Kigali

Kigali is the capital of Rwanda.

Nyabugogo Avenue, Kigali
Avocado Fruit
Fruit shop in Kigali

Understand

The centre of political and commercial life, Kigali dominates Rwanda and few visit the country without passing through. The city is developing fast, and is very much a showpiece capital designed to impress visitors, from the humble tourist, to foreign investors and visiting dignitaries.

With a population topping 1 million, the city spreads over several hills and valleys, with many of the better restaurants and hotels away from the traditional downtown area. The Kigali City Masterplan outlines the future for this burgeoning metropolis – with plans for a new city to be built south of the current city centre.

As a clean, comfortable and ordered city, Kigali is very popular with long term expats, and the city is teeming with westerners, from young church or NGO volunteers having their first African ‘experience’ to career development workers enjoying a relaxed lifestyle where it is safe to bring up young children. This in turn means the city supports numerous restaurants, coffee shops and supermarkets that cater to this demographic. The downside of Kigali’s popularity with foreigners is that it is easy to forget you are in Africa.

Get in

By plane

Kigali International Airport

Kigali International is a small and organised airport, and it is rare to encounter any problems. Be aware that plastic bags are illegal in Rwanda for environmental reasons, so you should bring only reusable bags into the country.

KLM has flights to Kigali from Amsterdam.

Brussels Airlines has flights to Kigali from Brussels.

Kenya Airways has three flights a day from Nairobi.

Ethiopian Airlines has daily flights from Addis Ababa.

Rwandair the national carrier, has several flights a day to other African destinations, - tickets can be booked on their website.

South African Airways has flights to Kigali from Johannesburg.

Turkish Airlines has flights to Kigali from Istanbul.

'Qatar airways. has flights from Kigali to Doha.

Flydubai. has flights to Dubai.

On flying out of Kigali airport keep in mind the need for a Yellow Fever Certificate at your destination (eg South Africa) - Airport officials will ask for this. Also be careful of waiting in the cafe for your flight - some flights (eg Kenya Airways to Nairobi) are often overbooked and you won't hear any announcement when they decide to start boarding early, and you could miss your flight.

Alternative: Entebbe, Uganda

Some international fliers find it much cheaper to fly into Entebbe in Uganda and then take the bus to Kigali. Depending an how long they stop you at the border, the bus trip takes about 9 hours. Try to get a seat on a Jaguar bus. The seats should be booked a day or two in advance in order to get seats #1 to #4. Actual (09/2007) prices: Kampala - Kigali: UGX 25,000.00 p.p. / Kigali - Kampala: UGX 20,000.00 p.p. (strange but true)

By bus

Buses arrive and depart to many parts of Rwanda regularly.

Get around

See

Do

Take a trip to a craft centre, like the Dancing Pots Craft Centre or the Cards for Africa workshop and sales room in Kigali.

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. A useful Kinyarwanda vocabulary cheat sheet is available.

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!).

Buy

First thing to be aware is that Kigali can be expensive. As a cash strapped landlocked country costs of imported goods are high and import duties and VAT considerable. Foreigners often complain that wine, olive oil, breakfast cereals, kettle chips and other mundane foodstuffs cost a fortune, so beware. Costs can be lowered considerably by buying Rwandan or East African Community goods - Kenya in particular produces a wide range of produce that often cost half the imported European equivalent.

Outside of supermarkets and restaurants most vendors are used to a bit of haggling (even over fruit and veg) although as always keep things in perspective - but don't let storekeepers charge you double what you think you should be paying.

Cash machines / ATMs – most banks ATMs now accept Master Card, Visa card, Amex card, Diners club, Union pay, JCB, including Equity Bank , Ecobank, Bank of Kigali, Kenya commercial bank, GT bank, I&M bank; Eco bank HQ is located in the center of town next to CNLS and near UTC / Nakumatt. There are many ATMs accepting international cards at the airport also. Don't count on any particular ATM to have money or be working at any particular time - even at the airport.

There are banks in Kigali with counter service for withdrawals (and Ecobank can do MasterCard withdrawals).

What to buy Rwandan coffee is generally very good (although stay away from the cheapest stuff, which will be the sweepings from the grinding factory floor). Expect to pay around Rwf 4,000 per 500g. Rwandan honey is great, especially the Nyungwe Highlands type. Around Rwf 1,750 per 500g. Rwandan tea (both black and green) is also pretty good.

Local markets are stocked with Rwandan handicrafts, clothing, fabulous colorful fabric from West Africa and just about anything else. The large market in Kimironko is a good place for fruit, veg, rice and other basic foodstuffs - and it can be good fun looking through the secondhand clothes section.

Supermarkets in Kigali

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.

As Kigali is quite a sprawling city eateries are organised by suburb.

City Centre

Gacuriro

Kiyovu

Kacyiru

Kimihurura

Nyarutarama

Remera

Kibagabaga / Kinyinya

Other

Drink

Bottled water is recommended for foreign visitors.

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

Mid-range

Splurge

Kigali now has three international class hotels, built as part of the country's bid to increase tourism and better support business travellers.

Connect

English language broadcasts are available from BBC World Service in Kigali on 93.9MHz.

Stay safe

Kigali is relatively safe and friendly as far as African capitals go. Keep your eyes open and your wallet out of the reach of pickpockets, especially in crowded areas. Avoid walking after dark if possible, especially alone. Take extra precaution in the area between New Cadilac Nightclub and Carwash bar.

Police officers are generally helpful if you're in a bind, but don't expect speedy results.

Cope

Embassies

Go next


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Wednesday, March 23, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.