Written by Lindsay Krause
Traveling to Rwanda might seem daunting for newcomers in East Africa and no one wants to be out of the loop when it comes to travel documentation, permits and logistics. Don’t fear, we have put together a concise guide of Rwanda travel tips alongside our on-the-ground partners in East Africa to ensure that you are up to date with the latest news in Rwanda travel.
Rwanda, the Land of a Thousand Hills, invites you to explore its ever changing landscapes, from rocky mountain terrains, dense bamboo forests, striking volcanoes and vast savannah plains. Rich in biodiversity, Rwanda offers a variety of wildlife experiences from luxury gorilla trekking through the bamboo forests of the Volcanoes National Park to spotting some members of the Big 5 in Akagera National Park. Yes, Rwanda has a tainted history of genocide, but the country and its wildlife are flourishing with the rise of tourism each year and it’s imperfections are all part of the charm. Before embarking on an adventure of a lifetime, read up on our Ker & Downey® Africa Rwanda safari tips.
Most foreign nationals require a visa for Rwanda and they are easily attainable at the Rwanda High Commissions and Embassies abroad. No embassy in your country? Don’t fret, you can apply for a visa on arrival prior to your travels. If you carry a passport from Canada, USA, Germany, Hong Kong, United Kingdom, Sweden and several Africa countries, you can enter Rwanda visa free for a period of up to 90 days.
It is very important to visit the clinic for your anti-malaria medication and yellow fever vaccination prior to your Rwanda safari. Make sure to carry your yellow fever certificate for proof of vaccination at the airport if you’re traveling from an affected area. We also recommend investing in travel and health insurance before your trip, just to be on the safe side.
Rwanda has 4 official languages. The indigenous language of Rwanda is Kinyarwanda, but French, Swahili and English are widely spoken throughout the country. You can expect all of our drivers and guides in Rwanda to be fluent in English.
With the rise of tourism in Rwanda, infrastructure around the country has greatly improved. Rwanda boasts the best roads in East Africa and major centers are connected with local and luxury bus services. Public transport not for you? Our Ker & Downey Africa® Adventurists ensure that you are always transported by private 4×4 vehicles and private air charters when traveling with us.
The official currency in Rwanda is the Rwandan Franc, but the US dollar is widely accepted around the country. You’ll need RWF* to pay for smaller purchases, food and transport, so make sure to visit a forex bureau in major towns to exchange some of your USD to RWF. On a side note, Mastercards are far more widely allowed than Visa. Make sure to check what card your hotel accepts to avoid any mishaps.
Worried about being disconnected? Don’t be! Rwanda has excellent network coverage and local data sim cards can be purchased everywhere. However, don’t get too hopeful on the Wi-Fi front, as most cafes and restaurants do not have it available yet. On second thoughts, this might also be the perfect “excuse” to go off-the-grid for a couple of days and truly switch off from your busy lives back home. Why not give it a try?
To protect the delicate ecosystem that houses the gorillas, the Rwandan government only leases 80 gorilla trekking permits per day. Make sure to procure a gorilla trekking permit for your desired travel dates as soon as your travel plans are finalized. However, you cannot change the date once you’ve obtained your permit and will need to purchase a new permit if you are unable to go on your prearranged date. If you book your luxury gorilla trekking trip to Rwanda through Ker & Downey® Africa, we arrange your gorilla trekking permit as part of our service to you (perks!).
Note: Make sure to pack in a good pair of hiking shoes and a rain jacket for sporadic showers.
The best time to go gorilla trekking in Rwanda is during the dry seasons between the months of December to March, and June to September each year. Not only will the terrain be easier to navigate, but it will be much easier to spot the gorillas hidden within the bamboo forests. However, weather in Rwanda is notoriously unpredictable so make sure to pack a raincoat and waterproof hiking gear.
Whether you’re traveling to see mountain gorillas in the forests of Volcanoes National Parks or taking your Rwanda safari to Akagera National Park, Rwanda invites visitors to explore its unique landscapes mindfully, making it an up-and-coming ecotourism destination. Find out more about traveling in Rwanda by contacting one of our Ker & Downey® Africa Adventurists or check out our Rwanda luxury safari trips here.
Want to read more on Gorilla Trekking? Download our complimentary Guide to Gorilla Trekking.