Rwanda Travel Tips
Rwanda is near the Equator. As a result the climate does not change much and the country can be visited throughout the year. The rainy seasons tend to be from March to April and October to November, but this varies in different areas and it can rain any time of year, especially in the forest and mountainous areas.
Travel can be slower in the rainy season but the views are often better. Gorilla tracking can be muddier but it can certainly be done. In the mountainous areas it is much colder than on the plains and the rainfall is greater. The temperatures on the plains tend to be between 21°C and 30°C and in the mountainous areas they can go down to 10°C in certain months.
So our advice is to travel when it is most convenient and usually the rain, which is often for short periods, is part of the experience. A client may avoid tracking in the "official" rainy season only to find that it pours throughout his visit during another period! For this reason camps and lodges are not closed during the rainy season as they are in savannah countries. It is important to be well equipped at all times and follow your guide’s advice.
A visa is a clearance permitting an individual to proceed to visit another country. Rwandan visas are issued at the country’s Missions/Embassies abroad and also at the Entry/Exit Points such as Kanombe/Kigali airport. Rwandan visas are not required by nationals of many African countries, as well as nationals of Canada, Germany, South Africa, Sweden, UK and USA. Other nationals should check.
A valid passport is mandatory in all cases. Must have enough leafs for visa stamping and monitoring. For a stay not exceeding 6 months, the single-entry visa fee is US$60. The multiple entry visa fee is about US$80. Others who need longer periods, as well as those who require Inland transit and student visa categories should check with their nearest Rwandan embassy.
We are best placed to arrange your transportation – whether you need self-drive or chauffer/guide-driven – we will arrange it for you. We charge a daily rate including fuel, mileage and government taxes. All clients purchasing a full safari or holiday from us need to have their own comprehensive travel insurance. We can also arrange chartered aircraft to various airfields.
Be alert when walking around and carrying anything of value. As in all countries petty theft, including pickpockets, are around in some places. Do not walk around at night unescorted before seeking advice. If possible, never leave your vehicle unattended and never change money on the streets. This is less of a problem in rural areas.
Carry minimum amounts of cash and keep it hidden or in a money belt, if possible. Secure your belongings such as your passport or airline tickets and other valuables and documents; use safe deposit boxes where available. For the most part Rwandans are very friendly and helpful. If in doubt seek local advice. For specific questions on current security conditions please contact us.
Always remember that while some animals have become accustomed to the presence of people they are still wild animals. Keep your distance. It is illegal to feed any animal, make excessive noise to attract their attention, to agitate and scare an animal or deviate from designated roads for that closer photograph. Never get out of your vehicle except at designated points. Close all windows and zippers when you leave your room or tent and spray it with insect repellant.
It is important to note that as tourism is a year-round activity, these holidays do not affect the operations of travel agencies / tour operators, national parks and other tourism-service providers.
The following are public holidays in Rwanda, during which offices, including banks and diplomatic missions, may not open:
- New Years Day (1st Jan)
- Good Friday (variable)
- Easter Monday (variable)
- Democraty’s Day (28 January)
- Genocide Commemoration Day (4 April)
- Labour Day (1st May)
- Independence Day (1 July)
- ‘Kamaramkapa’/Abolition of the monarchy Day (25 September)
- All Saints Day (1 November)
- Christmas Day (25th December)
- Boxing Day (26th December)
- Idd-el-Fitr (variable)
- Iddi Adhuha (variable)
Before taking pictures of people it polite to ask. Photographs should not be taken of people or religious ceremonies without their consent. Photography of the airport or strategic buildings, military installations and soldiers is NOT allowed.
Bring sufficient films, including fast film for gorilla tracking and batteries although these can readily be bought in Kigali. Only print film and processing is available in Kigali, not slide. Keep your cameras in a dust resistant, padded case and out of the midday sun. A 200mm (or longer) telephoto lens will prove very useful on safari. Commercial photographers should consult the Ministry of Information for a permit.
Clients are advised not to carry too much money around. Our safaris are all-inclusive and except for tipping, buying souvenirs and a few meals in towns, there may be nothing else in relation to your safari that you need to buy. It is best to budget for around US$30-50 a day as a reasonable minimum.
The Rwandan Official Currency is the Rwandan Franc (RWF). Coins in this currency are in the following denominations: 10, 20, 50, 100; and notes in some of the following denominations: 500, 1000, 5000, 10000 in circulation concurrently with British Pounds Sterling, US Dollars, German Marks (rare), Swiss Franks (rare), French Francs, Euro, Japanese Yen (rare), SA Rand notes.
There are no restrictions on importation or exportation of currency into or out of Rwanda although any monies over US$. 5000 have to be declared to customs officials. It is best to consult your guide for advice on the licensed and trustworthy money exchange agents. Individual Agents and forex bureaus will gladly exchange.
It is safest to carry US Dollars. When changing travellers cheques a valid passport may be required, and the exchange rate for these could be less than that for real money notes. Some agencies may ask for your Sales Advice Slip. It is also important to note that small denomination bills of US$1, 5, 10, and 20 are changed at a substantially reduced rate, as are torn and soiled notes. This can be as much as a 5% difference or more.
Only a few hotels and banks in Kigali will accept credit cards. Most of the bigger banks and hotels will advance local currency against a credit card. The most commonly accepted credit cards are VISA, MASTER CARD, DINNER'S & AMERICAN EXPRESS.