Rwanda

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Rwanda is a relatively stable East African country, and easily accessible from Kenya and Uganda. It is relatively easy, safe and simple to travel around. It is landlocked, surrounded by Uganda to the north, Tanzania to the east, Burundi to the south, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west. Rwanda is not only the land of a thousand hills, but also a country rich in flora and fauna and stunning natural beauty in its scenic rolling and breathtaking green savannah. The country hosts some rare species of animals like the silverback mountain gorillas as well as unique birds and insects in the tropical forest of Nyungwe. (less...) (more...)

Population: 12,012,589 people
Area: 26,338 km2
Highest point: 4,519 m
Coastline: 0 km
Life expectancy: 58.85 years
GDP per capita: $1,500
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About Rwanda

Climate

Although Rwanda is located only two degrees south of the equator, Rwanda's high elevation makes the climate temperate. The average daily temperature near Lake Kivu, at an altitude of 1,463 m (4,800 ft) is 22.8°C (73°F). During the two rainy seasons (Feb–May and Sep–Dec), heavy downpours occur almost daily, alternating with sunny weather. Annual rainfall averages 800 mm (31.5 in) but is generally heavier in the western and northwestern mountains than in the eastern savannahs.

Activities

  • Lake Kivu in Western Rwanda – a large lake bordering the DRC, it's a nice place to relax for a week or so.
  • Parc National des Volcans, home of the mountain gorillas, and the setting for Gorillas in the Mist, author Dian Fossey's research. If you can afford it, it's an excellent experience, and even possible as a daytrip from Kigali. Inquire at the Rwandan Office for Tourism and National Parks (ORTPN), Boulevard de la Révolution n° 1, Kigali, +(250) 576514 or 573396, reservation@rwandatourism.com, [1]. It costs USD750 per person (1 Jun 2012). Besides that, you will have to take an official taxi which costs another USD50. Prices are rising constantly, and you should really consider if you want them to get away with these rip-off prices, because as long as there are people who pay them, they will continue to raise them.

Food

The local "Brochettes" (kebabs) are delicious and are available in most bars and restaurants. Small bars will primarily serve goat brochettes, and goat liver brochettes are often of higher quality to the locals. Zingalo is goat intestine, sometimes also served as a brochette. Some locals prefer this and it could be brought to you without asking at very "local" places, so try to see whether other diners seem to be enjoying the spiral looking treat and specify you do not want it when you order ("OYA zingalo!"). Some restaurants also serve beef and fish brochettes, and a few will serve chicken. Brochettes are usually taken with french fries ("frites") or fried or grilled ibitoke.

If Rwanda has a staple food, it is ibitoke (sing. igitoke). Ibitoke are starchy, potato-like bananas, which are not sweet like plantains. While plantains are available in Rwanda, they are not seen as particularly Rwandan food. Igitoke/banana are served boiled in sauce, grilled, or even fried. You can also refer to them as matoke, which is usually easier for foreigners to pronounce. The sweet bananas in Rwanda are delicious but considerably smaller than the matoke bananas. If you want this type of banana, ask for small banana or sweet banana and you will usually get what you are looking for.

In urban areas a local buffet known as "Melange" is sold at lunchtime. This consists of a buffet of mostly carbohydrates such as potatoes, bananas, rice, and cassava accompanied with some vegetables, beans, and a small amount of meat or fish with sauce. Note that Rwandan buffets are not all you can eat! You may fill your plate only once, and with practice you'll be able to stack your plate high like the locals do. Prices range from just over USD1 to USD5 or even USD10 depending on the grade of the eatery and the variety of food available. Most of the upper segment buffets (USD3 and above) offer a salad buffet too. Note that many of the cheaper Melange places are unmarked.

Kigali has a much better range of restaurants than the rest of the country. Here you can find several Indian and Chinese restaurants, as well as Italian, Greek, French and multi-cuisine establishments charging around USD10 for dinner.

Drinks

In most shops you will find milk, water, juices and soft drinks. In most bars the choice is limited to their offering of about 5 different sodas and 4 different beers, Turbo King, Primus, Mützig and Amstel. Primus and Mützig are available in small and large sizes, whereas Amstel is available only in 330ml bottles. Note that Rwandans are known for their fondness for large beers and when you order Amstel, it is common for a server to bring out 2 bottles at a time. Bralirwa in the north of the Rwanda produces most of the beer and soft drinks available in Rwanda. Inyange produces juices and soft drinks.

There are also local banana beer preparations called Urgwagwa, normally brewed at home and available only in plastic containers but now also sold in bottles at some shops and bars.

Shopping

The currency is the Rwandan franc (French: franc rwandais, Kinyarwanda: Ifaranga y'u Rwanda) which has the ISO 4217 currency code of RWF (sometimes displayed as FRw, and possibly RF or R₣;).

As of Sep 2013, USD1 = RWF637

The smallest-value note is a RWF500 note, which is the smallest note in physical size, as well. There are also notes in denominations of 1,000, 2,000, and 5,000, with the larger notes becoming slightly larger in physical size. There are no generally-circulated notes over RWF5,000, which can be cumbersome since a RWF5,000 note is roughly equivalent to USD8. Since few places in Rwanda accept credit cards, travellers need to make provision to carry around a large bundle of cash if travelling outside of Kigali, especially if staying longer than a few days.

Coins valued at RWF100 are commonly used. However, smaller coins (50, 20, 10, 5, and RWF1) are generally not accepted by street merchants and smaller restaurants and hotels. The only place to obtain smaller coins is through a bank or a large store, such as a supermarket. It is common for most businesses in Rwanda, including currency exchangers and gas stations, to round transactions to the nearest RWF100.

You get a slightly better exchange rates by bringing USD50 bills or higher (year 2006 or newer) to exchange for Rwandan Francs.

There are ATMs all over Kigali, in every bank branch. Depending on your bank, this can be a much cheaper way to get francs because the ATMs use a much better exchange rate than the money changers.

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Rwanda on Wikivoyage.

Cities in Rwanda

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Kigali is the capital of Rwanda.

Interesting places:

  • Stade Amahoro
  • Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre
  • Akagera National Park
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Gisenyi is a city in Rubavu district in Western Rwanda.

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Points of Interest in Rwanda

  • National Museum of Butare 0252 553131. 09:00-17:00. In Huye – National Museum of Rwanda RWF3,000 for foreigners; RWF2,000 for foreign residents. Extra charge for photography..
  • The Genocide Memorial in Kigali – good insight into one of the world's greatest tragedies. It's free to walk around but audio guides are USD10. Tour guides can be hired for small groups.
  • The Nyamata Genocide Memorial is a worthwhile complement to the Gisozi Memorial Centre in Kigali. Located in the town of Nyamata, 40 minutes south of Kigali on a newly paved road, the memorial is in a church where over 10,000 people were killed during the 1994 genocide. Visitors take a short tour and see the evidence of the genocide that remains there today - victims' clothing piled on benches, the roof pockmarked with bullet holes, and the open crypts behind the church that hold the remains of over 40,000 people from the area. An extremely moving look into one of the places where the genocide was carried out. NOTE: If you wish to take photographs of the site, you will need to purchase a permit in Kigali before travelling to Nyamata. It is open 7 days per week and is free to visit. Donations are encouraged as they receive little support from the government.
  • The Ntarama Genocide Memorial, just 20 minutes away from the Nyamata memorial, is also worth visiting. Like the Nyamata memorial, this site was a church before the genocide, and was nationalised to serve as a memorial after thousands of people were killed within its walls. The church itself is different than Nyamata, with victims' clothing eerily displayed from the rafters of the church as a grim reminder of what happened there. Visitors can see large chunks of the outer wall missing, where grenades were used to force entry. Ntarama also has a peaceful memorial garden and wall of names in the back of its compound. Ask the resident guide for a tour in English or French, and remember to give them a donation for the site afterwards; it gets almost no support from the government. To get there, take the highway from Kigali to Nyamata and follow the signs for the Ntarama memorial, before you reach Nyamata. It is open 7 days per week and is free to visit. Donations are encouraged as they receive little support from the government.

Stade Amahoro - Kigali

Volcanoes National Park - Ruhengeri

National University of Rwanda - Butare

Nyungwe Forest National Park - Nyungwe Forest Reserve

Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre - Kigali

Akagera National Park - Kigali

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