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Rwanda travel guide

About Rwanda

Dubbed 'The Land of a Thousand Hills', Rwanda's lush green landscape, and the diverse wildlife that inhabits it, is indeed the country's star attraction. This small, landlocked nation in East Africa has been pulling in an increasing number of in-the-know international tourists over the last decade.

But back in 1994, few would have thought that the country could bounce back from the horrifying Rwanda genocide, where an estimated 800,000 Rwandans were tragically slaughtered by Hutu extremists (an ethnic group indigenous to the region). It was one of the darkest days in modern African history.

But rebound it has. Today, Rwanda is known for its progressive policies just as much as its regretful history. The country is a role model in gender equality (Rwanda's government has had the highest percentage of female members throughout the 21st century) and conservation (notably enforcing a country-wide ban on plastic bags in 2008).

Similarly, the country is a pioneer in ecotourism, with the creation of cycle lanes, wetland regions and sustainable wildlife tours, the standout of which is to see a troop of mountain gorillas in the thick forests of Volcanoes National Park on the country's northern border. In fact, Volcanoes National Park was where Dian Fossey, the world's leading authority on mountain gorillas, spent many years studying the endangered species. In 1983, she published the highly acclaimed Gorillas in the Mist, which was later made into a film.

It's not all about gorillas, though. Nyungwe National Park, in the south of the country, is one of the largest remaining rainforests in Africa and is home to 13 species of primates, including chimpanzees and colobus monkeys, while Akagera National Park, in eastern Rwanda, offers up opportunities to spot rhinos, lions and hippos. And although Rwanda is landlocked, Lake Kivu covers a large portion of its western border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, offering sandy beaches and warm waters for visitors to soak up the coastal vibe.

It's also worth spending a few days in the capital, Kigali. Established in 1907, Kigali has grown exponentially after becoming Rwanda's capital in 1962. The city is colourful and vibrant, with lively markets and bustling restaurants abound. It is also clean and safe. To many visitors, Kigali offers cosmopolitan fun that complements Rwanda's rural attractions.

Indeed, the past of Rwanda may be bleak, but the future certainly looks bright for Rwanda.

Key facts

Area:

26,338 sq km (10,169 sq miles).

Population:

12.3 million (2018)

Population density:

499 per sq km (2018)

Capital:

Kigali

Government:

Republic.

Head of state:

President Paul Kagame since 2000.

Head of government:

Prime Minister Édouard Ngirente since 2017.

Travel Advice

Coronavirus travel health

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Rwanda on the TravelHealthPro website.

See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Government of Rwanda continues to encourage the use of voluntary COVID-19 testing facilities.

International travel

Kigali Airport is open. Commercial flights to and from Rwanda are running but have not yet returned to full schedules. Check with your travel company / airline for the latest information.

Entry and borders

See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in Rwanda.

Returning to the UK

When you return, you must follow the rules for entering the UK.

You are responsible for organising your own COVID-19 test, in line with UK government testing requirements. You should contact local authorities for information on testing facilities. A test can be booked on the Government of Rwanda online platform.

Be prepared for your plans to change

No travel is risk-free during COVID. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.

If you test positive for Coronavirus in Rwanda before returning to the UK, the local authorities will expect the vast majority of people to self-isolate at home for 14 days. If you are visiting and staying in a hotel, you may be asked to self-isolate in your room, or to relocate to another hotel or another floor in your current hotel. If you test positive, the Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC) will follow up and offer further tests until you test negative. You will be expected to self-isolate after testing positive and the RBC will conduct checks to ensure self-isolation compliance.

The RBC will monitor your symptoms and if they are serious, you may be moved to a treatment centre.

Further information about what to do if you test positive for COVID-19 in Rwanda and how you can keep in contact with the health system can be found on the RBC website.

Plan ahead and make sure you:

  • can access money
  • understand what your insurance will cover
  • can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned

Travel in Rwanda

From 23 September to 13 October, updated restrictions for travel are in place. Movements in the city of Kigali are prohibited between 11pm and 4am. In the rest of the country, movements are prohibited between 9pm and 4am, with the exception of the districts of Gicumbi, Karongi, Kirehe, Ngoma and Nyagatare, where movements are prohibited between 8pm and 4am.

Full details of current measures, including local movement restrictions, can be found in the latest cabinet communique. The Prime Minister’s office publishes communiques on their website, normally every two weeks.

All tourists are required to take a PCR test 72 hours prior to visiting Rwanda’s national parks, apart from Akagera National Park, at their own cost. Tests can be booked by appointment via reservations@rdb.rwor, tel: +250 (0)788313800. Tourists visiting Akagera National Park and other tourist destinations are required to take a rapid antigen test, which are available at numerous walk-in clinics in Kigali for RWF 5,000. Tourists without a negative test result will not be admitted to the national parks.

Accommodation

Accommodation is open and available for bookings.

Public places and services

From 23 September to 13 October, updated measures are in place. Some events and gatherings (concerts, festivals, exhibitions etc) will resume gradually for vaccinated and tested participants. Bars will start to open up. A number of restrictions remain in place including for business opening hours and limits on the capacity of public transport and restaurant occupancy. You should check the latest cabinet communique for full details of measures in place.

Health measures must be complied with, including physical distancing, wearing of face masks and hand hygiene. Penalties will be applied for non-compliance.

Healthcare

For contact details for English speaking doctors visit our list of healthcare providers.

Your emotional and mental wellbeing is important. Read guidance on how to look after your mental wellbeing and mental health.

View Health for further details on healthcare in Rwanda.

See also the guidance on healthcare if you’re waiting to return to the UK.

COVID-19 vaccines if you live in Rwanda

We will update this page when the Government of Rwanda announces new information on the national vaccination programme. You can sign up to get email notifications when this page is updated.

The Rwandan national vaccination programme started in March 2021 and is using the AstraZeneca, Janssen (Johnson and Johnson), Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Sinopharm vaccines. British nationals’ resident in Rwanda are eligible for vaccination according to the priority groups identified by the Ministry of Health, if they choose to join the programme. You should monitor information provided by the Rwanda Biomedical Centre. Under the national vaccination program, outside of Kigali, people aged 50 and above are currently being vaccinated. In Kigali, the Government of Rwanda now offers vaccinations to people aged 18 and over. British nationals who have residential permits and wish to receive the vaccine can visit the nearest health centre to access it.

Find out more, including about vaccines that are authorised in the UK or approved by the World Health Organisation, on the COVID-19 vaccines if you live abroad.

If you’re a British national living in Rwanda, you should seek medical advice from your local healthcare provider. Information about COVID-19 vaccines used in the national programme where you live, including regulatory status, should be available from local authorities.

Finance

For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance

Further information

If you need urgent consular assistance, contact your nearest British embassy, high commission or consulate. All telephone numbers are available 24/7.

Local travel

The eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) which neighbours Rwanda remains unstable, and conflict can flare up with little notice. There have been incidents of violent clashes on the DRC-Rwanda border in recent years, and armed incursions into the southwest of Rwanda.

If you plan to visit areas close to the DRC or Burundi borders, such as popular tourist destinations including Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Parks, you should be alert to the risks and exercise caution. All travellers should keep up to date with developments on the current situation, including via your tour operator, the local media and this travel advice.

The land border crossings between Rwanda and the DRC at Gisenyi/Goma and Cyangugu/Bukavu are usually open between 6am and 6pm, but currently remain closed due to COVID-19 with limited exceptions. 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’re crossing regularly between Rwanda and the DRC you may encounter immigration difficulties if you have not regularised your residency status.

The situation in Burundi remains volatile. Tensions along the Rwanda/Burundi border remain heightened, with allegations from both sides of cross-border raids targeting local inhabitants.

In July 2016, Burundi banned public transport vehicles from crossing the border with Rwanda.

Gorilla trekking

Gorilla trekking is open in the Volcanoes National Park.

If you plan to travel close to the border with the DRC you should remain aware of the risks, exercise caution, and keep up to date with developments on the current situation, including via your tour operator, the local media and this travel advice.

Grenade attacks

Grenade attacks have occurred sporadically over the last five years. Genocide memorial sites, markets, bus stops, and taxis have been targets in Kigali and Ruhengeri (Musanze). The most recent grenade attack was on 7 May 2020 in Kimironko in Kigali, which killed one person in a hair salon. While such attacks have reduced in frequency, further indiscriminate attacks cannot be ruled out, including in places frequented by foreigners. You should remain vigilant.

Crime

Levels of crime remain relatively low in Rwanda, but there are cases of burglary, theft, bag snatching and mugging in Kigali.

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.

Some off-limits military zones in Kigali may not be well-lit or signposted. You should take extra care when walking around less populated zones, particularly at night time.

Road travel

You can drive using a UK driving licence or an International Driving Permit for up to one 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.

Public transport may be affected by COVID-19 prevention measures. See Coronavirus

Air travel

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.

Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Rwanda, attacks can’t be ruled out.

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out more about the global threat from terrorism.

There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

Photography of some government buildings is prohibited.

Plastic bags have been banned for environmental reasons. Visible plastic bags will be confiscated on arrival at the airport.

The week following Genocide Memorial Day on 7 April is designated an official week of mourning.

The last Saturday of each month is Umuganda, which is a national day of community service, during which most normal services close down from 7am to 11am. The first and third Sunday of the month, the city of Kigali has a car free morning from 7am to 10am to promote exercise healthy living and to reduce car emissions. Other districts in the country have followed suit in the two consecutive Sundays.

Local festivals may be affected by COVID-19 prevention measures. See Coronavirus

LGBT issues

Homosexuality is not illegal in Rwanda but remains frowned on by many. LGBT individuals can experience discrimination and abuse, including from local authorities. There are no specific anti-discrimination laws that protect LGBT individuals. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.

This page reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British Citizen’ passport, for the most common types of travel.

The authorities in Rwanda set and enforce entry rules. For further information contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to. You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.

Entry rules in response to coronavirus

Entry to Rwanda

The Government of Rwanda has published guidance for passengers arriving into and departing from Rwanda. This is mandatory for all incoming passengers, including those who have received the COVID-19 vaccine.

All travellers arriving in Rwanda must have a negative COVID-19 certificate. The only accepted test is a SARS-CoV 2 Real Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) performed within 72 hours prior to departure (meaning travellers must be tested and get results within 3 days of their first flight). Other tests, such as Rapid Diagnostics Tests (RDTs), are not accepted. A COVID-19 test is not mandatory for accompanied children under 5 years. You should not use the NHS testing service to get a test in order to facilitate your travel to another country. You should arrange to take a private test.

All travellers arriving in Rwanda must complete the passenger locator form and upload the COVID-19 test certificate before heading to the airport. Please see passenger locator form and list of designated transit hotels on the Government of Rwanda website.

All travellers arriving or transiting for more than 12 hours through Rwanda will be screened upon entry and take a RT-PCR test on arrival. All travellers are required to wait 24 hours for the results of their COVID-19 test taken upon arrival, in a designated transit hotel.

Further information about testing on arrival and waiting for results in designated hotels, and additional advice for passengers transiting through Rwanda, is available in the Government of Rwanda’s guidance.

Entry at land borders remains restricted.

Screening on arrival

Screening procedures are in place for coronavirus at all entry points.

Testing on departure

All travellers 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 72 hours before departure performed by the Rwanda Biomedical Center/National Reference Laboratory, Provincial or District Hospitals. Other tests, such as Rapid Diagnostics Tests (RDTs), are not accepted. A COVID-19 Test is not mandatory for accompanied children under 5 years. Passengers are encouraged to book and pay for their tests at least 2 days prior to departure through the online platform available on the Government of Rwanda website.

Further information about testing on departure is available in the Government of Rwanda’s guidance.

Regular entry requirements

Visas

You need a visa to enter Rwanda. Thirty-day tourist visas are free and available on arrival for citizens of member states of the Commonwealth (including the UK), as well as for those of the African Union and the Francophonie.

You can also choose to get a visa in advance at any Rwandan diplomatic mission or online. Further information about visa requirements is available from the Rwandan High Commission.

If you’re planning to apply for resident/business or missionary multiple entry visas on entry to Rwanda you will need to get UK police clearance before you travel. You can find details of how to do this on the ACRO Criminal Records Office website. This usually takes a minimum of 10 working days to process.

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for at least 6 months from the date of entry into Rwanda. You’ll need one blank page on your passport for entry stamps.

If your UK passport has expired since 1 January 2020, or is due to expire before October 2020, the Government of Rwanda have agreed that such passports will be treated as valid for travel until December 2021. However, you still need to ensure you have a valid visa to remain in Rwanda. You should renew your visa if required at the Rwanda Directorate-General of Immigration and Emigration

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Rwanda. If you’re travelling into Rwanda on an ETD, you’ll be expected to provide Rwandan Immigration with a reason for the use of an ETD, eg proof of residency. If you’re seeking to use a two-way ETD, should clear this with Rwandan Immigration before you travel.

Yellow fever certificate requirements

Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.

At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.

General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.

The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Rwanda on the TravelHealthPro website

See the healthcare information in the Coronavirus section for information on what to do if you think you have coronavirus while in Rwanda.

Medical treatment

According to Rwandan law, any person on Rwandan territory must have health insurance.

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 112 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Only limited medical facilities are available in Rwanda. In the event of serious accident or illness evacuation by air ambulance to Kenya or South Africa may be required. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.

Ebola

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) 12th Ebola outbreak was declared over on 3 May 2021. Outbreak 12 began on 7 February 2021 in North Kivu province and was the first Ebola outbreak since the last outbreak in Equateur Province was declared over on 18 November 2020. North Kivu province borders Rwanda and Uganda. Further information and updates on Ebola can be found on the WHO website and the Public Health England (PHE) website.

Other health risks

There is a high risk of malaria in all areas of Rwanda, including Kigali.

Earthquakes

There are occasional earthquakes. You can find a real-time earthquake map and further information about earthquakes in Rwanda on the website of the US Geological Survey. In the event of an earthquake, monitor local media reports and follow the advice of the local authorities. The US Federal Emergency Management Agency has advice on what to do before, during and after an earthquake.

On 22 May 2021, Mount Nyiragongo volcano in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), close to the city of Goma, and near the border with Rwanda and the Rwandan city of Gisenyi, erupted. Subsequent seismic activity was felt in Rwanda.

Rainy season

The rainy season in much of Rwanda runs from February to May and from September to December. April being the height of the rainy season. Heavy storms can cause disruption and damage including landslides and floods. You should monitor local media reports and follow the advice of local authorities.

The Rwandan Franc is the dominant currency and you should expect to pay for transport and in smaller shops using cash.

There are ATMs in Kigali, but not all of them accept foreign cards. Credit cards are increasingly accepted in larger bars, restaurants and in many supermarkets.

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in London on 020 7008 5000 (24 hours).

Foreign travel checklist

Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.

Travel safety

The FCDO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.

When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCDO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.

Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.

Refunds and cancellations

If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.

For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Registering your travel details with us

We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.

Previous versions of FCDO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice team a request.

Further help

If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.

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