Skip Navigation

Kigali, Rwanda to Malawi

Travel Forums Africa and The Middle East Kigali, Rwanda to Malawi

1. Posted by Borisborough (Moderator 859 posts) 3y Star this if you like it!

We're looking to climb Mt Kilimanjaro in December, travel through the National Parks spotting wildlife and then visiting the gorillas in Rwanda. After that we want to get from Kigali to Malawi for some beaches around Lake Malawi and then on to Zambia for the Victoria Falls. We don't want to travel through Burundi and the road trip immediately south of Lake Victoria through Tanzania to Dodoma or Dar es Salaam is said to be particularly unsafe because of bandits (and it's time-consuming too). Is there any direct aeroplane from Kigali to Malawi (Lilongwe) or is there any safe and speedy overland route from Kigali into Rwanda (train?)? Cheers

2. Posted by berner256 (Moderator 939 posts) 3y Star this if you like it!

I didn't encounter any problems traveling by road from Tanzania to Malawi in November 2013, going from Dar es Salaam to Mikumi to Iringa to Chitimba to Kande Beach (Lake Malawi) to Lilongwe to South Luangwa National Park (Zambia) to Chipata to Lusaka and then to Livingstone (Victoria Falls). This is a widely traveled route used by the overland "adventure" tour companies. Additionally, there is passenger rail service (on certain days of the week) between Tanzania and Zambia. Check out for details. I hired a driver in Rwanda earlier on that same trip, which also included visits to Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Swaziland. Americans are eligible for an "East Africa" visa that allows multiple-entry into Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. The cost is $100 (check the Kenya embassy's Web site). The best view of Rwanda's volcanoes is from Uganda. You also get a good view of some of them from the Virunga Lodge in Ruhengeri (you don't have to stay at the lodge to see the view from the terrace). Birdwatching is excellent in Rwanda. If you're going to see the mountain gorillas in Rwanda, make sure you get the necessary permits in advance, or you could be disappointed. It's expensive, but worth it. Uganda was great, including Queen Elizabeth Park. I saw the gorillas in Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The permit was cheaper; and getting there was more scenic. While in Rwanda, I also visited Volcanoes National Park, where the gorilla treks begin in that country. Since you're going to Lake Malawi, you should be aware of two things: Lake flies, also known as nkungo; and bilharzia. I encountered swarms of lake flies (check out videos on YouTube) on my visit. Hope this helps.

3. Posted by Borisborough (Moderator 859 posts) 3y Star this if you like it!

Thanks Berner - yes, that helps, a great deal! I'm not too bothered about an overland journey but we will be a little limited on time (six and a half weeks) and my wife has read about an increase in attacks on travellers. We were thinking we might fly this bit (Kigali to Lusaka) and backtrack to Malawi but that's a fare of USD600 each. But there's plenty of time before we go so the planning's in the early stages. It is a toss up between Uganda and Rwanda for the gorillas - after your piece Uganda might just be winning now. The train would be good but there are only a limited number of trains per week. I might ask you more by PM as the year goes by if you don't mind? :) Cheers

4. Posted by berner256 (Moderator 939 posts) 3y Star this if you like it!

Yes, I'll be glad to help. Just send me a PM when you're ready. I note that you live in New Zealand. Do you have any award miles with Air New Zealand? If so, why not redeem some of those miles to fly with two of Africa's largest airlines, Ethiopian and South African, which also are Star Alliance members. You can get one-way flights for as little as 17,500 miles, plus a nominal sum in taxes and fees. Last spring, I used 17,500 miles that I had accumulated with United Airlines (also a Star Alliance member), plus $25 in taxes and fees, to fly nonstop from Addis Ababa to Johannesburg on Ethiopian Airlines. In fall 2013, I used 12,500 miles, plus $55.50 in taxes and fees, to fly from Johannesburg to Kigali on South African. Check it out; you'll be surprised at the availability of seats. I traveled independently in Rwanda and Ethiopia by hiring drivers. But I joined an "adventure" tour to see the mountain gorillas in Uganda. I didn't want the hassle of arranging to get the permits. Please note that many "adventure" tour companies, including the one I used, allow travelers to join certain segments of the tour if they don't want to participate in the entire tour. So, for example, if a tour begins in Nairobi, you could join it in Kampala -- go to Bwindi Impenetrable NP to see the gorillas -- then leave the tour when it returns to Kampala, instead of going all the way to Kenya. You'll be charged only for the Kampala-Bwindi-Kampala segment. So there are options. I travel independently 90 percent of the time; but I will use tours when it suits my purpose. I prefer using public transportation; but in areas where safety and convenience are concerns, I hire a car and driver. Rates are reasonable, though higher than in Asia. In some parts of Africa, public transportation isn't safe. Many vehicles are poorly maintained; and jam-packed with passengers and "cargo." Plus, you'll find that many drivers speed. It's not unusual to see overturned vehicles on the side of the road. Many roads also are in poor shape, even though that's changing. In Rwanda and Ethiopia, for example, Chinese are helping to build new roads and improve existing ones. But you'll encounter rough rides everywhere, euphemistically referred to as an "African massage." One more thing. You should be able to do most of what you want in 6.5 weeks. I spent about four months in Africa in 2013; and went back for another two months last year. It's wonderful continent, so much so that I'm planning to go back this year or next.