Barely two decades since its people had to restart building their nation from scratch, Rwanda has made such enormous strides that you’ll feel shock, pride, and joy all at once. And experiencing the country today, you’ll enjoy everything Rwanda has to offer that much more, knowing just how far they have come in such a short time.
So pack your bags, book that ticket, and sit tight for the exciting time that awaits you in Rwanda.
Highlights | Internet | Coworking Spaces | Insurance | When to Visit | Top Destinations | Getting Around Rwanda | Money | Visas | Onward Travel | Safety | FAQs
- Get a sim card (preferably MTN) immediately when you get to Rwanda. It will come in handy for internet access and mobile money payments across the country.
- Apply for your visa online. It will save you long queues at borders or the airport.
- Bring your own small electronics (power banks, chargers, cables), as they are expensive in Rwanda.
- Visit around October to February for great deals and fewer crowds.
- Carry all-weather clothes – because Rwanda is so hilly, there’s often some occasional rain even when you don’t expect it.
Rwanda Travel Basics
|Main Languages||Kinyarwanda, English, French|
|Main airport||Kigali International Airport|
|Currency||Rwandan Francs (RWF)|
|Time Zone||CAT (GMT+2)|
|Plug Socket Type||Type C and J|
|Best time(s) to Visit||June to August|
|Highlights||Culture; Safari; Hiking|
Explore the country’s national parks, beautiful lakes, and the lovely Rwandan traditional culture, which you will experience through song and dance, artifacts, and fashion during your stay in Rwanda.
Rwanda’s national parks will each give you a different experience. From a once in a lifetime gorilla trekking expedition to big five animal sightings, botanical explorations, and a canopy walk – you can tailor your itinerary based on what appeals to you the most.
The lakes of Rwanda offer relaxing views and water activities. Whether you’re in the mood for a short afternoon spent by the lakeside, or a full weekend getaway, there’s a lake destination waiting to give you a great experience.
They don’t call Rwanda the land of 1000 hills for nothing. You’ll have countless trails to explore in Rwanda, including right within its capital, Kigali. Try hiking trails that cut across neighborhoods where local Rwandans live, or go further into the woods by hiking up one of the Virunga mountains. You might even see chimpanzees and baboons on your trail.
Your first glimpse of Rwanda’s traditional culture may be in its artifacts. You’ll see them sold at the airport, or as decor in homes and hotels. You’ll see more culture displayed in Rwanda’s traditional wear at weddings and other events, in their fascinating traditional dance, all of which, I might add, you will thoroughly enjoy.
Internet in Rwanda
Kigali has pretty good internet. But outside the capital, it’s much slower and very unreliable. Generally, we suggest you don’t expect any good internet outside Kigali, and plan any work you need to do there.Then, spend the rest of your time in Rwanda sightseeing and exploring.
A few quick tips for internet in Rwanda:
- Not every neighborhood in Kigali has fiber internet available, so you’ll rely on broadband and 4G. Check your accommodation in advance to find out which internet supply they have.
- Internet in public places is basically non-existent, and is usually a hit or miss in shared places like restaurants and cafes.
- Be prepared to hotspot your phone as a backup and ensure it’s topped up with data wherever you are.
- Kigali’s coworking spaces have the most reliable internet in the city. They’re also very modern workspaces and usually in good locations throughout the city.
The quality of Rwanda’s 4G+ internet depends on where you live. But generally, three providers offer reliable services:
- MTN: The most extensive 4G coverage. It also works well outside of Kigali.
- Mango 4G: Fast and reliable, but has limited coverage even within Kigali.
- Airtel Rwanda: Offers competitive prices for its data packs, and has the next best coverage within and outside Kigali after MTN.
Buy a sim card at the networks’ respective shops, which you can find around shopping centers and malls. Carry your passport for identification.
The Best VPNs for Rwanda
To avoid unwanted surveillance, potential cybercrimes, and some annoying limitations (inaccessible pages and sites), a VPN will come in handy. Some of the best VPNs you can consider include:
- ExpressVPN: Has the fastest speed in Rwanda but is also the most expensive
- NordVPN: Has great privacy options, but expect slower speeds
- Surf Shark: Best budget VPN that can be shared between friends/family
- CyberGhost: Great to share with friends and family, and offers a relatively fast connection
Read More >>> The Best VPNs for Digital Nomads in Africa
Rwanda doesn’t have any coworking spaces (that we know of) outside Kigali. However, the spaces in the city are excellent.
Here are our favorites:
- Waka Kimi: Located in one of Kigali’s nicest neighborhoods. Very nice workspaces and an in-house gym are included in your membership.
- Waka Town: In the heart of Kigali’s CBD, this Waka branch also features an indoor climbing wall!
- Impact Hub Kigali: Part of the global chain. Offers a spacious, collaborative, professional environment focusing on sustainability and social impact.
- Norrsken House: An ultra-modern office building of the country HQ for a Norwegian VC fund. Hosts lots of events and workshops.
- Imizi Workspace: Laidback, informal space with everything you need for a productive work session.
- Westerwelle Startup Haus Kigali: A popular spot amongst the international crowd in Kigali, but we’re not big fans. Come for the internet, nothing more.
Travel Insurance for Rwanda
SafetyWing is by far the best medical insurance for digital nomads in Rwanda. It’s cheap, flexible, and covers plenty of outdoor activities and driving.
If you need something more comprehensive, World Nomads is a good option, but much more expensive and restrictive. Also, it covers far fewer African countries than SafetyWing.
When to Visit Rwanda
Rwanda is becoming a year-round destination, due to its many outdoor activities and regular festivals and events. However, some times of the year may be more favorable than others, depending on your preferences and interests. Here is a ranking of the best times of the year to visit Rwanda as a tourist:
June to September: The peak season for tourism in Rwanda, with the driest weather, clear skies, and the best chance of spotting wildlife. August and September also feature the exciting Kwita Izina (Naming Ceremony) Festival, where newborn mountain gorillas are named. You’ll find multiple opportunities to explore Rwanda’s traditional culture around this time. However, this is also the busiest time of year, and prices may be higher.
October to November: The weather is generally dry and sunny, with occasional rain showers. Ideal time for picnics, safaris, and other outdoor activities, as the landscapes are lush and green, temperatures are comfortable, and there are fewer tourists.
December to February: Relatively dry and sunny weather. An excellent time for bird watching and trekking as the forests are blooming from recent rains. December’s festivities often also include concerts and parties. A great time to experience Kigali’s nightlife.
March to May: The severe rainy season can make some roads impassable. However, this is a great time to avoid crowds and take advantage of lower prices. It also coincides with Rwanda’s mourning period (April to July) in memory of the genocide against the Tutsi, so there are fewer parties and events. Expect a quieter, more relaxed experience this time.
Rwanda is a tiny country packed with incredible places to visit. Start in Kigali, where you can explore coffee shops, art galleries, and magnificent views. Then head outside the city for some lovely natural experiences like lake visits, safaris, and hikes. Let’s start off with Kigali city.
Rwanda’s capital is more than “the cleanest city in Africa.” While it’s sleepier than mega-cities like Nairobi or Accra, there’s plenty to enjoy here. The art scene is incredible. You can comfortably walk around various neighborhoods day and night. There are plenty of outdoor activities without leaving the city, and a surprisingly excellent food and drink scene – Kigali’s coffee shops might be the best in the region!
Kigali also has the fastest, most reliable internet in Rwanda, so it makes a great base to work during the week and then explore the country on the weekends. It helps that Kigali sits in the middle of the country, and anything of interest is only a few hours away.
The magnificent Lake Kivu, one of Africa’s great lakes, sits on the border between Congo and Rwanda. And it is one that you simply cannot miss. There are two main areas to explore along Lake Kivu.
You can visit the lively, vibrant Gisenyi, located towards the North of Lake Kivu, and very close to Goma in DR Congo. Here, you’ll find a vibrant local life with nightclubs and a generally energetic environment. Noteworthy stays include mid-range hotels like Inzu Lodge and higher-end hotels like Gorillas Lake Kivu.
On the other hand, for a more relaxing, romantic getaway or a quiet experience, the Southern area of Lake Kivu, Kibuye, offers a peaceful stay with mostly residential neighborhoods and breathtakingly beautiful hidden stays. You’ll find budget hostels like Bethany Hotel and Home Saint Jean, and more high-end hotels like Cormoran Lodge.
Volcanoes National Park
Volcanoes National park is where you can do the famous Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda. On this once-in-a-lifetime experience, you’ll encounter the magnificent creatures just an arm’s length away. You trek for about 1 hour in the company of park rangers to locate one of the 12 families of Gorillas that live in the park’s dense forests.
Learn more about Gorilla trekking in Rwanda.
Akagera National Park
Akagera is a haven for safari lovers and bird-watching enthusiasts. It’s also the only park in Rwanda with all the Big Five animals (The lion, buffalo, rhino, elephant, and leopard). Set across a large, open expanse of land, you’ll be sure to see the animals clearly and some of its 490 bird species! Park entry fees are $100 for international visitors. You can find accommodation nearby at hotels like Akagera Rhino lodge for about $50 per night.
Nyungwe National Park
Botanists will find Nyungwe National Park a treasure trove with over a thousand plant species and 140 orchids. How many could you name?
Apart from plants, the rainforest that makes up Nyungwe National park also hosts 13 species of primates, including chimpanzees. You can go primate tracking, a favorite activity. Top that off with a picturesque Canopy Walk 1000 meters above ground, another particularly loved activity at Nyungwe National Park.
Park entrance fees vary depending on the activity you’d like to do. Chimpanzee trekking costs $90, while the canopy walk is $60 for international visitors.
Lake Burera and Lake Ruhondo
Lake Burera and Ruhondo, known as the twin lakes, are the perfect weekend getaway destination. Accommodation options range from the luxury Virunga Lodge in the middle of the twin lakes to mid-range hotels like Ruhondo Beach Resort.
You’ll be treated to amazing views of the lakes and small islands and activities ranging from canoeing to boat rides, community walks, and birding.
Getting Around Rwanda
Rwanda has surprisingly good roads. A lot of the major roads are smooth, and you’ll find many winding roads as you move away from Kigali. Because of the country’s size, everything is usually just within a few hours’ drive.
There’s also much less traffic in Kigali compared to neighboring Nairobi or Kampala. But prepare for occasional bumpy roads, especially away from main routes.
You’ll also have several transport options to choose from.
Overland Travel by Bus
Taking a bus is the most affordable way to travel around Rwanda. But it definitely has its challenges. When traveling within Kigali, you’ll need a prepaid bus card that you can get at the major bus stops in the city. There aren’t any strict timelines for buses, so you just walk to a bus stop and wait – like in most African cities.
For travel outside Kigali, you’ll need to find your way to the specific bus stops around Kigali, and navigate large crowds to find the bus offices to book your ticket and board the bus. This gets pretty exciting and can even be classified as a local experience.
It takes about 7 hours to travel to the Western regions of Rwanda (Lake Kivu areas) and about 2-3 hours for the rest of Rwanda. Traveling by bus also means walking or taking a taxi or motorbike from the bus stop to your final destination.
If you’d rather not be bothered by all the chaos, you can hire a vehicle or a motorbike to travel around Rwanda.
Renting a Car and Driver
Renting a car and driver in Rwanda costs from $70 per day. There are multiple car rental companies to choose from online, and occasionally, you can find that your host either offers this service or can recommend a car rental provider.
Renting a car without a driver costs about $18 to $40 daily. Watch out for old, beat cars that will slow you down. Book your car in advance, and check it thoroughly before starting your journey.
You can also rent a motorbike for about $25 per day.
For motorbike rentals, we recommend Kigali Motorbike Rental for excellent services and well-maintained bikes.
Money in Rwanda
|Approx. Exchange rate||1 USD = 1000 Rwf to 1080 Rwf|
|Free ATM Withdrawals||None|
|Card Payment Acceptance||Low|
|USD Bills Accepted?||No; Only tourist companies accept USD|
Mobile money is a technology that enables you to transact using your sim card. So you can send and receive money, pay for items, and access other financial services with nothing but your local Rwandan mobile phone number.
You’ll see pay bill numbers in shops, hotels, restaurants, and government offices, which you can use to pay your bills and buy items. Mobile money has become especially widespread after the COVID-19 pandemic – many locals and expats hardly use cash anymore. It’s also more reliable than card payments when paying in restaurants, where the POS machines can sometimes be out of service.
To set it up, you must get a local Rwandan phone number, preferably from MTN or Airtel, two of Rwanda’s largest network operators.
Withdrawing Money From ATMs
ATMs in Rwanda are safe to use, and often have a security guard closeby.
In Kigali, you’ll find plenty around banks and shopping malls. Outside Kigali, they might be more difficult to find, so bring plnety of cash and make sure your mobile money is topped up any time you leave the capital.
Cost of Travel in Rwanda (in USD)
|Bed in a hostel dorm||$10+|
|Budget hotel room incl. breakfast||$35+|
|Mid-range Hotel room||$70+|
|Room in a nice, central Airbnb||$17+|
|Budget 3-day safari||$450|
|Mid-range 3-day safari||$1200|
|Entrance to museums in Rwanda||Up to $10|
|One way flight Kigali – Gisenyi||$105|
Cost of Living in Rwanda
|Monthly Transport (Motorbike)||$77|
|Meal at street vendor/local restaurant||$2.77|
|Meal at a Western restaurant||$13.85|
|Monthly 4G+ data & calls package||$9.23|
|Monthly rent for a room in a shared apartment||$250+|
|Monthly rent for 1 BR furnished apartment||$500+|
|Monthly rent for a 1 BR serviced apartment||$700+|
Rwanda Tourist Visas
Citizens of every country on Earth are eligible for a 30-day Visa on Arrival in Rwanda. This is the easiest option if you’re visiting for a short trip. The visa costs $50 and is single-entry only. You can buy one on Rwanda’s visa website in advance if you want to skip the queues.
- 90-day multiple entry: Only available online. Costs $70.
- East Africa Tourist Visa: 90-day single entry visa that covers travel between Rwanda, Uganda, and Kenya. You can buy it online or on arrival in Rwanda. Costs $100.
Traveling to Kenya
A flight to Nairobi costs about $183+ and takes 1 hour 45 minutes. You can also take a bus to Kenya, passing through Uganda, for $40. It takes 25 hours to get to Nairobi in Kenya.
Read More >>> Our complete Kenya digital nomad guide.
Traveling to Uganda
Traveling to Uganda by flight will cost about $260 one-way. While it’s pretty expensive, it will only take 1 hour to Entebbe international airport.
You can also go by road, where a bus ride will cost about $15-$20 with a good company. It takes approximately 12 hours by bus.
Traveling to Tanzania
A flight to Dar Es Salaam costs about $268, and takes 2 hours 30 minutes.
A bus costs about $50 and takes about 30 hours from Kigali to Dar es Salaam. If you’re traveling elsewhere in Tanzania, you must take a connecting bus or taxi to the destination.
Traveling to DRC
Numerous daily buses go to Gisenyi and Cyanguguin on Rwanda’s border with the DRC. You can hop onto one for $10 or less and then cross the border and find transportation on the other side in Goma.
But the safer way to get to DRC is with a taxi driver or a tour guide to help you pass the border. The border officers often overcharge or ask for unnecessary documents, but a driver can help you get around them.
Traveling to Burundi
Burundi, the tiny country South of Rwanda, can be accessed via bus or plane. A bus to the border of Rwanda and Burundi costs just $3, after which you can cross over to Burundi and take a taxi to your destination.
Safety in Rwanda
You can get pickpocketed, conned, or have items stolen from your house in Rwanda if you’re not cautious. Some tips to ensure the safety of your belongings:
- Remain aware of your belongings when out in public, especially in crowded areas like downtown and Nyabugogo, the largest bus park in Rwanda.
- Lock up after leaving your home or during the night when you sleep.
And speaking of nighttime…
Safety at Night
While many neighborhoods in Kigali are safe even at night, you still want to avoid walking alone in dark streets and areas. There are occasional thefts, so consider taking a motorbike or taxi home when it gets dark.
If you must walk in the dark, try to be in the company of a few other people.
Safety for Women
Rwanda is a safe destination for women, with laws that protect women from any form of abuse. However, be careful in nightclubs and bars as you might encounter the occasional unwanted grope from drunk men.
You might receive stares from Rwandans just for looking different, but particular dressing can cause unwanted attention. That includes super short shorts or extremely revealing clothes.
Beyond that, I’ve found that taking general precautions, including walking in groups in dark areas – or avoiding them – and locking up after yourself at home will keep you safe as a woman in Rwanda.
Safety for LGBTQ+ Travelers
There are no laws against the LGBTQ+ community in Rwanda.
However, many Rwandans are conservative and prefer to avoid conversations surrounding sexual orientation. Open displays of affection (regardless of sexual orientation) are frowned upon.
A general rule of thumb that works well in Rwanda is to take on a don’t ask, don’t tell approach, and you’ll feel safe.
Rwanda is a largely undiscovered gem for digital nomads. Its safety, affordability, and versatility of adventures make it a must-visit. So do consider adding it to your destinations list. Enjoy the peace and calm while you work, and the adventure of discovering new places.
Rwanda Digital Nomad FAQs
Is Rwanda good for digital nomads?
Rwanda is an excellent place for digital nomads looking for a green destination with absolutely stunning views and lots of opportunities for outdoor activities, but don’t mind a slower, quieter life.