Rwanda has a well-surfaced road network linking the major towns, and the most convenient way to travel the country is by car. Smaller roads are frequently unsurfaced with varying conditions, especially during rainy season.
Tour operators can arrange a vehicle with driver, or a number of agencies offering car rental in Rwanda.
Taxis operate in the larger towns. Travel insurance may not cover motorbike taxis, which are also common. There are no rail services and the most popular form of public transport is shared minibuses.
Kigali dominates Rwanda and few visit the country without passing through. The city is developing fast, and is very much a showpiece 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.
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. This in turn means the city supports numerous restaurants, coffee shops and supermarkets that cater to this demographic. The downside of Kigali’s popularity with foreigners is that it is easy to forget you are in Africa.
Communication in Rwanda
Learn a bit of French and maybe even a bit of Swahili and Kinyarwanda. All three are extremely useful while you are visiting Rwanda. English is also widely spoken, at least in Kigali. A useful Kinyarwanda vocabulary cheat sheet is available to help you get little words that you can use to communicate with the locals while visiting in Rwanda.
Get into Rwanda
By plane –Kigali International Airport
Kigali International Airport (KGL). 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.
Flag carrier RwandAir has by far the largest selections of flights to KGL including one from O R Tambo Airport, but other airlines also offer flights from their respective hubs, including KLM from Amsterdam Schiphol, Brussels Airlines from Brussels, Qatar Airlines from Doha Hamad International Airport, and Turkish Airlines from Istanbul IST.
If you fly from Kigali airport, you may need a Yellow Fever Certificate at your destination (e.g. South Africa) – Airport officials will ask for this. Also be careful of waiting in the cafe for your flight – some flights (e.g. Kenya Airways to Nairobi) are often overbooked and you won’t hear any announcement when they decide to start boarding early, and you could miss your flight.
Buses arrive and depart to many parts of Rwanda regularly. 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.
There are a couple of daily buses that run directly between Kigali and Bujumbura in Burundi. Yahoo Car, New Yahoo, East African Car Express (big bus) and Belvedere have buses in the morning.
- Motorcyle taxis (motos) are the most popular and fastest way to get around town. The fare for the motorcycle ranges from FRw200-1000, depending on distance, but most of the motorcyclists will ask for FRw200-500. A trip to or from the airport should be FRw1500-2000. 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.
- 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 maintained 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. For short distance, such as to Ntarama, it costs only FRw600. The distance to Ruhungeri cost FRw2500 and to Gisenyi FRw3000.
- City buses in Kigali cost FRw240. Bus number 105 goes from the Bus station where you get off the bus from Uganda to the Kigali Youth hostel.
- There are several car rental agencies in Kigali.
- There are many taxis in Kigali, and in comparison with motors are expensive. A short 1km trip will cost FRw2, 000 after haggling, going up to FRw10, 000 for an airport run. 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 summon a taxis. 3122 for Kigali Taxis service and 476586 for Kigali Airport Taxi service.