Rwanda General Information
The land of a 1000 hills and home of the mountain Gorillas
Rwanda is a small, land locked country in eastern / central
Africa. It has five volcanoes and 23 lakes as well as several
A large part of the country has an elevation of between 1,500
and 2,500 meters.
In prehistoric times as much as one third of Rwanda was covered
with montain rainforest. Today the only large tract of forest
left in Rwanda is Nyungwe in the southwestern part of the country;
it covers almost 1000 square kilometers. Some areas of forest
are also found in the Volcanoes National Park in the northeast,
but most of the natural vegetation here is bamboo forest and
The highlands in large parts of the country are now dominated
by the terraced agriculture that gives the Rwandan countryside
its beautiful and pleasant character. The eastern part of Rwanda
has entirely different vegetation, the typical African bush,
a mix of savannah and grassland dominated by acacia trees as
- large tracts of marshlands and swamps.
- Land area; 26,340 sq km
- President; Paul Kagame
- Official languages; Kinyarwanda, French, English & Kiswahili
- Population; Approximately 9 million
- Capital; Kigali
- Natural resources; Tin, gold and natural gas
- Average temperature; 24 – 27 degrees. Hottest in August – September
- Elevation; 1000 – 4500 meters above sea level
- Vegetation; from equatorial forest in northwest
to savanna in the east
- Land use; 48% agriculture use, 23% forest,
20% grazing land, 9% other
- Main exports; Coffee & Tea
- Local Currency; Rwanda Franc
- Credit cards; Only accepted at few major
WHEN TO VISIT RWANDA
Rwanda can be visited any time of
the year, read more about the various
Rwanda can be visited any time
of the year even during the rainy
as the scenery
and the skies
The wet seasons season is the best
time to trek chimpanzees in Nyungwe
dry season’s wander further
away into the forest and consequently are harder to spot.
There are two rainy seasons. The
long rains from mid February to
beginning of June
and the short
to mid December. Although it can
raining quite heavily in the
mountains these periods, it is
no problem to travel these periods
The main dry season lasts from June to September and is the
best time to trek the gorillas in Volcanoes National Park. It
is also worth noting that with the above mentioned, the climate
is not uniform throughout the country. It is drier in the east
than in the west and north. Sometimes the volcanoes can even
be capped in snow. Kigali and Volcanoes National Park can become
rather chilly. The areas around Lake Kivu are generally rather
sunny and pleasant all year round.
Practical health tips when traveling to the warm heart of Africa.
Rwanda is a pleasant country to visit and does not present any
major health hazards. The main towns have hospitals although
for any serious problems Kigali is the best place to get help.
All towns normally have a well-stocked pharmacy although the
individual traveler should bring any known personal medication
As one always should when traveling to any remote area, it is
wise to consult your doctor 6-8 weeks prior to departure for
updated advice on health care and precautions. It is strongly
recommended to up date personal immunization protection for tetanus,
polio, diphtheria, hepatitis A and typhoid. Yellow fever vaccination
is required for all visitors over 1 year of age and as the vaccination
is not valid until 10 days after vaccination it is important
to have this done in good time as this will be checked upon arrival
to Rwanda. This dangerous virus is spread by mosquitoes and is
on the increase in the world.
Malaria is less prevalent in Rwanda than in many other African
countries but as it does exist in most parts of Rwanda using
prophylactic drugs and preventing mosquito bites will reduce
the risk of getting malaria. Lariam / Mefloquine and Malarone
are currently the 2 most commonly used prophylactics but medical
advice should always be sought by the individual prior to departure.
Persons with certain medical conditions should not take Mefloquine.
It is also important to try and avoid mosquito bites between
dusk and dawn, as this is the period when the malaria-carrying
mosquito is most active.
Useful advice on recommended equipment when trekking and traveling
through the land of a 1000 hills!
Personal trekking equipment
The following is a suggested list of items to bring along, specifically
if your safari includes trekking the gorillas and / or the chimpanzees.
It is highly recommended that visitors prepare themselves and
attain a reasonable level of physical fitness prior to doing
a trek, as the terrain is mountainous and at times fairly steep.
During periods of rainfall the terrain can be muddy and slippery.
- Good, waterproof hiking footwear. Good grip soles important.
- Change of shoes, suggestedly comfortable sports shoes or
- Comfortable socks & T-shirts
- Raincoat or rain poncho, preferably also covering head.
- Long trousers / jeans of good quality to protect against
- Long sleeved summer jacket for nettle protection and a sweater
for chilly evenings
- “Day back pack” to carry change of T-shirt, socks,
sweets, camera, raincoat, snacks etc
Camera with plenty of light sensitive film, for digital
cameras extra memory card!
Hat and high level sunscreen
- Water container - 2 liters capacity suggested
- Sweets, chocolates etc
- Walking stick (can also be arranged locally)
- Re-hydration mixture, paracetamol and any personal medication
Rwanda’s vibrant capital offers a few pleasant surprises!
Rwanda’s capital is beautifully located on a number of
hills. It is conveniently located in the center of the country
and is well connected with good roads to all boarder crossings.
As such it is a good base for safaris to all the places of interest
in Rwanda. The population of Kigali has since independence grown
from 25,000 to an estimated 600,000.
Although not very many attractions are found here it is one
of Africa’s safest cities and the atmosphere is pleasant.
There are several good hotels and restaurants well worth a visit.
The visitor can join a very interesting city tour and however
horrific, a visit to the genocide museum is a sobering experience
and as well recommended.
There are a number of good bars and nightclubs, which however
safe and fun offer the same hazards as such establishments do
worldwide. Normal caution and care should be taken when visiting
such places anywhere in the world.
MONEY AND CREDIT CARDS
Come prepared - how to make the financial aspect smooth during
The local currency is the “Rwanda Franc” and there
are several denominations up to RwFr 5000. Be careful, as some
older and newer notes are rather similar. One US$ = Approximately
720 RwFr (March 2015). There are several foreign exchange bureaus
in Kigali offering similar rates, the most widely accepted currencies
are US$, Euro and to a certain extent also French Francs and
Sterling Pounds. There is currently (March 2015) one exchange bureau
at the airport. Banks are generally not open on Saturdays and
queues can here be long and rather slow. For fast and efficient
money transfers there are several Western Union offices in Kigali
and most other towns have at least one Western Union office.
Few establishments accept credit cards so be careful to check
this before running up a bill at for example restaurants. Major
hotels, restaurants and lodges do although accept some credit
cards, sometimes with an extra charge added on tope of the bill.
Travelers cheques are not recommended as they are not widely
accepted and if you do decide to bring some of your travel budget
in travelers cheques it is very important to bring all documents
related to them including the purchase receipt, you will not
be able to change travelers cheques if you do not have all related
purchase documents as well as a valid, internationally accepted
LITTERATURE AND FURTHER READING
Read more about the various aspects of Rwanda and its attractions.
1. Rwanda, The Bradt Guide - By BOOTH, Janice & Briggs, Philip.
The Globe Pequot Press Inc, 2004
2. The Larger Mammals of Africa - By STUART, Chris and Tilde.
3. The Kingdon field guide to African Mammals - By KINGDON, Jonathan.
Academic Press 1997
4. Southern, Central and East African Mammals of Africa - By
STUART, Chris and Tilde. Collins 1983
5. The safari Companion - By ESTES, Richard. Green Books ( UK)
6. Field guide to the Birds of East Africa - By WILLIAMS, J & Arlott.
7. Illustrated check list to the Birds of Eastern Africa - By
VAN PERLO, Ber. Collins 1995
8. A biography of the Continent - By READER, John. Hamish Hamilton
9. Rwanda – World Bibliographical Series volume 154 - By
FEGLEY, Randall. Clio Press 1993
10. Gorillas in the mist - By FOSSEY, Dian. Hodder and Stoughton
11. Woman in the mists - By MOWAT, Farley. Futura 1987
12. Island Africa - By KINGDON, Jonathon. Collins 1990
13. Through a window - By GOODALL, Jane. Houghton Mufflin 1991
14. The Rwanda crisis – History of a genocide - By PRUNIER,
Gerard. Hurst & Company 1998
15. Eyewitness to a genocide: The United Nations and Rwanda -
By BARNETT, Michael. Cornell University 2002
16. Hope for Rwanda - By SIBOMANA, Andre. Pluto Press 1999