Travel to Rwanda: 15 Useful Things to Know Before You Go

"Travel to Rwanda: 15 Useful Things to Know Before You Go | Wanderlust Movement | #rwanda #traveltips #africa

Most people travel to Rwanda to trek with the endangered mountain gorillas. Yet, many others hold off on this once in a lifetime adventure because they buy into the idea that Rwanda, like much of Africa, is unsafe.

Yes, the country isn’t as developed to European standards, and yes, it’s neighbours tend to be a bit batshit crazy, but that’s all part of Rwanda’s charm. Its imperfections make it one of the top destinations in Africa, and at the moment it’s also one of the cheapest.

But travelling to Rwanda doesn’t need to be difficult. With tourism growing each year, the infrastructure is improving, and it’s becoming easier than ever before to explore the Land of a Thousand Hills.

Here are 15 things to know about Rwanda before you leave home!

How to Get Your 30-Day Visa on Arrival for Rwanda

If you’re like me and you hate visa paperwork, you’ll love Rwanda. All African nationals are either visa-exempt or get their visa on arrival. South African’s fall into the later, and you’ll be happy to know the whole process is quicker than a queue at Home Affairs.

To get your visa, you’ll need two things: your passport and $30.

If you haven’t exchanged money before your trip, don’t worry. Rwandan immigration accepts Visa and MasterCard payments.

Once you’ve paid for your visa, you’ll go to a second queue where you’ll have a quick chat with an immigration official.

And then you’re done!

If you’re travelling to Rwanda from a country outside of Africa, here’s a handy map to see the visa requirements for different countries.

Is It Safe to Visit Rwanda?

"Travel to Rwanda: 15 Useful Things to Know Before You Go | Wanderlust Movement | #rwanda #traveltips #africa

Yes! It is safe to visit Rwanda. In fact, Rwanda is the safest country in Africa and the 9th safest in the world.

You can stop worrying Mom.

You’re more likely to get shot in America than not survive a trip to Rwanda.

I felt completely at ease here. While people did stare at me, it was more my blue hair colour then leering. I also didn’t witness or experience any catcalling.

Plus it is nowhere near as homophobic as its neighbours, should we add most progressive East African country to the list as well?

If you do encounter any problems, there is a policeman or someone from the army on every block – for real. While they might look intimidating, Rwandans are some of the friendliest people you will meet and will be more than happy to help.

It’s also a good idea to get a travel insurance policy, especially if you’re planning a trip to Rwanda on going gorilla trekking. The terrain can be quite difficult to climb (depending on the time of year) and if you do fall you’ll want to be covered for my hospital visits or broken gear.

Don’t Drink the Tap Water

The tap water is not safe to drink in Rwanda. Luckily, most hotels and hostels will have a free water dispenser that you can use. Before you travel to Rwanda, pack a reusable water bottle in your bag and fill up as you explore.

If you need to buy water, it’s inexpensive and available at any of the shops and supermarkets around the country.

Rwanda Travel Vaccinations

You can travel to Rwanda without a Yellow Fever vaccination.


This means that there are no Rwanda travel vaccinations that you NEED to have. Of course, there are the recommended ones, but you won’t be denied entry into the country.

But if you’re flying in from or to any of the neighbouring countries like Kenya or Uganda, you will need proof that you’ve had the vaccination.

Update: Although none of the resources I encountered (and no one asked to see any Yellow Fever vaccination before any of my flights) some people in the comment section are saying otherwise.

According to the link above, the CDC does not recommend a yellow fever vaccination for most travellers to Rwanda and Rwanda only requires proof of a Yellow Fever vaccination if you’re travelling from an at-risk country.

However, if you want to check all your bases, feel free to get the vaccination. It lasts for 10 years, and you won’t have to worry.

Hostels in Rwanda

A quick search on will only show a measly nine hostels in Rwanda.

But this doesn’t mean those are your only options.

A lot of the places don’t advertise on online booking sites. I recommend making a reservation for your first night and then exploring your options once in the country.

The hostel scene is small in Rwanda, but it’s growing. If you pay a little bit extra, you can usually get a whole 6-bed dorm to yourself. This is because most backpackers stick to the cheaper 12-bed dorms and the hostels are rarely full to capacity.

What Currency is Used in Rwanda?

The official currency in Rwanda is the Rwandan Franc.

However, the US dollar is widely accepted. You’ll only need RWF to pay for smaller purchases, local transportation and food. Everywhere else will accept both currencies.

Is Rwanda Expensive?

Yes and no.

Visiting Rwanda can quickly become expensive depending on your itinerary.

The national parks, like Akagera, have a steep $40+ entrance fee for foreign nationals, and the gorilla trekking permits cost well over a $1,000.

But you can still enjoy Rwanda as a cheap destination.

The local food in Kigali is affordable if you stay away from international restaurants. When it comes to transport, there are cheap motorbike taxis and long-distance minibuses that will take you to most of the towns around the country for a couple of dollars.

Internet Access in Rwanda

I didn’t have a problem getting online while in Rwanda. While it wasn’t the fastest connection, I wasn’ staring at my screen begging it to load.

If you aren’t planning on getting a local sim card for data, you might struggle to find a connection while exploring. Most of the restaurants I went to didn’t have WiFi except the cafe at the Genocide Memorial.

But then again I was eating at super cheap places.

Download a map of the area and join the cheapskate club if you don’t want to hunt WiFi down.

How to Get a Permit for Gorilla Trekking and Other Hikes

"Travel to Rwanda: 15 Useful Things to Know Before You Go | Wanderlust Movement | #rwanda #traveltips #africa

One of the best things to do in Rwanda is to go gorilla trekking. But you can’t just go on a hike and hope to see these majestic creatures.

You need a permit.

The permits for Volcanoes National Parks hikes and gorilla trekking can be bought either at the Tourism Headquarters in Kigali or the offices outside the national park.

Prices for the permits vary as well as their availability. For example, Rwanda tourism restricts the number of people that can see the gorillas each day, whereas the Dian Fossey Hike isn’t capped.

I recommend emailing the tourism headquarters to find out what availability is like before you go.

Another important thing to remember is that the dates of the permit cannot be changed. If you can’t go on that day anymore, you’ll need to purchase a whole new permit.

How Much Does a Gorilla Permit Cost in Rwanda?

The Rwanda gorilla trekking permit costs $1500 per person. It’s a super steep price and the most expensive out of the three countries (Uganda and Congo) that offer the experience.

The reason the price is so high is that it keeps the trekking exclusive. The gorillas are vulnerable to human diseases and it would be irresponsible to have hundreds of people seeing the gorillas each day.

It would ruin their habitat and change their behaviour.

Plus, your money goes towards their conservation and curbs poaching as the gorillas are now more valuable alive than dead.

When is the Best Time to Travel to Rwanda to go Gorilla Trekking?

The best time to go gorilla trekking in Rwanda is during the dry season. Not only will the terrain be easier to navigate, but you won’t have to worry about the rain ruining your chances of seeing the gorillas.

I did the Dian Fossey trek at the beginning of the rainy season, and all the non-avid hikers found it difficult. There was lots of mud, steep inclines and swampy parts where almost everyone lost a shoe.

What to Wear for Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda

  • Shoes: A good pair of hiking shoes with a high ankle and good grip.
  • Hiking gaiters: If you don’t have your own you can rent a pair for RWF 10,000 (R 160.00) from your guide.
  • Clothes: Wear long pants and a long-sleeved shirt in neutral colours. This will protect you from the stinging nettles and help you blend in.
  • Other essentials: A rain jacket for the sporadic showers, and a small backpack that can hold your water, camera and lunch.

Food in Rwanda

"Travel to Rwanda: 15 Useful Things to Know Before You Go | Wanderlust Movement | #rwanda #traveltips #africa

The local food is delicious. While I couldn’t taste the majority of the dishes as it’s quite meat-heavy, I enjoyed everything that I did get my hands on.

Travelling to Rwanda as a Vegan

In the capital city of Kigali, I found it pretty easy to get hold of vegan food. While there aren’t any vegan restaurants, all the places I went to had a vegetarian option that could easily be modified into a cruelty-free meal.

A typical Rwandan breakfast includes a platter of fresh fruit so you shouldn’t have any problems munching down.

Cooking Class Tours

If you want to learn how to make some of Rwanda’s most famous local dishes, go to a cooking class.

The Nyamirambo Women’s Center offers one for only RWF 15,000 (R 250.00). Not only will you be helping vulnerable women in the community make a living, but you’ll get an authentic look into the preparation and creation of traditional meals.

Plus, they have vegetarian options that can be made vegan on request.

Jumia Food – The Uber Eats of Rwanda

In case you don’t know, I’m an odd creature of comfort. I have no problem falling asleep just about anywhere, and once I’ve found a spot I like, I’m in it for the long haul.

So, as much as I love sampling the local food, I don’t love the whole actually going to a restaurant. Sometimes I just want the food and me to have a moment without all the stress that comes along with going out.

In steps Jumia Food. It’s Kigali’s answer to Uber Eats, and it’s fantastic. The app has a wide range of cuisines and price ranges to choose from that will be delivered straight to your hostel door with a swipe of a finger.

I highly recommend the Ethiopian restaurants if you don’t mind the splurge. But if you want cheap and mouthwatering, order anything from Chap Chap.

Tipping in Rwanda

Tipping is not customary in Rwanda restaurants unless you’re dining at the higher-end establishments in Kigali.

Tipping Guides in Rwanda

If you’re doing a hike, you’ll need to tip the guide. How much seems to be a debatable issue and I’d recommend asking the hotel staff or the company organising your tour for some guidance.

Keep in mind that the guides, porters and trackers are most likely former poachers. Your business helps them to make a living ethically and see the value in keeping the gorillas alive.

The Best Time to Visit Rwanda

"Travel to Rwanda: 15 Useful Things to Know Before You Go | Wanderlust Movement | #rwanda #traveltips #africa

The best time to visit Rwanda is during the dry season. From June to September, there will be minimal chance of rain ruining any of the great outdoor activities in the country.

Plus, it’s also a great time of year to see Rwanda’s wildlife. The animals in Akagera National Park will be easier to spot as they make their way to the watering holes and hiking conditions will be at their easiest.

The only downside is that it’s peak tourist season during this time. Rates will be higher for flights, hotels and activities.

If you visit outside these months, it will be cheaper, but you’ll have to plan around the spots of bad weather.

How to Travel to Rwanda

The quickest way to get to Rwanda is to fly. I bought my return flights from South Africa to Kigali for under R 3000, but prices tend to hover around R4000.

If you’re already in East Africa, there are local buses that run between the different countries. Some of the most popular routes are from Kampala, Uganda to Kigali or Nairobi, Kenya to Kigali.

Read More: Travel to Kenya: 15 Useful Things To Know Before You Go

How to Get Around Rwanda

The easiest way to get around Rwanda is to hire your own car, but it’s expensive.

Luckily, the country does have a decent public transport system that makes it cheap and easy to travel in Rwanda without a car.

If you want to visit Akagera National Park, you’ll need to join a tour or use your own wheels. The same goes for Volcanoes National Park; no public transport runs to the entrance of the park.

However, if you’re just around the cities and towns, there is no reason to hire a car. There are dozens of moto-taxis waiting to take you around at reasonable rates. The best part is that the drivers don’t inflate their prices and you don’t need to waste time haggling.

But most drivers won’t know street names. It’s a good idea to have your final destination open on Google Maps to show the driver and to make sure you’re going in the right direction.

Read Up on Rwanda’s History

"Travel to Rwanda: 15 Useful Things to Know Before You Go | Wanderlust Movement | #rwanda #traveltips #africa

Photo by: Kigali Genocide Memorial

In 1994, Rwanda went through a dark period where around one million Tutsis were murdered in 100 days.

Only 25 years have passed, and it’s still a fresh wound in the country. One thing that stood out for me while in Kigali was the high number of young people as most parents were killed during this period.

Before you going to Rwanda, watch the movie Hotel Rwanda to understand the basics of what led up to this traumatic event.

And of course, a visit to the genocide memorials is a must to understand Rwanda’s history and how the genocide has affected the entire nation.

Do you have any Rwanda travel tips? Hit ya gurl up in the comments below!

Want more African travel inspiration? Check out my other posts:

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Travel to Rwanda: 15 Useful Things to Know Before You Go | Wanderlust Movement | #rwanda #traveltips #africa

Travel to Rwanda: 15 Useful Things to Know Before You Go


  1. Jess
    November 12, 2017 / 1:15 am

    Having lived in Rwanda, I would agree with much of this post. However there are a few things I would say: First, the 1994 genocide in Rwanda killed at least 800,000 people in those 100 days. It was a brutal and tragic piece of Rwandan history and so it’s understandable how, even 20 years later, they are dealing with the aftermath. Some people are willing to talk about this history but many do not want to divulge much information. And the memorial services and events are all held in April, so I’d recommend planning a trip that avoids these events (they are highly emotional, sometimes dangerous, and can be traumatizing for some who do not understand the history). Second, if you pay for anything with US dollars, make sure the bills you have are dated 2008 or higher and are crisp and new. Rwandans often get less in currency exchanges for bills that are not up to par. Third, the local language is fairly easy to learn. Within a few weeks I could speak Kinyarwanda conversationally. However it is also a perk to know French. Rwanda is in the process of switching it’s primary language system to Anglophone from Francophone so many of the younger Rwandans speak some English and many of the older Rwandans speak more French. However, everyone speaks Kinyarwanda! And Finally, if you plan to take Moto-taxis, be aware that they are quite unsafe. Motos are much cheaper and more fun to get around on, however taxi-busses and cars are a safer option and not unreasonable priced. Generally, however, Rwanda is an extremely safe country. Use common sense and general precaution, as you would in any new place, and you will likely be just fine!

    • lauren
      November 13, 2017 / 8:29 am

      Thanks so much for your comment Jess and all the useful info!

      I also found the local language quite simple to learn and would love to go back next year for a month and really get more usage out of it.
      And my terrible French did help me out a few times as well ^.^

    March 18, 2018 / 9:52 am

    I love this. what kind of jobs are best for foreigners to Rwanda? Am a mechanical engineer in the domain of fluid [domestic and industrial plumbing] mechanics, fabrication, maintenance of industrial systems

    • lauren
      March 18, 2018 / 10:36 am

      You would probably have to contact someone who helps people immigrate to the country,

  3. K.Lewis
    March 29, 2018 / 5:48 pm

    I am planning a trip in November and Yellow Fever is required. I checked with the Board of Tourism. Actually I spoke with them.

    • lauren
      March 31, 2018 / 10:32 am

      Hey, thanks really weird. When I went there in September last year, no one asked to see if I had a yellow fever certificate on the South African or Rwanda side. And all the information I found last year said they had been removed as a at-risk country and it was no longer a requirement for arriving or departing travellers :/

  4. dada
    June 6, 2018 / 9:47 pm

    It seems that the requirement still exists but is not enforced very strictly. You should have it taken care of just in case they ask.

    • lauren
      June 10, 2018 / 12:18 am

      The CDC resource I consulted said that Rwanda only requires proof of Yellow Fever vaccination if you’re travelling from an at-risk country. So the information seems a bit conflicting for some reason. Of course, it’s safer to get the vaccination anyway, but it is weird that legit resources have varying information about such an important disease.

    • September 19, 2018 / 3:19 pm

      i am travelling to Kigali on Tuesday 25th Sept and l have phoned the Rwanda high Comm and they did confirm that there is no need for the yellow fever vaccine if one is coming from a non-yellow-fever country or has never been to a yellow fever country within the past 25 days!

      • lauren
        September 26, 2018 / 11:09 am

        Ah Forbes! Thanks so much for taking the time to comment this. I really appreciate it 🙂 I hope you have an amazing time travelling to Rwanda!

  5. Anita
    June 18, 2018 / 2:14 pm

    I wasn’t aware that they did away with the yellow fever vaccination till now, thank you.

    • lauren
      June 18, 2018 / 6:52 pm

      Hey Anita! I’ll double check before you go on your trip because people have been getting conflicting pieces of information.

  6. Sander
    November 10, 2018 / 12:13 pm

    Very useful information. I’m going to Rwanda in the beginning of December. I arrive on Saturday evening late and want to spend Sunday to see Kigali and organize my permits and sort out my public transport to see Nyungwe Forrest National Park and go go to Valcanoes National Park to do some hikes. Is it possible to it on a Sunday or do I need to arrange a lot of stuff beforehand?

    Thanks a lot!

    • lauren
      November 12, 2018 / 4:12 pm

      Hey, if the permit office is open on a Sunday, you should be able to organise your permits 🙂 It’s a very quick process, so it won’t take up a lot of your time.

  7. Kautuk
    January 23, 2019 / 9:57 pm

    Very insightful blog. Really appreciate

    • lauren
      January 24, 2019 / 10:35 am

      Happy to hear you’ve found it useful!

  8. cyuzuzo ildephonse
    February 21, 2019 / 6:21 pm

    hey, I was born and I stay in Rwanda. I liked the post and I agree with the most of its information but what I wanted to correct is that it is 20,000 of Tutsi who were murdered during Genocide but over 1 million of Tutsi were murdered and it is been 25 years now. but apart from that Rwanda is the safest Country in Africa in my opinion and hospitality is a common trait in Rwandan people.

    • lauren
      February 27, 2019 / 9:59 pm

      Thanks so much! I have corrected the info 🙂

  9. TravelingArrows
    June 13, 2019 / 4:50 pm

    Great post! So many useful information! 😀 I’m going to Rwanda in August, skipping the gorilla tracking (too expensive 🙁 ), but can’t wait to see other attractions!

    • lauren
      June 24, 2019 / 2:48 pm

      I hope you have an incredible time!!

    July 7, 2019 / 6:22 am

    Thanks for the information, I will be visiting in early October, how difficult is the trek? Is it something I should be worried about?

    • lauren
      July 9, 2019 / 3:03 pm

      Hey Debrah! I’ve you hike regularly / you’re a fit person you should be good. It will be a difficult hike if you’re not really active as it’s a lot of uphill and the mud means you’re going to work extra hard.

  11. TICTAC
    March 4, 2020 / 12:57 pm

    Thanks for the tips and info….

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