Rwanda is a small landlocked country located in the heart of the African continent and grouped among countries of the so-called East Africa. Bordered by Uganda, Burundi, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo, from here it is also easy to travel to other countries as well known and popular as Kenya or Ethiopia. But let's focus on the main thing, how does one get to Rwanda? In recent years the country has begun to open up to the world in a marked way, so there are several major airlines that arrive to the capital, Kigali. From Europe, the main options are KLM from Amsterdam, or Turkish Airlines, previously traveling to Istanbul. Other airlines flying to here are Kenya Airways, Flydubai and Rwandair.
Regarding the visa procedure and thanks to this opening that the country is living, Rwanda has also experienced an improvement in their services, which has also come to the immigration and visa system. Thus, the visitor has to fill an online form to be accepted to enter the country. Upon receipt of the acceptance via e-mail, you must print the receipt and show it while in the country, at the same time that you will need to pay the $30 that the tourist visa costs. It is advisable to previusly have the $30 ready because it is difficult to find ATMs before crossing the border at the airport. This visa lasts 30 days but it can be extended in the immigration offices for 90 days if desired (and permited by the officers). The extension is simply done letting the immigration official know the length of stay, the accommodation place and the reason for the visit in a letter along with the passport. Once this procedure is done, you will have to wait a couple of days to get the passport back with the visa extended. If the reason for the visit is other than tourism, you will have to visit again these offices for them to indicate you what is the procedure to follow.
Something to consider when traveling is also weather. In this case, your suitcase will have to look as if you'll live a European autumn. Rwanda's weather is always changing, with rainy seasons from March to May. However, rain is present at any time of year. In one day in Rwanda you can switch from sun to clouds interspersed with occasional storm continuously. However, the temperature is usually nice and you will require only light clothes for some nights.
As it already said, Kigali is considered as one of the cleanest and most organized capitals in the continent. In a first walk through the quiet and safe streets of Kigali one would not think the Rwandan genocide occured only 20 years ago throughout the country and also in the north of neighboring Burundi, something that left the area completely destroyed. While it is true that current government efforts tend to repress freedom in part of the local population (and sometimes the stranger), perhaps for fear that another slaughter can be repeated, we must admit that in the past two decades their work has paid off: today Kigali is a safe capital. One can walk almost any time of day and night through the streets or return home walking or by moto-taxi unimpeded. The thousand hills that make famous the country also outline the silhouette of Kigali and its greenery, so the motorcycle taxis, despite initial misgivings, will be your best allies.
Despite the development, safety and the beautiful hills, the leisure in Kigali is (very) limited. In fact, as the weeks go by you start to think that nothing ever happens in it, but it always depends on how you take it. Kigali has many Western-style restaurants with good quality, as Heaven, the favorite by expats for its Sunday brunches, Shokola with one of the best buffets, L'epicurien or Brachetto; as well as international restaurants like Meze Fresh, with the best burritos in town and other Mexican-inspired deli, Khana Kazana and its excellent Indian food, the Zen restaurant for lovers of Thai cuisine, Lalibela with Ethiopian specialties or Beirut for Lebanese food. For coffee, the small Korean bakery Rz Manna in the neighborhood of Nyarutarama or the Bourbon Coffee chain, with several local around the city (we recommend the one at the Union Trade Center or at the MTN Center). To go out, Papyrus and Sundowner are usually the places chosen by expats and K-Club and Le Must by locals. As you will see, the many options for those visiting the city for a few days... become repetitive plans for those who want to live in Kigali. In addition to the cuisine, the city has a local handicraft market, Market Caplaki, arranged especially for tourists, a small shopping center with a cinema in Kigali City Tower and the Kigali Serena Hotel, the epicenter of events in the city and also a great place to enjoy a day of spa and pool or a nice dinner.
Most of the places named above are located between the neighbourhoods og Kiyovu, the city center, Kimihurura, with the best residential areas and government buildings and Kacyiru. However, after a couple of months in Kigali you will discover the charm of the most local neighborhood of them all: Nyamirambo, also known as the Muslim Quarter. Away from the big buildings that in recent years have been built in Kigali, Nyamirambo retains a certain charm in its bars and restaurants, its colorful streets and the mosque of the city.
If your plan is to live in Kigali, then you should not miss the website created by Kirsty, Inga and Lia: Living in Kigali. Be sure to visit it to solve all your doubts about the city.
Although it may seem that the main attractions of living in a different country are its attractions, places to visit or monuments, the fact is that one soon realizes that the most important thing in a new destination is its people. In this context, Rwandan society is still clearly marked by the events occurred in 1994 in the country, and on the other hand this is normal since it happened not that long ago. During a certain time of the year all citizens keep mourning for three months, during which the activity of the country, already not very active, descends further. These days numerous events held to commemorate and remember the victims of the genocide. Perhaps because of this, one can feel some generalized sadness within the society and also some fear and shyness to speak or express themselves in public. One example is that in any conversation about government it will be generally be very difficult to find someone with a negative opinion about it. This is common in many African countries, where the president is understood as an absolute leader. On the other hand, it is true that many Rwandans appreciated and really believe the current president.
Apart from that, the common pattern of Rwandan society is respect and politeness, at least to foreigners. They are usually quiet and friendly people answering your questions calmly and with a kind look. Although at first they may seem very cold and distant people, because of all the events that have already been described, a couple of smiles are enough to bring out their kindness.
Despite its small size, Rwanda offers some unique activities you certainly should not miss. Known as 'the land of a thousand hills', the country has some spectacular views from the road itself, surrounded by green mountains. The most impressive ones are in the north: the Volcanoes National Park. This incredible jungle landscape is inhabited by gorillas with whom we had the pleasure of living for a few hours, as we told you in the Experience section. Also not too far from the park is Lake Kivu, one of the largest lakes in the continent which borders here with the Democratic Republic of Congo, a good place to spend the weekend. Across the country, Akagera National Park is a small example of a safari experience in which one can observe the diverse African wildlife and flora; and in the south the Nyungwe Park and the magnificent Nyungwe Forest Lodge of which we also spoke within the Inspiration section, is where the famous Rwandan tea is grown. As you can see, despite its size, Rwanda offers beautiful possibilities for the traveler.