Rwanda is a small country located in Central Africa; it is bordered by Tanzania to the East, Uganda to the North, DR Congo in the west and Burundi in the south. It is a very beautiful country comprised of very many hills and that is why it is regarded as “the land of a thousand hills”. Rwanda lies a few degrees south of the Equator, it is also a land locked country just like her neighbor Uganda with her capital city named “Kigali” also regarded as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Basically most parts of the country are found at higher altitudes with the lowest altitude at 950m which is Rusizi River.
The country is densely populated, it is also ranked among the densely populated countries in Africa. There are a lot of tourist attractions ranging from National parks, hills, vegetation, rivers, the city, villages to lakes. There are many lakes found here such as Lake Kivu which is a fresh water lake hence activities like fishing, swimming, beach sports can be done; other lakes include Ihema, Muhazi, Burera, Rweru, Ruondo among others.
How to get there
There is one international airport in Rwanda known as Kigali International Airport located about 10km away from Kigali’s business center; this is a get way to enter Rwanda by international flights. There are different airlines available to get to Rwanda such as Kenya Airways, SN Brussels, Rwanda Air, Air Burundi, and Ethiopian Airlines.
Also the country can be accessed by Road using buses or private cars; from countries like Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and DR Congo. It is approximately a 9 hour drive from Kampala-Uganda to Kigali.
When to Travel
Rwanda is one of the countries that can be visited anytime of the year and this is dependent on the visitor’s interests and where he wants to go in the country. But for visitors who want to do Gorilla tracking, hikes, birding and game drives; they are advised to visit during the dry season since all areas and activities can be visited and done without any disturbances; this is between June and Mid-September. Activities like Chimpanzee tracking can be enjoyed in the wet season because the grass is greener and the chimpanzees are near and easily accessed, this season has shorter rains between mid-September and mid-December and longer rains between March and May.
People, culture and beliefs
The country is made up of 3 groups of people such as the Twa, Tutsi and the Hutu. The Twa is the least group of people with a population of 1%, the Tutsi with 15% and the Hutu are the biggest dominating group of people with a population of about 84%. People who live in Rwanda are locally regarded as “Banyarwanda” with a single cultural heritage and language.
Kinyarwanda is the local Bantu language and the National language, about 10% of the population speaks French, and a few speak English especially in towns like Kigali and tourist centers.
Visa requirements and Passports
Travelers visiting Rwanda are required to have a visa and a passport. Some visitors from countries like Senegal, Benin, Sao Tome and Principe, Ghana, Singapore, Guinea, Haiti, Chad, Philippines, Indonesia, DRC, Mauritius, and Central African Republic may visit the country without a Visa for a period of 90 days due to bilateral agreements.
Those from EAC are issued with a 6 months visitor’s pass that is given at no fee upon arrival; it can be renewed.
Nationals of countries like Sweden, Israel, United Kingdom, Germany, USA, New Zealand, and Australia are required to have a Visa valid for 30 days and can buy it upon arrival at US$30.
It is important to keep inquiring about and checking with your local Rwanda Embassy about the latest rules and regulations.
Every tourist should be in good health conditions before he/she plans a safari to Rwanda. Anti-malarial and other vaccinations are necessary before one departs. A yellow fever card is a must; while in Rwanda you are not supposed to drink tap water only bottled recommended water can be drunk and it is provided free of charge by your tour operator. A first aid kid is also advised to be carried, self-medication is not advisable before doctor’s report. Sleep in a mosquito net especially when it is provided especially while on safari.
Christianity is the largest belief in Rwanda where by around 60% of the population are Catholics, 30% Protestants, with a number of Pentecostal, Baptist, Anglican, Seventh Day Adventist, Methodists, Presbyterian churches. The remaining 10% is for other beliefs; most people still believe in indigenous traditional healing.
What to wear
Casual light weighted clothes are worn all year round; with a sweater or jacket especially during cold mornings and evenings. Heavier clothes are recommended while in National parks like Nyungwe and Volcanoes, while tracking gorillas it’s necessary to have sturdy shoes, long sleeved trousers, rain coats just in case it rains, sunglasses and huts for protection from the sun. Water proof cameras are essential; also binoculars, are recommended especially during bird watching, nature walks and game drives.
Forms of payment and Banking
The local currency for Rwanda are Francs. Credit cards are allowed especially at large lodges and hotels. Also note that Rwanda banks generally open from Monday to Friday from 0800hours to 1700hours and also on Saturdays from 0800hours to 1200hours. They include; Stanbic bank, Equity bank, Eco Bank among others
Local time and Public holidays
Rwanda is ahead of the Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) by two hours (+2).
About the Public holidays, the country has a number of them and it is important for the tourists to mark and know them;
• 1 January-New Year’s Day
• 1 February-National Heroes day
• 7 April-Genocide Memorial day
• 1 May-Labour’s day
• 1 July-National Liberation
• 15 August-Assumption Day
• 1 October-patriotism Day
• 25 December-Christmas Day
• 26 December Boxing Day
• The other days regarded as public holidays are Good Friday and Easter Monday among others of which their dates vary