v converter adapter for "type E/F" European CEE 7/4 or CEE 7/5 Schuko, and an adapter for "type C" European CEE 7/16 Europlug. Or carry a multi-adapter converter compatible with both kinds of plugs. Residents of the UK may bring a multi-pin adapter or the British three pin, rectangular adaptors (BS1363-3). Guests traveling from the United States may need a 110 volt to 220-240 volt multi-point converter adapter that is compatible with charging specific electronics, particularly camera batteries. Some battery chargers have dual voltages i.e 110 and 240 volts; therefore, you would not need a converter.
During your travels in the country, you will notice that Rwanda's flag has four colors, representing the country's spirit of harmony, heroism, regard for hard work, and belief in the future. Designed by Alphonse Kirimobenecyo, the new flag was adopted in an attempt to eliminate any references to the genocide of 1994. The blue band that covers half the area at the top has a sun in yellow on its right, with 24 rays. Blue stands for peace and happiness, while the sun symbolizes enlightenment. Representing economic progress is a yellow band, which covers a fourth of the area. At the bottom is a green band, which stands for aspirations for success and plenty.
When planning your tour in the country, you might want to keep in mind that Rwanda has 14 public holidays. It also observes an official week of mourning in memory of the genocide that starts on April 7, Genocide Memorial Day. Routine services also remain closed until midday on the last Saturday of every month. These hours, termed umuganda, are set aside for community service all over the country.
- 1st January: New Year’s Day
- 2nd January: Day after New Year’s Day
- 1st February: National Heroes Day
- Good Friday
- 7th April: Genocide against the Tutsi Memorial Day
- 1st May: Labor Day
- 1st July: Independence Day
- 4th July: Liberation Day
- Friday of the first week of August: Umuganura Day
- 15th August: Assumption Day
- 25th December: Christmas Day
- 26th December: Boxing Day
Healthcare and medical facilities in Rwanda are of a standard just enough to provide basic care to residents and travelers in the country. Not only is medical care expensive, but you will find facilities offer only the most common medicines and do not have the advanced equipment necessary for extensive, specialized tests. Since doctors and trained professionals were targeted in the genocide of 1994, there is a dire shortage of medical staff, though the number increases year by year. Given these factors, it is advisable to come prepared with the proper medical/travel insurance to cover care in Rwanda and evacuation out of the country if the need arises. When planning your safari trip to Rwanda, make sure you get the proper vaccination for yellow fever in case you are arriving from a country where there the disease is endemic. Officials at entry points will want to see a certificate of vaccination that indicates you have been treated at least 10 days before your arrival. You might also want to get a vaccination for cholera and carry the necessary proof. Contact the U.S. Centers for Disease Control or the appropriate health advice body in your country about the risk of contracting hepatitis, and come prepared. You must also bring with you the prophylactic drugs recommended by your healthcare practitioner to be taken for malaria, since there is a risk of getting it while in Rwanda. The personal health insurance that you have in your country might not cover the medical expenses you incur on vacation. Before you leave, check with your travel insurance provider for any additional coverage you need to purchase and what risks they will cover, including the possibility of evacuating you out of the country to other locations for medical treatment. The hospitals in Rwanda and around Africa may ask you to pay for your medical expenses as you incur them and remit reimbursement when you return. Should you need health care in a Rwandan facility, you will have to pay in cash, so you may want to make arrangements accordingly. When holidaying in African countries like Rwanda, it is advisable to buy travel insurance from a reliable provider that has the mandatory insurance licensing. If you need assistance with choosing a company, check with the AfricanMecca tour consultant, who can guide you. Check for a list of providers at https://www.ustia.org and be sure to pay the necessary premiums to cover medical emergencies, delay in flights, loss of baggage, and other unexpected situations when traveling by air or on the ground. While you can find pharmacies in Rwanda, obtaining prescription drugs involves a time-consuming process. So it strongly advised that you take an adequate supply with you for the duration of your trip. Also, bring any over-the-counter medication you might need for minor illnesses and allergies. Since you will be visiting a tropical country, make sure you have with you enough sun protection, including sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat with a wide brim to shade your face. Your clothing must cover your full arms and legs. Like any other country, Rwanda has its share of HIV incidence, so it is advisable that you refrain from sexual encounters.
While in Rwanda, you can expect that all weights are calculated in kilograms (kg) and distances in kilometers (km) according to the metric system. To make conversions, you can estimate that 1 kilogram is equivalent to 2.2 pounds, while 1 kilometer covers somewhat more than 0.62 miles.
The government-owned TV, radio, and print sectors have the widest reach to the people of Rwanda. However, people do not rely much on the newspapers, in which the news reportage is carefully controlled and expensive to purchase on a daily basis. People prefer to depend on radio as their primary source of information. Unfortunately, this medium had a significant role to play in the sparking of the genocide of 1994. The "hate" station Radio Tele Libre Mille Collines, or RTLM, was instrumental in inciting violence against the Tutsis. According to the organization Reporters Without Borders, until the 2010 elections, the Rwandan government dictated what news could be printed in newspapers, often deporting or imprisoning journalists who did not follow their mandates. During your travels in Rwanda, you can listen to radio stations such as the BBC on FM 93.9, Deutsche Welle, and The Voice of America in Kigali. The BBC is also available on 106.1 in Butare and 93.3 in Karongi. Since 2015, around 11%, or a little more than a million Rwandans, have Internet access. The Freedom House, based in the United States, reports that any bloggers who express critical opinions are typically located out of the country. On your tour, you can watch the government-owned Television Rwandaise and follow news agencies such as Orinfor, which gives out government information, and the Rwanda News Agency, or RNA. Rwanda has several radio stations. Of these, City Radio, Radio Izuba, Contact FM, Radio Flash and Radio 10 are privately owned. Radio Rwanda, which broadcasts in Swahili, French, Kinyarwanda, and English, is again state-owned, while Radio Maria is a Catholic channel. You can find many newspapers in English if you want to follow the news while on vacation. The privately owned English newspapers are the Rwanda Herald and The New Times, with the latter being pro-government. The Rwanda Newsline is also in English and owned by the Rwanda Independent Media Group. This company runs another newspaper in Kinyarwanda, by the name of Umuseso.
During your visit, take time to check out the beautiful arts and crafts created by the artisans of Rwanda. They make beautiful additions to your house, or perhaps bring them back as gifts and souvenirs for friends and family at home. Incredibly lovely and as unique as the country, look for carved artifacts, enchanting jewelry, music, and artwork produced by the young local talent. Colorful fabrics with awesome prints represent the culture of Rwanda. Make sure you buy some tea and coffee, which the country is famous for. While you may be tempted to shop in the boutique store at the camp, hotel, or lodge where you are staying for the duration of your trip, try to resist. Small markets and stores run by the artisans themselves offer an incredible opportunity to dabble in the fun art of bargaining, as well as meet and support the artisans directly. Haggling is an expected activity, and you can often buy goods for less than half the marked price. With that said, keep in mind that the items you purchase likely took months of intricate, hard work; it is important to pay a fair price for them. Endorsing local shops will also help encourage the artisans and their entrepreneurial spirit. Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, has distinct artisan-owned or cooperative stores; be sure to ask your AfricanMecca tour guide to direct you to them. Look for traditional handicrafts like uduseke or nesting baskets, carved wooden creations, paintings, and ceramics. Where possible, ensure you compare the prices of similar goods in the different stores before making your final choice. Visit Kanama, located on the Ruhengeri-Gisenyi road close to Gisenyi, and the store at the national museum in Nyanza, in the Huye District. The villages of Nyakarimbi offer a fascinating art form: paintings created from cow dung. Other interesting stores and galleries include the Tongo Art Gallery, Azizi Life Boutique, Caplaki Handicrafts Cooperative, Christine's Creative Collections, Rwanda Clothing Store, Ivuka Arts Centre, Niyo Art Gallery, and Inema Art Center.
If you intend to smoke while on vacation, inform the consultant at AfricanMecca Safaris at the time of booking your stay in the cities and towns of Rwanda. Where available, your consultant will ensure that the city hotel has the specific smoking rooms for you. Typically, smoking is not permitted in the camps and lodges, and while game driving or trekking in the parks and reserves —Volcanoes, Akagera, Nyungwe, etc. Ask about the designated areas before you light up. You must refrain from smoking in the tents or lodge rooms, since they may also be used by children and non-smokers. If you are in a group or in a public space, avoid smoking and do so only after requesting permission from the people around you.
For physically challenged persons traveling in Rwanda, you will find that most public areas have only the basic facilities. However, when passing through the Kigali International Airport, you will get the assistance you need. When planning your tour, please do inform the consultant at AfricanMecca Safaris and he will make sure to recommend you to hotels, lodges, and camps that can provide for your needs. We can also offer you whatever other assistance you require.
Rwanda falls in a time zone that is 2 hours ahead of GMT, or Greenwich Mean Time, that coincides with United Kingdom standard time. If you are traveling in from New York, you will find that Rwanda is seven hours ahead (six hours during daylight saving time). The country falls within a single time zone, and does not observe daylight saving time.
If you would like to bring your pets with you on vacation in Rwanda, you will need to obtain a clearance permit and pay the applicable fee. Also, make sure that you comply with all the Rwandan health requirements. Very few camps, lodges, hotels or other accommodations allow you to bring pets. It is advisable that you inform your tour consultant at AfricanMecca Safaris so that we can make the necessary arrangements for you.
The Rwandan currency is the Rwandan Franc, in denominations of 500, 1000, 2000, and 5000 notes. The coins come in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100, issued by the central bank, the National Bank of Rwanda. It is recommended that you exchange currency you are carrying with you at the Kigali International Airport, where you will find bank booths and exchange bureaus that are likely to give you a better rate than banks in Kigali city. The airport banks are also open for longer hours than ordinary bank branches elsewhere in the country.
While you may carry different currencies for your travel, bringing the US dollar, UK pound or Euro is the best option. These currencies can be easily exchanged at the various banks in the country. Most hotels, lodges and camps price their accommodations in US dollars. Note that you will be expected to pay the entry fee for your mountain gorilla viewing expeditions in American currency. When on tour, take care to carry US dollars to Rwanda that are dated no earlier than 2004, and make sure they are in good condition, not torn or soiled in any way. Such notes are likely to be accepted without a problem, and you might get a better exchange rate when you exchange dollars in $50 and $100 denominations. Presenting notes in smaller numbers can result in a lower exchange rate. While you can bring credit cards, you may incur a bank service charge of 5% to 10% for using them, and many vendors may not accept credit cards. Only the major hotels may allow you pay by credit card. For any kind of banking services you may need on your vacation, you can visit your preferred bank from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. A few banks are open on Saturday mornings.
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SAFARI PRICES FOR RWANDA
Review individual itineraries and prices of our suggested Rwanda safaris with the option of customizing your Africa tour based on your needs and preferences.
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AFRICA TRIP IDEAS FOR RWANDA
Review experiences available in Rwanda from gorilla treks, photo wildlife safari, hiking, family to honeymoon romantic vacation, beach lakes, cultural & birding tours.
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PARKS & RESERVES IN RWANDA
Review information on wildlife safari parks, reserves and lakes in Rwanda i.e. Volcanoes, Nyungwe Forest, Akagera, Gishwati-Mukura and Lake Kivu
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ACCOMMODATIONS IN RWANDA
Review information on safari lodges and camps, city hotels, lakeside resorts in Rwanda's pristine wilderness, cities, lake beach shores and idyllic forests.
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BEST TIME TO VISIT RWANDA
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RWANDA PRIMATE & GORILLA TREK
Review the opportunity to see the mountain gorillas and golden monkeys of Volcanoes Park and other primates like chimpanzees and colobus monkeys of Nyungwe.
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RWANDA COUNTRY PROFILE
Review country information and travel tips on Rwanda i.e. geography, culture, history, climate, tipping guide, what to pack and wear, entry requirements and more.
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CITY DAY TOURS FOR RWANDA
Review city tour suggestions on full or half day options in Kigali. Experiences can be customized around your vacation travels in Rwanda parks and reserves.
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AFRICAN SAFARI PRICES
Check out safari prices and itineraries for parks and reserves in other African countries e.g. Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Botswana, South Africa, Zambia etc. Namibia, Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe are available on request.
What are our Customers saying about us? READ MORE REVIEWS
I just returned from a month in Africa, specifically Rwanda & Kenya. I am left breathless with my experience. AfricanMecca Safaris coordinated the entire trip for me and left no detail, nothing for me to do.
Carol Bobb - Pennsylvania, United States
Rwanda was amazing. The accommodations, food, and guides AfricanMecca arranged were great. Raza also helped us through the complicated process of getting permits for gorilla trekking. AfricanMecca is a fantastic company to work with.
Stephanie Weir - United States
Jambo Altaf and Raza! We are back on earth now after our fabulous honeymoon. This is to say THANK YOU so much for organising a week in Kenya that we will never forget.....!
Dr Krina Zondervan, Oxford University - United Kingdom
Jambo Raza!!! The safari trip was spectacular! Everything went off without a hitch. We loved the Masai Mara. The migration was awesome. You listened to what I wanted and delivered it perfectly.
Judi & Chaim Platt - Toronto, Canada
I cannot say enough about the quality of AfricanMecca. Their teams in Kenya and Tanzania were top notch. Raza, again thanks to you and your entire organization! We will be repeat customers.
Dan Kobick - Managing Director, PricewaterhouseCoopers - New York, United States
AfricanMecca Safaris offers incredibly knowledgeable and skilled services! Our travel arrangements for 2 months of volunteering with TEACH Rwanda in country were made quickly and economically. Honored to work with Raza!
Janet Brown - TEACH Rwanda Founder - United States
This is to let you know my guests, The Bryant's, had a wonderful time on the trip Samburu, Masai Mara/Kenya, Chobe/Botswana & Victoria Falls/Zambia. Everything was perfect! Thank you..
Christine Milan - MT Carmel Travel - Connecticut, United States
EAST AFRICA SAFARI BOOKING & TOUR HOLIDAY IDEA RWANDA
When visiting Rwanda, we recommend combining your Kigali visit with a gorilla safari in Volcanoes Park, Nyungwe and Akagera. You may optionally extend out to other wilderness areas of Gishwati-Mukura ending with a beach vacation at Lake Kivu or even extending out to the exotic spice island of Zanzibar or Lamu, or even Mombasa.READ MORE
TRAVEL PLANNING GUIDE FOR RWANDA
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