Likes & Dislikes

Opinions

“Though locals try to avoid talking to tourists about the appalling events which happened here in 1994, the visitor has trouble putting from his mind what he has read. A visitor to Rwanda will experience an African world at once impoverished and somehow idyllic, with friendly, peaceful inhabitants. It’s simply impossible to imagine how such barbarism could have happened so recently.” (B.R. 2015)


-----------------------------
 
“In the capital, there are modern buildings and good quality hotels, and the roads are in good condition. Of course, once you get out into the countryside and off the main roads, you drive down dirt tracks through the jungle to places with no infrastructure whatsoever, where people live in huts with earth floors, getting up and going to bed with the rising and setting of the sun.

Rwanda is a beautiful country, called the ‘Land of a Thousand Hills’ on account of its varied geography. We drove all across the country, and hardly saw a single square foot of land lying fallow: everywhere they were growing corn, bananas, potatoes or tea.” (2017)

----------------------------
 
 
The first things that struck me were the order and cleanliness, and the silence. I was happy with the former because I was tired of the constant chaos of other countries, but a knowledge of history made the latter more depressing. Both aspects were true all across the country, giving it a totally different atmosphere to other African countries I’ve been to.

Quietness is characteristic of life here – they don’t listen to loud music in the street, don’t yell at passing acquaintances, form orderly lines rather than a rowdy mass, and the modern cars and motorbike aren’t noisy (of the latter for some reason there seemed to be only one brand on the roads).

Of the people we met and talked to, for some reason everyone seemed to have relatives exclusively among the victims of the violence, though I don’t suppose anyone would tell a complete stranger that he or his father was a murderer. The driver of our hire car was a child at that time and survived the massacre in the hotel we know as Hotel Rwanda, thanks to the film based on the events that took place. We stayed in the same hotel, but there were no memorials or reminders, just the usual silence. Still, I’d gladly recommend this country to anyone looking for its beauty, peace, and order. A little slice of Switzerland in Africa.” (D. T. 2016)

-----------------------

“Somehow the name still has strange vibes. Even today, 17 years after the infamous massacre in which nearly a million people lost their lives. Rwanda still has a sort of scary feeling to it. Where such an event was possible, anything is possible. The curiosity that drove me there was accompanied by more than a little fear, but I can't deny that I wanted to experience the dazzling volcanic world of the Virunga Mountains, experience today's Rwanda, and meet children who, like me, only know at second hand of all the horrors that took place before their birth, but also to see the people who experienced or even participated in the horrors.

It would have been good to talk to people about whether, after all these years, the events of that time were a topic among them at all, or whether the survivors buried the horrors they had experienced, but I didn’t have much of a chance to do so. I had no idea how much of a taboo it was, or whether it was possible to talk to anyone about it... During my stay there I did not see any signs of any scary or frightening things, but the constant alarm of my Ugandan companion that the Rwandans might at any moment reach for their machetes, planted a sort of bug in my ear. So, Rwanda. Incredible place. In at least one respect, at any rate. Anyone who has been to other African or poorer Asian countries may have become accustomed to the sight of garbage piled everywhere. And I mean everywhere. In front of houses, on the street, in the canals... everywhere.

Well, Rwanda is like walking in Austria. People told me before I went that at the border they would take all the plastic bags out of my rucksack, and that I’d only be allowed in with paper bags. This didn’t happen, but the fact is, there is no rubbish in Rwanda. NONE. Such astonishing levels of purity and orderliness are experienced only when crossing the Austrian border. Village poverty is appalling, as in Uganda, but flowers bloom even in front of the last hovel in the village, and there’s no litter anywhere. Almost unbelievable. The roads are surprisingly good, and every last foot of viable land is cultivated.”




Practicals

Transport

Roads from Kigali to the other major cities (Rubavu, Musanze, Huye, and Muhanga) are in good condition.

Share taxis and motorcycle taxis are the most common means of public transport. These are the ones that cause and to suffer most of the accidents.

Avoid entering Rwanda on land from DR Congo. Border crossings do not operate continuously.

------------------------

There is no train service in Rwanda. However, there is a domestic flight to the southern part of Lake Kivu, to Cyangugu (and maybe to Rubavu/Gisenyi, I don't know that now, but due to the new conflict with the Congo, they haven't flown to Goma in Congo on the border since then).

For those who use a non-local service provider to go everywhere, the primary means of transport between cities are the many minibusses and share taxis. There are also more modern long-distance buses on the market (Ritco).

Public transport is quite cheap, but using them is very time-consuming. Rwanda is a dense, hilly, and mountainous country with single-lane roads, which means that a truck, e.g., can slow the traffic for a long duration. Everyone should be prepared that a 60 km journey can easily take 2-3 hours, depending on the traffic. Within the city and smaller villages, there are non-share taxis, which can also be called on an application (theoretically, as they have never responded to my request).  But when I signal them, they usually take me a few kilometers for a price equivalent to 1 USD and negotiate based on the distance. There is a range of fares based on some distance, but no one should take these as a basis for a verbal agreement. (j.p., 2022)







Rwanda - free riders - y.m. photo

Accomodation

You can find cheap accommodation of excellent quality. In Kigali or other larger cities (e.g., at Lake Kivu), there are some costly 4-star hotels or guesthouses. I recommend the guesthouses, where a white visitor (a mzungu) is a minor sensation for the locals. (j.p., 2022)


Food

In restaurants, tipping is not expected but welcome.

Rwanda - lunch - y.y. photo

Shopping

2022: US dollar and the euro are widelí accepted. Do not try some exotic foreign currencies. I reccomend using USD. There are several money changers in Kigali here and there. In larger cities, you can change money at banks. Changing money is pretty simple; you even get a receipt. I also used  ATM several times, the cash withdrawal was OK with a Revolut card (in local francs, from dollars, this is important!), or in larger, Western-style shops, payment at the cashier is also possible.
You must rely on cash payment in smaller, rural settlements or locations.  


Rwanda - souvenirs - b.r. photo

Rwanda - top souvenir items - y.m. photo

Fun

Rwanda is not a destination for tourists who very much look for nightlife. There are not many nightclubs. 

Rwanda - dancers - y.m. photo

Rwanda - football - y.m. photo

Public safety

Rwanda is basically a safe tourist destination. In the capital city, the areas frequented by tourists are secure. The terrorist threat is on a low level.
Tourists are rarely a victim of mugging; it still may happen. Avoid walking alone at night.

Avoid areas close to the border with DR Congo.

------------------------

2022: Rwanda is a safe country that even tourists with no prior African travel experience can easily manage. Locals kept telling me about their country's safety; my experience confirmed what they said. Both the big cities and the countryside proved to be safe. You can even walk safely at night. But, of course, essential prudence is still needed. 

Locals were always friendly to me. They seem to be motivated to show the visitors that the horror of 1994 has nothing to do with the presence. People are also aware of how vital tourism income is for their country.

It is not a fundamental safety issue, but I would like to mention that you will see a lot of beggars, many of whom are children. But many kids will approach you for simple curiosity. Some locals initiate small talk with you but sooner or later come to the point of asking for some money. Luckily no one was over intrusive. Of course, some visitors may feel it becoming a milking cow.

Dangerous animals: There are a lot of dangerous animals in Rwanda - in national parks, that is, you can run into them only under controlled/supervised conditions, mainly lions, elephants, crocodiles, and hippopotamuses here. In addition, the country is full of dangerous venomous snakes - I saw two snakes passing; they were also in a national park, from a distance, as they were about to escape. Of course, you must take it seriously during walks in the countryside so that you can run into such things. In that case, according to the general advice, you should wait for them to go away from you because they are more afraid of you than you are of them. Aggressive snakes are only in the Akagera park, but the guides know how to avoid an encounter.

(j.p., 2022)






Rwanda - body search - y.m. photo

Health

In Rwanda, it is illegal to burn trash when dealing with waste. It is taken very seriously.

--------------------

Vaccinations and "exotic" diseases: currently, there are no mandatory vaccinations for entry from us, and yellow fever is only required if you come from a country with such a classification.

I have all kinds of vaccinations with one or two exceptions, so I only had to prepare for malaria and sleeping sickness (in addition to the usual triumvirate of diarrhea-headache-epithelial injury). The latter is active primarily in the southern and eastern parts of the country, e.g., in the Akagera National Park, where I was, but I was not bitten by a tsetse fly (only a different kind, which is harmless from this point of view).

As a matter of fact, I didn't see or hear many mosquitoes (they are exterminated in Kigali as well), so I stopped taking Malarone after a week. I sprayed on repellents and slept under a net. That was taken seriously everywhere in the accommodation, and it is better not to leave the window open at night, even with a mosquito net.
I talked to someone whose friend was hospitalized with malaria because he somehow got a bite at night, so it's worth paying attention to that, and of course, even taking pills to prevent it (which I didn't do). Of course, there were two or three nights when I was alarmed that a mosquito was buzzing under my net :), which somehow "got stuck" when I let it down, this can be pretty frustrating, but apart from the one bite above, I didn't have any such problems. So from this point of view, Rwanda is a lucky country; the basic hygiene rules should be followed (anyway).

Water: tap water can be filtered from the tap in larger cities and many other accommodations but is not recommended for consumption. As I was told at a slightly higher category accommodation I booked at Lake Kivu, even there the system is not guaranteed to be closed, so it is still true that apparently, clean water can be dangerous due to invisible microbes, and bacteria, etc. I used water purification tablets to regularly drink tap water in Rwanda so that I wouldn't have to buy so much bottled water (in addition, there are very few places where there are trash cans in public areas). I didn't have any problems like that; obviously, I don't know if it was due to the water purification tablet or if it wouldn't have happened anyway. I don't want to exaggerate; obviously, everyone has to make their own responsible decision. (j.p., 2022)




Rwanda - outhouse - minimalist design - y.y. photo

Others

1. Rwanda has relaxed visa regulations. You can get a vista without prior application. At the international airport, the visa fee is 30 USD for a stay max. 30 days and the procedure lasts no longer than 10 minutes.

Background

Destination in brief

Rwanda is a landlocked country in Central/Eastern Africa. Neighbors: Democratic Republic of the Congo (west), Uganda (north), Tanzania (east), Burundi (south).

Size: 26,338 km² (10,169 mi²)

Capital city: Kigali

Population (2020): 12.9 million

Languages: Kinyarvanda, a native language is the most widely spoken. KInyarvanda, French, English and Swahili are the official languages

Religions: 94% Christian, 57% are Catholic, 26% are Protestant, and 11% are Seventh-Day Adventists.

Currency: Rwandan franc (RWF)

Average net monthly salary (in 2020): 290 USD

84% of Rwanda’s labor force is female!

Most common surname: Uwimana

In 2019, 1,7 million tourists visited Rwanda.

April is the worst choice to visit Rwanda (the wettest month, plus sad commemoration of the 1994 genocide)

Rwanda - locals - y.m. photo

Rwanda - school girls - y.m. photo

Geography


Climate

Rwanda has a mild climate due to its location. Average temperatures don't fluctuate much throughout the year, still strongly depend on the altitude of a given area of ​​the country. There is a dry period between June and September. The heat is moderate all year round. The rainy season is from March to May or February to April.

History

Rwanda suffered a terrible genocide in 1994. The lives of more than one million lost their lives during that tragedy.

Nowadays

Rwanda is a flawed democracy. President Paul Kagame leads an authoritarian government. He has been in office for the last 20 years. Press freedom and freedom of speech are severely restricted. Some observers compare Rwanda to the story of Singapore. Authorianism is the price that Rwandans pay for stability, economic development. 

Rwanda - carrying drinking water - y.m. photo

Rwanda - j.k. photo

Rwanda - market life - j.k. photo

People

With a life expectancy of 69 years, it is the fifth-best in Sub-Saharan Africa, ranking just behind Mauritius, Seychelles, Mauritius, Sao Tome, and Principe, and Cape Verde (2020).

Rwandans drink a lot of fresh milk and beer.

English is widely spoken in larger cities, and young people do speak English even in the countryside. After all, English has been one of the official languages in the country for some time. However, I had to communicate in the villages by pointing with my hands or trying some broken French.

Rwanda - woman - b.r. photo

Rwanda - young men - y.y. photo

Rwanda - locals - y.m. photo

Rwanda - locals - y.m. photo

Rwanda - locals - y.m. photo

Rwanda - young woman - y.m. photo

Tourist etiquette

1. Don't litter in Rwanda, which is one of the cleanest African countries.  Locals are disciplined in this matter.

2. Locals are very friendly to foreign visitors. Do not disappoint them with any inappropriate behavior.
Behave modestly, restrainedly, because Rwandans hate when a foreign visitor behaves arrogantly.

3. When talking to locals, avoid criticizing the President, the government, the country.

4. Don't bring polythene bags in Rwanda because there, the use of paper bags is preferred. Plastic bags are banned in Rwanda.

5. Don't try corrupt police officers or any other officials. Corruption in Rwanda is not common.

6. Rwandans do not eat in the streets. Fast-food culture is more or less non-existent. You can seldom see locals eating in public places. Respect their culture and go indoors if you want to eat something.

7. By no means, ask if someone belongs to the Hutu or Tutsi ethnicity. That is a too delicate subject. Note that among Rwandans, talking about “Hutuness” or “Tutsiness” is a huge taboo.

Gastronomy

x

Rwanda - beef meat with ugali (maize flour porridge) - y.y. photo

Attractions

Kigali

Genocide Memorial Centre

Kandt House Museum of Natural History

Rwanda - Kigali - j.k. photo

Rwanda - Kigali - modern - y.y. photo

Rwanda - Kigali - j.k. photo

Gorilla trekking

Options: Akagera National Park or Volcanoes National Park

We recommend the Volcanoes NP.

Trekking costs between 1000-1500 USD/person.

Kigali's distance to the Volcanoes National Park (in the northern part of the country) is 107km, 2,20 hours by car, on a good road.


Akagera National Park

Nyungwe Forest

Gisenyi at Lac Kivu

King’s Palace Museum

Volcanoes National Park


"There aren't many tourists in Rwanda, except at the Volcanoes National Park (Parc National des Volcans), where for a hefty fee you can go on mountain-gorilla-watching trips. The price is the same in Uganda or Congo, $500, but I don't know how crowded those places are. I know that in Uganda, all the spots are booked for months in advance, as the number of people who can get close to a gorilla in one day is minimal. I'm sorry I didn't ask about it now, just out of curiosity, but I guess the money is a big temptation, especially when you're talking $500 per head. Still, I imagine there's no corruption here (either) since even at the Rwandan border, giant billboards are advertising the absence of corruption in the country. In any event, in the national park, as on the Ugandan side of the volcanoes, in the Mgahinga National Park, one should not go hiking without a guide and permit, but there are many opportunities to explore the volcanoes, even leaving aside gorilla spotting.
 
My plan was, as a warm-up, to climb Bisoke (or Visoke) volcano, which boasts a miraculously beautiful crater lake, and then tackle the highest volcano, Karisimbi, which rises to an altitude of 4507 meters. Unfortunately, an unplanned stomach upset and a day or two of torture in bed derailed my plan, but no matter, Karisimbi still awaits me, hopefully in less humid weather. And fortunately, Bisoke Volcano showed itself, so my trip to Rwanda was not in vain. At last, after my two days of recovery, we managed by a detour to get to the magnificent Lake Kivu and bathe in it. Unfortunately, I couldn't make a larger tour of Rwanda because at the border, I only managed to get across after some unpleasantness, and they stamped my passport with a kind of entry visa, which meant I had to leave by the same crossing I came in at. So that was all I got to see. But it was still something."


Related posts

Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.