Travel Consideration: Rwanda

Contributed By RealAdventures

Rwanda is a landlocked country in central/east Africa. It is recovering from a civil war and genocide in which as many as one million Tutsis and Hutus were killed. Hotels and guest houses are adequate in Kigali, the capital, and in major towns, but they are limited in remote areas.

A passport and evidence of yellow fever immunization are required. Visas are not required for American citizens entering Rwanda for less than 90 days. U.S. citizens planning on working in Rwanda should apply for a work permit at the Department of Immigration as soon as possible after arrival in Rwanda. Detailed entry information may be obtained from the Embassy of the Republic of Rwanda, 1714 New Hampshire Avenue, N.W., Washington D.C. 20009, telephone 202-232-2882, fax 202-232-4544, Internet site: Overseas inquiries may be made at the nearest Rwandan embassy or consulate.

Travelers who wish to travel to the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DROC) with visas and/or entry/exit stamps from Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda or Zimbabwe may experience difficulties at the DROC airport or other ports of entry. Some travelers with those visas or exit/entry stamps have been detained for questioning in DROC.

Most of Rwanda has been calm since the war, and genocide ended in July 1994. Insurgents opposed to the current government launched attacks against Rwanda from bases in the DROC beginning in early 1997. While the government has largely brought the insurgency under control, sporadic attacks continue to occur in the northwest. U.S. citizens should avoid travel to the following communes (zones) in the northwest: Ndusu, Gatonde, Rwerere, Rubavu, Giciye, Kinigi, Mutura, Kidaho, Nyamyunba, Nkumba, Nkuli, Mukingo, Kidaho and Kayove. The American Embassy in Kigali restricts travel by official Americans to these areas. Unexploded ordnance still remains a danger off well-traveled roads in the northwest.

In July 1999, the Government of Rwanda reopened the Parc National des Volcans (Viruga National Park). The Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) provides security in the park against attacks by rebel groups. They also provide military escorts for visitors viewing the mountain gorillas. Visitors are not permitted to visit the park without permission from Rwanda’s Office of Tourism and National Parks (ORTPN). Visitors are strongly advised against visits to the park outside the organized gorilla tours. Visitors are strongly advised to depart the park before 5:00 p.m. Visitors are encouraged to contact the U.S. Embassy regional security officer for the latest security information on the park. The e-mail address is

U.S. citizens are urged to avoid travel to the border areas between Rwanda and Burundi because of the unstable security situation in Burundi.

Due to the potential for violence, U.S. citizens should avoid political rallies, street demonstrations, and large crowds and maintain security awareness at all times.

One of the many Hutu extremist rebel factions in the Great Lakes region has committed, and continues to threaten, violence against American citizens and interests. This faction was responsible for the March 1999 kidnapping and murder of several Western tourists, including U.S. citizens, in neighboring Uganda. A Hutu rebel faction was responsible for the kidnapping of four foreign nationals in August 1998 in a region of the DROC, which borders Rwanda. Hutu rebel factions are known to operate in northeastern DROC and surrounding areas, including sections of Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania and Burundi.

Medical facilities are limited, and some medicines are in short supply or unavailable. Travelers generally bring their own supplies of prescription drugs and preventive medicines. A missionary hospital run by Americans is located in Kibogora, in the southwest of Rwanda, and it has some surgical facilities.

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Rwanda is provided for general reference only and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor

Excessive speed, careless driving and the lack of basic safety equipment on many vehicles are hazards on Rwanda’s roads. Drivers frequently have unexpected encounters with cyclists, pedestrians and livestock. Nighttime driving is particularly hazardous and discouraged. Roadways are often not marked and lack streetlights and shoulders. While the main roads in Rwanda are in relatively good condition, during the rainy season many side roads are passable only with four-wheel drive vehicles. Travelers may be stopped at police roadblocks throughout the country, where their vehicles and luggage may be searched. Service stations are available along main roads. Public transportation can be dangerous due to overloading, inadequate maintenance and careless drivers.

The Rwandan franc is freely exchangeable for hard currencies in banks and the Bureaux de Change. Several Kigali banks can handle wire transfers from U.S. banks, including Western Union. Credit cards are accepted at only a few hotels in Kigali and only to settle hotel bills. A very small number of restaurants accept credit cards. Travelers should expect to handle most expenses, including air tickets, in cash. Travelers' checks can be cashed only at commercial banks.

: U.S. citizens who plan to travel to Rwanda are urged to register with the U.S. Embassy and to obtain updated information on travel and security in Rwanda. The U.S. Embassy is located at Boulevard de la Revolution; the mailing address is B.P. 28, Kigali, Rwanda, telephone 250-75601/75602, fax 250-72128.

As there is no direct commercial air service at present, nor economic authority to operate such service between the U.S. and Rwanda, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the Rwandan Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards.

For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at tel. 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA’s Internet web site at The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at tel. (618) 229-4801.

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