26,338 sq km (10,169 sq miles).
12.3 million (2014).
468.4 per sq km.
Head of state:
President Paul Kagame since 2000.
Head of government:
Prime Minister Anastase Murekezi since 2014.
230 volts AC, 50Hz. European-style plugs with two round pins are most commonly used.
Known as the “land of a thousand hills,” Rwanda is making the headlines again – and this time, it’s for all the right reasons. With the devastating genocide behind it, this small, landlocked nation has emerged as one of Africa’s most exciting destinations. A tangible sense of optimism resonates from its towns, cities and colourful villages, which welcome foreign visitors with wide smiles and open arms.
The transformation of this country has been remarkable. In 1994 nearly one million inhabitants were slaughtered senselessly in their homes, churches and streets. It was one of the darkest days in modern African history and, at the time, it was almost unthinkable that Rwanda could bounce back.
But is has. In fact the country has even blazed a trail for others to follow, particularly when it comes to gender equality (in 2014 there were more women in parliament here than anywhere else in the world) and conservation.
Indeed the country is a pioneer in eco tourism, which it has used to fund conservation projects such as mountain gorilla protection in the steamy forests of Volcanoes National Park. Trekking to see these endangered primates is the main attraction in Rwanda, where the famous zoologist, Dian Fossey, studied the great apes and inspired the Hollywood film Gorillas in the Mist.
It’s not all about gorillas, though. Nyungwe Forest is one of the largest remaining rainforests in Africa and is home to 13 primates, including chimpanzees and colobus monkeys, as well as rare orchids and nearly 300 species of bird. And, although landlocked, Rwanda still manages to serve up a coastal vibe on the shores of Lake Kivu, with beaches at Gisenyi and coves at Kibuye.
It’s also worth spending a few days in the capital, Kigali: a cool, calm and cosmopolitan city, whose rising skyline reflects the country’s lofty ambitions. Join hip young things in Hillywood, the beating heart of Kigali’s fledgling film industry, or imbibe the vibe in the city’s burgeoning collection of bars, restaurants and hotels, which are helping put this country back on the map.
Last updated: 19 October 2015
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
The border crossings between Rwanda and the DRC at Gisenyi/Goma and Cyangugu/Bukavu are currently open between 06:00 and 18:00. Both borders are liable to close at short notice and you should not rely on them as a point of exit from DRC. If you are crossing regularly between Rwanda and the DRC you may encounter immigration difficulties if you have not regularised your residency status. Take care when travelling near the border with Burundi. This is because of instability in Burundi’s border area.
Gorilla trekking is available as part of organised tours in the Parc National des Volcans (also known as Volcanoes Park). The park authorities only permit gorilla trekking that is undertaken as part of an organised tour.
Since 2011, there have been a number of grenade attacks throughout Rwanda, mainly in Kigali and Musanze. There were 2 grenade attacks in Musanze, northern Rwanda, in January 2014. There were 2 grenade attacks in Kicukiro market in Kigali in September 2013. There were also grenade attacks in Nyabugogo market in Kigali in July 2013 and on Kimironko taxi park in Kigali in March 2013. The attacks resulted in fatalities and a large number of injuries. Although there have been no grenade attacks for over 18 months, further indiscriminate attacks cannot be ruled out, including in places frequented by foreigners. You should remain vigilant.
Levels of crime remain relatively low in Rwanda, but there have been reports of increased instances of burglary, theft and mugging in Kigali in recent months. Incidents of bag snatching, mugging and stealing from vehicles in traffic jams targeting foreigners have been reported in recent months.
You should take sensible precautions. Take care when walking at night. Pre-arrange transport. Lock car doors when driving, don’t leave valuables in cars when parked and don’t leave cars unsupervised in the town centre. Don’t carry large amounts of money or other valuables.
You can drive using a UK driving licence or an International Driving Permit for up to 1 year, after which you should apply for a Rwandan licence. To apply for a local driving licence, you need to write a letter of application to the Commissioner Traffic and Road Safety attaching your existing licence and a copy of your visa or Foreign Resident ID card, and pay a fee.
Roads from Kigali to all major towns are good. There can be landslides during the annual rains in late spring and autumn. Avoid road travel after dark as roads are unlit and driving standards are poor.
Shared taxis (mini-vans) and motorbike taxis are the most common form of public transport within towns and around the country. However, they are also the most vulnerable to accidents.
Before using internal or regional flights that are not with major international carriers, you should check the airline’s accreditation and see whether the airline operates in line with the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) safety standards.
Health and Safety
Levels of health and safety in Rwanda are lower than in the UK. There have been incidences of buildings and construction sites collapsing, causing deaths and serious injuries. Fire safety standards are also variable, with incidences of fire in residential and public places a continuing risk.
There have been a number of building fires apparently caused by poor wiring and substandard electrical cables. Take extra care when using electronic equipment.