Visit Rwanda Travel Guide For Your First Safari

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Travel Alert: Rwanda travel restrictions and additional entry requirements may apply for tourists due to the pandemic and if so, can change from day-to-day. Please visit the government website to stay informed about the latest developments. 


Trekking mountain gorillas in this landlocked country of undulating hills, terraced farmlands, volcanic mountains, and untamed rainforests is an experience unlike any other. When you travel to Rwanda on safari, you’ll marvel at awe-inspiring panoramas, an overabundance of primates, meet friendly local people, and experience a mix of cultures in one of Africa’s most promising capitals. This Ultimate Visit Rwanda Travel Guide will help you plan a memorable trip, especially if you are planning your first safari in the East African destination.

Rwanda has made massive strides in security and tourism development in the few decades since the 90s genocide and is now internationally recognized as one of the safest travel destinations in Africa.

A sense of order prevails: violent crime is nearly nonexistent, and police can be spotted at most major intersections. New roads and tidy villages characterize the countryside.

Citizens are required to participate in a monthly day of community service, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find litter on the streets, particularly plastic bags, which are banned. You’ll find new businesses, homes, and roadways under construction in every corner of the country.

It’s worth noting that Rwanda travel offers more than just mountain gorillas: the primaeval forests of Nyungwe National Park are inhabited by more than 75 different mammals, including hundreds of chimpanzees and nearly 300 bird species. Akagera National Park in the northeast offers the Big Five and a savanna safari experience without the usual khaki-clad crowds.


  • Visit Rwanda and you will spend unforgettable moments trekking mountain gorillas in thick forests found on the slopes of the Virunga Mountains.
  • Tracking wild chimpanzees and other primates in the southerly Nyungwe National Park. The canopy walkway will suspend you above a ravine in the lush montane rainforest, an exhilarating perspective on the ancient treetops and wildlife.
  • Easy to explore the popular 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, but there is no cheetah in Rwanda.
  • From Kigali City’s genocide memorials, museums,  and cosmopolitan culture displays to countryside gatherings and annual events like Kwita Izina Gorilla Naming Ceremony, celebrate Rwanda 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.
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Top Reasons Why You Should Visit Rwanda

Gorilla Trekking

Travel to Rwanda and navigate your way through emerald foliage, bamboo forests, and gauzelike mists to behold the world’s largest living primates on their own turf. Their sheer size and eerily humanlike interactions will leave you spellbound, and Rwanda’s focus on their conservation is impressive. A permit in Rwanda costs $1,500 per person (2021) from Rwanda Development Board. Read the gorilla trekking guide.

Virunga Volcanos

This slice of the Virunga Mountains may be synonymous with gorilla trekking, but its active volcanoes, lakes, and grasslands offer stunning views and rewarding hikes. You can spot golden monkey, buffalo, elephant, bushpig, giant forest hog, several antelope species, and about 180 bird species in its environs.

Kigali City

Arguably East Africa’s safest and most future-focused city, Rwanda’s capital is a patchwork of palm tree-lined boulevards, artisan coffee shops, international restaurants, and a downtown dotted with new buildings. The burgeoning art scene, dine-out options, and Kigali Cultural Village will keep you entertained during your visit. Explore Kigali city guide.

Primate Adventures

This mountainous Nyungwe National Park, in the country’s southwest, protects a rainforest home to roving families of chimpanzees, colobus monkeys, and almost 300 unique bird species. It offers some of the best chimpanzee adventures, canopy walks, bird spotting, primate trekking, waterfall hikes, and expansive tea field visits.

Safari Big 5

Rwanda’s up-and-coming safari destination, Akagera National Park, is now home to the Big Five. The last refuge for savannah-adapted species is worth a safari after watching the mountain gorillas in the Virungas. Akagera is just two hours east of Kigali, and you cannot miss the spectacular northern plains.

Community & Cultures

Get lost in the Itore ballet, the Impala Orchestra that adds considerable luster to the country’s cultural life. Visit Rwanda through Kigali and immerse yourself in the cosmopolitan city’s cultural fusion. From majestic cultural sites to dancing the Itore, basketry, and Umuganda, the vibrant Rwandan cultural scene will leave you astonished.

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.

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.

Top Tourist Attractions in Rwanda

Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda Gorilla Trekking Destination

Volcanoes National Park

The gorilla trekking destination

Volcanoes National Park is one of only four places on earth where visitors can commune with the critically endangered mountain gorillas. The park encompasses a 160-square-km (62-square-mile) slice of the Virunga Mountains, including a string of nine volcanoes that extends into neighboring Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The ecologically rich Virunga region is home to about half of the world’s mountain gorillas.

Nyungwe National Park, chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda

Nyungwe National Park

Chimpanzee tracking, primates & nature hikes

Nyungwe National Park may be most famous for chimpanzee trekking, but this stretch of 1,020 square km (394 square miles) in southwestern Rwanda teams with a dazzling array of flora and fauna and an impressive spread of hiking trails. Meander through, and you’ll feel as though you’ve wandered onto the set of Jurassic Park. You’ll spot 100-year-old trees, fern-fringed waterfalls, and oversize driver ants to the accompaniment of a cacophony of bird calls.

Akagera National Park, visit Rwanda for big five viewing in Akagera

Akagera National Park

Big five safaris

In partnership with African Parks Network, Rwanda has reintroduced lions and rhinos in Akera National Park, making it the only safari destination in the country hosting the Big Five safari animals. One of the main highlights in the park is a boat trip on Lake Ihema that brings you close to large pods of hippos, Nile crocodiles, and abundant waterbirds on the island in the middle of the lake. Visitors can also encounter buffalo, elephants, antelope, zebra, giraffe, baboons, monkeys, and an incredible 490 bird species recorded within the park.

Kigali City, Rwanda capital


Rwanda’s gateway city

Most people will travel to Rwanda to see gorillas – but everyone should stay for the prolific cultural and historical experience in its cool, arty capital, Kigali, which is deserving of at least a couple of nights. Kigali’s location in the center of Rwanda makes it the logical and convenient place to start or finish any Rwandan adventure. It’s clean, safe, and home to some great cultural and dining options.

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
  • 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:

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.