Types of Girl about the Globe (GatG) – Cultural GatG, History GatG, Nature GatG, Wildlife GatG
Rwanda is a beautiful country to explore. This African country is a great starting point if you haven’t been to east/central Africa before. If you are planning a solo trip to Rwanda, discover the best places to visit in Rwanda, things to do in Rwanda, recommended accommodation in Rwanda and how to get around. Just click on the relevant section or read the whole article to plan your travel to Rwanda.
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- Is Rwanda Safe For Solo Travel?
- Places To Visit in Rwanda
- Accommodation in Rwanda
- Rwanda Tours
- How To Get Around Rwanda
- Best Time To Visit Rwanda
- Kigali Airport
- Plan a Trip to Rwanda
- Rwanda Map
- Related Posts
Is Rwanda Safe For Solo Travel?
Solo travel in Rwanda and you’ll be greeted with curiosity in the cities and warmth in the rural villages. It’s safe, and diverse and each region offers a different landscape and experience. But the country does have a sombre history. So make sure to learn about the genocide before you arrive in the country so that you’re mentally prepared before visiting the genocide museums or memorials here. The Rwanda of today has come a long way since its past and there is so much community-based tourism in the country.
It’s a country where you can brew your own coffee on top of a mountain, help a beekeeper make a beehive, make pottery with a local family and learn the cultural dance with former poachers. You can see the Big 5, track chimpanzees or go gorilla trekking, one of the most popular activities in Rwanda. And if wildlife isn’t really your thing, you can laze around one of Africa’s magical lakes instead.
The main language spoken is English although some still speak French and others only speak the local language called Kinyarwanda. Overall Rwanda is a fantastic introduction to Africa if you’ve never been to the continent before. It’s civilised with clean streets and you don’t have to travel far to learn about its culture.
It has a lot to offer but you may want to take a tour here to feel more comfortable. It’s also easier when you have a local guide who knows how the country works and can speak the language. (See the Rwanda Tours section)
Places To Visit in Rwanda
Rwanda is an African country landlocked between Uganda, Burundi, DRC and Tanzania. But don’t let the fact that there is no beach stop you from travelling here. The country known as “the land of a thousand hills’ has Lake Kivu for those dreaming of watery shores. There are hills nearly every way you look unless you head east to the savannahs. And it’s easy to see why it has its name.
Rwanda feels very diverse. It may be known for gorilla trekking but that isn’t all that this African country has to offer. Yes, there are mountain gorillas but there is also the Big 5 as well as community-based tourism and adventure tourism too.
Divided into five provinces, there are the African plains for safaris, the jungle and rainforest, the lake and the hilly capital. If you are here to see the Big 5, Akagera National Park may be your first stop.
Akagera National Park
Located in the eastern province, Akagera National Park borders the country of Tanzania and is approximately 3 hours from the capital. Here you’ll find swamps, woodland and savannah and plenty of wildlife living within the low-lying plains. Spot hippos and crocodiles on a boat ride on Lake Ihema, take a game drive and see lions, elephants, buffalo and giraffes. As well as the reintroduced black rhino, you may also encounter baboons and monkeys too.
Kigali is the country’s capital city. The capital is green and landscaped with clean roads and you may not even feel that you’re in Africa when in the capital. Kigali has a bustling art scene so make sure to visit the Rwanda Art Museum, the Inema Art Center, and Niyo Art Gallery whilst you are here.
One of the most visited attractions in Kigali is the Kigali Genocide Memorial. Be prepared to be extremely moved during a visit here as the memorial is a remembrance of the million victims who died during the Rwandan genocide in 1994. You can opt for an audio guide but there is so much information available in the museum that you don’t really need one. Allow for at least 3 hours here.
The Campaign Against Genocide Museum is another museum explaining the history of the genocide. It celebrates the heroes who helped the Tutsi and delves into more detail about the end of genocide and the mission strategies for installing peace back into the country. It is housed in the Parliament Building, where you can still see the bullet holes from the conflict. I recommend visiting the Campaign Against Genocide Museum after the Genocide Memorial.
The Belgian Peacekeepers Memorial is another part of the genocide history. These 10 stone columns represent each of the Belgian soldiers who were assigned to protect the Rwandan Prime Minister. The location is where they were captured and shot, and is now an exhibition with moving messages from their families.
For something more light-hearted and to learn about the Kigali of today, taking a walking tour gives you an insight into the city. Nyamirambo Women’s Centre is a great social enterprise that offers walking tours around one of Kigali’s oldest neighbourhoods. Learn about the local trades, meet the residents and buy crafts from their colourful shop or take part in a local cooking class, learning how to cook Rwandan style.
If you haven’t heard of Richard Kandt, he was the first German colonial governor in Rwanda and his former home has since been turned into a museum. Expect to find natural history (it was previously called the Museum of Natural History), including a crocodile skeleton as well as some of Africa’s most common snakes. The museum is one of several museums that are part of the Institute of National Museums of Rwanda.
Nyungwe Forest National Park
One of the biggest parks in Rwanda is Nyungwe Forest National Park. This mountain rainforest is also one of the most preserved with more than 1000 species of wildlife and 13 different primates. One of these primates is the chimpanzee and the park is ideal for those wanting to take part in a chimpanzee trekking expedition. (It’s also not that far from Volcanoes National Park to add to a gorilla trekking experience).
There are a large number of colobus monkeys here and one way to spot the monkeys and see the forest is on a canopy walk. The walk is 90 metres long and 50 metres above the ground so it gives you a beautiful view of Nyungwe forest. But you don’t even have to venture into the forest to see the wildlife as Blue Monkeys just hang out on the roadside waiting for their photo opportunity.
There is something magical about Lake Kivu. And you can take a boat trip to see the islands that lie within its waters. Napoleon Island especially is unique (named so because it looks like Napoleon’s hat). You can walk through the trees (with your head low) and past the bats, then climb to the top to be greeted by a cow happily chewing the grass at the summit. The cows are known to swim here too so if you’re lucky you may catch them taking a dip. If you’re feeling active you can kayak your way along the lake or swim.
Listen out for the fishermen who sing as they take the boat out onto the lake at night, then return with their daily catch at 6:30 am in the morning. Learn more about the work Rwanda is doing for sustainability at the Museum of the Environment. You can even get your boat ride to drop you off at its shoes. The traditional herbal medicine on top is definitely worth a visit.
Volcanoes National Park
Volcanoes National Park is one of the nicest areas in the country. This is the gateway to gorilla trekking but you can also visit the giant gorilla platform where they name the baby gorillas during the annual ceremony.
From the park, it’s easy to reach the Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. Named after the celebrity, this centre supports gorilla conservation in Rwanda and the life of Dian Fossey, a famous zoologist who dedicated her life to prevent the extinction of mountain gorillas. Learn about the famous gorillas and enjoy a 360 degree interactive experience with the virtual gorillas.
Near to Volcanoes National Park is the Gorilla Guardians Village (it used to be known as Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village). If you’re looking for a fun, immersive way of learning about Rwandan culture, you have to spend a few hours here. It may be touristy but these former poachers turned guardians, make it really fun. Visit the witch doctor and join in with the traditional dancing and drumming. You’re guaranteed to leave here with a smile on your face. Any souvenirs and crafts you buy here help preserve the gorilla’s habitat.
Red Rocks Art Centre is also nearby. This is another initiative offering cultural dancing and activities. You can even discover the traditional banana beer making although the beer is definitely an acquired taste.
Rwanda is so cultural. There are several museums spread around the country that teach you more about the old traditions and transport you back to the time of the old kingdoms and monarchies. It was in 1962 when Rwanda became independent after colonial rule and the palace
One of these must-sees in the King’s Palace. Shaped like a beehive, this reconstruction of a traditional royal residence is located in Nyanza. As one of the historic sites in Rwanda, a guided tour will educate you about its significance during king’s ceremonies and court.
On the same grounds is the new palace, former residence of King Mutara III Rudahigwa, that resembles more of a modern palace. Although some of the furniture and fittings were stolen during the genocide, it’s a good contrast to the beehive building. Just don't forget to see the royal cows too!
Accommodation in Rwanda
In Kigali, you’ll find the usual international hotels such as the Marriott and Radisson Blu but there are plenty of independent guest houses and boutique hotels too. If you’re travelling to Rwanda on a budget, you’ll also find hostels such as Yambi Hostel or Mamba Rwanda Youth Hostel within the capital. If you’re venturing into the parks you’ll be treated to tented camps and safari and game lodges.
New Horizon Tours and Services – I travelled around Rwanda for 7 days with this company, exploring the best of the community-based tourism that the country had to offer. Emmanuel was an amazing guide and he felt like a friend by the end of the week. They offer all types of tours from safari packages and gorilla trekking to a 2 day Kigali tour hiking Mount Kigali and shopping in local markets. They also offer private tours to Uganda.
G Adventures Rwanda – If you feel more comfortable in a group tour for either part of your trip or the whole duration, G Adventures is a responsible tour company which mainly caters for budget travellers. Their Rwanda tours start from a 3 day gorilla trek independent adventure to a 16 day East Africa in-depth tour covering Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda.
In Lake Kivu, make sure to ask for Boma for a boat tour to Napoleon Island. You may even make a stop off to have a close encounter with a friendly monkey on the boat too!
How To Get Around Rwanda
How you decide to travel around Rwanda really depends on your comfort level. Rwanda is easy to get around if you are on a group tour or if you have a private tour guide.
If you’re doing it independently, you can hire a car to get around. Driving is on the right-hand side but there are many motorbikes on the roads especially in the capital so you may not feel comfortable driving yourself around.
There are bus companies that take you around the country and both Virunga Express and Volcano Express are two of the best companies to travel with.
To get around locally, Yego cabs (meaning “yes”) are a taxi firm that you can book to drive you around. If you’re adventurous enough to jump on the back of a motorbike, there are so many motorbike taxis you can use and they are the cheapest way to get around. But you may want to ask your accommodation to help you translate as some of them can only speak Kinyarwanda.
Best Time To Visit Rwanda
Rwanda is warm all year round. Expect temperatures of 25/26 degrees Celsius all year in the capital. Being hilly means that the country does have high altitudes so expect it to be fresher and cooler in the higher regions.
Rwanda does have a rainy season from November to May so you prefer to visit when it’s a drier climate which is from June to September. The main heavy rainfall is from March to May and during the other months, you can expect lighter showers. Even in April when I visited, it only rained a few times and didn’t put a damper on the community-based tourism activities.
Below is an annual weather chart for Kigali from January to December to help you to plan your trip.
Kigali international airport
There is only one international airport in Rwanda. Kigali Airport (KGL) is located 20 minutes from the capital city. Taxis cost a minimum of $20 from the airport so you may prefer to pre-order a transfer with your accommodation instead.
Security here is tight here so you may need to show all your luggage as you enter the grounds. If you’re hoping to buy arts and crafts before you leave Rwanda make sure to grab a bargain in one of the city’s markets before you go to the airport as souvenirs are expensive at the airport.
Tip – The airport is quite small. Once you go through security there aren’t any options to buy drinks.
- Can I drink the water? It's not recommended to drink tap water. Take a water filter flask with you if you can.
- Is tipping expected? Yes. You have to tip everyone in Rwanda so expect to tip your guide, waiter and drivers. Expect to tip approx $5-$10 per guide.
- Fixed price or barter? Fixed price.
- Any ATMs? There are ATMs in the main cities.
- Which side of the road do they drive? The right-hand side.
- Good for vegetarians? You’ll find plenty of fruits and vegetables in the country as well as vegetarian restaurants and those serving vegan options in Kigali.
- Any Seven Wonders of the World? No.
Plan a Trip To Rwanda
Current time in Kigali
Capital – Kigali
Population – 12.95 million
Language spoken – Kinyarwanda, French, and English. (Not everyone speaks French or English).
Local Currency – Rwandan franc
The Best Time to Go – June to September are the best months to go to Rwanda.
Do I need a visa? Yes. Citizens of the Commonwealth (including the UK) receive a free 30 day visa on arrival.
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