A Guide To Visiting Rwanda For The First Time

A Guide To Visiting Rwanda For The First Time

Rwanda may not be the ultimate destination that first comes to mind when going on a vacation. Admittedly, this tiny African country isn’t as popular as France, Italy, or other renowned destinations in the world. But if you take the time to get to know Rwanda, you’ll find that it’s a highly diverse attraction that has more than enough to offer.  

Bordering Uganda and Tanzania is the densely populated country of Rwanda. It became infamous for all the wrong reasons, namely its history of genocide from more than two decades ago. But today, the landlocked republic is slowly making its comeback in the travel scene with its stunning landscape, rich culture, and beautiful people. Rwanda has grown and changed, and one thing’s for sure: you won’t regret visiting it for the first time. 

Making Your Plans

As with all the other trips you’ve made before, traveling to Rwanda requires planning and preparation. This is especially applicable if you’re coming from a non-African country because there might be other requirements you need to accomplish upon arrival. It’s recommended to check if your country belongs to a list of nations with visa exemption from the Rwandan republic. 

Other essential details to know when making plans to visit Rwanda are its climate and, consequently, the best time to travel. You don’t want your first time to turn into a disaster just because you didn’t account for the country’s rainy season, which consists of heavy rainfall. If you plan on getting the most out of your experience, you need to know which months are the driest time of the year before booking your flight. 

The most popular time to visit Rwanda is between June to August, which is the peak of their dry season. They also have a short dry period from December to January, but as you know, airfares tend to spike during those months. To be safe, avoid going to Rwanda during their long rainy season, which falls from March to May.  

Other Essentials You Need To Know

When you’re sure about when you’re planning to visit Rwanda, take note that you still need to know other basics that every first-timer needs to remember. Your accommodation, for one, should be arranged before your scheduled trip. Since the country isn’t that popular yet among travelers, you might find that it’s not brimming with luxurious hotels or spacious resorts. If you’re on a budget, that’s good news.  

You can search online for hostels or dorms that accept reservations. Take note, though, that most places don’t advertise online for availability. What backpackers usually do is book any hostel for a few days and then look for a more suitable option once they get familiar with the area.  

Other essentials you need to know when visiting Rwanda for the first time include the following: 

  • Although the country has its official currency, the Rwandan Franc, the US dollar is widely accepted in most establishments. 
  • National parks tend to charge steep entrance fees for foreign nationals.  
  • Local transport includes long-distance minibuses and motorbike taxis. 
  • Consider buying a local SIM card for mobile data. Most restaurants in Rwanda don’t have Wi-Fi. 
  • Rwanda’s tap water isn’t safe for drinking. It’s recommended to bring a refillable container that you can fill up from your hostel’s free water dispenser. You can also buy water at any supermarket or shop in the country. 

If you’re concerned about yellow fever vaccinations, you can ask the embassy for a more detailed update. Some travelers claim they weren’t asked for one, while others say it depends on which country you’ll be coming from. To make sure, ask the embassy or your travel agency, so you’ll find out beforehand and prepare accordingly. 

A Guide To Visiting Rwanda For The First Time


Best Things To Do In Rwanda

You’re surely looking forward to experiencing new and unique things in the land of a thousand hills and mountains. You won’t be disappointed because Rwanda is overflowing with attractions and adventures to discover. For an ultimate excursion, here are some recommendations you might want to include in your Rwandan bucket list: 

  • Explore Kigali

Kigali is the capital of Rwanda, and it’s also where you’ll land upon arrival. Before you get all excited hiking volcanoes and touring national parks, you might want to consider exploring the city first. You can hire a driver that can take you around the capital to see the sights and do some local shopping. 

You’ll find several retail spaces in Kigali that showcase local artisans. There are also art centers where you can browse paintings, woven goods, and jewelry for sale. The Rwandan food scene is also another experience you need to have. Be sure to order their fermented banana beer called urwagwa to really get into the local vibe. Before leaving the country, don’t miss the chance to taste their famous Rwandan coffee, too. 

  • Join A Gorilla Trek

Gorilla trekking is perhaps the most popular pursuit you can try in Rwanda. Just so you know, there are only three countries in the world that are home to mountain gorillas—Rwanda is one of those countries. As you can imagine, it’s not an experience you’re likely to get in other destinations you’ve been to, which makes the trip all the more worth it. 

A word of caution, though, gorilla trekking isn’t free. You’ll need to pay for it so you can get a trekking permit. The fee can be pretty pricey, but it’s mainly because of their restriction on the number of people participating in the trek. You can email Kigali’s tourism headquarters to find out the details regarding the trekking permit and how you can get it. 

  • Go On A Safari Adventure

If you think a gorilla trek is too expensive for your taste, you can still explore the wildlife that Rwanda has to offer. To do so, you can visit the Akagera National Park, where you’ll get your fair share of a complete savannah escapade. The park boasts buffaloes, elephants, black rhinos, lions, and antelopes in different varieties.  

Another must-try activity in the park is its riverboat cruises, where you can get a chance to meet face-to-face with hippos and crocodiles. And if you’re up for a camping affair, you can do that as well at the park for a small fee.  

Final Words

Rwanda is the place to be if you’re trying to shy away from fancy and overrated travel destinations. Get ready to be stunned by its incredible wildlife, warm people, and picturesque hills, mountains, and volcanoes. All it takes is enough planning and preparation, proper research, your budget, and of course, the desire to let go of your fears and inhibitions.