Rwanda - Abbey Travel, Ireland


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Welcome to Rwanda


'Land of a Thousand Hills' ( Pays de Mille Collines) as it is popularly known, Rwanda is a small, verdant country in central Africa, the beautiful rolling landscape dotted with tea plantations, rugged mountains and towering volcanoes, with the shimmering Lake Kivu in the west.

Today Rwanda focuses mainly on ecotourism, being a nature lover's paradise and home to the world's largest population of mountain gorillas within the Volcanoes National Park. Gorilla tracking is the number one tourist attraction in the country, the critical nature of the plight of these endangered animals having been brought to international attention by the film Gorillas in the Mist, shot on location in the Virungas. Nyungwe Forest National Park is home to a large number of smaller primates, as well as more than 275 bird species, while Akagera National Park is big game country where herds of elephants and buffalo, lions, hippos and plains animals inhabit the archetypal African savannah landscape set among a web of swamps and lakes. The waters of Lake Kivu are enclosed by green terraced hills that give way to beaches, inlets and the resort towns of Gisenyi, Kibuye and Cyangugu.

Rwanda's past does not paint as an attractive picture, however, the legacy of almost 60 years of sporadic fighting having taken its toll on most of the population. The horrific genocide of about 800,000 Rwandans in the space of just over three months shocked the international media in 1994, sparked by a long-standing ethnic tension between the minority Tutsis and the Hutus. Since then, Rwanda has had to work hard to raise awareness of itself as an unspoilt, scenically stunning destination that is rich in culture and wildlife, boasting fine food and one of the friendliest welcomes in Africa, and is showing rapid signs of development and worldwide interest of a positive nature.

The rapidly growing city of Kigali, situated at Rwanda's geographical heart, is not only the capital but also the country's most important business centre and the main point of entry.

Information & Facts


A handshake is the normal form of greeting. A knowledge of French is useful as English is not widely spoken; interpreters may be required. Lightweight suits are suitable attire for meetings, which need to be arranged in advance.


Rwanda experiences a pleasant, tropical highland climate with temperatures that vary depending on altitude, but vary little from month to month in the same location. There are two wet seasons and two dry seasons; a long and a short one. The wettest time of year is between March and May, while the driest months are July to September. There is also rain between October and November. Temperatures rarely go above 86°F (30°C) during the day or drop below 59°F (15°C), except on the upper slopes of the Virunga Mountains where frosty conditions are possible.


The international dialling code for Rwanda is +250. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the UK). City codes are not required. There is an excellent cell phone network covering most of the country, and cell phones can be rented in Kigali. Internet cafes and computer centres are located in most major towns.


Photography of government buildings is prohibited in Rwanda. Plastic bags have been banned for environmental reasons and will be confiscated on arrival at the airport. It is considered impolite to ask someone about their ethnic origin.

Duty Free

Passengers older than 16 years may bring two cartons of cigarettes and two litres of alcohol into the country without incurring import duties.

Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. European two-pin attachment plugs are the most commonly used.

There is a year-round risk of malaria throughout Rwanda and travellers are advised to take a course of prophylactics. A yellow fever certificate is required by all visitors and inoculation is also recommended. A hepatitis A vaccine is recommended as well as a polio booster for those who have not had one as an adult. Other health risks include meningitis and cholera. Bottled drinking water is available in all towns. Medical facilities are limited and medical supplies may be unavailable, although hospitals are located in all major towns. Comprehensive medical insurance is advised.

Kinyarwanda, French and English are the official languages. French is widely spoken, but English is limited to a few people in the tourist centres.

The official currency is the Rwanda franc (RWF), which is divided into 100 centimes. The US dollar is the hard currency of preference; travellers cheques are difficult to exchange, even in the capital. Credit cards are only accepted at the major hotels in Kigali.

Passport Visa

Passport and/or passport replacing documents must be valid on arrival. It is highly recommended that passports have at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.


Crime levels are relatively low in Rwanda, although tourists should be alert to bag snatching and incidents of petty theft. Travel to the border areas with Burundi and the DRC is not advised; trips to see the gorillas in the Volcanoes NationalPark should only be undertaken as part of a guided trek.

Local time is GMT +2.

Some small change left at restaurants will be appreciated when dining in Rwanda. Guides on gorilla treks expect to be well tipped; amounts vary, but 10% is common.

Located on the Rwandan border with Tanzania, Akagera National Park encompasses savannah, mountain and swamp ecoregions across its 463 square miles (1,200 sq km) of territory. The savannah areas are the most popular for safaris, with an abundance of big game including elephants, zebra, buffalo, giraffe, oribi and impala. Camping alongside the lakes is a good way to spot birds like fish eagles, papyrus gonolek, and the elusive shoebill stork.

Once Rwanda's largest city, Butare (also known as Huye) is home to several important Rwandan landmarks, including the Christian Cathedral and the national University of Rwanda. The two most popular attractions in Butare, however, are the National Museum of Rwanda, which chronicles the cultural history of the region through displays of photos and traditional artefacts; and Nyanza, the traditional seat of Rwanda's feudal monarchy, site of the restored 19th-century Royal Palace. The palace at Nyanza is home to the Rwesero Art Museum, Olympic Academy, Sport Museum, Cultural Centre, and stadiums of various sports.

American zoologist Dian Fossey became famous for her dedication to studying and protecting endangered mountain gorillas in Rwanda. Her 18-year study inspired the 1988 film Gorillas in the Mist, and promoted primate conservation worldwide. She was murdered in 1985, and interred at Karisoke, a grave site she had constructed for gorillas. The journey to her grave involves a five-hour trek, and though the cabins and buildings are gone, visitors may glimpse buffalo, elephants and even gorillas.

With a name meaning 'white shell' is Kinyarwanda, Mount Karisimbi sticks out above the other seven major mountains of the Virunga range that divide Rwanda from the Democratic Republic of Congo. An inactive volcano, Karisimbi provides hiking and overnight trekking opportunities for tourists in search of gorillas and amazing views and is located not far from the former site of Dian Fossey's research station.

One of the African Great Lakes, Lake Kivu covers 1,040 square miles (2,700 sq km)on the border of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Three lakeside towns, Cyangugu, Kibuye and Gisenyi, are increasing in popularity with tourists with their offerings of water sports, island excursions, bird watching, and hiking.

Nyungwe National Park is a high-altitude rainforest reserve in the Rwandan section of the Albertine Rift. Known for its extreme biodiversity, Nyungwe is home to primates like chimpanzees, colobus monkeys, vervet monkeys, owl-faced monkeys and olive baboons, among others. There are several good trekking trails in Nyungwe, including the Waterfall Trail for bird-watchers, the Gisakura Tea Estate Trail for monkey-lovers, and the Kamiranzovu Trail for elephant spotters. Visitors to Nyungwe National park should be prepared to get wet, as the rainforest receives more than 79 inches (2,000mm) of rain each year.

Tea is a major product of Rwanda's economy, with many thousands of tons exported each year. The government is slowly privatising plantations into cooperatives and 'Tea Societies', empowering local farmers. Many visitors to Rwanda enjoy seeing the plantations with their dramatically-sloped fields and panoramic vistas, and buying locally-produced varieties to take back as souvenirs from Rwanda. Plantations near Lake Kivu and Nyungwe Forest are especially popular as package tour excursions.

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