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Rwanda Travel Guide

Why visit Rwanda?

Rwanda is among the naturally blessed nations in Africa that still inhabit the amazing mountain gorillas. If these endangered mountain kings are not caught sight of from Uganda and DR. Congo, Rwanda is the alternative and thanks to the works done by Dian Fossey to protect the lives of these creatures and hence they are available for tourists to glimpse on.

Visitors get to appreciate the transformation that came along with the unity that spread as an aftermath of 1994 Rwandan genocide, one gets to feel empathy and remember the lives of the innocent individuals who lost their lives.

Rwanda’s scenery is breath-taking. It is well known for being a land of thousand hills and the pretty scenery that visitors get to gaze at is heart-warming and leaves them with everlasting memories.

Rwanda is the cleanest country in Africa. Rwanda has a unique community activity called “Umuganda” which happens every last Saturday of each month where country men and women take part in cleaning the streets.

Rwanda is one of the safest in Africa. Violent actions in the country are nearly non-existent hence people can visit the country every day, every month.

The country offers one of the best hikes in Africa. Rwanda boasts being a country of thousand hills which explains the magnificent hikes that the country offers. Also, 5 of the 8 mountains that make up the Virunga ranges are found in the country with Karisimbi offering the most challenging hike that takes two days to and from the summit.

Popular activities in Rwanda.

Gorilla trekking safaris.

Mountain gorillas are as popular in Rwanda as they are in Uganda and D.R. Congo. They are among the highly endangered animals and not found anywhere around the world. Rwanda is blessed with 12 gorilla families that can be trekked by 8 individuals for each family daily.

Gorilla trekking adventure is only done from Volcanoes National Park, and usually starts with a briefing at 7:00am. Different tracking routes offer different challenges and come along with different sights of different gorilla families.

Golden monkey trekking

Rwanda is one of the few countries with these beautiful primates called the golden monkeys since they are among the highly endangered species that are highly protected. The golden color of these creatures attracts and makes visitors fall in love with them. Trekking golden monkeys is less tiring compared to mountain gorillas, since they do not move far away into the interior of the forest and the activity starts at 7:30am with a briefing.

Birding

There are over 640 bird species in the country and about 30 are only endemic to Rwanda. Birds can be spotted from all the four national parks of the country but birders should consider changing to other bird habitants like water bodies, wetlands, swamps, marshlands and agricultural plantations for exhaustive views of different bird species like the shoebill that can only be sighted in wetlands of Akagera national park.

Cultural tours

Even though the country chose to unite after genocide, the culture of the country is diversified by a lot of practices that entice the journey of different visitors like watching traditional performances from intore dance troupe, art pieces from galleries like Inema art center among others.

Chimpanzee trekking

One of the oldest afro-montane forest in Africa is caught sight of while in Nyungwe national park which offers the best home of chimpanzees to jump high in the trees, rest and enjoy the huge trees. With a briefing that resumes at 5:00am, visitors get the blast of enjoying a day in a life of chimpanzees within an hour that is offered while trekking in either Cyamudongo or Uwinka.

There are over 500 chimpanzees in the park and visitors are excited by the beauty and beyond while in the park due to other nature contributors that can be spotted while on this activity.

Visiting Dian Fossey tombs

The pioneer of gorilla research needs to be commemorated because without her findings, the knowledge available for trekking and habituating gorillas wouldn’t be thought of. The greatest primatologist spent 18 years of her life studying and protecting the lives of mountain gorillas before unknown enemies killed her for the same cause.

Those who visit her grave get to pay respect for the huge foundation stone she laid for mountain gorilla conservation and while at her research centre Karisimbi, they get to understand and learn about interesting facts she discovered while on her research.

Coffee and tea plantation tour

Some of the finest Africa coffee beans and tea originate in Rwanda, visitors who are enthusiastic about learning these cash crops can organize plantation tours and get to learn more about them by engaging in picking tea, washing, drying and transform it into a final product.

Hiking Virunga volcanoes.

There are five mountains of Virunga massif present in Rwanda, however not all are engaged in for hiking. While in the country, one can visit Visoke, Gahinga, Muhavura, Sabyinyo and mount Karisimbi. Mount Bisoke offers the easiest hike that can be undertaken even by less experienced tourists and Karisimbi is one of the tallest mountains in Africa offering one of the toughest hikes that last for 2 days. While on the journey to Karisimbi’s Mountain summit, visitors get to view other volcanoes, and mountain gorillas if chanced.

Popular attractions to visit in Rwanda.

Volcanoes national park

This is one of the most visited sites in the country because undoubtedly, gorilla trekking leads in the activities that tempt tourists to arrange for itineraries in the country. There are about 250 gorillas in the park and 12 gorilla families are available for trekking.

With just 4-8 hours of hitting the ragged bush, tourists are blessed with the one hour they spend wondering at the closeness the apes have among themselves in their group.

Nyungwe forest national park

The pride that this forest gets for being a single largest enclave of montane forest remaining in the country. The thick canopies of mahogany hold confidential a variety of spectacular primates like chimpanzees, big baboons, grey-cheeked mangabeys offering joy to the tourists who watch them swing on tree branches and enjoy the environment in the space and the courage that comes from aiming for one tree to the other.

Lake Kivu

While the country has a variety of lakes, Lake Kivu needs a special mention as it’s the highly sought of water body in the country and covers more than 2700 square kilometers. Visitors can spot fishing villages while on their way, specks of wonderous tropical islands, industrial natural gas extraction on the lake among others.

Gishwati Mukura national park

The combination of two separate huge forests gave birth to a haven of interesting species of the wild and the birth of Gishwati-Mukura national park that boasts having over 20 groups of chimpanzees that share their home with golden monkeys and some monkeys that can be traced in the freshly aerated forest like L’Hoest’s monkeys, blue monkeys with over 232 birds caught site of while in the park.

Kigali genocide memorial museum

A few decades ago, the situation in Rwanda was terrifying due to the Rwanda genocide that claimed lives of more than 800,000 in just 100 days. While the country has redeemed itself and has closely worked on uniting as a whole, the lives of the innocent individuals that perished in this massacre is kept with them through photographs, artifacts and open graves in this place to commemorate them and visitors always take on a take to this place to pay respect and remember, ponder about the adversity Rwanda went through as a country.

King’s palace museum

This is just a replica of the king’s palace from 15th century and tourists get to have a look at how the king’s mansion back then was a paradise on earth and take a close look at other amazing components like the thatched roof, royal hut, Inyambo sacred cows and their large horns among others.

Akagera national park

A trip to Africa is best remembered with a game drive and Akagera quenches all the thirst since it has all the giants, best known as the big five animals in its premises. The leopard, lion, buffaloes, rhino and elephants all linger and roar from the same fields, however spotting some of them like the cats might be difficult but visitors don’t face any challenge with watching grazers like zebras, giraffes and other animals like hippos, crocodiles, elephants among others all spotted at the comfort of the beautiful seat of the tour vehicle.

Ethnographic museum

This museum is a gift from Belgium to Rwanda in 1989 and till date it carries the best collections of ethnology and archeological artifacts. It is the largest and main museum in the country and while in the premises, tourists are joyed to see items that were once used in hunting, pottery, weaving among others.

Safety guidelines.

Traveling with a well experienced guide who knows all the corners of the country or a particular town is very vital. They can advise tourists on which places to go and the places that are potential criminal holders.

Taking photographs for government installations like army barracks, post offices, banks and so on is highly discouraged by the tourists however much the site in question is appealing.

Obtaining a yellow fever vaccination 10 days before traveling to the country can protect tourists against yellow fever since the country falls into the yellow fever region of Africa. It is very essential that tourists consider taking travel insurances that can include medical insurance, cancellation, emergency evacuation among other covers.

Rwanda’s borders are not entirely safe as there are some civil wars among its neighbors like DRC therefore tourists shouldn’t be close to the border by around 10km especially without guides or security personnel.

Visitors should keep valuable material out of sight especially on co-driver seats while driving, exposed in hotel rooms and while driving, they should endeavor to keep their windows and doors closed and raised completely.

People who travel from February to May and September to December should take caution as this is the rainy season and roads tend to slide and be muddy hence, they should either plan to travel during the dry season or replan their tours if it rains.

It is recommended that only safe packaged water should be consumed by visitors and they shouldn’t risk eating any half-cooked food to avoid contacting foodborne, waterborne and other diseases.

Travel tips when visiting Rwanda.

Passports and other travel documents are a high preferential requirement for any tourists who wishes to join the country and they should all be valid to the necessary conditions before reaching the country’s airport.

Some service providers are exceptionally helpful and it is very okay and customary to tip off a driver, guide, porter after they have offered for a service beyond the tourists’ expectations.

Tourists coming to Rwanda should know that French is widely used by Rwandese and English to some individuals who communicate to tourists. Kinyarwanda is also key as it’s the native language and is used by both the Rwandese and some people in Burundi.

The food in Rwanda is mainly starchy food that includes cassava, yams, porridge among others. Hotels and tourists’ hostels tend to incorporate in other cuisines especially inspired by their former colonialist the Belgians.

Rwandan immigrations accept the use of visas and Mastercard payment but it is important for tourists to also have Rwandan francs as they might not access some of those Mastercard payment means while in some remote areas.

Most hostels in Rwanda do not showcase their beautiful services to the tourists hence its recommended that tourists make a booking for their first night and explore more hotels of their choice while touring around the country.

Tourists can choose to get a local Simcard or use their home networks but internet connection on this is quite slow but it’s to an advantage that most hotels and restaurants have free wi-fi that visitors can opt for.

Rwanda is crowned the cleanest country in Africa therefore visitors should endeavor to keep the pride of this country by not using and littering any plastic bags while in the country since they were banned.

When to visit Rwanda?

The country’s undoubted beauty is perfectly spotted by tourists during the dry month that spans from June to September and December to early February because it offers the best hiking conditions and movement within the parks is quite easy as visitors don’t have to wait for the rains to reduce or seize to travel.

Getting a Rwandan visa.

People applying for Rwandan visa should have a passport whose validity is at least six months from the day of entry into the country.

Visitors can apply for visas through respective embassies of Rwanda in their countries or submit an online application before leaving their country and then pick it on arrival at the airport or land border.

Visitors who wish to extend their visas should make an application for the request to the Directorate General of Immigration and Emigration before the initial visa expires.

Rwanda entry requirements.

Passports for all people who wish to visit the country should be valid for at least 6 months from the date of entry into the country.

All visitors who intend to come to Rwanda should have valid visas with them which can be obtained from the Rwandan embassy in their country or online.

Commonwealth member states, African Union and Francophonie have an offer of obtaining their 30-day tourist visas for free.

Tourists should come to the county with the necessary certificates like the yellow fever certificate and covid-19 PCR certificate.

Suggested packing list.

Insect repellents

The tropics are well known for harboring variety of insects and bugs like mosquitoes especially in the low-raised areas. Therefore, its paramount for tourists to have bug lotions, spray their clothes and have their insect repellents on.

Suitable footwear

The choice of shoes to be worn depend on the activity one is to engage in and where it is to be done, activities like hiking, gorilla trekking are well achieved with sturdy hiking boots and for easy activities like nature walks, game drives, tourists can enjoy the safari with their sneakers or flip flops.

Suitable clothes

Similar to the shoes, tourists should pack both light and heavy clothes, short and long clothes and have them ready depending on the activity they are to engage in. Days are usually warm and the nights cool therefore visitors should carry their sweaters and rain jackets for any unforeseen weather changes.

Sun protectors

Rwanda is a country located in the tropics and these areas are well known for too much sunshine they tend to have. Visitors shouldn’t miss on packing sun protectors like sun huts, sun screens especially for tourists who take part in long activities like gorilla trekking.

Electronics

Gadgets are a must have for all visitors who wish to tell stories after their Rwanda safaris. A good lens camera, smart phone is part of the electronics that tourists shouldn’t leave out if they are interested in taking best memorial pictures. Birders shouldn’t leave behind binoculars to focus on birds and other far wildlife.


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