From stealing magic moments with mountain-dwelling gorillas to experiencing heart-warming encounters with villagers, Rwanda will deliver experiences unlike any other. Volcanic mountains, dense forests, tranquil lakes and lively towns add a stunning backdrop to Rwanda’s real gems – the sincere, proud people and majestic, mysterious wildlife.
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Articles on Rwanda
Stories from Rwanda: what it’s really like to visit mountain gorillas
Posted on Tue, 29 Mar 2016
I am in Volcanoes National Park in the North West corner of Rwanda, and I’m crouching one metre away from an angry female gorilla...Read more
Traveller stories: what it’s really like to travel through East Africa
Posted on Fri, 20 Dec 2013
Intrepid's Skye Gainey wondered if East Africa would live up to her high expectations when she finally had the chance to travel to Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania...Read more
Posted on Thu, 16 Aug 2012
"I am not sure why I did this, but I dropped to my knees and both the gorilla and I looked deeply into each others eyes..."Read more
Intrepid believes half the fun of experiencing a new country is getting there, and getting around once there! Where possible, Intrepid uses local transport options and traditional modes of transport - which usually carry less of an environmental impact, support small local operators and are heaps more fun.
Depending on which trip you're on while in Rwanda, you may find yourself travelling by:
Travelling with Intrepid is a little bit different. We endeavour to provide travellers with an authentic experience to remember, so we try to keep accommodation as unique and traditional as possible.
When travelling with us in Rwanda you may find yourself staying in a:
At a glance
|Capital city:||Kigali (population 851,000)|
|Language:||Kinyarwanda, French, English|
|Time zone:||(GMT+02:00) Windhoek|
|Electricity:||Type C (European 2-pin) Type J (Swiss 3-pin)|
Best time to visit Rwanda
Rwanda has a tropical highland climate, with temperatures being pleasantly warm most of the year. March to May is the wet season, so expect frequent rain and thunderstorms during this period, which can make trekking and other outdoor activities uncomfortable at times.
Culture and customs
There are three main ethnic tribes in Rwanda - Hutu, Tutsi and Twa, each having their similarities and differences. The Twa comprise less than 1% of the population, and are hunter-gatherers, having lived in Rwanda for centuries. The Hutu and Tutsi are not divided by ethnicity but by a social caste system, with the Tutsi traditionally living pastoral lives and being members of the ruling class, and the Hutu traditionally being seen as peasant farmers. This is malleable though, as intermarriage between the two is quite common, so children may have a Hutu father and a Tutsi mother. While this has lead to much division and conflict in the past, Rwanda has more recently enjoyed 15 years of relative harmony, with these ethnic groups living and working alongside each other in peace.
Foreigners and travellers will find most Rwandans live simple lives, devoid of modern conveniences and perhaps it is because of this that Rwandans are known for being friendly, genuine and very accommodating to visitors. Homestays in particular provide valuable insights into the culture of Rwanda.
Eating and drinking
Intrepid believes that one of the best ways to experience a country is by eating! Whether you're sampling street food, savouring a cheap eat or indulging in a banquet, there are endless options to choose from wherever you are in the world.
Rwandan food typically consists of simple meals made from locally grown produce. Sweet potato, corn, peas, beans and cassava feature heavily, and are usually fried or cooked in a stew. Spices and seasonings aren’t common in Rwandan cooking, so food may be a little bland for some – but just right for others who prefer their food less spicy.
Things to try in Rwanda
1. Fresh Fruit
Bananas, avocados, mangoes and papaya are plentiful in Rwanda and are a cheap, fresh snack when bought from markets and street carts.
2. Frites-Banane (Fried Plantains)
Fried Plantains are a delicious snack and found just about everywhere in Rwanda.
Barbecued beef, goat and chicken are available at roadside street stalls in the larger cities.
Beer is popular with the men of Rwanda (women rarely drink). Primus, Mutzig and Amstel are the main beers available in Rwanda, as well as locally brewed banana beer.
Geography and environment
The dense jungles and national parks of Rwanda house many species of animal including gorillas, baboons, chimpanzees and prolific birdlife. Unlike many other African bodies of water, freshwater Lake Kivu is free from crocodiles and hippos, so it’s a great spot for swimming, fishing and other recreational activities.
History and government
The original inhabitants of Rwanda, the Twa, lived a hunter-gatherer lifestyle for centuries before the arrival of the Hutu people. Then the Tutsi brought with them a feudal system of land ownership and society. In 1890 Germany took control of Rwanda, and ruled until 1916 when the Belgians overpowered the German forces during World War I. Under Belgian rule, clashes between the Tutsi and the Hutu were frequent and a precursor to the violence of the 1990s. Independence was granted in 1962, and the Hutu majority came into power. Because of this, Tutsi people were marginalised, with less access to education and employment opportunities. This imbalance created simmering tensions within Rwanda, culminating in armed conflict and displacement of people.
In 1994, Rwanda erupted into civil war following the death of the president in a plane crash (the plane was shot by a missile while trying to land in Kigali). Months of bloodshed ensued - it's estimated that close to a million people were killed within a period of 90 days. Millions of Rwandans fled into neighbouring Uganda and Tanzania to escape the violence, murder and looting that had taken over their country. Due to the loss of life and infrastructure caused by the genocide of 1994, many Rwandans today live in poverty. Despite this, Rwanda is currently rising out of hard times to move into the future with increased prosperity and improved living conditions. The economy is slowly improving due to a flourishing tourism industry and a new government that has invested in education and infrastructure.
Top 10 Amazing Experiences of Rwanda
1. Gorillas in the Mist
Trekking through the steamy jungle is well worth it once you set eyes upon a family of silverback gorillas. Watch them interact and play and marvel at how similar they are to humans. Watching these rare creatures is utterly captivating and engrossing – you won’t want to leave.
2. National Treasures
Stop in at the Butare National Museum, considered one of the best museums in East Africa. Featuring tribal art, traditional housing, musical instruments and other artefacts, this museum offers visitors a great grounding in Rwandan history and culture.
3. Moving Memorial
Be touched by the spirit of the Rwandan people when visiting the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre. This place is dedicated to the people who lost their lives in the genocide of 1994, and provides a peaceful space for survivors to mourn and ultimately heal.
4. Chill Out Lakeside
Experience the serenity and beauty of Rwanda’s Lake Kivu. Whether you’re enjoying a relaxing walk on the shores or heading out on a boat, Lake Kivu provides a pocket of aquatic splendour in a landlocked country.
5. Monkey Magic
Have fun finding chimps, baboons and monkeys in the trees of the Nyungwe National Park. The dense rainforest terrain offers the perfect environment for these amazing creatures to live in.
6. Home Sweet Home
Experience true Rwandan hospitality while spending time with a local family on a homestay. Enjoy home cooking and new friendships – something you just can’t get when staying at a hotel.
7. To Market
Strolling through the markets of Kigali is a great way to get acquainted with this up-and-coming city. Buy some trinkets or fresh produce, chat with locals and watch market-life in action.
8. Beach Bliss
The small town of Gisenyi is home to unspoilt beaches where you won't have to fight for a spot to laze on them. Enjoy the isolation and make the most of the space in this pocket of paradise.
9. Small Town Charm
Known as the gateway town to the gorillas, Ruhengeri offers a change of pace to the crowds of Kigali. Be touched by the warmth and sincerity of the local people while staying in this town of about 80,000 people.
10. Feel the Beat
Soak up a bit of nightlife by getting your groove on to African and Western pop music in one of Kigali’s busy nightspots. New Cadillac and Republika Lounge are popular with both locals and expats, so why not see how the city comes to life after dark.
Rwanda’s markets are filled with bright delights, from fresh fruit and vegetables to vibrant fabrics. Souvenir-wise, the best picks are handicrafts and artwork by local artists. Woven baskets, colourful fabric bags, interesting jewellery, wood carvings and terracotta pots all make great mementos of your trip or gifts for friends back home.
It's a good idea to check with your local customs officials to ensure that you are able to bring certain items back into your home country. Australia and New Zealand generally have strict quarantine laws.
Things to buy in Rwanda
Festivals and Events in Rwanda
With the majority of Rwandans being Christian, Christmas is an important time for most. Rwandans typically don’t celebrate Christmas in a commercial way, with most foregoing gift giving and choosing to spend time at church and with family. Church services are usually a formal affair and run for several hours, with locals getting dressed up in their finest attire to attend mass. Time is then spent eating and socialising with family and friends.
FAQs on Rwanda
Visas are required by all nationalities and need to be obtained in advance. You must apply for this visa online at www.migration.gov.rw.
You'll need to apply for an Entry Visa on their website (Services tab, Visa) which should take approx 2-5 days to come through. You must print this Entry Facility out to present at the border.
Nationals of Australia, Israel, New Zealand, USA, Germany, South Africa, Kenya, Great Britain, Sweden and Singapore are not required to pre-register, however must pay the visa fee upon arrival at the border post.
The visa costs approx US$60 payable on the border, with the exception of national from Australia, Israel, New Zealand, USA, Germany, South Africa, Kenya, Great Britain, Sweden and Singapore for whom the visa fee is US$30.
If you are asked to provide an address in Rwanda on your visa form, please use the address below -
Centre Pastoral Notre Dame De Fatima
Avenue de la Nutrition
Supporting Documents may also be required - the embassy will contact you if they require these.
Note: Rwanda is constantly updating its visa information; therefore we recommended that you check the website carefully for the latest up to date information www.migration.gov.rw
Beer at a bar or cafe = 1,000 RWF
Meal at a mid-range restaurant = 7,500 RWF
For more information on insurance, please go to: Travel Insurance
Feb 1 Heroes’ Day
Mar 29 Good Friday
Apr 7 Genocide Memorial Day
May 1 Labour Day
Jul 1 Independence Day
Jul 4 Liberation Day
Aug 15 Assumption
Oct 1 Patriotism Day
Dec 25 Christmas Day
Dec 26 Boxing Day
Please note these dates are for 2013. For a current list of public holidays go to: http://www.worldtravelguide.net/Rwanda/public-holidays
Health and Safety
Intrepid takes the health and safety of its travellers seriously, and takes every measure to ensure that trips are safe, fun and enjoyable for everyone. We recommend that all travellers check with their government or national travel advisory organisation for the latest information before departure:
From New Zealand?
Go to: http://www.voyage.gc.ca/
Go to: http://travel.state.gov/
Go to: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/
The World Health Organisation
also provides useful health information:
Go to: http://www.who.int/en/
Rwanda Travel Tips
Intrepid is committed to travelling in a way that is respectful of local people, their culture, local economies and the environment. It's important to remember that what may be acceptable behaviour, dress and language in your own country, may not be appropriate in another. Please keep this in mind while travelling.
Top responsible travel tips for Rwanda
1. Be considerate of Rwanda’s customs, traditions, religion and culture.
2. Dress modestly and respectfully. Shoulders to knees should be covered, especially when entering places of worship.
3. Ask permission, remove your shoes and cover your shoulders with a jacket or wrap before entering a place of worship.
4. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying bottled water. Fill a reusable water bottle or canteen with filtered water instead.
5. Always dispose of litter thoughtfully, including cigarette butts.
6. Learn some local language and don't be afraid to use it - simple greetings will help break the ice.
7. Shop for locally made products. Supporting local artisans helps keep traditional crafts alive.
8. Refrain from supporting businesses that exploit or abuse endangered animals.
9. Please ask and receive permission before taking photos of people, including children.
10. When on community visits or homestays, refrain from giving gifts or money to locals.
11. Be respectful of Rwanda’s recent history. It's best to avoid discussing politics, ethnicity or genocide.
12. When visiting the mountain gorillas or trekking in national parks, always follow the instructions of your guide and/or leader.
|We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families||Philip Gourevitch|
|Gorillas in the Mist||Dr Dian Fossey|
|A Thousand Hills||Stephen Kinzer|
|Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust||Immaculee Ilibagiza|
|An Ordinary Man: The True Story Behind Hotel Rwanda||Paul Rusesabagina|