My sister spent two weeks in Rwanda and loved her time there.
Here's her review.
- very safe
- even though she was recommended not to go out at night, when she did, she never had problems
- the army and police corps are everywhere; they aren't corrupted
- do not ask if one is Hutu or Tutsi
- let the locals start on the subject of genocide
- there are today only a few signs of the genocide on the buildings in the cities; more in the countryside
- Kigali has a different spirit from the rest of the country because most people who commited the genocide left the country and refugees came back; the result is a city full of life where we often meet people who didn't go through the genocide; in the countryside, victims and executionners live side by side, which creates a climate of suspicion
- rwandese francs (FRW) can only be bought in the country
- as per April 2006 the change rate was of 550 FRW for $1 US;
- US$ are accepted in airport, banks, hotels, etc. No problems in major cities
- it is easier to pay or change US$ than Euros; it appears that only Intercontinental, 1000 collines, Meridien, Chez Lando et Gorillas hotels accept Euros.
- exchange bureau close on Saturday at 2:00 pm et Sunday
- $US must have serie numbers that start in January 2004 or after
- ATMs are found in Kigali and maybe Butare
- Master card is accepted in hotels and classy restaurants
- Visa IS NOT accepted in Rwanda.
- When we use a credit card, the bill's total generally increases by 4%
- tips isn't included on the restaurant's bill
- telephone lines and electricity aren't reliable... which means that paying with a credit card can take hours !
- safaris and parks are $$$$$$; Kigali-Akagera for $600/4 persons maximum (car, driver and gaz); gorillas park $350 (transport, entrance and one night)
Tourist infrastuctures :
- not developped in Kigali (she doesn't know for Butare); a bit around the touristy towns (ex: safaris); totally lacking elsewhere in the countryside so no hotel or restaurant there
- local transport efficient; busses leave on time, between 8:00 am and 6:00 pm; very low price (ex: a trip Kigali-Butare costs 1 500 FRW (3$US) for a 2 hour-ride in a cosy bus); luggages though must be kept with us
- Kigali is built on 7 mountains
- downtown, markets, exchange bureau, majority of restaurants are found in the quarter named "en ville". That's what we need to say to bus drivers or people on the street when we are lookiing for our way, because they often don't know the names of the streets !
- the highest she paid for a bus ticket is 100 FRW (a few cents in US$)
- the muslim quarter is interesting but this is where pickpockets are found
- each last Saturday morning of the month is dedicated to a city cleaning duty, which means that most shops and restaurants are closed
- the tourist office is basically useless
Food and beverages :
- For about $2, a full huge plate
- local beers are excellent !
- banana wine... awefull !
- except for Kigali and Butare, hotels and private rooms are difficult to find
- in touristy town, because of the lack of competition, hotels and restaurants are expensive
- in Kigali, you'll find places from $6 (in "en ville"), middle range hotels around $35 (in "Kiyovu") or luxurious hotels
- religious community often offer beds in dormitory
What to see :
- Kigali : full of life; « En ville » has a market, shops, street vendors, lots of restaurants/pubs; « Chez Landau » restaurant/hotel in the quarter Remera – the place for night life; Kigali's memorial
- Murambi's memorial : 30 minutes from Butare, where 50 000 persons were killed in one night
- Butare : beautiful city; starting point for daytrips to Nyungwe and Lake Kivu
- park of the Volcanos
- park of Akagera
- Nyungwe forest
- lake Kivu
- Gisenyi : beaches and reasort
Good to know :
- locals love to have compliments about their shoes !
- since Rwanda is almost on the equator line, the night falls around 6:00 pm !
- bring toys (balls, pens, pencils, homework books, etc.) will make a few children's life brighter, but remember that when you stop, 30 other kids will run to you !