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Kigali

Travel Guide Africa Rwanda Kigali

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Introduction

Sunset over Kigali

Sunset over Kigali

© All Rights Reserved hammarn

Kigali is the capital and also the largest city in Rwanda. It has about 900,000 inhabitants and the city is located in the central part of the country at an altitude of between 1,300 and 1,600 metres. Kigali has been the economic and cultural heart of the country since it became capital at independence in 1962. It also functions as the main transport hub for Rwanda. Compared to many other African cities, it is a pleasant and safe place with decent hotels, restaurants and transport to other parts of the country as well as internationally. It is also a good place to arrange your permit when you want to go visit the mountain gorillas in the northeast of the country.

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Sights and Activities

  • The Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre opened in April 2004 on the 10th anniversary of the genocides. Over 250,000 people are buried here, and there is a truly touching museum. Kigali houses several memorials, museums, and centers dedicated to the Rwandan Genocide. Audio guides and real guides are available. Cafe on site that makes excellent coffee, and supports local youth and businesses. free/donation - extra fee for photography.
  • Presidential Palace Museum (In Kanombe, 4 kilometres east past the airport - under the flightpath) - The abode of the formal President Habyarimana, who died in that infamous plane crash of 1994. Guided tours are mandatory, where you can get a glimpse of life as an African dictator in the 1970s & 80s. There is also a display on Rwandan clothing that is quite interesting. Photography is restricted. Rwf 6,000 (Rwf 5,000 for resident foreigners). To get there a moto should cost about Rwf 1,000, and tell him to go to Kanombe - you'll probably end up outside the military hospital at the end of the tarred road, the museum is another 300 meters along the dirt road.

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Events and Festivals

The Rwanda Mini Film Festival

Held annually in March the Rwanda Mini Film Festival allows amateur film makers from around Rwanda to showcase their talents. Entry is open to everyone, including students, professors, novices and established filmmakers, who are shown in several different categories. The festival takes place in many different venues across Kigali so interested travelers will have to keep an eye out for schedules closer to the time. The event is a great one to attend as the short films tend to highlight issues of people on the ground and provide great insight into the country.

Centre X Centre Festival

Newly renamed, the Centre X Centre Festival is an annual celebration of Rwandan theater which takes place every August in Kigali. Every year the festival has a theme which is generally related to the ideas of Arts and Peace. The messages of most pieces stem from the effects of the Rwandan genocide and are quite powerful. It is the hope that the theater festival not only forms the ground for critical discussion but is also a process of healing.

KigaliUp! Rwandan Music Festival

September marks the arrival of the lively outdoor music festival in Kigali. The event aims to bring together local artists from several different genres including traditional folk music, R&B and Rwandan Pop. There are also many international stars who grace the stage every year. The aim is to cross genre divides to create a community of artists who collaborate to make the county’s music industry even stronger than it already is.

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Weather

Because of its elevation the climate is surprisingly moderate and less humid than other places in low lying areas. Temperatures are usually around 6 °C to 9 °C lower compared to sea level temperatures so temperatures over 28 °C are not very common. The longer wet period lasts from February to May and April is the wettest month with almost 200 mm of rain. A shorter wet period lasts from late October to early December with November being the second wettest month.

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Avg Max26.9 °C27.4 °C26.9 °C26.2 °C25.9 °C26.4 °C27.1 °C28 °C28.2 °C27.2 °C26.1 °C26.4 °C
Avg Min15.6 °C15.8 °C15.7 °C16.1 °C16.2 °C15.3 °C15 °C16 °C16 °C15.9 °C15.5 °C15.6 °C
Rainfall76.9 mm91 mm114.2 mm154.2 mm88.1 mm18.6 mm11.4 mm31.1 mm69.6 mm105.7 mm112.7 mm77.4 mm
Rain Days111115181321410171714

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Getting There

By Plane

Kigali International Airport (KGL) near the capital receives all international flights and several domestic flights as well. Rwandair Express is the national airline of Rwanda. International flights include those to and from Bujumbura, Entebbe, Johannesburg, Kilimanjaro and Nairobi. Several other airlines from neighbouring countries have flights as well, and from Europe the only direct connections are from Brussels with Brussels Airlines.

Domestic services with Rwandair Express include flights between Kigali and Cyangugu and Gisenyi.

By Bus

Hourly (express) buses go literally everywhere in the country, with the main connections being from Kigali to Cyangugu, Gisenyi (via Musanze (aka Ruhengeri)) and Huye (aka Butare). Buses to Gisenyi cost RWF2,300 (June 2009) and take about 3.5 hours. Buses to Huye (aka Butare) cost RWF1,800 (June 2009) and take a little over 2 hours.

Internationally, buses travel between Kigali and Kampala in Uganda (8 hours), Nairobi in Kenya (24 hours) and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania (36 hours). Buses to Cyangugu and Gisenyi sometimes travel onwards to the cities of Bukavu and Goma respectively, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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Getting Around

By Car

There are several car rental agencies in Kigali.

There are many taxis in Kigali, and in comparison with motos are expensive. A short 1km trip will cost Rwf 2,000 after haggling, going up to Rwf 10,000 for an airport run. Taxis are mainly of two types in Kigali - those operated by individuals (usually with some form of yellow stripe on the vehicle) and more professorially run services operated by a single large operator. The Kigali Airport Taxis and Kigali Taxi Service are the two major groups, there are others companies also running taxis , but these are the largest and both operate a number you can call to sumon a taxis. 3122 for Kigali Taxis service and 476586 for Kigali Airport Taxi service. A reliable individual is Alex, who is on 0788741559 (French & some English spoken).

By Public Transport

Motorcyle taxis (motos) are the most popular and fastest way to get around town. The fare for the motorcycle ranges from 200 RFr-1000 RFr depending on distance, but most of the motocyclists will ask for RFr 200-500. A trip to or from the airport should be around 1500-2000 RFr. Keep in mind that on the main road out to the airport they really put their foot down. It is however a good well sealed road, nice views over Kigali City and a thrilling ride.

Matatus/ city buses (minibuses) provide major routes throughout the city and are the cheapest way to get around. The Minibus in Rwanda is one of the best forms of transport in East Africa. Most of the buses are still new and are maintined well. There are several minibus companies which connect Kigali and the other cities in Rwanda. All of them give the same price depending on the distance. For short distance, such as to Ntarama, it costs only 600 RFr. The distance to Ruhungeri cost 2500 RFr and to Gisenyi 3000 RFr.
City buses in Kigali cost Rfr 240. bus number 105 goes from the Bus station where you get off the bus from Uganda to the Kigali Youth hostel.

By Foot

Kigali is one of the best African cities to actually walk around. It is safe, rather pleasant and although not everything is within walking distance, it's nice to just walk around the colourful Streets.

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Eat

By all standards Kigali is an excellent city in which to dine. A combination of Belgian culinary influence, plenty of cows, plenty of freshwater fish, and plenty of fresh vegetables equates to some of the best eating in the region. And it's all pretty affordable.
Note that Kigali restaurants and bars go in and out of fashion, not to mention close down, quite frequently. Check for the latest once you are in town and be aware that some places mentioned in some print guidebooks no longer exist. (The oft-mentioned Turtle Cafe has been closed since 2003!).
Finally note that as with the rest of the region restaurants take their time – with a usual 45 minutes to 1 hour wait between ordering and your food arriving, especially for dinner. If you are after a quick meal at lunchtime there are several ‘African buffets’ dotted around where you pile your plate high and are out the door in 30 minutes.

By far the best restaurant in Kigali is Heaven. It serves creative and well-prepared American and continental main dishes, and has an amazing dessert menu. There's a full bar and an unusually comprehensive wine list for this part of the world, with prices comparable to those at a Western restaurant of equivalent quality. Omnivores and vegetarians will both be happy here; there's a good selection of dishes for both, and, unlike most Rwandan restaurants, the servers actually listen to requests to remove meat from dishes that usually contain it. Furthermore, the menu states that the Heaven management makes an effort to hire people who've been orphaned by HIV or the genocide, and who are supporting their own families, so eating here supports a social good as well. Heaven is quite close to the Kigali centreville, at No. 5, Rue du Mont Juru, which is three streets downhill from the Mille Collines hotel. Call +250 0848 6581 for directions.

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Drink

Bottled water is recommended for foreign visitors.
For alcohol try the New Cadillac night club and the Republica. Both are superb. Watch out for pickpockets outside the New Cadillac.
Don't miss Planet Club at the KBC roundabout in Kimihurura, it has 2 sides, a Lounge bar with Housemusic and a Club with African and modern Hip-Hop music.

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Sleep

Accommodation in downtown Kigali is noticeably more expensive than neighboring capitals like Kampala and Nairobi. Most of the budget options (for example the Hotel Gloria mentioned in older LPs) are gone. Outside the city center however, it is possible to find good budget options.

Budget

PropertyAddressTypePopularity
Discover Rwanda Youth HostelKigaliHostel82
  • Auberge La Caverne, on Blvd de Nyabugogo, is a decent option, offering double en suite rooms (with slightly warm water) from RWF10,000. There is also a bar and restaurant.

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Work

Your best bet would be with an aid organization or NGO. If you are a resident of the US or EU, keep in mind that you can avoid paying for an expensive residency permit simply by declaring yourself a tourist upon arrival and then traveling outside of Rwanda once every 90 days for the length of your day. Your 90-day tourist visa (automatically granted upon entry) will be renewed each time you leave and reenter the country (and it's a convenient excuse to go on vacation!).

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Learn

Learn a bit of French, maybe even a bit of Swahili and Kinyarwanda, all three are extremely useful here. English is also widely spoken, at least in Kigali.

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Keep Connected

Internet

You can find internet cafes in Kigali and some smaller cities and towns. Wifi is on the rise in some places as well, although connections outside Kigali are rather erratic at times.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

You can use your own cell phone in Rwanda, but avoid data roaming as it usually means extremely high costs for using the internet. Keep phone calls to a minimum or instead buy a local SIM card which means considerably lower prices for calling and using the internet.

Post

Office national des postes is the company responsible for postal service in Rwanda. Post offices are generally open from 8:00am to noon and 2:00 to 4:00pm, though regional variations apply. The one in Kigali generally keeps longer hours. Check with your accommodation for other options to send letters and postcards, as shops or hotels might sell stamps as well and can help you to post things. Services are fairly reliable though slow and for sending parcels it might be a good idea to check options with companies lik DHL, TNT, UPS or FedEx.

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Accommodation in Kigali

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Kigali searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Kigali and areas nearby.

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This is version 11. Last edited at 9:45 on Nov 11, 16 by Utrecht. 22 articles link to this page.

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