Rwanda travel information
What to Wear
When travelling to foreign destinations it is always respectful to dress modestly and we suggest the emphasis is on comfortable clothing. It is often warm on the plains and at lower altitudes but cold in the hilly and mountainous areas of Uganda and Rwanda; a rain jacket, fleece and good quality walking shoes/boots are essential.
For Gorilla & Chimpanzee Tracking
When tracking the gorillas or chimpanzee we recommended wearing sturdy clothing to help protect against scratches (or clothing you don’t mind getting torn!); long sleeve shirt, trousers and a good pair of lightweight walking boots are definitely the order of the day. A pair of protective leather gloves or gardening gloves is also useful, as well as a pair of gaiters. As the temperature is variable and weather conditions can change; we also recommend taking a fleece or light jumper (layers of clothing are best especially with moisture wicking undergarments) and lightweight breathable waterproof jacket/trousers or poncho. A small backpack is useful to carry your water, pack lunch, camera and binoculars. Walking sticks are available at the park head quarters as are porters (it is worth taking a porter as it provides local people with employment and they will give you a helping hand on any steep terrain).
Whilst on safari neutral coloured, loose fitting and relaxed clothing is the most appropriate. Most hotels and lodges have laundry services, so an excessive amount of clothing should be unnecessary. Please note that most hotels and lodges hand wash clothing.
Please limit baggage to two items per person and always use soft bags rather than suitcases. In specific cases i.e. for internal flights, luggage may be limited to 15kg per person. More information about luggage can be found in your journey essentials document post-booking.
Please note taking thin plastic bags into Rwanda is prohibited and your luggage may be searched upon arrival. To be honest this is a good thing as prior to the ban, one-time-use plastic bags plagued city streets and threatened the delicate environment. Today, Rwandan cities are almost litter-free and some of the cleanest in Africa!
Getting There & Away
If Natural World Safaris has arranged your international flights you will be sent your flight itinerary separately. Please note that once your flights have been booked these will be subject to their respective terms and conditions. If you haven’t booked your flights with Natural World Safaris clients will need to make their own arrangements to arrive and leave in accordance with their itinerary. We can arrange these flights for you if needed, please ask for further details.
Upon arrival at your destination, you will be met by our local representative. They will hold a ‘welcome card’ with your name on it. We have provided local contact details in the accompanying information but if you have any problems please call our 24-hour Emergency UK telephone number on +44 (0)7887 637 628.
Hotels & Lodges
Rwanda is still emerging as tourist destination and the lodges and hotels do vary in terms of the facilities they offer and in most cases are generally not as luxurious or well-appointed as other lodges/camps in Africa.
Generally lodging in towns is western style three to five star hotels or guesthouses. On safari it tends to be in lodges or tented camps of varying standards, occasionally without running water or electricity and some camps have long-drop or self-composting toilets. Other lodging can be of the utmost luxury with very high standards of comfort. We do however always attempt to use environmentally friendly lodges who are committed to protecting the local environment and helping local communities.
Most lodges are able to offer laundry facilities but please note that the cost it is not always included. Check with reception for current prices. Due to natural drying and variable climatic conditions your clothing might not always come back ‘bone dry’. As most laundry is hand washed please avoid handing in delicate clothing. Most lodges won’t wash ladies underwear but will happily provide washing powder to use in your room.
Food & Water
Food varies from destination to destination. Please bear in mind that we try to use lodges/camps that use local produce which supports the local communities. Do not be afraid to try local produce it is part of the experience! Do try Ugali (stiff maize porridge) or Matoke (cooked plantains) the staples of the area. Please ask your guide for guidance.
We recommend that you only drink bottled water and all our vehicles in Rwanda will carry bottled water for your use.
International telephone communications are good from the major cities but more difficult from some remote areas. Mobile network coverage is reasonable throughout most of Uganda and Rwanda and mobile phones are now the most reliable means of communication, though you may have to travel a short distance to reach an area of coverage. All drivers/guides will have mobile phones for emergency use.
We are not able to provide contact details for individual hotels, lodges or camps, as many do not have the facilities to handle guest calls/communications. We will provide contact details for our ground agents, please see accompanying information.
Rwanda is two hours (+2) ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).
Sunrise is around 06:30 hours and sunset at about 19:30 hours. This varies slightly, depending on your location and the time of year.
Outside of the major towns electricity supplies in rural areas are provided by solar cells or generators. As such most lodges are only able to provide lighting/power to guest rooms at set times in the morning and afternoon. Most lodges do not have in room electrical sockets but charging facilities will be available, so please ask at reception or your guide. Please bear in mind that solar power is weather dependent and at times insufficient sunshine may mean lighting is limited. In these instances alternative lighting is generally available e.g. storm lanterns.
The electricity supply in Rwanda is 220-240 volts. Plug sockets do vary and we advise visitors to take multi-adapters to cope with 2 round pin sockets (European) or 3 square pin sockets (UK).
The local currency in Rwanda is the Rwandan Franc (RWF).There are money changing facilities at Kigali airport and in the city, which we recommend you use, as it is more difficult to change money whilst on safari. There are ATM machines available in Kigali and the most widely accepted cards are Visa or Mastercard. All ATMs will only dispense Rwanda Francs.
As most meals, park fees, guiding fees etc are covered in the cost of your safari we generally recommend allowing approximately US$25 person per day for spending money on drinks, souvenirs and crafts items.
You may wish to take extra funds to make contributions or donations to organisations that we encourage clients to visit. Donations and contributions are entirely voluntary.
It is preferable to travel with cash rather than travellers cheques or credit cards (cards are useful as an emergency back–up), often it is only possible to use these in main cities. Cash is easily exchanged in Uganda and Rwanda. We recommend that you carry a mix of cash denominations, US Dollars (USD$) are easily exchanged and many places now accept Pounds sterling GBP£ and Euros EUR€.
Never keep all of your cash in the same place, keep it in different pockets and split it up between different bags.
If you are carrying USD$, please take bills dated 2006 or later as earlier dated bills can be very difficult to change and may not be accepted (as well as torn and dirty bills – the crisper the better!). You will get a better exchange rate for $50 or $100 USD$ bills. A number of low denomination USD$ bills are useful for tipping although many locals prefer to accept Uganda Shillings or Rwandan Francs, as sometimes it’s difficult for them to change USD$.
Outside Kigali, credit cards are only accepted in the largest lodges and hotels (Visa, Mastercard and Amex are generally accepted). Most shops will not accept payment other than cash, and card use is restricted to major banks and hotels. It is wiser not to expect to use one at all.
A valid passport with a minimum of 12 months validity on arrival is mandatory. Whilst we are happy to advise you on visa requirements please ensure you have arranged all the necessary visas well before your intended date of departure as these are your responsibility.
Nationals of Australia, Germany, Israel, New Zealand, Republic of South Africa, Sweden, United Kingdom, and United States of America will be issued with an entry visa valid for a period up to 90 days (US$50) upon arrival without prior application, or can apply in advance through their respective embassies. If you decide to get one upon arrival please ensure you have the correct change with you and allow for queues.
Nationals of Hong Kong, Philippines, Mauritius, Singapore and the Democratic Republic of Congo may visit Rwanda without a visa for a period up to 90 days.
All other nationalities must apply for a visa in advance either online at:
Embassy Contact Details
In the UK the Rwandan Embassy is located at 120 - 122 Seymour Place, London W1H 1NR.
Tel: +44 (0)207 224 9832.
In the USA the Rwandan Embassy is located at 1875 Connecticut Avenue, N.W.Suite 540 Washington, DC 20009, United States
Tel: +1 202 232 2882.
All of our local operators conform to local safety regulations. If you at any time feel that this is not the case please do not hesitate to contact us.
Know Before You Go is an ongoing campaign from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office to help Brits stay safe abroad, however in our opinion it has useful information for all nationalities. The campaign was launched in 2001 to promote these key messages:
Get adequate travel insurance
Check the FCO’s country travel advise
Visit your GP as soon as possible before travelling
Check your passport is in good condition and valid and you have all necessary visas
Make copies of important documents and/or store them online using a secure data storage site.
Tell someone where you are going and leave emergency contact details with them
Take enough money and have access to emergency funds.
We suggest that you go to the Foreign and Commonwealth website to get up to date information on your specific destination and important travel tips before you travel.
Go to: https://travelaware.campaign.gov.uk/ for relevant and important travel tips to plan your trip abroad.
Despite common misconceptions Rwanda has had stable, progressive and democratic governments for over ten years. Security measures in the national parks have been significantly enhanced. Clients should take the usual precautions when travelling abroad in unfamiliar surroundings and we recommend that clients take a taxi rather than walk at night. Please use your common sense and do not draw attention to cameras, video equipment, jewellery, etc. Do not flaunt money and always use safes when provided at hotels/lodges. If in doubt please ask your guide.
For latest travel advice please contact us, at our UK office, or alternatively use the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website.
Health & Medical
Always seek medical advice before travelling; please consult your GP or Doctor who will be able to advise you on required vaccinations and anti-malarial prophylaxis.
In the UK we recommended visiting the ‘Fit for Travel’ website.
In the USA, we suggest consulting CDC (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention) - http://www.cdc.gov/
Please bring any personal medication required. Anti-malaria tablets and mosquito repellents are essential. Travel from some countries requires a Yellow Fever inoculation and certificate. Drink bottled or boiled water only.
Medical services, especially in rural areas, are basic so it is essential you have appropriate travel insurance with adequate medical cover, air repatriation with a 24-hours contact telephone number for emergencies. Securing the necessary travel insurance for your safari is your own responsibility.
It is a condition of booking that all clients must have, and must demonstrate to the company prior to their departure, adequate insurance for the duration of the tour.
Proof of the following items of insurance is required on booking; cancellation or curtailment of your trip, medical expenses, repatriation, loss of luggage, personal injury, adventure activities such as white-water rafting, tracking wild animals, theft of personal belongings.
Please report any theft, trip disruption immediately to your guide during your trip and also in writing to Natural World Safaris immediately on return to your home country.
We strongly believe that smoking in national parks or in enclosed spaces should be avoided and is often not permitted.
Travel times can vary considerably in Rwanda. Main roads are generally good but travel is much slower than on European or American roads. Most roads in rural areas are often dusty or muddy and bumpy due to poor local maintenance and weather conditions.
We use properly equipped 4x4’s for our safaris and these vehicles have been especially converted for wildlife watching. Journeys overland can on occasions take most of the day, however we always try to break these up with refreshment stops and there is always a lot to look at as you travel by!
Rwanda is an equatorial country and as result the climate is considered tropical and does not vary much throughout the year. Generally the climate is considered warm and pleasant, although mountainous areas can be much colder than the plains areas and the rainfall is greater. Temperatures on the plains tend to be between 21-30 degrees Celsius whereas in mountainous areas day time temperatures can be down to 10 degrees, at night it can be even cooler. The dry seasons are generally from December to early March and June to the end of August/early September but it may rain at any time of the year, particularly in equatorial rainforest areas. Lake Victoria influences the local weather patterns considerably and ensures the surrounding region is wetter than elsewhere. Seasonal weather patterns can be unpredictable.
Our advice is to travel when it is most convenient; as a client may avoid travelling in the “official” rainy season only to find it pours for part of their visit. Travelling in the rainy seasons may mean the traveller gets slightly wetter than travelling in dry season however conditions for photography are much better and this is a key time for birding. As gorilla and chimpanzee tracking is predominantly in forest and mountainous areas travellers should come prepared for rain at any time of the year. Even in the rainy season showers tend to be short bursts late in the afternoon, which clears the skies for excellent views.
Please refrain from photography of military personnel, military installations and airports. Always ask for permission when taking photos of local people or alternatively ask your guide for advice. It is worth ensuring you have sufficient films, including fast films (400-1600 ASA) for gorilla trekking. Please bring extra batteries as it may not always be possible to re-charge them at the lodges. In addition it might be useful to bring a car charger (cigarette lighter variety).
It is forbidden to use flash photography when with the gorillas and chimpanzees. Please note flash photography of any wildlife usually causes disturbance and should be avoided.
Prices include airport transfers; accommodation; meals and drinks as stated; an English speaking driver / guide and a safari vehicle; porterage of two items of baggage per person on the trip (subject to weight restrictions); boat trips; park fees; and permits where appropriate.
Prices exclude all items of a personal nature: entry visas, international flights, tips, telephone calls, drinks (unless otherwise stated), laundry and airport taxes.
Tips & Gratuities
During your time in Rwanda, tipping is entirely at your discretion. There is no obligation to pay a tip to your drivers, hotel staff or your guides. However, should you wish to tip, the following may be used as a guideline depending on the service you have received:
Guest Relations Officer: US$5-10 per traveller per meeting depending on group size.
Transfer Driver in Kigali: US$5-10 per traveller per transfer depending on group size. Hotel Staff (Waiter): 10-15% service charge per meal, irrespective of group size, and if not already included in the bill.
If you choose to take a porter (highly recommended), the minimum recommended payment is US$15 per traveller per track. Porters are drawn from local communities, and this payment serves as their wages. Guides (1 per group), Trackers (2-3 per group) and Security personnel (2-4 per group) do earn salaries. A recommended tip is US$25 per day of tracking per traveller. This may be given to the guide in view of the trackers once out of the park such that he can distribute amongst the trackers and himself.
Other park guides - A tip of US$5-10 per traveller is appropriate each time you receive a guiding service from a park employed guide.
Lodges outside of Kigali
Your lodge should have a staff tip box from which tips are distributed equitably. A tip of US$10 – US$20 per traveller should be adequate if the service warrants it.
A tip of US$5 per traveller per day for larger groups and US$10 per traveller per day for singles and couples.
Tips may be given in Rwanda Francs or US Dollars (other currencies such as Euros and Sterling are much less welcome), with Rwanda Francs being the preferred option.
Charitable Giving & Community Projects
We recommend as part of our responsible travel policy that you do not give money or gifts directly to local people. We have links with local projects/schools that would appreciate your support. Please ask your guide for further details. If you would like to contribute to these donations of clothing, pens and pencils are greatly appreciated.
When you buy an ATOL protected flight or flight inclusive holiday from us you will receive an ATOL Certificate. This lists the flight, accommodation, car hire and/or other services that are financially protected, where you can get information on what this means for you and who to contact if things go wrong. Company Name: Natural World Safaris Ltd. ATOL Number 9826. For more information please visit their website: http://www.caa.co.uk/atol-protection/
As a member of the Association of Bonded Travel Organisers Trust Limited (ABTOT), Natural World Safaris Ltd has provided a bond to meet the requirements of the Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992.
In the event of insolvency, protection is provided for non-flight packages commencing in and returning to the UK and other non-flight packages excluding pre arranged travel to and from your destination. Please note that packages booked outside the UK are only protected when purchased directly with Natural World Safaris Ltd.
In the above circumstances, if you have not yet travelled you may claim a refund, or if you have already travelled, you may claim repatriation to the starting point of your non-flight package.
The ABTOT number is 5127.