Papyrus Gonolek Laniarus mufumbiri in Papyrus marsh, Rwanda
Red-throated Alethe Alethe poliophrys in Nyungwe forest
Moorhouse, N. and Sargeant, D. Rwanda, June 2003. rwanda trip report 1
For a list of species seen during a 6-day visit to Nyungwe and Akagera in July 2003, please email [email protected]dingafrica.com.
The following items have been updated following a trip to Rwanda in July 2011.
International travellers are likely to fly to Kigali which has flights or connections to several African and European destinations. A useful flight is on KLM from Amsterdam to Kigali, Entebbe in Uganda and return to Amsterdam. There are regular flights from Kigali to Entebbe and Nairobi. You should note that plastic is not welcome in Rwanda and plastic bags with duty free items will be confiscated on arrival at Kigali airport.
Entry to Rwanda can also be made by road at several border crossings. The road is metalled from the Ugandan border to Kigali and this provides a route from Bwindi in Uganda. For birders and other ecotourists therefore, it is convenient to visit both Rwanda and Uganda, flying into to one country and departing from the other with road connections between the main national parks in both countries.
A passport, visa for nationals of some countries and evidence of yellow fever vaccination are required for entry. Visas are not required for UK visitors but it is worth checking your own requirements with your local embassy.
Rwanda is a small country with a good network of tarmac roads and frequent and generally punctual buses. Public transport is therefore simpler and quicker than elsewhere in central Africa. Nyungwe is easily reached by bus from Kigali (4 to 5 hours). Car hire is expensive. 4x4 is even more expensive and may not be strictly necessary for the more frequent destinations in the west of the country, but could be helpful in Akagera. Taxis are plentiful in and around Kigali and the airport.
French and, increasingly, English are widely spoken. By the standards of African capitals, Kigali is safe and well organised, though visitors should take care at night and beware of pick-pockets. The events of 1994 are long past and should not deter visitors. The border with DRC is safe, though the Burundi border is uneasy.
The Bradt Travel guide to Rwanda by Janice Booth and Phillip Briggs contains lots of useful travel information.
The Rwandan Franc is the currency in Rwanda and its symbol can be written RF. The Rwandan Franc is divided into 100 centimes. The exchange rate was around 600 Rwandan Francs to $US1 in July 2011. Rwandan Francs can be bought for $US, Euros and £UK at Forex bureaux. Foreign currency can also be exchanged at Kigali airport on arrival although the rate is unlikely to be as good as Forex. Some of the larger hotels will also exchange or allow payment in foreign currency.
US notes earlier than 2006 may be unacceptable in Rwanda. Currency notes attract better exchange rates than travellers cheques.
Good quality hotel accommodation in Kigali was found at $US55 for a single room for one night. Payment in US$ was acceptable.
The national parks have lodges and alternative accommodation is available in the vicinity. Camping is also a possibility so it is worth considering alternatives close to the major sites and finding something which suits your price and requirements.
Food and Drink
A range of food is available in hotels which should suit most tastes. Lodges in the national parks provide a set meal or selection from a buffet. Bottled water (500mL, 1 L, 1.5L) is recommended and can be purchased in supermarkets in the main towns as can soft drinks. 500mL bottles of cold beer are also widely available. Wines and spirits are also available at the more up-market places and lodges, but can be expensive.
There are a number of safety issues which are similar to those in any other African country. Guidebooks, travel companies and the above websites provide much of the advice one needs, but some key points warrant repetition here. (1) be aware of the risk of malaria, seek current advice, sleep in a sealed tent or under a net and take prophylaxis as recommended. (2) always ensure you have sufficient water and some method of purification (even if this comprises a pot and a campfire for boiling). (3) do not under-estimate the danger of being in the sun too long. Ensure you use sun-block and drink plenty of water, and wear a hat. (4) The incidence of Aids is high (5) Ensure that you take a reasonably-equipped first-aid pack with you including a supply of hypodermic needles.