In 1994, Rwanda’s civil war dominated the world’s headlines. This became known as ‘Rwanda’s genocide’; hundreds of thousands of people where killed. It is still what most people will think about when they hear the word ‘Rwanda’.
Now, 17 years later, the country is once again peaceful. Rwanda’s democratic government promotes harmony, and the Rwandese are enjoying a good life again. Many are eager to tell of their past, to let the world know what happened – and to protect their country against it ever happening again.
Weather and climate:
Rwanda presents visitors with a pleasant tropical highland climate, although rainfall is not uncommon. In the heart of Africa, fractionally south of the equator, Rwanda’s relatively high altitude provides it with a remarkably pleasant tropical highland climate, albeit also with plenty of rain. Temperatures vary considerably between locations depending on their altitude, but very little from month to month in the same place. In the capital, Kigali, the average daily temperature is about 21°C. Rwanda’s long rainy season lasts from about March to May, when the rain is heavy and persistent. Then from June to mid-September is the long dry season; this is generally the best time to visit if you have the choice. October to November is a shorter rainy season and it’s followed by a short dry season from December to February. During both of Rwanda’s dry seasons, there is often light cloud cover. This helps to moderate the temperatures, but also occasionally brings light rain showers.
There is no time difference between winter and summer months in Rwanda; it’s always two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+2).
International Dialling Code:
Rwanda’s International Dialling Code is +250. Calling from Rwanda, you need to dial 0044 for the UK, or 001 for the United States, followed by an area code and local number. Calls can be made with Rwandatel S.A., Rwanda’s largest company for telecommunications.
The food in Rwanda varies from mediocre to good. Fresh fruit and the Belgian-inspired cuisine are usually good; otherwise, whilst hygiene standards are generally high, results can be variable.
The diet for most local Rwandese people consists mainly of sweet potatoes, peas, corn, beans, millet and fresh fruit, including avocados, mangos and papayas. Umutsima (cassava and corn), isombe (cassava leaves with eggplant and spinach) and mizuzu (fried plantains) are some of Rwanda’s traditional dishes. Drinks include local beer and ikigage, a locally brewed beer made from sorghum.
With your own 4WD vehicle and driver, travelling in Rwanda is fairly easy. Although major arterial routes are tarred, roads in the more rural areas are not and can be in poor condition.
There are medical facilities of Western standards in Kigali; elsewhere facilities are rudimentary. It is generally wise to you are be up-to-date on vaccinations for typhoid, tetanus, polio and diphtheria. Many travellers also have the Havrix vaccine to guard against infection by hepatitis A and a yellow fever certificate is usually required for entry into Rwanda. Malaria is widespread throughout lowland Rwanda, so malaria precautions are generally essential.
That said, it’s vital that you always check the latest recommendations with your own doctor or travel clinic before you travel. (The Scottish NHS site can also be a useful travel resource for medical information about Rwanda.)
AIDS is common in Rwanda; HIV infection rates are high. Generally, this isn’t an issue for visitors, though they should be aware of the current situation, and take the same wise precautions to avoid infection as in most other countries. We understand that blood supplies used by the private hospitals here have been carefully screened for years.
The main language spoken in Rwanda is Kinyarwanda (a Bantu language, also known as ‘Rwanda’ or ‘Ruanda’). French is widespread and English is also spoken by many people who are in contact with visitors.
We understand that travellers with British passports, as well as American citizens, need to purchase a visa when travelling to Rwanda; currently (Jul 2017), this costs US $30 and can be obtained on arrival. However, always check with your local Rwandan Embassy for the latest regulations; UK nationals will find details on the Embassy of the Republic of Rwanda in London website.
Currency: Rwandan Franc
Population: 12 million
Official languages: English, Swahili, French