When it comes to exuberant, mood-enhancing greenery, Rwanda is in a league of its own. Crammed within the borders of mainland Africa’s fourth-smallest country, there are ancient jungle-smothered volcanoes where mountain gorillas roam, lush montane forests that vibrate with the cries of rare primates and expansive wetlands where the birdlife is so abundant it hardly seems plausible. Even the boundless blue lake on its western border is studded with tiny emerald isles. And there’s another type of ‘greenness’ worthy of note: the ban on plastic bags since 2008 and mandatory once-a-month community clean-ups that have turned this into one of the continent’s cleanest states, and the National Parks’ revenue-sharing schemes that give back to the locals.
There will be inspiring discoveries, moments and encounters wherever you go in this verdant country, and the hour you spend in the company of a mighty silverback and his family will certainly be one of them. But the longer you stay here, the more it will be Rwanda’s resilient people who impress you with their warmth and dignity – all the more remarkable in the light of their tragic and relatively recent history. Wherever you go and whoever you meet, from the enthusiastic foodie who shows you Kigali’s growing food scene to the artisans keeping the country’s rich craft traditions alive in the villages or the patient workers on a tea plantation, their shared quiet pride in their homeland and in what they have achieved together since the dark days of 1994 will be the thing that most touches your heart.
Speak to our country experts about creating your Rwanda holiday of a lifetime, complete with the accommodation that immerses you in breathtaking landscapes and the experiences you’ll treasure forever.
Your journey will start with one of our UK team – someone like Vicki, who's travelled extensively in Rwanda. They’ll shape your ideas into the trip of a lifetime. But they won't do it alone. They'll draw on the expertise of our contacts on the ground, connecting you to the people who'll make your holiday one you'll always remember - the guides who track mountain gorillas day and night to ensure you get the best sightings, the Kigalians who'll give you a real insight into their vibrant city and the coffee-growers who'll tutor you in the art of tasting.
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Time difference: GMT +2
Flight time: London + 11-12 hours
Currency: Rwandan Franc (RWF)
Language: Kinyarwandan, English, French and Swahili
Telephone code: + 250
Tipping: Tipping is not compulsory in Rwanda although it is customary to add 10% to a restaurant bill if you have had good service. Key to your tour of Rwanda is likely to be your driver-guide therefore as a general guideline, allow for USD$10-15 per day.
When gorilla trekking, you will normally be accompanied by a team of people. The national park ranger and primate guide should be tipped separately (USD$10 each). If you chose to hire a porter to carry your day pack and camera equipment, a tip of USD$3 per person is usual. An advance party of trackers will be ahead of you to find the gorillas. A tip of USD$5-10USD for the tracking team is reasonable.
Etiquette: The horrific genocide of 1994 is still raw. People identify as Rwandans therefore it is impolite to ask people of their ethnicity and whether they are Hutu or Tutsi. Many of the people you will meet will have first-hand experience of the genocide but do not ask them for their personal stories. If they want to tell you, they will. A period of mourning is observed annually in April.
Photography is prohibited of government buildings and permission should always be asked when taking photos of people. Your trekking guide will explain the behaviour expected when observing gorillas.
Religions: Christianity is by far the most popular denomination in Rwanda with 90% of worshippers. Over half of the population follow Roman Catholicism which was introduced to the country in the early 1900s by missionaries. Many Rwandans also practice indigenous beliefs with rituals and offerings made to their deceased ancestors.
Use of plastic: The law bans the use, manufacture, and importation of all single-use plastic bags. Travellers arriving in Rwanda with duty-free plastic bags will be required to leave them at the airport. The government however confirms that reusable zip lock bags are permitted. Plastic bottled water may be provided in vehicles although to stay hydrated on the go, we recommend travelling with a personal, reusable bottle which you can refill at airports, hotels and lodges.
Visas: You can look up the latest advice on https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/rwanda/entry-requirements. Please be aware that this information can change at short notice.
Vaccinations: Health risks vary depending on the destination so it’s essential to check the specific vaccination and hygiene requirements for Rwanda on the NHS Fit For Travel website.