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Visit Kigali

Kigali is the capital and largest city of Rwanda. It is near the nation's geographic centre in a region of rolling hills, with a series of valleys and ridges joined by steep slopes. As a clean, comfortable and ordered city, Kigali is very popular with long term expats, and the city is teeming with westerners, from young church or NGO volunteers having their first African ‘experience’ to career development workers enjoying a relaxed lifestyle where it is safe to bring up young children.

About Kigali

The centre of political and commercial life, Kigali dominates Rwanda and few visit the country without passing through. The city is developing fast, and is very much a show-piece capital designed to impress visitors from the humble tourist to foreign investors and visiting dignitaries. With a population topping 1 million, the city spreads over several hills and valleys, with many of the better restaurants and hotels away from the traditional downtown area. The Kigali City Master plan outlines the future for this burgeoning metropolis – with plans for a new city to be built south of the current city centre.

 

Geography

Kigali is located in the centre of Rwanda, at 1°57′S 30°4′E. Like the rest of Rwanda it uses Central Africa Time, and is two hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC+02:00) throughout the year. The city is coterminous with the province of Kigali, one of the five provinces of Rwanda introduced in 2006 as part of a restructuring of local government in the country. The city has boundaries with the Northern, Eastern and Southern provinces. It is divided into three administrative districts Nyarugenge in the south west, Kicukiro in the south east, and Gasabo, which occupies the northern half of the city's territory.

 

Climate

Like the rest of Rwanda, Kigali has a temperate tropical highland climate, with temperatures that are cooler than typical for equatorial countries because of its high elevation. Under the Köppen climate classification, Kigali is in the tropical savanna climate (Aw) zone, straddling the subtropical highland climate. The city has an average daily temperature range between 15 and 27 °C (59 and 81 °F), with little variation through the year. There are two rainy seasons annually; the first runs from February to June and the second from September to December. These are separated by two dry seasons: the major one from June to September, during which there is often no rain at all, and a shorter and less severe one from December to February.

 

History

The earliest inhabitants of what is now Rwanda were the Twa, a group of aboriginal pygmy hunter-gatherers who settled the area between 8000 and 3000 BC and remain in the country today. They were followed between 700 BC and AD 1500 by a number of Bantu groups, including the Hutu and Tutsi, who began clearing forests for agriculture. According to oral history, the Kingdom of Rwanda was founded in the 14th century on the shores of Lake Muhazi, around 40 kilometres (25 mi) east of modern Kigali. The city of Kigali was founded in 1907 by German administrator and explorer Richard Kandt. Rwanda and neighbouring Burundi had been assigned to Germany by the Berlin Conference of 1884, forming part of German East Africa, and Germany established a presence in the country in 1897 with the formation of an alliance with the king, Yuhi V Musinga. Kigali become the capital upon Rwandan independence in 1962. Two other cities were considered Nyanza, as the traditional seat of the mwami, and the southern city of Butare (known as Astrida under the Belgians), due to its prominence as a centre of intellect and religion.

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A Beautiful aerial view of Kigali City in Rwanda

Getting In

  1. By Car
  2. By Plane; Kigali International Airport; Kigali International is a small and organized airport, and it is rare to encounter any problems. Plastic bags are illegal in Rwanda for environmental reasons, so you should bring only reusable bags into the country.
  3. By Bus; There are a couple of daily buses that run directly between Kigali and Kampala in Uganda with some services continuing to Nairobi. The buses are sometimes cramped and uncomfortable, but are the cheapest choice.

 

Getting Around

  1. Motorcyle taxis (motos) are the most popular and fastest way to get around town. On the main road out to the airport they really put their foot down. It is however a good well sealed road, nice views over Kigali City and a thrilling ride.
  2. Matatus/city buses (minibuses) provide major routes throughout the city and are the cheapest way to get around. The minibus in Rwanda is one of the best forms of transport in East Africa. Most of the buses are still new and are maintined well. There are several minibus companies which connect Kigali and the other cities in Rwanda. All of them give the same price depending on the distance.
  3. There are many taxis in Kigali, and in comparison with motors are expensive. Taxis are mainly of two types in Kigali - those operated by individuals (usually with some form of yellow stripe on the vehicle) and more professorially run services operated by a single large operator. The Kigali Airport Taxis and Kigali Taxi Service are the two major groups, there are others companies also running taxis , but these are the largest and both operate a number you can call to sumon a taxis.
  4. Rental Cars.
A skyline view of Kigali, Rwanda
Attractions (What to See)
  1. The Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre; Opened in April 2004 on the 10th anniversary of the genocides. Over 250,000 people are buried here, and there is a truly touching museum. Kigali houses several memorials, museums, and centers dedicated to the Rwandan Genocide. Audio guides and real guides are available. Cafe on site that makes excellent coffee, and supports local youth and businesses. free/donation - extra fee for photography. Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre (Q6405906) on Wikidata Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre on Wikipedia edit
  2. Presidential Palace Museum (Rwanda Art Museum); The abode of the former President Habyarimana, who died in that infamous plane crash of 1994 that sparked the genocide. Guided tours are mandatory, where you can get a glimpse of life as an African dictator in the 1970s & 80s. There is also a display on Rwandan clothing that is quite interesting. Photography is restricted.
  3. Inema Arts Centre, Displays of artwork from around Rwanda.
  4. Kandt House Museum; Natural history museum focusing on Rwanda flora and fauna in the former home of a German named Richard Kandt. Also excellent venue from which to view the city skyline.
  5. Belgian Peacekeepers Memorial (Mémorial de camp Kigali), Memorial to 10 Belgian peacekeepers were gunned down on the first day of the 1994 genocide crisis while attempting to protect the Rwandan Prime Minister. Adjacent is the Kigali Cultural Village where events may take place and souvenirs purchased.

 

Things to Do

  1. Ballet Rwanda; Professional ballet school in Gaculiro, lessons for both children & adults, beginners & experienced dancers. Good mix of Rwandan and expatriate students.
  2. Gisozi circuit (behind Gaculiro); A great 10-km running circuit through Kigali's suburbs - flat, very little traffic and some great views over the rice paddies.
  3. Ten pin bowling, Kimihura; Opened in 2012 and proving popular. Six lanes of ball-rolling fury complete with the TV screen keeping score, ball returners, shoe rental, and slidy, polished alleys. Adding a delightful twist to employment creation the pins are reset by hand rather than a machine.
  4. Nyamirambo Women's Center; Here you can take guided walking tours, cooking classes, or have lunch at an enterprise geared toward enabling women to succeed with computers, literacy, sewing and handicrafts.
The Genocide Memorial Centre in Kigali City, Rwanda
Where to Stay (Accommodation)

Budget:

  • Auberge La Caverne, Nyabugogo Blvd (A few hundred meters before Place de l'Unite roundabout on the left side.). Clean rooms and good basic breakfast.
  • Discover Rwanda Youth Hostel, Kigali, Discover Rwanda Youth Hostel offers clean beds in 4/6 bed dorms and private rooms as well as hot water bathrooms and free breakfast and free internet access,. It also has space for campers inside its 24-hour guarded gate. Discover Rwanda is an Aegis Trust social enterprise in which all proceeds go towards social programs offered by its parent organization at the Kigali Genocide Memorial. The only backpacker hostel in Kigali.
  • Hope Guesthouse, Nyabugogo Blvd; Good basic traveller hotel two minutes walk from the Nyabugogo bus station on a main road. There is a large pub next to the hotel with good food and the usual football TV in the evenings. Downstairs is a massage place. There are also some Visa-accepting ATMs next door. There are plenty of buses to the city center, or walk for about one hour up-hill. Next to the Hope Guesthouse are many other guesthouses with even cheaper clean rooms
  • Auberge de nyamirambo (near Islamic centre),  Single room with outside bathroom. Double room with own bathroom.
  • La Vedette Motel (around the corner from Auberge de Ayamirambo), Double room with outside bathroom

 

Mid-Range;

  • Gloria Hotel
  • Hotel Chez Lando
  • Hotel Isimbi, Rue Kalisimbi, District Nyarugenge (down town), Also has a good bar and restaurant.
  • Iris Guesthouser , clean, big rooms, hot water, very good restaurant and free Internet.
  • Okapi Hotel; good location and friendly staff. Some rooms have an excellent view over the outskirts of Kigali.
  • Park View Courts Rwanda Enjoy a serene environment in this homely apart-hotel complex, with a view to die for and friendly staff.
  • Step Town Motel, clean, very nice rooms, hot water, and free Internet.

 

Splurge;

  • Marasa Umubano Hotel, Boulevard del Umuganda. Still known by its former name Novotel by almost everyone. Ask for a swimming pool view room on a high floor for a beautiful sunrise to wake you from your slumber.
  • Hotel des Mille Collines, Avenue de l'Armée/Avenue de la République; While the movie Hotel Rwanda was filmed in South Africa, this is where the actual events took place. The hotel has two restaurants, a pool, internet and a gift shop. The hotel underwent extensive renovation in 2010. Rates are slightly higher for pool view rooms. All rooms have safes but no hair dryer or coffee maker. Free access to Wi-Fi, but coverage is uneven. Wonderful breakfast buffet. Apart from the movie this hotel is also the setting for the novel Un dimanche à la piscine à Kigali.
  • Kigali Serena Hotel; Formerly a Belgian-owned hotel known as the Diplomates and briefly portrayed in Hotel Rwanda. Renovated in 2011. Free WiFi throughout, health club and spa. The lagoon pool and waterfall form a centerpiece to the hotel. While inside the hotel or the restaurants, you can truly be oblivious to the rest of the city outside - which may be a good or bad thing - depending on your mood.
A glamourous view of Rwanda's Convention Centre in Kigali City, Rwanda

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