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The ultimate visit Rwanda travel guide to help you plan your first holiday

  • good for

    Primate safaris

  • Best Time

    Jun - Aug

  • Price Range


Visit Rwanda for the first time, and you'll be blown away by the lush landscapes carpeting the entire country. But trekking in the thick mountain jungles not to startle the silverback is the epic experience that brings most travelers to this tiny East African country. Rwanda offers up-market holidays mostly for the primates. The big five safaris are now available in Akera, and the mix of vibrant culture and wildlife makes it an excellent choice for vacations. Browse this travel guide to help you plan your first journey to Rwanda.


If you are visiting Rwanda for either the first time or you just can't get enough of this tiny destination, here are the top highlights from our travel guide.

  • Extraordinary experience trekking mountain gorillas in thick woods on the slopes of the Virunga Mountains
  • Undulating hills, terraced farmlands, volcanic mountains, untamed lush countryside with spectacular landscape views
  • Track wild chimpanzees and other primates in Nyungwe National Park, a last stronghold for endangered primates. The canopy walkway will suspend you above a ravine in the mountain woods, an exhilarating perspective on the ancient treetops and wildlife.
  • Explore the famous circuit between the national parks passing through magnificent scenery, with warm smiles, greetings from natives around every corner.
  • Explore the big game in Akagera National Park, now bragging of having all the big five, although lion, cheetah, and leopard are a bit challenging to spot.
  • Visit Rwanda for the first time through Kigali City's genocide memorials, museums, and cosmopolitan culture displays to countryside gatherings and annual events like Kwita Izina Gorilla Naming Ceremony, celebrating Rwanda's culture and creativity.
  • Explore the coastline of Lake Kivu by kayak, an excellent way to immerse yourself in the scenery, gazing up at the mountainous backdrop from the tranquility of the water.


High Season

January through February is a good time to visit Rwanda. It is a relatively hot season with clear skies, minimal rains, and more sunshine, great conditions for gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park and walking with chimpanzees in Nyungwe Forest National Park.

Low Season

March marks the beginning of the rainy season in Rwanda. It a perfect time to watch the countryside morph into emerald shades and great great landscape photos. It is also a perfect bird-watching season; many colorful winged creatures fly through the countryside.

April is the wettest month in Rwanda, parks are quieter, and roads to the gorillas can be impassable. On the other hand, it's low season, perfect for for taking advanced of the discounted hotel and lodge rates.

May ends the first rainy season of the year with lesser downpours and incredible greenery in the countryside.

Peak Season

June marks the begining of the peak season because of its favourable dry weather, extending into August. It's the best time to visit Rwanda on safari, and it attracts a high number of travelers to the gorilla nation. Gorilla trekking permits and lodges are in high demand during this time; book well in advance to avoid tiring logistics.

July is also excellent for gorilla trekking adventures in the Virungas and wildlife game drives in Akagera. Its asier to spot lions and leopards during this time.

August is fantastic for game-viewing safaris in Akagera and chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe Forest.

Low Season

September usually marks the end of the dry season and the beginning of the last rainy season of the year. However, your visit to Rwanda may experience heavy downpours depending on when the rains arrive. September is not ideal for gorilla trekking in Rwanda. However, first-time visitors who brave the downpours will undoubtedly save on travel costs. Also, September is when the Kwita Izina, the gorilla naming festival happens, attracting thousands of travelers.

October is not a busy month for a safari in Rwanda. Holiday costs are reasonable, and it is a good time of year for specials on accommodation. Akagera National Park is still accessible at this time, but the rainfall can be a little unpredictable.

The heavy rains continue into November, turning Rwanda's rugged countryside into a vibrant green perfect for photography. The November rains hold back many travelers, so the low season extends into December.

December ends the wet season with relatively short rains paving the way for the peak season in January. It is a good time for bird-watching, with a wide variety of migratory birds making their way into the Albertine region.

Places you must visit on your first Rwanda safari

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Tailor-made Rwanda Safari Packages

These are example safari packages to inspire your first-time visit to Rwanda.

Must have safari experiences in Rwanda

Trekking mountain gorillas

Travel to Rwanda and navigate through emerald foliage, bamboo forests, and gauze-like mists to behold the world’s largest living primates on their own turf. A permit for a guided gorilla trekking excursion costs $1,500 per person.

Chimpanzees and more primates

Roving families of chimpanzees and among the 13 primates species you will encounter on a stroll through the mountainous Nyungwe Forest trails. The lush rainforest with dazzling waterfalls, tea fields, and a long canopy walk is also a birder's haven.

Rwandese cultural encounters

Get lost in the Itore ballet, the Impala Orchestra, which adds considerable luster to the country’s cultural life. Visit Rwanda through Kigali and immerse yourself in the cosmopolitan city’s vibrant Rwandan cultural fusion.

Annual Kwita Izina Festival

Every September, Rwanda hosts the Kwita Izina Gorilla Naming Festival. The festival is steeped in cultural meaning, ancient Kinyaranda customs, and traditions of naming babies a few weeks after birth. Attend it for a life-changing experience.

Wildlife viewing game drives

Experience prime wildlife viewing experiences without a swarm of tourist vehicles disrupting your wilderness moments in Akagera National Park. All the big five, the lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and buffalo, live in Rwanda’s only savannah park.

A luxury stay in the forest

Rwanda’s most luxurious eco-lodges are enchanting forest resorts that evoke romantic poetry. Spend nights among the boundless expanse of thick Volcanic hills covered in ranks of bare trees elegantly sprouting above the most luxurious cottages in the world.

Visit the genocide memorials

Walking through Rwanda’s Genocide Memorial in Kigali is a powerfully emotional yet, ultimately, rewarding experience. It is where you can begin to grasp the horror and suffering of Rwandese people and, indeed, leave with the desire to learn more about it.

Hiking the Virunga Volcanoes

A range of five extinct volcanoes spanning altitudes of 2,400m to 4,507m stands tall on Rwanda’s northwestern frontier within Volcanoes National Park. Hike the mountain trails to the Virunga summits and see Rwanda from above the clouds.

The Cost of Travel in Rwanda

Vacation Camps & Lodgesunder $250$251 – $600over $600
Restaurants (per meal)under $12$12 – $30over $30
Safari Vehicle (per day)under $100$100 – $250over $250
Local Guide (per day)under $50$50 – $150over $150
Most Rwanda lodges refer to an all-inclusive (full-board) per person rate, including taxes, and assuming double occupancy. A few lodges operate on a half-board rate, and rare ones offer bed & breakfast except city hotels.  

Our top selected safari lodges in Rwanda

These are our most trusted service providers for mid-range to luxury accommodation including full-board meals. 

Visit Rwanda Travel Essentials

Entry Visa

Foreign travelers require tourist visas for entry into Rwanda. You can obtain a 30-day visa from the Irembo Immigration Website for USD 50. Check with your embassy or consulate for the latest regulations at least a month before your flight. Your passport must be valid for six months from the intended travel date and contain at least one blank page.

Health & Vaccines

Visitors to Rwanda must present proof of yellow fever vaccination and COVID-19 PCR test done within the last 72 hours upon arrival at the airport. Hepatitis A and B vaccinations are recommended. Adventurous eaters and travelers to rural areas should also consider the typhoid vaccine. Malaria is a risk, so consult with your doctor on antimalarial tablet options. At the very least, sleep under a mosquito net at night and wear insect repellent during the day. Avoid tap water and opt for bottled instead.


Rwanda’s official currency is the Rwandan franc (Rwf). Although larger hotels and tour operators may accept U.S. dollars and credit cards, expect to pay in francs at local shops and restaurants. You can withdraw the local currency at ATMs in large cities or exchange your U.S. dollars at the airport and regional banks. US$50 and US$100 bills will fetch better exchange rates, as will newer notes. Bills printed before 2005 may not be accepted.

Network & Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi in Rwanda can be commonly found at most restaurants, cafés, and hotels with 4G LTE wireless broadband in major cities. Outside of Kigali, however, Wi-Fi becomes much more unreliable. If you think you might need consistent Internet or phone access, bring an unlocked cell phone and get a SIM card upon arrival; MTN and Tigo are considered the most consistent providers.

Food & Dining

Rwanda has a burgeoning culinary scene with local and international restaurants well represented all over the country. In addition to international offerings, try some of Rwanda’s traditional dishes; brochettes (grilled meat or fish on a stick), Akabenz (roasted and marinated pork), and Misuzu (fried sweet plantains) are delicious and available throughout the country. Tipping is unnecessary mainly during your visit Rwanda trip, though if service is exemplary, feel free to leave a few small notes.


The quality of travel accommodation in Rwanda has improved in leaps and bounds over the past several years. Expect good food; excellent, personalized service; and a few unique touches—like a hot water bottle under your sheets—from Rwanda’s best. Bring travel necessities, such as toothbrushes and shampoo, but don’t be surprised if those items are already awaiting your arrival. Most lodges will supply rooms with mosquito bed nets, although you may not require a net in properties at high altitudes.

Getting There

Kigali International Airport, your entry point, is approximately 10 km (6 miles) or a 20-minute drive from central Kigali. The airport serves as the primary gateway for Rwanda’s gorilla safaris. Airlines servicing Kigali International Airport are: RwandAir (the nation’s carrier), Uganda Airlines, Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, KLM, Qatar Airways, and Turkish Airlines.

Getting Around

Rwanda has a well-surfaced road network linking the major towns, and the most convenient way to travel the country is by car. Smaller roads are frequently unsurfaced with varying conditions responsive to weather change. Visit Rwanda with a local tour operator that can arrange a vehicle with a driver. Self-drive travelers can hire four-by-four cars from agencies in the city. Taxis & shared minibusses operate in the larger towns, but there’s no rail service in Rwanda.

Plastic Ban

Please avoid carrying plastic bags to Rwanda. Banned by law since 2008, any plastic bags in your luggage will be confiscated at the airport or other points of entry. When you visit Rwanda, you’ll discover that citizens consider safeguarding the environment and keeping it clean with high regard.

Rwanda Travel Q&A

Safety is a priority for most travelers, and Rwanda is one of the safest countries not just in Africa, but in the world: Rwanda handled the Covid-19 pandemic impressively with a 0.6% death rate and great standards of tour Rwanda operation that see the country growing back its visitors after the pandemic.

In 2015, the country ranked fifth globally and first on the continent in Gallup’s Law and Order Index, which measures how safe people feel walking home at night. Violent crime is near nonexistent, and the terrorist threats that have plagued other East African destinations in the past have not affected Rwanda since the genocide. Rwanda is safe to visit.

Must Read: Is it safe to travel to Rwanda

  • There is mandatory Covid-19 testing on arrival in Kigali irrespective of vaccine or country of origin. The PCR test on entry costs Rwf 57,200 (USD 60) per person.
  • Fully vaccinated international travelers arriving in Rwanda will not quarantine at designated hotels while waiting for mandatory airport-administered PCR test results which cost Rwf 57,200 (USD 60). Proof of full vaccination is required to avoid quarantine requirements, and travelers who cannot provide such proof – along with unvaccinated travelers – must self-isolate in a designated quarantine hotel upon arrival in Rwanda until they receive a negative PCR test result. While mandatory quarantine at designated hotels is no longer a requirement, the Rwandan Ministry of Health still recommends that travelers self-isolate at the location of their choice until negative test results are received.
  • All travelers, regardless of vaccination status, must arrive in Rwanda with a negative COVID-19 certificate from a test performed within 72 hours prior to departure for Rwanda. The only test accepted is the SARS-CoV2 Real-Time Polymerase (RT-PCR). Rapid Diagnostics Tests (RDTs) are not accepted. Additionally, all travelers must take another PCR test upon arrival in Rwanda at the Kigali International Airport, even if they are fully vaccinated.
  • COVID-19 protocols remain in place throughout the country. These protocols include that all businesses must close by 11 p.m., and a curfew is set every day from midnight to 4 a.m. Entertainment and recreation establishments are now open, including nightclubs.
  • According to the Rwanda Development Board, 1.7 million Rwandans are fully vaccinated and 3 million have been administered the first dose. 90% of those working in Rwanda’s tourism industry have been vaccinated. Rwanda’s tourism sector is eager to welcome back more international travelers and are taking all steps and precautions to do so as safely as possible, hence the widespread vaccinations throughout the industry.

Exit Requirements

  • All travelers departing from Rwanda must test negative for COVID-19. The only accepted test is a SARS-CoV 2 Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) performed within 120 hours before departure. Other tests, such as Rapid Diagnostics Test (RDTs), are not accepted. We encourage travelers to book and pay for their tests at least 2 days prior to departure through the online platform available on www.rbc.gov.rw
  • Travelers from neighboring countries planning to start their international travel from Rwanda will be screened at points of entry and taken to transit hotels where samples will be taken for a COVID-19 test. They are requested to arrive at designated transit hotels at least 48 hours before departure where they will await their test results. There will be a medical team to assist for a total cost of 60 USD (includes 50 USD for the test and a medical service fee of 10 USD).
  • If the traveler’s test results are positive for COVID-19 (even if asymptomatic) while in Rwanda, they will be treated as indicated in the National Covid-19 Management Guidelines until they have fully recovered, at their own cost. We encourage all travelers to have international travel insurance.
  • The only accepted test for tourists visiting Volcanoes, Nyungwe, and Gishwati-Mukura national parks is the SARS-CoV 2 Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) taken within 72 hours. A negative Rapid Antigen Test taken within 72 hours will be accepted for Akagera National Park.

A direct flight to Kigali from London with Rwandair (a national carrier) takes about 9 hours 54 minutes and there are flights every day of the week. Other direct flights include Johannesburge, Amstadam, Istambul, Doha, Dubai and others. This was one of the reasons Rwanda is a destination of choice. The fact that you can take a direct flight to a travel destination is always very encouraging!

Foreigners who intend to visit Rwanda do not have to go through the hassle of applying for visas. With US$50 and a couple of questions, you get a visa once you arrive at Kigali International Airport. However, if you intend to do an East Africa tour, there is the option of purchasing a single tourist visa for Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya at US$100. More reason to tour Rwanda’s great attractions.

In the wake of Covid-19 pandemic, you may want to avoid contact with the visa process at entry point and make sure you have your visa before you jet in. Thanks to technology, this can be done online with little or no hustle as long you have the requirements to getting the visa like passport copy, yellow fever card copy, and other Covid standard requirements by the government. Here are links to help you get started: https://www.migration.gov.rw/anounce/online-visa/

Must read: Rwanda Safety Information

It’s no exaggeration, Kigali is the cleanest and greenest African city. The government encourages citizens to plant trees/grass in their homes and need a permit to cut down any tree. It is also a crime to walk on lawns in Kigali and you get fined $2 if you are caught walking on one.

Rwanda’s capital is on the move. From its psychedelic Easter egg of a convention center to car-free zones and yes, Wi-Fi cafes that dole out freshly spun smoothies, locally roasted coffee, and homemade scones (Café Neo, Bourbon Coffee), Kigali is making a mad dash toward modernity. Absorb the bright lights of Rwanda’s future at the Inema Arts Center, where promising young painters debut their best work amid weekly yoga classes and cocktail hours.

The tagline “Remarkable Rwanda” is apt as the Rwandans are truly impressive. The country and its people have come a long way from the genocide in 1994 and now live in peace and harmony. They are very welcoming to tourists and are always willing to help.

The land of 1,000 hills lives up to the greenery expectations with exceptionally gorgeous landscapes. The entire country is spread across various hills with abundant green confortably earning its name “Land of a thousand hills”. Potatoes, carrots, kale, chard, tea, cassava, sugarcane, coffee and passion fruit are key crops grown in Rwanda.

These horrific killings, aimed at wiping out an entire tribe, is easily one of the worst massacres to happen on the African continent in modern times. With genocide museums dotted across the country, the Rwandan people have documented this ugly past to the very last detail so the world can learn from it. Kigali Genocide Memorial is a must visit for everyone on a tour Rwanda vacation.

If you are an animal and nature lover, you’ll know that Rwanda is home to one-third of the world’s population of mountain gorillas (offering luxury gorilla trekking adventures). There are only about 1064 mountain gorillas remaining in the world and they can only survive in the wild. This means that to enjoy this one of a kind experience, you’ll have to “visit” them in their home.

To see gorillas in Rwanda, book a gorilla permit with Nkuringo Safaris for inside Volcanoes National Park, one of Africa’s oldest national parks, and our local experts will lead you on a daily guided gorilla trek that tops out at eight visitors per gorilla family. The only other two countries that we offer the same experience—in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest—require more vigorous hikes for seasoned hikers.

A gorilla permit in Rwanda currently (2020/21) costs US$1,500 per person per trek.

Rwanda Gorilla Tours

After acquiring lions and with the introduction black rhinos in Akagera National Park, Rwanda is once again a prime Africa safari BIG FIVE destination. With elephants, buffalo, and a wide variety of antelope, you’ll get the full savanna experience and the added bonus of the park’s river boat cruises, which include rare encounters with crocodiles and hippos. Akagera provides campgrounds and tents for a small fee, but honestly, “glamping” on the edge of Lake Ihema at the Ruzizi Tented Lodge is the way to go. Even better? All proceeds benefit the park.