Rwanda

Rwanda is a small country located in Central Africa but officially part of the East African Community. Commonly known as the “The Land of Thousand Hills” Rwanda is an upcoming destination on the African continent. The country is popular for hosting a third of the total remaining population of the mountain gorillas in the world. Becoming a famous destination for mountain gorilla trekking, Rwanda is one of the 3 African countries that inhabit the critically endangered mountain gorillas (apes featured in the movie – “Gorillas in the Mist”) in Volcanoes National Park. It is only in this park together with Bwindi Forest and Mgahinga National Park in Uganda, and the Virunga National Park in congo, where travelers can see the endangered mountain gorillas and there is no such specie in captivity.

Top Things to See in Rwanda

  • The Endangered Mountain Gorillas in Volcanoes National Park
  • The Golden Monkeys in Volcanoes National Park
  • Chimpanzees in Nyungwe Forest
  • Genocide Memorial Sites & Museums – Learn about the 1959 and 1994 Rwanda Genocides

Top Places to Visit

  • Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda – Visit the mountain gorillas in the park
  • Nyungwe Forest National Park
  • Kigali Genocide Memorial site
  • Iby’wachu Village
  • Nyamata Genocide Memorial Site

All About Rwanda

Capital City:

Kigali

Location

The Republic of Rwanda is a land-locked country located in central Africa. It is bordered on the east by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with which it shares the shores of Lake Kivu; on the north by Uganda; on the west by Tanzania; and on the south by Burundi. Rwanda is a small country with an area of 26,338 square kilometers (10,169 square miles). Comparatively, Rwanda is about the size of the state of Maryland. The capital city of Kigali is in the center of the country.

Time

GMT + 2

Population:

11,055,976

Area:

Land area: 9,633 sq mi (24,949 sq km)
Total area: 10,169 sq mi (26,338 sq km)

Climate

The average daytime temperature is around 24°C, except in the higher mountains, which take up a lot of the country, where the range is 10°C to 15°C. Rwanda can be visited at any time of year. The dry season from mid-May to mid-October is easier for tracking mountain gorillas, but the endless hills are barren, a contrast to the verdant greens of the wet season. Peak season for gorilla tracking is July and August; travelling outside this time means it is easier to arrange a permit.

It rains more frequently and heavily in the northeast, where the volcanoes are covered by rainforest. The summit of Karisimbi (4507m), the highest peak in Rwanda, is often covered with sleet or snow.

Language

In addition to the indigenous language of Kinyarwanda, French and English are official languages. French is widely spoken throughout the country. In the capital and other tourist centres, many people speak English.

Economy

Primarily a subsistence agriculture economy, Rwanda nonetheless produces for export some of the finest tea and coffee in the world. Other industries include sugar, fishing and flowers for export.

Hiking and biking

The fine road network, with little traffic, offers wonderful opportunities for long bicycle trips across the verdant hills and valleys. Mountain biking and hiking can be enjoyed on the thousands of kilometres of fine rural trails linking remote villages, criss-crossing the entire country.

Getting Around

Rwanda has possibly the best roads in East Africa. Most visitors who have booked through a tour company will be provided with good private vehicles, usually 4-wheel drive. All of the major centres are connected with local and luxury bus services. Air charter services are available anywhere in the country.

Religions

The majority of Rwandans, about 65%, are Roman Catholic, with another 9% Protestant. Only about 1% of the population is Muslim. About a fourth of Rwandans are adherents of indigenous beliefs. However, these numbers and divisions are not clear cut. Many Rwandans practice both their traditional religion and Christianity at the same time.

Public Holidays

Good Friday and Easter Monday, which fall on variable dates, are recognised in Rwanda. Other public holidays are :
1 January (New Year’s Day);
1 February (National Heroes Day);
7 April (Genocide Memorial Day);
1 May (Labour Day);
1 July (Independance Day);
4 July (National Liberation Day);
15 August (Assumption Day);
1 October (Patriotism Day);
25 December (Christmas Day), and
26 December(Boxing Day).

Currency

The Rwandan Franc (Frw/Rwf) is the legal currency in Rwanda. American Dollars and Euros are accepted in some hotels and restaurants however expect to receive your change in Rwandan Francs.

Geography

Rwanda is a landlocked republic in Equatorial Africa, situated on the eastern rim of the Albertine Rift, a western arm of the Great Rift Valley, on the watershed between Africa’s two largest river systems: the Nile and the Congo. Much of the country’s 26,338 km2 is impressively mountainous, the highest peak being Karisimbi (4,507m) in the volcanic Virunga chain protected by the Volcanoes National Park. The largest body of water is Lake Kivu, but there areother numerous lakes around the country, notably Burera, Ruhondo, Muhazi and Mugesera, some of which have erratic shapes following the contours of the steep mountains that enclose them.

Communication

Rwanda has an excellent cell phone network covering almost the entire country. International phone calls can be made easily. Appropriate SIM cards for the network are readily available everywhere, even in remote towns, and cell phones can be purchased or rented from major shops in Kigali. Most towns of any size will have several Internet cafes and computer centers.

Visa Requirements

All travelers will need a passport valid for at least 90 days following your departure date from Rwanda. However, we strongly recommend traveling with 6 months validity on your passport at all times. 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

Getting to Rwanda

One can fly to Rwanda with SN Brussels, Alliance Express/Alliance Air, Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways, Air Tanzania and Air Burundi. All international flights land at Kanombe Airport which is 10kms away from central Kigali.
Safety and Health
A certificate of yellow-fever vaccination is required. Much of Rwanda lies at too high an elevation for malaria to be a major concern, but the disease is present and prophylactic drugs are strongly recommended. It is advisable not to drink tap water. Bottled mineral water can be bought in all towns. Hospitals are located in all major towns.

Wildlife

Rwanda is home to the vast spectrum of East African wildlife, as well as both classic safariscapes and verdant equatorial rainforest.

Money

The Franc is the official currency of Rwanda. 1 Franc (RWF) = 100 centime. The Rwandan currency is available in both paper Notes and Coins.
Foreign currencies and traveler’s cheques can be exchanged at banks, bureaux de change and airports, railway stations, ports & major hotels in Rwanda at the official exchange rates.
Credit & Debit Cards: American Express, Diners Club, Master Card and Visa are widely accepted in Rwanda. Check with your credit or debit Card Company for details of merchant acceptability in Rwanda. ATMs are widely available.

Traveler Cheques, International traveler’s cheques in Sterling Pounds, Euro, and US Dollars are widely accepted.

Electricity

240 volts AC, 50Hz.

When to visit

Rwanda can be visited throughout the year. Gorilla trekking and other forest walks are less demanding during the drier months. The European winter is the best time for birds, as Palaearctic migrants supplement resident species.

What to wear

Dress codes are informal. Daytime temperatures are generally warm, so bring lots of light clothing, supplemented by light sweaters for the cool evenings and heavier clothing for the Parc des Volcans and Nyungwe. When tracking gorillas, wear sturdier clothing to protect against stinging nettles, and solid walking shoes. A hat and sunglasses provide protection against the sun, and a waterproof jacket may come in handy in the moist mountains.

What to bring

Binoculars will greatly enhance game drives and forest walks, as will a good field guide to East African birds. Bring a camera and an adequate stock of film. Print film is available but transparency film is not. Toiletries and other essentials can be bought in the cities.

Gorilla sightings

Though not formally guaranteed, there are very high chances for meeting the mountain gorillas in the wild. Reports of not seeing them on gorilla treks are extremely not available though there has been a few cases. Gorilla permits cost $500 per person per day and should be applied for well in advance, especially if you plan on traveling during the high tourist season (July and August or over the Christmas holidays).