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Travelling to Rwanda from Nigeria? Here's What You Need To Know | Kigali Travel Guide

Rwandan President, Paul Kagame recently announced that Rwanda is now visa-free for all Africans. This is great news for Nigerians who have been planning to satisfy their wanderlust on a budget. Kigali, the capital of Rwanda is the one of the most beautiful and cleanest cities I have ever been to. The people are warm, the views are breathtaking and the country has a touching history. 

So if you're itching for an adventure, buckle up. This travel guide is your backstage pass to the heart of Rwanda.

N.B: Please note that the prices mentioned herein are reflective of November 2022 and might have undergone changes since then.

✈️ Flights
I flew RwandAir from Abuja, Nigeria. You can book flights here. It took us 7 hours to get there but that’s because we stopped in Ghana to drop-off  and pick up passengers and refuel the plane. Coming back to Abuja was only 4 hours. Total flight fare came to $610. To be fair, I booked this only a couple weeks before my departure. I'm positive you can find cheaper flights.

🏡 Accommodation

I stayed in two AirBnBs and one hotel for the duration of this trip.

1. Lys Residence in Rebero:
This is a beautiful 3 bedroom apartment in Rebero, Kigali. It’s very clean, has all the essentials including a refridgerator, smart TV, heater, microwave, cooker etc. It's close to major activities and the check-in process was smooth. I highly recommend this Airbnb. Click here to book.
Total for 3 nights, 2 guests: £143.86

2. The Art House: 
The Art House is a one bedroom , one bathroom bungalow in Kigali. I thought it was cute but expensive (if you think of the fact that I paid less for a 3 bedroom). It's very artsy, very boho vibe and is much closer to the city center than my previous apartment. There was no TV in the apartment but there was a fridge and a cooker. I ended up checking out earlier than I planned but I liked staying here. You can click to book here.

Total for 3 nights, 2 guests: £234.97

3. Hôtel des Mille Collines:

Hôtel des Mille Collines became famous after opening its doors and saving almost 2,000 people during the 1994 genocide. The story of the hotel forms the basis of 2004 film, 'Hotel Rwanda'. I picked this hotel because of its history and just because I was tired of the Airbnb experience of getting everything done yourself. The hotel is very nice. There’s a pool if you'll like to swim, breakfast is included in your room rate, there's a sports bar downstairs, taxi service etc. I really enjoyed my time here.

Total for one night: $175

🧳 When you land

  • Travel Documents: Carry your yellow card with you and your COVID vaccination card. They may not ask for it but better safe than sorry.
  • SIM Card: I advise you to purchase and register a SIM card at the airport immediately you land. MTN and Airtel are the best, according to locals. I got an Airtel SIM. After registration, buy some airtime and data on it. You’ll need this to call you cab drivers, use GPS to find your accommodation and for just everyday internet connectivity. The hotels and AirBnBs usually have WiFi but you need to be connected while you’re out.

    If you can, also set up MoMoPay/Mpesa on your sim card for easy payments for cabs and food. You don’t want to be stranded because you don’t have enough cash.

  • Food: The most popular food delivery service is VubaVuba. I used this to order food when I arrived as most restaurants were closed by the time I landed at night.

  • Transportation: There are no Ubers in Rwanda. What they have is a ride-hailing service called Yego. The cabbies will try to speak to you first in Kinyarwanda so be sure to ask them if they speak English instead.

  • Money: The Rwandan currency is called the Rwandan Franc (rwf). For cash, I bought USD in Nigeria and changed to rwf when I arrived. Don’t change all your money at the airport, it’s usually more expensive. Just change enough for the cab to your accommodation ~$100. Also, banks give terrible exchange rates, you're better off changing money at a BDC. Just ask your cab driver.

🎢 Activities

  • Kigali Genocide Memorial
    Visiting is the Kigali Genocide Memorial Museum is a travel must-do while you're in Kigali. It is an emotional but essential journey into Rwanda's history. The museum pays homage to the lives lost during the country's darkest chapter. From genocide exhibits to heart-wrenching personal stories and photos which are a reminder of the devastating 1994 genocide against the Tutsis. 
    Entry is free but please leave a donation at the reception. If you'd like to go on a tour of the museum alone, they offer an audio device that plays information about the memorial as you go.

  • Fazenda Sengha
    Fazenda Sengha is an outdoor recreational center in Kigali that offers fun activities including horse rides, ziplines, archery, paintball, quad bikes, bungee trampoline etc. There is also a restaurant on site.  
    I can't remember exactly how much I paid but it was about $30 (30,000 rwf). The total price depends on the number of activities you choose to do. I chose archery, ziplining and quad bike-riding. You can find their price list here.

  • 1000 Hills Distillery Tour
    1000 Hills Distillery Tour is East Africa’s 1st craft small batch distillery. As a lover of good alcohol, this was top of my list of activities in Kigali. Here, you are taken on a tour of the factory where you learn about the history of the distillery and their brewing processes. After the tour, you are taken to the bar for a liquor tasting. You get one shot each of whiskey, gin, rum and vodka. 

    The tour comes in different packages. You can choose to go only on the tour and liquor tasting. I chose the package with the factory tour, liquor tasting, complimentary tacos and lunch for 50,000 rwf. ($50). The restaurant has an amazing view of the mountains and you can enjoy it while eating your lunch.
  • Rwanda Art Museum:
    Rwanda's commitment to preserving its history, heritage and cultural legacy is very impressive. From the Kigali Genocide Memorial Museum to the Rwanda Art Museum, they carefully curate historical artifact and remnants of their past, safeguarding them for generations to come.

    The Rwanda Art Museum used to be the Presidential Villa and it housed two presidents before it was converted into a museum. It displays artworks from Rwandan artists and the flight debris from the presidential jet that went down on 6th April 1994 killing former Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana and Cyprien Ntaryamira, the President of Burundi amongst others.
    You aren't allowed to take pictures inside the main house and of the plane remains. Shoes are not allowed inside as well to preserve the integrity of the building.  The museum currently displays 127 artworks in different mediums, including sculptures, paintings, mixed media, and ceramics. The art is genocide-influenced and tells the story of the conflict before and acts of reconciliation after the genocide.

    I paid about $10 (10,000 rwf) for a guided tour of the museum.
  • Akagera National Park 

    If you don't do anything in Kigali, you have to go on a safari tour of the Akagera National Park. The park is home to the different wildlife species including the big 5 - lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and African buffalo.

    First, you need to do a COVID test before entering the park and you can get this done for $5 at a nearby clinic that offers the service.

    Now, you have two options. You can either join a tour group or visit the park yourself with a private vehicle. I recommend that you join a tour group because they have ranger vehicles that makes the experience a lot more enjoyable. I went with a private vehicle and if you decide to go this route, you'll need to pay for your driver's entry into the park as well as a vehicle fee.

    You have to plan your day well to visit the park. It takes about 2-3 hours to drive from the Kigali to Akagera and another 5 hours + to drive through the park. Most tour groups leave the city at 4:00am to arrive at the park at 6:30am and reach the end of the park by noon-ish. This is because you have a better chance at seeing more wildlife very early in the morning than later in the day.

    I arrived late and while I saw zebras, elephants, rhinos, giraffes etc, I didn't see the lions which was sad.

    Entry is $100 which is paid through cashless means - credit card, MoMo etc. You can see the pricelist here.

  • Food

    • Danfo by The Grid:
      I stumbled (literally) on Danfo by The Grid. I enjoyed my experience here so much I returned the next day for dinner. Danfo by The Grid is an authentic Nigerian Afro-Cuisine Restaurant located in the heart of Kigali. Their menu is very interesting with options like Ojuelegba tacos, lol. They also serve beef suya, jollof rice (of course), Nigerian swallows and soups and amazing cocktails.

    • Pili Pili
      Pili Pili is a lounge-type restaurant that offers a little of everything. There's a sports bar serving beer and cocktails. They also have a pool where you can relax and have your meal.

    • Eagle View Lodge:

      I had a lovely four course dinner at Eagle View Lodge on my second night in Kigali. What's special about Eagle View Lodge is the breathtaking views of Kigali at night from the restaurant. For only 30,000 rwf, I had mixed vegetable soup with bread and fresh watermelon juice, crispy beef salad, chicken with onion rings and tartar sauce and mango pie for dessert. It was a 10/10 experience. 

    Other things you should know

    • Umuganda: The last Saturday of each month is Umuganda, a day where the neighbourhood comes together for community work. Think of it as Saturday/Thursday Environmental Sanitation days in Lagos. You can join in or sit it out. It starts at 8:00am and ends at 11:00am. Businesses are shut during this period.
    • Some helpful kinywarwanda phrases for everyday.

      Hello -> Muraho (moo-ra-ho)
      How are you? -> Amakuru (a-ma-koo-roo)
      Thank you -> Murakoze cyane (moo-ra-ko-ze cha-neh)
      Goodbye -> Murabeho (moo-ra-be-ho)
      What is your name? -> Witwa nde? (weet-kwa-ndeh)
      My name is -> Nitwa (neet-kwah)
      Help! -> Mfahsa (m-f-ah-shah)
      Leave me alone -> Ndeka (ndeh-kah)

    ☎️ Useful Contacts

    • Kenneth (For a city tour of Kigali) : +250 789 973 596
    • Gorilla Expedition Safari (For a tour of Akagera National Park): +250 789 670 513
    • Junior (Taxi): +250 787 864 671. He’s a bit more expensive than Yego cabs but he speaks English and he'll wait while you have lunch.

    Did you find this article helpful? Don't forget to share to your social media networks and tag me @oluwatofunmii_. 

    Have fun in Kigali! 🇷🇼