Rwanda has over the years established itself as one of the top tourist destinations in Africa and is blessed with some of the most unique tourist attractions, including the rare mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park. Gorilla trekking in Rwanda is partly why the country received so many visitors every year that also enjoy the abundant wildlife as well as other scenic features. This Rwanda travel guide is meant to help you better prepare for your safaris in Rwanda to ensure that you enjoy every moment of your stay in this land of a thousand hills.
Rwanda Travel Guide:
By the 17th century Tutsis had established a kingdom in present-day Rwanda where Hutus, Tutsis and Twa were living. Rwanda became part of German East Africa in 1899. After World War I, it came under Belgian administration under a League of Nations mandate. After World War II, Rwanda continued to be administered by Belgium. In 1961 the monarchy was abolished and Rwanda became a republic, gaining independence from Belgium in 1962. In 1994, Rwanda suffered a horrible genocide that claimed the lives of close to a million people. The country has had steady progress since then and is now one of the fastest growing and safest countries in Africa.
Agriculture dominates Rwanda’s economy and contributes 40% of GDP and occupies 90% of the workforce. Mostly subsistence farming is practiced in Rwanda, with little surplus. Cash crops such as tea and coffee do generate foreign revenue as does mining for rare metals but tourism is the greatest foreign exchange earner in Rwanda.
People & Culture
With over 12 million people in a relatively small land area, Rwanda is one of the most densely populated countries in Africa. Rwanda’s population density is among the highest in Sub-Saharan Africa at 230 inhabitants per square kilometre (600/sq mi). The indigenous population largely consists of three ethnic groups; The Hutus who comprise the majority of the population are farmers of Bantu origin, the Tutsis are a pastoral people who arrived in the area in the 15th century and the Twa who make up about 1% of the population.
Rwanda has got a young population, majority of whom are Catholics with Protestants close behind. Music and dance dominate the cultural scene and there is a strong oral tradition ranging from poetry to folk stories.
Landscape & Wildlife
Rwanda is a landlocked country located in East Africa, with volcanoes, various mountain ranges and is widely known as the “land of a thousand hills” due to the hilly nature of most of the land. Rwanda is located in East Africa at the heart of one of the most bio-diverse environments in the world and much of the hill country and grasslands have been turned over to terraced agriculture. Rwanda has got three major national parks, namely Volcanoes National Park which is home to a good number of the rare mountain gorillas and one of most visited national parks in the country due to the popular Rwanda gorilla trekking tours, Nyungwe Forest National Park which is popular for Rwanda Chimpanzee Tracking Tours as well as sightings of various black and white colobus monkeys. A canopy walk in Nyungwe Forest National Park gives visitors panoramic views of thick forest and great sightings of bird species. Akagera National Park is home to the most animal species including, lions, elephants, zebras, kobs, giraffes among many others.
Gorilla Trekking Permits
In order to take in part in gorilla trekking in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, you need a gorilla trekking permit which issued by the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and goes for 1,500USD. Gorilla trekking permits are usually on a high demand and therefore it is important to secure your permit well in time before you start your gorilla trekking safari in Rwanda.
Money & Spending
Rwanda’s unit of currency is the Rwandan franc (RWF) but we recommend that you bring US dollars (post-2013 bills only) or euros in cash (traveller’s cheques usually attract poor exchange rates). Do any necessary banking in Kigali as few opportunities exist outside the capital – bureaux de change establishments usually offer the best exchange rates. Credit cards such as MasterCard and VISA are accepted in some of the upmarket hotels and restaurants in Kigali but not in many other places.
Tipping is not compulsory in Rwanda and it is neither customary in most places of this East African country. Visitors choose to give tips depending on services rendered to them especially in high end restaurants and hotels and the amount given depends on your ability but is usually about 10% of the final bill. During gorilla trekking, tipping will be greatly appreciated and amounts vary depending on the size of your group and the level of assistance required.
Rwanda has a temperate tropical highland climate, with lower temperatures that are typical for equatorial countries due to its high elevation. There are some temperature variations across the country; the mountainous west and north are generally cooler than the lower-lying east. There are two rainy seasons in the year. Average year-round temperatures are about 12°C / 54°F to 27°C / 81°F. Rainy seasons are from March to April and October to mid-December. Dry seasons are from June to September and late December to February.
What to Pack
Rwanda is a generally hilly country and if you plan to take part in tourist activities such gorilla trekking, then you need to be prepared and well equipped. What to pack on your Rwanda safari should therefore include; long trousers, long socks or gaiters over your trousers, long-sleeved tops, a pair of light gloves to protect against nettles, a hat, a raincoat, comfortable hiking boots, sunscreen, insect repellent, binoculars among other things.
Flights & Getting Around
A good number of airlines fly to Kigali, Rwanda and these include; Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways, Brussels Airlines, Egypt Air, Turkish Airlines, KLM among others. RwandAir, the national airline carrier for Rwanda is also a great choice and runs direct flights from the UK to Kigali. Rwanda is a relatively small country and as such, most tourist destinations in the country are about 4 hours drive from each other. Moving around the country is usually done in 4×4 safari vehicles. You can also take a helicopter flight with Akagera Aviation that will take you straight to Akagera National Park, Nyungwe Forest National Park and Volcanoes National Park as you enjoy panoramic views of this land of a thousand hills.
Visas & Passports
To visit Rwanda, you need a passport valid for at least six months. Visas are required by everyone except citizens of USA, UK, Canada, Germany, Sweden, Hong Kong, Kenya and South Africa. Multiple-entry tourist visas can be purchased from your nearest Rwandan embassy or consulate. Visas are valid for three months and can usually be extended in Kigali on a month-by-month payment basis. For more about Rwanda Visa Requirements, feel free to contact us at any time.