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Rwanda, a land of a thousand hills and named the most safest country destination in Africa to Visit. Rwanda is an East African country, easily accessible from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. It is easy, safe and simple to travel around. Rwanda is not only the land of a thousand hills, but also a country rich in flora and fauna and stunning natural beauty in its scenic rolling and breathtaking green savannah. The country hosts some rare species of animals like the mountain gorillas as well as unique birds and insects in the tropical forest of Nyungwe.

About Rwanda

Rwanda is a landlocked country in the Great Rift Valley where the African Great Lakes region and East Africa converge. One of the smallest countries on the African mainland, its capital city is Kigali. Located a few degrees south of the Equator, Rwanda is bordered by Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is highly elevated with its geography dominated by mountains in the west and savannah to the east, with numerous lakes throughout the country. The climate is temperate to subtropical, with two rainy seasons and two dry seasons each year. Rwanda has a population of over 12.6 million living on 26,338 km2 (10,169 mi2) of land, and is the most densely populated mainland African country.

 

Rwanda's developing economy suffered heavily in the wake of the 1994 genocide, but has since strengthened. The economy is based mostly on subsistence agriculture. Coffee and tea are the major cash crops for export. Tourism is a fast-growing sector and is now the country's leading foreign exchange earner. Rwanda is one of only two countries in which mountain gorillas can be visited safely, and visitors pay high prices for gorilla tracking permits

 

Geography

Rwanda is the world's 149th-largest country, and the fourth smallest on the African mainland after Gambia, Eswatini, and Djibouti. It is comparable in size to Burundi, Haiti and Albania. The entire country is at a high altitude: the lowest point is the Rusizi River at 950 metres (3,117 ft) above sea level. Rwanda is located in Central/Eastern Africa, and is bordered by the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west, Uganda to the north, Tanzania to the east, and Burundi to the south. It lies a few degrees south of the equator and is landlocked. The capital, Kigali, is located near the centre of Rwanda

 

Climate

Although Rwanda is located only two degrees south of the equator, Rwanda's high elevation makes the climate temperate. The average daily temperature near Lake Kivu, at an altitude of 1,463 m (4,800 ft) is 22.8°C (73°F). During the two rainy seasons (Feb–May and Sep–Dec), heavy downpours occur almost daily, alternating with sunny weather. Annual rainfall averages 800 mm (31.5 in) but is generally heavier in the western and northwestern mountains than in the eastern savannahs.

 

History

Modern human settlement of what is now Rwanda dates from, at the latest, the last glacial period, either in the Neolithic period around 8000 BC, or in the long humid period which followed, up to around 3000 BC. Archaeological excavations have revealed evidence of sparse settlement by hunter-gatherers in the late Stone Age, followed by a larger population of early Iron Age settlers, who produced dimpled pottery and iron tools. These early inhabitants were the ancestors of the Twa, aboriginal pygmy hunter-gatherers who remain in Rwanda today. Between 700 BC and 1500 AD, a number of Bantu groups migrated into Rwanda, clearing forest land for agriculture. The forest-dwelling Twa lost much of their habitat and moved to the mountain slopes.

In 1990, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), a rebel group composed of nearly 500,000 Tutsi refugees, invaded northern Rwanda from their base in Uganda, initiating the Rwandan Civil War. The group condemned the Hutu-dominated government for failing to democratize and confront the problems facing these refugees. Neither side was able to gain a decisive advantage in the war, but by 1992 it had weakened Habyarimana's authority; mass demonstrations forced him into a coalition with the domestic opposition and eventually to sign the 1993 Arusha Accords with the RPF. The cease-fire ended on 6 April 1994 when Habyarimana's plane was shot down near Kigali Airport, killing him. The shooting down of the plane served as the catalyst for the Rwandan genocide, which began within a few hours. Over the course of approximately 100 days, between 500,000 and 1,000,000 Tutsi and politically moderate Hutu were killed in well-planned attacks on the orders of the interim government. Many Twa were also killed, despite not being directly targeted.

Rwanda has begun to recover from the genocide, and since the accession of Paul Kagame as president in 2000, Rwanda has adopted market-oriented reforms and emerged as one of the fastest growing economies in the world.

Kigali is the capital city of Rwanda

Getting In

A passport is required to enter Rwanda though a certificate of vaccination is not required unless coming from a yellow fever endemic country. Citizens of Burundi, Kenya, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda can enter Rwanda visa-free for up to 6 months. Kenyan and Ugandan citizens may use an ID card in lieu of a passport to enter Rwanda. Benin, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Guinea, Haiti, Indonesia, Mauritius, Philippines, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Singapore citizens can also enter visa-free for 90 days.  Visitors from all countries who do not receive visa-free entry are now eligible for visa on arrival for $50 USD (as of Mar 2020). Payments for the visa may be made on arrival in both cash as well as credit card. Citizens of Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa countries will receive visas valid for 90 days while other visitors will be granted visas valid for 30 days.

  1. By Car
  2. By Plane; Kigali International Airport;
  3. By Bus;
  4. By Train

 

Getting Around

  1. Motorcyle taxis (motos) are the most popular and fastest way to get around Rwanda.
  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.
  3. There are many taxis in Rwanda, 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.
  4. Rental Cars.
  5. By Foot; Short distances can be travelled either on foot, or by taxi-velo (bicycle taxi). Taxi-velos are widespread, and are relatively inexpensive but not allowed in urban areas.

 

Language

Kinyarwanda is an official language and the main spoken language in Rwanda. It is also spoken in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo and in southern Uganda. Kinyarwanda is a tonal language of the Bantu language family, closely related to Kirundi spoken in the neighboring country Burundi and much more distantly related to other Bantu languages such as Swahili.

In addition to Kinyarwanda, Rwanda's three other official languages are English, French, and Swahili. While French was the former language of administration under Belgian colonial rule, since the civil war the Rwandan government has moved away from the Francophone sphere of influence and officially switched the primary language of education to English in 2008. As a result of this, older people who were educated in Rwanda tend to have some knowledge of French, while the younger generation will have better knowledge of English. Complicating this is the large number of returned refugees who were educated in neighboring countries. Those educated in nearby Anglophone countries (Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya) tend to know English while those educated in the Democratic Republic of Congo or Burundi will know French. Swahili was made an additional official language in 2015 and a required subject in the school curriculum as a result of its membership within the East African Community. Swahili is also widely spoken among traders and returned refugees from Kenya, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Image of the Entrance road to Akagera National Park in 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. National Museum of Butare
  4. Nyamata Genocide Memorial (Located in the town of Nyamata, 40 minutes south of Kigali on a newly paved road); is a worthwhile complement to the Gisozi Memorial Centre in Kigali. The memorial is in a church where over 10,000 people were killed during the 1994 genocide. Visitors take a short tour and see the evidence of the genocide that remains there today - victims' clothing piled on benches, the roof pockmarked with bullet holes, and the open crypts behind the church that hold the remains of over 40,000 people from the area. An extremely moving look into one of the places where the genocide was carried out. If you wish to take photographs of the site, you will need to purchase a permit in Kigali before travelling to Nyamata.
  5. Nyanza Genocide Memorial, Kicukiro. This memorial is the site of four tiled-over mass graves holding the remains of thousands of Tutsis who were executed after the regiment of UN guards protecting them were killed
  6. 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.
  7. 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. Visit Lake Kivu; A large lake bordering the DRC, it's a nice place to relax for a week or so
  2. Visit Akagera National Park
  3. Visit Volcanoes National Park; Home to the mountain gorillas, this park spreads into Uganda and Democratic Republic of the Congo. The setting for Gorillas in the Mist, author Dian Fossey's research. If you can afford it, it's an excellent experience, and even possible as a daytrip from Kigali
  4. Visit Nyungwe National Park
Nyungwe National Park is Rwanda's nature park, a hotspot for different plant species and plenty of primates and bird species
Akagera National Park is one of three Rwanda's national parks
Volcanoes National Park is Rwanda's most popular national park, due to it's unique wildlife of mountain Gorillas.
Where to Stay (Accommodation)

Nice hotels can be found in Kigali, the most famous of which is the "Hotel des Milles Collines", as featured in the film Hotel Rwanda. Film buffs hoping to stay in the film set will be disappointed though, as the film was produced in South Africa. The hotel is now open after extensive renovation.

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.
Rwanda has some amaxzing accommodation options, for you to choose from.

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Journey into Rwanda! One of Africa's Safest Destinations

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