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Know Before You Go


Rwanda

Know Rwanda before safariRwanda 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 26,338km2 is impressively mountainous, the highest peak being Karisimbi (4,507m) in the volcanic Virunga chain protected by the Parc des Volcans. The largest body of water is Lake Kivu, but numerous other lakes are dotted 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. Rwanda is the most densely populated country in Africa.

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS

All visitors require a valid passport, return air tickets, travel and medical insurance. All foreign nationals except those from other East African countries, Australia, Canada, Germany, United Kingdom and the USA need a visa to visit Rwanda. Visas can be arranged upon arrival. Note: Please check with your nearest Rwanda Consulate for up to date information for other than US citizens. 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. If you have any questions regarding inoculations, please discuss with your local health organization or personal physician.

DEPARTURE TAX

For those passengers flying out of Rwanda, there is a US$40 international departure tax that must be paid direct.

CURRENCY

The unit of currency is the Rwanda franc. The US dollar is the hard currency of preference. It may be impossible to exchange travelers' checks outside the capital city and we do not recommend relying on your credit card as a form of payment. Travelers’ checks may be exchanged on arrival at Kigali Airport. Banking hours are 9:00am-2:00pm Monday to Friday. Check with your credit card company for details of merchant acceptability and other facilities, which may be available. For the most part only cash can be changed once on safari (larger bills attract a better rate of exchange and cash attracts a much better rate than travelers’ checks). US dollars cash must be dated 2000 or later and must be in good condition. Visitors are strongly advised against changing money on the black market.

CLIMATE

A combination of tropical location and high altitude ensures that most of Rwanda has a temperate year-round climate. Temperatures rarely rise above 86 degrees Fahrenheit by day or below 59 degrees Fahrenheit at night throughout the year. The exceptions are the chilly upper slopes of the Virunga Mountains, and the hot, low-lying Tanzania border area in Akagera National Park. Throughout the country, seasonal variations in temperature are relatively insignificant. Most parts of the country receive in excess of 1,000mm of precipitation annually, with the driest months being July to September and the wettest February to May. Rwanda can be visited throughout the year. Gorilla tracking and other forest walks are less demanding during the drier months. The northern hemisphere winter is the best time for birds, as Palaearctic migrants supplement resident species.

WATER

It is advisable not to drink tap water. Bottled mineral water can be bought in all towns. Water used for drinking, brushing teeth or making ice should first be boiled or otherwise sterilized – or we suggest bottled water be consumed.

ELECTRICITY

The electricity supply is 240V AC, 50 Hz and plugs are square 3-pin so ensure you pack an adapter if you need one.

COMMUNICATIONS

Rwanda has an excellent cell phone network covering almost the entire country. Please note that this is a GSM network, different from that used in the USA. 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.

TIME ZONE

Greenwich Mean Time + 3 hours throughout the year.

RECOMMENDED TIPPING

Driver/guides $5 per client per day
Camps and lodges $2 to 3 per client per night
Gorilla trekking guides and trackers $10 per client per trek
Baggage porters at hotels/lodges $2 per client per stay

We suggest you tip in Rwanda Francs. The current exchange rate (March 2005) is 500 FrR per $1.

WHAT TO WEAR / BRING

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 layering your clothing is the best idea and we suggest: Long sleeved shirts, cotton or goretex trousers, strong walking shoes with ankle support, socks that you can tuck your trousers into, light gloves to protect your hands from thorns and nettles, a hat and sunglasses to provide protection against the sun and a waterproof jacket in neutral colors may come in handy in the moist mountains. Travel light and remember that soft-sided luggage is required. One medium sized duffel bag and one small daypack (carry-on) per person should be adequate. Laundry services are available at most accommodations. You should also pack some zip lock bags for spare clothing, cameras and film. Please note that you are not allowed to use a flash when photographing Gorillas. It is a good idea to take along several different speeds of film (64 to 1000) as gorillas can be found in open sun or in the dark underbrush of the forest.

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 centers, many people speak English. 

PUBLIC HOLIDAYS

1 January New Year’s Day
7 April Genocide Memorial Day
1 May Labour Day
1 July Independence Day
4 July National Liberation Day
1 August Harvest Festival
15 August Assumption Day
25 September Republic Day
1 October Heroes Day
1 November All Saints Day
25 December Christmas Day

Good Friday and Easter Monday are also public holidays but the dates vary each year.