Travel Guide Africa Rwanda Kigali



Sunset over Kigali

Sunset over Kigali

© 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.



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.
  • Nyamata Genocide Memorial - Nyamata Genocide Memorial is a worthwhile complement to the Gisozi Memorial Centre in Kigali. Located in the town of Nyamata, 40 minutes south of Kigali on a newly paved road, the memorial is located in a church where over 5,000 people were killed during the 1994 genocide. Visitors take a short tour and see the evidence of the genocide that remains there today - victims' clothing piled on benches, the roof pockmarked with bullet holes, and the open crypts behind the church that hold the remains of over 40,000 people from the area. An extremely moving look into one of the places where the genocide was carried out.
  • Ntarama Genocide Memorial - Ntarama Genocide Memorial, just 20 minutes away from the Nyamata memorial, is also worth visiting. Like the Nyamata memorial, this site was a church before the genocide, and was nationalized to serve as a memorial after thousands of people were killed within its walls. The church itself is similar to Nyamata, with victims' clothing and remains visible to offer proof of what happened there, but Ntarama also has a peaceful memorial garden and wall of names in the back of its compound. Ask the resident guide for a tour in English or French, and remember to give them a donation for the site afterwards; it gets almost no support from the government. To get there, take the highway from Kigali to Nyamata and follow the signs for the Ntarama memorial, before you reach Nyamata.
  • 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.



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 travellers 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.




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.

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



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.



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 summon 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

Motorcycle taxis (motos) are the most popular and fastest way to get around town. The fare for the motorcycle ranges from 200 RFr-1,000 RFr depending on distance, but most of the motorcyclists will ask for RFr 200-500. A trip to or from the airport should be around 1,500-2,000 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. For the city buses you need now a Oyster type card, you can buy and load them up in the bigger city bus stations.

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 maintained 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 2,500 RFr and to Gisenyi 3,000 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.




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.
Babas Cafe at the Kigali Business Centre slightly out of town. Has great wholesome food. Eat as much as you like for US$3.
La Classe, Boulevard de la Revolution. Lunch & dinner. Sometimes excellent, sometimes not, La Classe is oft overlooked by Kigali's expats, but the fillet steak can be sublime. Also does a FRw3,500 lunchtime buffet Mains from FRw4,000.
Ki Asili Resto Bar and Fast Food (the name Ki-Asili comes from the Swahili word Asili for Natural/Original), Kn 55 st, ☏ +250785023815, ✉ [email protected]. 24 hours. Rooftop resto bar serving Ethiopian/Eritrean food. Ideal for groups, birthdays, get-togethers. Check with customer care before planning, and book your date. Many times venue is booked in advance. US$5.
Bourbon Cafe, Union Trade Center shopping plaza in the centreville and at the MTN Centre in Remera. In 2011 it is getting mixed reviews.
Kigali Serena's Milima & Sokoni restaurants have good food, with special themes during the week such as the Wednesday Mongolian BBQ, Friday's African Buffet and Sunday's Buffet at Sokoni, and special themed lunches everyday at Milima.
Chez Robert is about 5 minutes walk from Mille Collines and serves local food in a nice setting. Their dinner buffet is quite good and costs about €7 for more than 20 items. There may be better local food in a hole-in-the wall restaurant for cheaper, but this is wonderful restaurant.
Shanghai, near Milles Collines, is a relatively unknown Chinese restaurant. Not very cozy, but the food is really good.




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.




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.

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.
Discover Rwanda Youth Hostel, Kigali, ☏ +250 782265679. Check-in: any time, check-out: 10:00. Discover Rwanda Youth Hostel offers clean beds in 4/6 bed dorms and private rooms as well as hot water bathrooms and free breakfast and free internet access,. It also has space for campers inside its 24-hour guarded gate. Discover Rwanda is an Aegis Trust social enterprise in which all proceeds go towards social programs offered by its parent organization at the Kigali Genocide Memorial. The only backpacker hostel in Kigali. camping FRw6750, dorm bed FRw12,000, room from FRw17,250.
Hope Guesthouse, Nyabugogo Blvd. Check-out: 10:00. Good basic traveller hotel two minutes walk from the Nyabugogo bus station on a main road. There is a large pub next to the hotel with good food and the usual football TV in the evenings. Downstairs is a massage place. There are also some Visa-accepting ATMs next door. There are plenty of buses to the city center, or walk for about one hour up-hill. Next to the Hope Guesthouse are many other guesthouses with even cheaper clean rooms. Room with one bed FRw10,000; room with two beds FRw15,000. (Beds are big enough to fit a couple). (updated Jan 2019 | edit)
Auberge de nyamirambo (near Islamic centre), ☏ +250 252572879. Single room with outside bathroom. Double room with own bathroom. FRw5000/8000/10,000.
La Vedette Motel (around the corner from Auberge de Ayamirambo), ☏ +250 252573575. Double room with outside bathroom. double room with own bathroom FRw8000/10000.
Logement Ikaze (Located in Nyamirambo.), ☏ +250 252573655. Single/double rooms. Has 8 rooms. from FRw7000.
Amani Best Guest House, Remera Kigali, ☏ +250 788759874, +250 783701543. Double room with bathroom FRw8,000.
Resident Hotel, Kn 8 Street Nyabugoogo. Check-in: 10:00, check-out: 09:00. double room with own bathroom. FRw11,000.
Center St Paul (200m east of the place-de nationale.), ☏ +250 783191589. Clean single double rooms with own hot water bathroom. Nice garden. FRw15,000/20,000.
Gloria Hotel (which only has cold water showers).
Hotel Chez Lando, ☏ +250 252 584394, ✉ [email protected]. From US$60 per night.
Hotel Isimbi, Rue Kalisimbi, District Nyarugenge (down town), ☏ +250 572578. Also has a good bar and restaurant. US$30-40.
Iris Guesthouse US$75, clean, big rooms, hot water, very good restaurant and free Internet.
Okapi Hotel Some rooms available for US$25 per night, good location and friendly staff. Some rooms have an excellent view over the outskirts of Kigali. Just forget the US$30 rooms. They are 'downstairs' and aren't worth it.
Park View Courts Rwanda Enjoy a serene environment in this homely apart-hotel complex, with a view to die for and friendly staff. Prices range from US$150-300.
Step Town Motel US$50, clean, very nice rooms, hot water, and free Internet.
Marasa Umubano Hotel, Boulevard del Umuganda. Still known by its former name Novotel by almost everyone. Ask for a swimming pool view room on a high floor for a beautiful sunrise to wake you from your slumber. From US$150 per night.
Hotel des Mille Collines, Avenue de l'Armée/Avenue de la République, ☏ +250 252 576530, fax: +250 252 576541, ✉ [email protected]. While the movie Hotel Rwanda was filmed in South Africa, this is where the actual events took place. The hotel has two restaurants, a pool, internet and a gift shop. The hotel underwent extensive renovation in 2010. Rates are slightly higher for pool view rooms. All rooms have safes but no hair dryer or coffee maker. Free access to Wi-Fi, but coverage is uneven. Wonderful breakfast buffet. Apart from the movie this hotel is also the setting for the novel Un dimanche à la piscine à Kigali. Prices from €151.
Kigali Serena Hotel, ☏ +250 252 597100. Formerly a Belgian-owned hotel known as the Diplomates and briefly portrayed in Hotel Rwanda. Renovated in 2011. Free WiFi throughout, health club and spa. The lagoon pool and waterfall form a centerpiece to the hotel. While inside the hotel or the restaurants, you can truly be oblivious to the rest of the city outside - which may be a good or bad thing - depending on your mood. From US$310 per night.

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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!).




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.



Keep Connected


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.


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.


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.


Accommodation in Kigali

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Kigali searchable right here on Travellerspoint.


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This is version 18. Last edited at 14:08 on Sep 2, 20 by Utrecht. 24 articles link to this page.

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