Though it is very possible to visit Rwanda all year round, it’s advisable to visit during the dry season as this is the best time to track mountain gorillas in the Volcanoes Park and since the ground will be dry, hiking in the Nyungwe forest will be much easier and more comfortable as there will be less chances of becoming drenched.
The dirt roads are also more passable in the dry season than in the rainy season and the risk of malaria is less. December to February is the short dry season and June to September is the long dry season and the two rainy seasons are mid-February to early June and mid-September to mid-December.
During these two periods, rains are usually heavy especially March to May and mountain areas receive heavier rains. However the climate may vary from region to region, for example, it is drier in the east than in the west and north. Occasionally, the Northern volcanoes are snow capped. A sweater might also prove vital while in Kigali during the evening hours.
During the rainy season there is less mist and the skies are much clear which offers great opportunity for photography. The scenery is also greener during the rainy season and it will be quite easy for you to see further because there will be less mist. During the dry season, chimps in Nyungwe forest are always on the move searching for food whereas in the rainy season their food is in plenty and thus less movements which makes chimp tracking less strenuous during the rainy season than in the dry season.
For birders November – March is a great time to visit as flocks of migrant species from Europe and other regions of the world join the resident species thus offering a variety in one destination.
GETTING THERE AND AWAY
Access into Rwanda is by air or road from through Uganda, Burundi, Tanzania and the Democratic republic of Congo.
International Airlines do operate direct and connecting flights into Kigali’s George Kayibanda International Airport. The flight carriers are Rwanda air Express which operates flights from Kigali, Nairobi and Entebbe (Uganda), Johannesburg (South Africa), Nairobi (Kenya) and Bujumbura (Burundi). Kenya Air ways, Brussels Airlines, South African air ways, Ethiopian Airlines, and Air Uganda offer flights to Kigali.
Apart from nationals of Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, Mauritius, Tanzania, South Africa, UK, U.S.A, D.R.C, Germany, Sweden and Canada all visitors to Rwanda require visas to enter Rwanda. A Rwandan visa costs about 60 US$. These can be obtained from any Rwandan Embassy or representative, at Kigali airport or at the border entry points into Rwanda. You need to ensure that your valid passport has at least six months validity prior to expiry.
You may also consider carrying along photocopies of all your important documents in case of emergency replacements when lost.
Travelers to Rwanda are required to have an international heath certificate showing to confirm that one has been vaccinated against yellow fever. For self drive safaris in Rwanda, one may be required to produce an international driving license. We advise that you photocopy all your important documents i.e. passport, travelers’ cheques numbers , travel insurance, next of kin’s24 hour emergency contact number, bank details and credit card info.
You may want to leave a copy of these with your friends back home. You may alternatively email this information to yourself or have this on a memory flash.
A photo of your suit case or any other luggage might prove vital in case any of your luggage is misplaced by an airline as this photo will save you the problem of describing your luggage.
Apart from personal medication and any other particular items you feel you should carry, save yourself the burden of carrying a lot of semi useful items as Rwanda as all its neighbors is well stocked with these items. Things like clothing, toiletries, stationery, batteries and most of the day to day items that a traveler might require.
However if your schedule is fixed that you might not have time for shopping or if you have a particular exotic taste it’s advisable to come with your items as you are most likely to find many unfamiliar brands.
Buying from Rwanda also boosts the economy of Rwanda.
CARRYING YOR LUGGAGE
In case you won’t be carrying your luggage for a reasonable distance. It is advisable to have a durable conventional suit case.
It always advisable to lock all your bags more especially if you are carrying some valuable items.
A backpack or rucksack is convenient and necessary for trekking and tracking expeditions. A suit case that converts into a back packer is quite good just in case you are staying in places where the images of the back backers is not that good as you will easily convert this into a suit case.
Ensure that you have a small hand bag for delicates items like your cameras, iPods, medication, lap tops among others as putting these in the large bag puts them at a high risk of being damaged.
Do not pack all your cloths as this will prove very inconveniencing to you. It’s also possible to replace you worn out clothes cheaply in many markets around Rwanda.
Two pairs of trousers and skirts, a pair of shorts, 3 shirts or T-shirts, one light sweater and another heavy one for the rainy costs, a pair of shoes/ boots for walking, a pair of sandals plus enough socks and under wear to last you up to a week.
Though jeans are said to be heavy to carry, hot to wear and take long to dry, they could be a good idea most especially for trekking. They are durable, comfortable, and excellent for forest walks, gorilla tracking, conceal dirt and therefore gives you more days before washing.
You may alternatively bring cotton trousers which dry faster and weighs less. You should always avoid light colors as these show dirt more easily.
Ensure that your socks and under wears are made from natural fabrics and avoid wearing wet or sweaty under wear as these will put you at a risk of developing fungal infections like athletes foot or prickly heat in the groin region since socks. Consider good hiking trekking safari boots when tracking gorillas.
OTHER USEFUL ITEMS
Other useful items that should be considered while packing include binoculars, they are worth carrying as they will prove helpful to watch animals at a distance and they are very vital for bird watching. Do not go for the very bulky ones, in most cases a 7 x 21 or a 7 x 35 which gives a larger field of vision will be good. For birders a 10x magnification will be very useful. A combination padlock might be useful for a lockable bag.
Also do not forget a toilet bag with soap, shampoo, tooth brush, tooth paste, tampon and sanitary pads. All these items can easily be found in many towns in Rwanda but you might need some for the start. Incase you wear contact lenses; please make sure you stock enough lenses fluids as the various fluids might not be found in Rwanda. Alternatively, you can switch to glasses as they will also save you from the dust and hot sunshine.
Also a spare set of glasses might be vital in case of emergencies, however in many towns you might be able to get a replacement at as cheap as 10 US $, towel, toilet paper, a short wave radio, a torch, penknife, alarm clock and a medical kit might also be useful. Never forget to pack your insect repellent and sun screen. It might not be wise to carry a sleeping bag if you do not intend to camp as this will be just an extra burden.
Before setting off for your trip you should plan on how to carry your money. The options include cash, credit cards and travelers' cheques. Very few places like upscale hotels will accept a credit card and in such cases a Visa card will be preferred over the MasterCard. The ORTPN head offices will also accept master card but not visa.
It is very important to find out from your tour operator whether or hotel whether your type of card is accepted. A maximum of up 2500 pounds or its equivalent in Rwandese Francs can be withdrawn per day using your visa or master card in Bancorp Ave de la Paix in Kigali. However incase the internet is down or computer or even electricity, then you might have to wait until all is okay. Travelers' checks attract a very poor rate compared to cash.
Preferably they should be in Euros or US dollars and keep the sales advice slip which you were issued with when you purchased them.
This will be required before they are cashed. A few banks in Kigali and Banquet Commercial due Rwanda offer this service but usually the procedure is very slow. Cash dollars and euros are widely preferred over other foreign currencies. However most foreign currencies should be exchangeable though at a very low rate.
Exchange services are offered by banks, official forex bureau and private forex bureau. Banks and official forex bureau have standard facilities but might be slow because of the paper work involved. However on the other hand private forex bureau though simple in a one roomed office are much faster since there is less paper work involved, usually offer a better rate and there is always room for bargaining more especially if you have a lot to exchange.
Note that small notes and old notes (year 2000 and below) always attract a very low rate. In case you do not want to carry to much cash, you can arrange with a friend to send you some money through Western Union or Money Gram; however this might be costly depending on the amount being transferred.
BOOKING A GORILLA PERMIT
It can be said that Rwanda's main tourist attraction is the mountain gorilla; it’s very certain that nearly all tourists to Rwanda want to track gorillas. Unlike in the past years when you could walk into Rwanda anytime and obtain a gorilla permit, nowadays, to be sure of tracking gorillas, you have to book in advance more especially in the peak season and New year holidays.
The over 50 gorilla permits per day are always booked months before and its always advisable to check for availability with your tour operator. A Gorilla permit costs US$500 and this guarantees gorilla viewing for one hour.
HEALTH AND SAFETY
There are presently more than 34 district hospitals and over 380 centers staffed with medical personnel. You will be certain to find a hospital and a pharmacy in all the main towns however there will be limited variety of medicines an sale.
For serious medical cases, Kigali should be the place as there better health facilities and medical personnel working around the clock. The pharmacy in Boulevard de la revolution is well stocked with a wide range of medicines and open 24 hours.
Like most of the African countries, Rwanda is also affected by the problem of brain drainage and this is the manifested in the health sector- particularly it’s also partly blamed on the genocide since professionals were always the main target.
For every one doctor there are about 50.000 Rwandese and one nurse 39,000. However there is hope with the way the private sector is developing especially in Kigali which has got 300 private clinics and dispensaries.
The HIV/AIDS incidence is estimated to be approximately 14%.
BEFORE YOU GO
It’s necessary for you to visit your doctor at least eight weeks before you travel to have a thorough medical checkup. Ensure that you get vaccination for tetanus, polio, diphtheria, hepatitis, yellow fever. Meningococcal, meningitis and rabies.
For a visitor to Rwanda like other African countries, you are required to have been vaccinated against yellow fever and a certificate will be required at the entry points to prove that you took the vaccination not less than 10 ago. In case you are in immuno-compromised or you are allergic to eggs and therefore cannot be vaccinated against yellow fever you will have to be required to obtain an exemption certificate.
Like most of the tropical countries, malaria is one of the greatest health risks to traveler to Rwanda although its prevalent, it is much lesser compared to many African countries. Malaria has no vaccine but prophylactic drugs can help to control the risk. You should start on these drugs at least three weeks prior to the beginning of your trip.
Mefloquine, malarone and the antibiotic doxycline are some of the widely used anti malaria drugs in sub Sahara Africa but its highly important to consult your doctor before deciding on any. Chloroquine and Paludrine are no longer effective and therefore not used in Rwanda.
Note that there is no malaria transmission above 3000m and at altitude 1800-3000m the risk might be there but then very low.
Any high fever lasting more than a few hours should be taken seriously as this is one of the commonest symptoms of malaria. Always seek medical attention from a qualified health personal as soon as possible. Malaria may occur between 7 days from the time you got the bacteria or even a year after and it is therefore recommendable to visit your doctor for thorough check up after your safari in Africa.
For more information about malaria and other health question you can visit the websites below.
It’s very important and any traveler should not undermine this. It’s advisable to take a comprehensive cover which caters for hospitalization as well as repatriation in case of emergencies. Note that some medical insurance policies don’t cover accidents for motor bike, taxis, so if you plan to use this means of transport choose a policy that covers it as well.
Photocopy your insurance policy and the contact numbers you need to call in case of a claim, take a copy with you and leave the some copies with your family and friend.
PERSONAL FIRST AID KIT PACKING LIST
* Aspirin or paracetamol
* Possible malaria treatment kit
* A good drying antiseptic
* A few small dressing
* Condoms or Female condoms
* Insect repellent
* Pair of fine pointed tweezers
* Another broad –spectrum antibiotic
* A travel thermometer
* Antifungal cream
* Ciprofloxacin antibiotic
* Tinidazole for amoebic dysentery or giardiasis
COMMON MEDICAL PROBLEMS
This is one of the common problems a person traveling to the tropics/ developing countries is likely to face. You become dehydrated due to constant diarrhea which makes you weak. In case you get travelers diarrhea it’s always advisable to take a lot of drinks to replace the lost fluids in oral rehydration salts that will help a lot.
Complications are usually as a result of taking contaminated food. It is always advisable to avoid cold meals and also to observe personal hygiene. A void raw food, cold cooked foods, salads other than those prepared at major hotels/lodges/camps.
Always ensure that you take clean safe water as contaminated water can also cause a lot of infections. We provide complimentary bottled water in our safari vehicles...
This disease has got some symptoms like those of malaria which includes a high fever, headache, muscle pains, rashes & excruciating joints. The disease is spread by mosquitoes and they bite during day time. Therefore it’s advisable to use your insect repellent. Dengue fever has no known preventing drugs however this should not worry you as the disease is not fatal and may not last more than a week.
Insect bites should be avoided as much as possible as many other diseases and more are transmitted by different insects. Always wear long cloths between dusk and down as mosquitoes more especially the malaria transmitters are very active during this time. Insect repellent should be used and always sleep under a treated mosquito net or in an air conditioned room
During day time if you plan to trek in the jungle, put long light cloths and use the insect repellent to keep off ticks, tsetse fly and day biting mosquitoes like the Andes mosquito which transmit dengue fever. Please note that, not all tsetse flies transmit sleeping sickness. The locals will always know which areas are infested with disease spreading testes flies.
These are common in hot and humid places like the eastern, western and southern Africa. These flies, will lay eggs on the ground or on the drying cloths and if these eggs happen to get contact with the human skin, they hatch and bury into the skin forming boils which will hatch after 8 days.
Dry your cloths in the house or in the wire under direct sunshine until they are crisp dry. Whenever possible iron your cloths and this will till all the eggs and even other pests like ticks, bedbugs and many others.
These are usually found in dusty places if you walk bare footed they will dig and burry under the skin of your feet forming a small boils. Always seek out a local expect to pick out the jiggers and disinfect the wound with spirit or alcohol.
This is water borne disease which is common in rural poor areas. The germs that cause Bilharzias are found in the fresh water and you can get it if you walk through, bathe or the shower in infested water. Bilharzias is unpleasant and should be prevented, however there are very few good tests which can be done six weeks or more after exposure to risk waters todetermine whether you have the parasites.
Avoid taking showers, swimming, paddling or warding in fresh water used by the villagers or 200 meters near these locations. Insect repellent like DEET will help in case you are swimming in risky water and also bathing in the morning will also reduce the risk. Disinfecting water with Dettol or Cresol will give you protection.
Proper hygiene is paramount in fighting most of the skin infections. You should avoid wearing wet or sweaty under garments as they can facilitate fungal infections and if the skin between your toes turns into snow-like color, or if you develop an itchy rash around your groin then you are most likely to have contracted a fungal infection. Frequent baths and use antifungal creams like cone stern or even Whitefield’s ointment will be helpful.
Insect bites in the skin will give bacteria’s an advantage to defeat the body strong defense therefore insect bites should always be avoided by using insect repellent and wearing long cloths whenever necessary.
Skin infections spread very fresh in hot and humid climates and for that reason even a small wound should be clean and covered. Antiseptic should be preferred over creams as the later is less effective. Drying antiseptics like potassium permanganate, dilute iodine originations are available in most towns in Rwanda.
Antibiotics like Flucloxacillin and amoxicillin or Erythromycin for those allergic to penicillin should be used if a wound becomes red and the redness begins to spread and if one begins to develop a fever.
A prickly rash on the torso might be a sign of prickly heat which will need a cool shower and you will provide quick relief. It may be advisable to stay in an airy room and put on only baggy cotton cloths or sleep naked under a fan.
SUN RAY DAMAGE OR SUN BURNS
You should always avoid sun reflected off water and mid day sunshine as this is very dangerous. If you can’t avoid the midday sunshine, it is recommended to start with exposure of at least 20 minutes per day and gradually increases the time.
Use lots of water proof SPF 15 sun scream whenever swimming and Bermuda shorts will after protection to the back of your things snaking and put on long loose cloths and a hat if possible whenever you are to expose yourself into hot sunshine.
Be aware that skin cancer is on the increase as Caucasians have increased their travels and exposure to sunshine. Also exposure to too much sun shine causes the skin to age and might lead to premature ring cones.
This should be treated with at most seriousness as it can kill within just a few hours after the first symptoms. When you develop a blinding headache, a blocky rash and a high fever seek medical attention from a qualified medic as soon as possible.
A single injection of the trivalent vaccine ACWY can give you a three year protection against the most dangerous bacterial infection if intending to spend a reasonable time in Rwanda or intending to work closely with the local people especially children.
Many travelers enjoy adventuring in sexual pleasure while traveling especially under the influence of alcohol. Before you sleep without any one whether fellow traveler or locals don’t forget that the risk of Sexually Transmitted inflections. Infection rates are high and this includes deadly infections like HIV/AIDS.
If you tend to have sex while on your trip please pack some condoms. Also note that any genital discharges should been taken serious and treatment sought immediately.
While on your trip, always avoid animals unknown to you as rabies is carried by all mammals and can be passed to human beings through animal bites, scratches or a lick of open wound.
Trust no animals unless personally known. It is recommended to take a vaccination against rabies if you tend to visit more remote areas, especially where access to proper medication may not be easy.
In case you are bitten, wash the wound with soap and boiled or bottled water and after pour concentrated iodine solution or even alcohol solution to prevent the rabies virus from entering the body and also prevent the wound from any inflections.
The incubation period may be long depending on how far the bite is from the head never the less treatment should be sought immediately as rabies guarantees 100% chances of death.
Most snakes are non-venomous and even the venomous ones will disperse the venom in only 50% of their bites. Snakes don’t usually attack unless disturbed and rarely have bites to travelers have been recorded and when out of the brush wear stout shoes and long trousers. Note that they believed beloved to be techniques below are dangerous.
Cutting into or around the wound & tour insults, suction and electrical inactivation devices have been proved to be ineffective. Therefore incase of venomous bite the only treatment is antivenin.
What to do in case of Venomous bite
- Always stay calm as this will maintain a normal heart beat and the venom will not easily spread.
- The bitten limb should be maintained below heart travel as this will reduce the blood in this limb and thus slow down the spread of venom.
- Try to maintain the bitten limb in one place.
- Bind the bitten limb as much as possible with a crepe bandage but then loosen every 30 minutes.
- Seek immediate medical attention.
What not to do.
- Aspirins must never be taken
- Don’t ever cut or suck the bite.
- You should never apply ice packs
- Potassium permanganate is dangerous and must be avoided.
Where possible without risking any more bites to any other person the snake should be captured and shown to the doctor as this will make it easy for him to know what type of snake and thus administer the right full dose of antivenin.
you are advised to avoid crowded or busy areas which include markets or bus stations. Should you under unavoidable situations find yourself in these places, do maintain a close watch on to your belongings. You are also advised to limit the amount of money you have on yourself as this would increase the risk. Under no circumstances are you supposed to expose valuable items or money in public.
You may consider keeping your monkey in the money belt while keeping some spare change for day to day use separately. It may actually be a good idea to keep some of the money in the luggage in case of emergency.
You are also advised to make use of the hotel safety deposit boxes insisting on getting an official acknowledgement from the Hotel. We also advise you to always asses the security of your hotel room if you are to keep money in there. Reason is that some travelers’ check companies don’t refund these stolen items especially if lost in a hotel room.
Jewelry of financial or sentimental value is much safe at home and should therefore not be packed for the police Emergency number 08311117.
TRAVELLING IN RWANDA
Tourist Information & Series
For any tourist information or general information about Rwanda the office Rwanda’s du Tourism of the Parcs Nationauex (ORTPN) is the right place. Just visit any of the offices in Kigali or in the airport arrival hall and central Kigali are well stocked with a variety of booklets and maps both with relevant and current information or visit the tour operators, car hire, hotels in Rwanda, public transport security, local events among others.
For more information you can call or write to us.
National parks and reserves in particular.
For reservations, issuing of gorilla permits and any other activity or information about volcanoes national park visit the ORTPN offices in central Kigali. It opens from 0700-1700hrs on week days and from 0800-1400hrs on weekends and public holidays and apart from ORTPN libraries cantos near GPO are two bookshops in central Kigali where you can buy guide books, maps and many other relevant tourist books.
PUBLIC HOLIDYS AND EVENTS
In additional to the following fixed public holidays, Rwanda recognizes Good Friday and Easter Monday.
1 January New Year’s Day 15 August Assumption Day
1 February National Hero’s Day 25 September Republic Day
7 April Genocide Memorial Day 1 October Patriot’s Day
1 May Labour Day 1 November All Saints Day
1 July Independence Day 25 December Christmas Day
4 July National Liberation Day
Note that many public activities might be reduced during the Genocide memorial week and events usually attract large crowds which can lead to scarcity of accommodation in particular places. The international peace marathon and fun run day which is held in May. The Gorilla Naming Germany held in June around the volcanoes National Park and the public cleaning day held every last Saturday of the months are recognized days in Rwanda and some public offices and business places may be closed on these days.
the Rwanda franc is the national currency for Rwanda and its used all over the world. The US dollar is the most widely recognized foreign currency although the Euro and the British pound are accepted. Travelers cheques preferably is US dollars are also accepted in same places and forex bureau. Kigali offers a wide range of choices for money exchange which include banks, official forex bureau and the private
Please be worried that apart from the US dollar cash and other currencies may not be easily exchanged outside Kigali and the rate is poor compared to Kigali but then at least you will be able to find a bank in each major town where you can be able to exchange your money. Private forex bureaus are also found is same of the main towns especially the border towns like Musanze, Gisenyi, Huye and Gitamara and very places like ORTPN Kigali offices and a few upscale hotels will accept credit cards and a master card not a visa. The few ATMS in Kigali only accept cards issued by local banks.
Incase where you have run short of money and need immediate rescue from home, Money Gram and Western Union are the quickest options, and however they might be costly depending the moment transferred. There are a number of Western Union and Money Gram facilities around Kigali.
Rwanda air has three scheduled flights every week from Kigali to Cyangungu and vice versa and soon they might be private chopper services from Kigali to Akagera and Musanze
APPROXIMATE ROAD DISTANCES BETWEEN MAIN TOWNS
Kigali 135 60 53 112 144 187 164 118 293
Huye 135 210 82 247 129 237 29 190 158
Byumba 60 210 128 187 219 173 240 104 349
Gitarama 53 82 128 165 91 177 112 108 221
Kibungo 112 247 187 165 256 299 277 230 386
Kibuye 144 129 219 91 256 108 258 199 130
Gisenyi 187 237 173 177 299 108 366 69 238
Gilkongoro 164 29 240 112 277 258 366 220 128
Musanze 118 190 104 108 230 199 69 220 307
Cyangugu 293 158 349 221 130 386 130 248 30