All you need to know for your holiday to Rwanda
Additional requirements and restrictions may apply for travel during the Covid-19 pandemic. Travel Butlers aim to highlight these requirements to affected clients, however the onus remains with the traveller to ensure they are aware of any requirements and restrictions that will apply to their own trip.
For up-to-date travel information from the UK government, please check:
UK Government Advice: www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/rwanda
It is expected that these rules will be lifted and that the entry requirements will revert to normal as soon as the government of Rwanda deems it safe to do so.
Normally, holders of the following passports will be granted a visa at Kigali International Airport:
United Kingdom, United States of America, Australia, Germany, Israel, New Zealand, Sweden, Republic of South Africa.
The single entry visa costs USD 50 per person (valid for 30 days).
A multiple entry visa costs USD 70 per person (valid for 90 days).
You can also get an East Africa Tourist Visa which allows holders to travel to and within Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya for 90 days and costs USD 100 per person.
All fees are payable in cash (US dollars) and subject to change.
If you are a passport holder from another country, please contact your local Rwanda High Commission or Embassy for up-to-date visa requirements, as you may be required to obtain your visa BEFORE travelling.
You can also apply online for a visa (including the 90 day East Africa Tourist Visa and if you are not entering Rwanda via Kigali International Airport) via the Rwanda Immigration Website - https://irembo.gov.rw/rolportal/en/single-entry-visa.
Please note that if you are applying to the Embassy for your visa, some visas can take a long time to be processed so please do take this into consideration, as it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct visa in place before you travel.
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Rwanda and have sufficient blank pages for the Rwanda entry/exit stamps (at least 2).
IMPORTANT: Plastic bags are banned in Rwanda. Arriving visitors are requested to avoid bring plastic bags into the country - this includes in suitcases and carry-on hand luggage.
Please check hand luggage before disembarking and any plastic bags (including plastic duty-free shopping bags and the transparent plastic bags that some airlines require passengers to use for keeping liquids, cosmetics, etc) should be left in the plane.
Ziploc bags that are specifically used to carry toiletries will be permitted as they are expected to remain in the permanent possession of visitors and are not expected to be disposed in the country.
PLEASE NOTE: Countries can change their entry requirements at any time. Travel Butlers try to ensure that the information displayed here is correct, but the onus remains with the traveller to verify the information with the relevant High Commission or Embassy and ensure that they can comply with the applicable entry requirements.
You are advised to contact your doctor or clinic around 4-8 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations and to get their professional medical advice regarding travel to Rwanda.
To help prevent diarrhoea, avoid tap water – drink only bottled water and use bottled water for tooth brushing, and avoid ice made with tap water – and only eat fruit or vegetables that are cooked or can be peeled. To help avoid heatstroke, drink plenty of bottled water/fluids, and keep out of the midday sun.
There is very low risk of contracting yellow fever in Rwanda. The World Health Organization, which once listed Rwanda as a yellow fever endemic country, now considers Rwanda to have low potential for exposure to the virus and has removed Rwanda from the watch list. If you are travelling from the US or UK you do not need the yellow fever vaccination certificate, but citizens of other countries should check their respective re-entry requirements.
There is a risk of malaria in all areas of Rwanda - check with your doctor about suitable antimalarial tablets. Try to avoid mosquito bites wherever possible - wear loose long-sleeved clothing and trousers, and use a repellent on clothing and exposed skin.
Mountain gorillas and chimpanzees are highly susceptible to human diseases including flu and colds. If you are participating in a gorilla/chimp trek then you need to be free of any visibly contagious diseases and this is checked at the start of the trek by the Park Authorities. If they are in any doubt of your condition, they reserve the right to prevent you from continuing on the trek. Our advice is that if you feel you are worried about this aspect, please inform your safari guide as soon as possible, and he will seek advice as to the best way to manage the situation.
language and people
The official languages are Kinyarwanda, French, English and Kiswahili.
We would ask that all travellers are respectful of the local culture as follows:
Photography of government buildings is prohibited.
The week following Genocide Memorial Day on 7 April is designated an official week of mourning.
The last Saturday of each month is Umuganda, which is a national day of community service, during which most normal services close down from 07:00 to 11:00. The first and third Sunday of the month, the city of Kigali has a car free morning from 07:00 to 10:00 to promote exercise healthy living and to reduce car emissions. Other districts in the country have followed suit in the two consecutive Sundays.
Homosexuality is not illegal in Rwanda but remains frowned on by many. Whilst everyone is of course entitled to their own sexual preferences and gender identity, we would advise all clients (and this includes members of the LGBT+ community as well as members of the heterosexual community) to refrain from overtly public displays of affection which may cause offence to some local citizens.
The currency is the Rwanda Franc.
US Dollars cash is the preferred option to bring when travelling to Rwanda. Once in Rwanda, we advise guests to change some dollars into local currency for use as spending money on the road eg for drinks, curios. We suggest a combination of small denomination notes (USD 1, 5, 10, 50) as well as USD 100 bills - make sure they are POST 2005 as generally only post 2005 series are accepted in Rwanda and have the ‘large heads’ on (the older notes depict the various senators with ‘smaller heads’ - this may sound a bit cryptic, but when you compare the notes it will become clearer). Note that whilst more convenient in terms of changing currency and not having to carry around huge amounts of local money, there is normally a surcharge on the smaller notes when changing them. Keep your slips, you are able to change surplus local money back to cash if you have proof of purchase when leaving the country.
Travellers cheques are difficult to change and REALLY bad rates of exchange generally apply, and are often VERY difficult to cash, even in large towns and especially over weekends and after hours. Throughout the rest of the country, changing TC’s is almost impossible.
There are only a few banks that are authorised to give cash advances on credit cards. Visa cards are generally fine BUT Mastercard are NOT guaranteed and will only be cashed IF they clear certain internal security checks. There is a limit on amounts that may be drawn, and only during banking hours. Exchange rates will be poor, and they may also charge a hefty service fee. The long and short is keep your credit card for EMERGENCIES ONLY.
ATM machines are often not working. They pay LOCAL MONEY only and you need an international use PIN code to draw money and it can only be done with certain cards.
Payment for services by credit card can only be done by VISA card or MASTERCARD in some places. Only large hotels generally accept this means of payment and they will also levy a fee of at least 5% on top of any bills.
You can read more about the climate in our guide to the best time to visit Rwanda.
The international dialling code for Rwanda is +250.
240 volts but using 2 pin Europearn style plugs.
Some lodges and camps have power only at certain times of the day, and in some charging facilities are centralised. You will need your own charger.
In lodges/camps utilising solar power systems, the amount of power available for charging often depends on how sunny the weather has been and how busy the lodge is with charging equipment, so whilst they will always try to assist, continuous charging cannot be guaranteed at all times to be available.
Use of specialized breathing machines, hair dryers, curling tongs, shavers and other electrical equipment is possible at hotels in towns and at lodges with large generator power back up systems but generally not possible at solar powered lodges.
Rwanda Standard Time is 2 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+2)
We do not recommend people hire a car and drive themselves in Rwanda, therefore all our holidays will be with a transfer where necessary.
While travelling through Rwanda, you will be mostly on tarred roads and they are in reasonably good condition by African standards. There may be some VERY LONG days in the vehicle, but the interesting and diverse scenery generally makes up for it! There are however, some really bad sections of dirt road, especially in the more mountainous areas. In these areas travel will be slower, quite bumpy and there could be a lot of dust experienced en-route.
The safari vehicles you will be travelling in are customised 4x4 vehicles (mainly Toyota LandCruisers) which have been converted for local conditions - they seat between 4-7 people, depending on the seating configuration and have opening roof hatches for optimal game viewing. They are a little slower on the road than a saloon vehicle or a smaller 'family' 4x4 and do not have air conditioning. Your safari vehicle is generally used throughout the safari for travelling between destinations as well as for game drives and other activities at the lodges and within the National Parks.