Known as the ‘Land of a Thousand Hills’, the tiny country of Rwanda evokes images of mist covered mountains and majestic gorillas swinging through the treetops. These primates are currently the country’s biggest tourism drawcard, although overall Rwanda is a remarkable country full of a rich, fascinating history and incredible, natural scenic beauty. Sadly, most people will remember Rwanda as the scene of the mass genocide of the Tutsi people during the Spring of 1994. While the wounds from the genocide will never fully heal, the Rwandan people have come a long way in living in peace and harmony together.
We don’t like added extras, so our tour and independent and extension package prices include entrance to all national parks and reserves.
Discover and explore the very best of Rwanda! Experience one of the greatest wildlife encounters on earth - observing the magnificent mountain gorillas in their natural habitat! Also trek in search of golden monkeys and admire the exotic birdlife.
Rwanda Facts & Tips
Did you know?
- Rwanda has the world’s highest representation of women in parliament. In fact, 64% of Rwanda’s members of parliament are women.
- Rwanda was the first country in the world to have a complete ban on plastic bags.
- On the last Saturday of every month, every Rwandan participates in Umuganda – a day of national community service. This initiative (where even the prime minister participates) has helped to give Rwanda the title of cleanest country in Africa.
- Rwanda is a landlocked country and shares borders with Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Uganda.
- Rwanda is a largely rural country, with approximately 90% of its population involved in agriculture, agro-processing or mineral work.
- On April 6, 1994, a plane carrying both the Burundi president and President Habyarimana of Rwanda (a Hutu) was shot down and it was this event that sparked the horrific genocide in Rwanda.
- Rwanda is the most densely populated country in Africa.
- Rwanda’s main exports are tea, coffee and tin ore.
Visas & Passports
Australian passport holders travelling to Rwanda do not need a visa at this time.
We require that your passport is valid for travel for at least six months from the date you are planning to return to Australia. Your passport must be valid to travel internationally and must be machine-readable. You also need to carry a valid return ticket on you.
Whether travelling on an Australian passport or the passport of another country, all travellers require visas for a number of countries, and it is your responsibility to secure what may be required before departing Australia. You can consult with your travel agent, but it is also recommended that you check the foreign embassy website for your respective destination as it can also provide you with useful information.
The Australian High Commission in Kenya is responsible for Rwanda:
Limuru Road, Rosslyn
Ph. +254 20 4277 100
Fax. +254 20 4277 139
The recommended currency to take to Rwanda is the USD. Once in each country you will be able to change some dollars into the local currency. Ensure you change a small amount into small denominations.
Advise your bank of your travel plans so that they can make a note of it. Otherwise they may cancel your credit card as a safety measure due to the overseas transactions. Also make a note of the 24-hour emergency contact number of the bank or building society which issued your credit card in the unlikely event that your card is lost or stolen.
Whenever possible use ATMs when the banks are open (Mon – Fri) so that if a machine ‘eats’ your card you can then deal with it straight away. It is always advisable to carry a supply of cash in addition to your credit card. Be sure to retrieve your credit/debit card before walking away from the ATM as cash is often dispensed before the card.
We advise that you exchange some money into the local currency at the airport even if the exchange rate is not the best, this way you’ll have money to get a drink, snack or give a tip during those first few hours of arrival. Your guide will be able to advise you on where the best places are to exchange money.
Small change is also useful for paying for toilets while on tour which is customary in many places outside of Australia.
- The price of a cappuccino in Kigali is approximately 3USD.
- The price of an inexpensive lunch is approximately 3USD.
- The price of dinner in a moderately-priced restaurant is approximately 19USD.
- The price of a beer in a local pub is approximately 2USD.
Due to its position in central Africa, Rwanda’s entire food habits are based on what they can grow or barter. Therefore, their meals heavily favour their own locally grown produce, taking in to consideration what actually grows in African soil and weather conditions. Most people have a largely vegetarian diet, which is not too spicy or hot, as meat is generally too expensive. Maize features heavily and is combined with water to create a thick paste-like porridge, called Ugali. Other fruits and vegetables that form Rwandan staples include corn, plantains, sweet potato, beans and cassava. Isombe is made from mashed cassava and usually served with dried fish. In the larger cities, there are quite a few international restaurants serving a variety of dishes.
Important: When dining at buffets (i.e. breakfast) please refrain from taking food away with you to ‘save’ for later! If you feel that you’ll need snacks between meals, pack some dried fruit, nuts, muesli bars etc.
If you have specific food allergies and/or preferences, we highly recommend you take every precaution before your tour, including carrying a small card with your food allergy listed in each language of every country you are travelling to show to table staff when ordering. Whilst we take all dietary requirements seriously, due to the serious nature of potential allergic reactions, it is your responsibility to be as prepared as possible.
Rwanda has a fairly temperate climate, with both wet and dry seasons. The long dry lasts from mid-May through to September (and is usually the best time to see the gorillas) and the short dry from mid-December to mid-March. The wet season, or long rains, begin in March through to mid-May. The temperature is typically mild and up in the mountainous region, frost and snow is possible.
Want to get out and explore on your own?
The safest options for getting around cities in Rwanda is either by foot or bicycle taxis called taxi-velo. Motorcycle taxis are also available but not recommended for safety reasons.
When catching taxis, have small change on you and choose one with a meter, if it doesn’t have one then negotiate the price before getting in. Also, ask your guide or hotel staff the names of reputable taxi companies.
So, you’d love to bring home a special souvenir from Rwanda…
Like many African nations, Rwanda has a wonderful tradition of local markets, where you can find a large variety of locally handcrafted souvenirs. Items to look out for include the wooden face masks, often used in tribe rituals (although be aware that being wooden, these may be confiscated by Australian Customs on re-entry into Australia); gold or silver jewelry; stunning hand-woven bolts of material or clothing in traditional designs and straw or grass woven products, like bags or hats. Haggling is the norm, however not haggling too hard is a fantastic way to help out the local community.
Please remember to always declare all your purchases with customs when arriving back in Australia.
- Absolutely avoid asking about someone’s ethnicity or whether they are Hutu or Tutsi. In order to avoid a repeat of the past, the government has spent a lot of time reinforcing the idea that Rwandan’s are healing together, and that specific ethnicity does not exist.
- Almost every Rwandan has a story relating to the 1994 genocide. The trauma was so severe that most people can not cope with talking about it. Therefore, it is inappropriate to ask questions about what happened to them. If a person feels comfortable with you, they may open up of their own accord.
- Good topics of conversation include food, the Rwandan landscape, things you’ve seen and enjoyed in Rwanda, sports and the weather.
- Use your right hand to shake hands or take things from others. The left hand is considered dirty.
- It is common for Rwandans to stand close together when they are talking. There are very little boundaries for personal space, except conversations between men and women, they tend to be more formal.
Celebrations & Public Holidays
Every year, on the first Friday of August, Rwandans celebrate Umuganura – the country’s version of thanksgiving. Umuganura dates back in the 9th century, where King’s subjects would convene at his palace with their agricultural harvests and offer them to his majesty the king. The king then was regarded as God’s representative in the country and the offerings were a token of thanks for his benevolence that had led to a good harvest. In return, the king would kneel as a show of humility towards his people.
The day is regarded as a sign of unity among Rwandans and an opportunity to assess the past, celebrate achievements, correct mistakes and appropriately plan for the future.
Assumption of Mary
Rwandan Christians across the country began this day praying at their churches to observe The Assumption of Mary – the mother of Jesus Christ. Members of the Christian faith believe that after the mother of Jesus died, she was resurrected, glorified, and taken bodily to heaven. The day signifies her passing into eternal life, according to information on Catholicism. Many make a pilgrimage to Kibeho, where three children were visited by the Virgin Mary between 1981 and 1989.
Other national public holidays to be aware of include:
New Year’s Day
National Heroes Day – February 1st
Tutsi Genocide Memorial Day – April 7th
Independence Day – July 1st
Liberation Day – July 4th
Umuganura Day – early August
Assumption of Mary – August 15th
Located in the geographical centre of Rwanda, the capital (and largest) city of Kigali lays sprawled over several picturesque hills and valleys of the region. Touted as both the cleanest and safest city in Africa, Kigali has given itself a big reputation to live up to. It has a relatively modern feel, with a good range of hotels, restaurants, cafes and bars and many interesting things to explore in the city.
Nyungwe Forest National Park
Nestled on the south western border shared with Burundi, Nyungwe Forest National Park is considered to be Rwanda’s most important area of biodiversity. Covering some 1,000 square kilometres, its terrain encompasses tropical rainforests, grasslands and swamps and is home to almost a quarter of the country’s primate population, as well as birds and many other interesting animal species.
Situated in the foothills of the Virunga mountain range, Ruhengeri is the closest town to Volcanoes National Park. Encompassing five volcanoes, the national park is famous for its spectacular scenic natural beauty and for being the home of the last remaining eastern mountain gorillas. The picturesque scenery and the promise of seeing the endangered gorillas in their natural habitat, makes Volcanoes National Park the absolute top tourist draw card in Rwanda.
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