Rwanda is a landlocked republic in Equatorial Africa, situated on the eastern rim of the Albertine Rift, a western arm of the Great Rift Valley, on the watershed between Africa's two largest river systems: the Nile and the Congo. Much of the country's 26,338 km2 is impressively mountainous, the highest peak being Karisimbi (4,507m) in the volcanic Virunga chain protected by the Parc des Volcans. The largest body of water is Lake Kivu, but numerous other lakes are dotted around the country, notably Burera, Ruhondo, Muhazi and Mugesera, some of which have erratic shapes following the contours of the steep mountains that enclose them.
Primarily a subsistence agriculture economy, Rwanda nonetheless produces for export some of the finest tea and coffee in the world. Other industries include sugar, fishing and cut flowers for export.
ORTPN - RWANDA TOURIST BOARD - Contact Details
Office Rwandaise du Tourisme et des Parcs Nationaux (ORTPN)
The Rwanda Tourism Board
Boulevard de la Révolution n° 1
PO Box 905
Tel (250) 576514 or 573396
Fax (250) 576515
All International flights arriving in Kigali are with SN Brussels, Kenya Airways Ethiopian Airlines, Air Burundi and Rwandair Express.
All international flights arrive at Kigali International Airport,10 Km from central Kigali. There are two flights a day from Nairobi, two per week direct from Brussels and two per week from Johannesburg.
For information on connections from Nairobi Entebbe and Johannesburg,
please contact RWANDA AIR EXPRESS
PASSPORT AND VISAS:
A valid passport is mandatory. Visas, required by all visitors except nationals of the USA, UK, Germany, Canada, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sweden, Mauritius, South Africa and Hong Kong, cost USD 60 and can be bought upon arrival.
The unit of currency is the Rwanda franc. The US dollar is the hard currency of preference. It may be impossible to exchange travellers' cheques away from the capital. Credit cards are usually only accepted at the major hotels in Kigali.
In addition to the indigenous language of Kinyarwanda, French and English are official languages. French is widely spoken throughout the country. In the capital and other tourist centres, many people speak English.
Good Friday and Easter Monday, which fall on variable dates, are recognised in Rwanda. Other public holidays are :
1 January (New Year's Day);
1 February (National Heroes Day);
7 April (Genocide Memorial Day);
1 May (Labour Day);
1 July (Independence Day);
4 July (National Liberation Day);
15 August (Assumption Day);
1 October (Patriotism Day);
25 December (Christmas Day), and
26 December(Boxing Day).
WHEN TO VISIT:
Rwanda can be visited throughout the year. Gorilla tracking and other forest walks are less demanding during the drier months. The European winter is the best time for birds, as Palaearctic migrants supplement resident species.
WHAT TO WEAR:
Dress codes are informal. Daytime temperatures are generally warm, so bring lots of light clothing, supplemented by light sweaters for the cool evenings and heavier clothing for the Parc des Volcans and Nyungwe. When tracking gorillas, wear sturdier clothing to protect against stinging nettles, and solid walking shoes. A hat and sunglasses provide protection against the sun, and a waterproof jacket may come in handy in the moist mountains.
WHAT TO BRING:
Binoculars will greatly enhance game drives and forest walks, as will a good field guide to East African birds. Bring a camera and an adequate stock of film. Print film is available but transparency film is not. Toiletries and other essentials can be bought in the cities.
Rwanda has an excellent cell phone network covering almost the entire country.
International phone calls can be made easily. Appropriate SIM cards for the network are readily available everywhere, even in remote towns, and cell phones can be purchased or rented from major shops in Kigali. Most towns of any size will have several Internet cafes and computer centres.
Rwanda has possibly the best roads in East Africa. Most visitors who have booked through a tour company will be provided with good private vehicles, usually 4-wheel drive. All of the major centres are connected with local and luxury bus services. Air charter services are available anywhere in the country and well advertised.
HIKING AND BIKING:
The fine road network, with little traffic, offers wonderful opportunities for long bicycle trips across the verdant hills and valleys. Mountain biking and hiking can be enjoyed on the thousands of kilometres of fine rural trails linking remote villages, criss-crossing the entire country.
Gorilla Permits can be arranged by a travel operator, or can be purchased directly through the Office Rwandaise du Tourisme et des Parcs Nationaux (ORTPN) / The Rwanda Tourism Board, at the headquarters in Kigali, or at their office in Ruhengeri.
A certificate of yellow-fever vaccination is required. Much of Rwanda lies at too high an elevation for malaria to be a major concern, but the disease is present and prophylactic drugs are strongly recommended. It is advisable not to drink tap water. Bottled mineral water can be bought in all towns. Hospitals are located in all major towns.
SEASONS AND CLIMATE:
A combination of tropical location and high altitude ensures that most of Rwanda has a temperate year-round climate. Temperatures rarely stray above 30 degrees Celsius by day or below 15 degrees Celsius at night throughout the year. The exceptions are the chilly upper slopes of the Virunga Mountains, and the hot low-lying Tanzania border area protected in Akagera National Park. Throughout the country, seasonal variations in temperature are relatively insignificant. Most parts of the country receive in excess of 1,000mm of precipitation annually, with the driest months being July to September and the wettest February to May.