Rwanda Safari Requirements People of Volcanoes National Park
Rwanda Safari Requirements People of Volcanoes National Park

Rwanda Safari Requirements

Travel Information

"The more you learn about the dignity of the gorilla, the more you want to avoid people.”
Dian Fossey

Understanding Rwanda Safari Requirements

This Rwanda Safari Requirements information is designed to assist Safari Guru clients in understanding their travel destination prior to departure, as well as planning for the local conditions. Please take your time to read and ensure you fully understand any local customs, political agendas and the history of your chosen destination. Please note that Africa is in a constant state of change and development; therefore, the information provided should be treated as guidance only and could change by the time of travel.

Rwanda COVID-19 Travel Information and Requirements – 29 May 2023

Rwanda Covid Entry Requirements

BEFORE DEPARTURE

  • Covid-19 testing is no longer a requirement prior to boarding the flight to Rwanda. However, regular testing is encouraged
  • The Passenger Locator Form is no longer a requirement before departure

ARRIVAL

  • An additional Covid test is no longer required upon arrival at Kigali International Airport
  • All tourists, including children over 5 years, where applicable, visiting the country’s national parks (including those primate trekking) are no longer required to present a negative COVID-19 test
  • Face masks are no longer mandatory in Rwanda, but people are encouraged to wear a face mask in public indoors/closed spaces, and face mask will remain mandatory for those visiting primates
  • In addition, the public is urged to get frequently tested while continuing to observe preventive measures including social distancing and hand hygiene
  • For those requiring a Covid-19 test – Testing is available at health facilities and other designated sites for 5,000 RWF (or US$5) for rapid antigen tests, and 50,000 RWF (or US$50) for PCR tests (required to access Virunga National Park). Rwandan citizens pay a subsidised cost for PCR tests of 30,000 RWF (or US$30)

TEST RESULTS

  • Test results will be shared by SMS, and via the online portal accessible at www.rbc.gov.rw. In case of difficulty obtaining results, contact the RBC on 114 or covid@rbc.gov.rw

DEPARTURE

  • A Covid test is no longer a requirement to depart Rwanda by air. However, Covid testing (at own cost) is available for all travellers whose final destination requires one at health centres and other designated sites
  • All Rwandan travellers aged 12 years and above must show proof of full vaccination before departing Rwanda by air. Fully vaccinated for people aged 18 years and above means having two doses and a booster when eligible (administered 3 months after second dose.)

EMERGENCY CONTACT

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.

INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT RWANDA:

Land Area24,949 sq km (9,633 sq miles)
Population12.63 million (Estimate 2019)
Population Density525 per sq km
CapitalKigali
GovernmentRwanda is a multiparty republic
Head of StatePresident Paul Kagame since 2000
LanguageKinyarwanda is an official language of Rwanda. Other languages include English, French & Swahili.

SOCIAL CONVENTIONS IN RWANDA

As most people in Rwanda follow their traditional pattern of life, visitors should be sensitive to customs, which will inevitably be unfamiliar to them. Outside urban areas and safari destinations, people may well not be used to visitors. Casual clothing is acceptable and, in urban centres, normal courtesies should be observed.

Smoking is uncommon, and it is prohibited on public transport and in most public buildings. 

Plastic Bags: The possession of plastic bags is prohibited in Rwanda. Persons who don’t follow the rule of law will be fined for this infringement. 

RELIGION

The majority of Rwanda’s population is Christian. About 45% belong to the Catholic faith, 35% to the Protestant faith. Only about 5% or less profess Islam. This is primarily due to the first German, later Belgian colonisation, in the course of which the country was Christian missionised.

HISTORY OF RWANDAN PEOPLE

The original inhabitants of Rwanda were the Twa, a Pygmy people who now make up only 1% of the population. While the Hutu and Tutsi are often considered to be two separate ethnic groups, scholars point out that they speak the same language, have a history of intermarriage, and share many cultural characteristics. Traditionally, the differences between the two groups were occupational rather than ethnic. Agricultural people were considered Hutu, while the cattle-owning elite were identified as Tutsi. Supposedly Tutsi were tall and thin, while Hutu were short and square, but it is often impossible to tell one from the other.

The 1933 requirement by the Belgians that everyone carry an identity card indicating tribal ethnicity as Tutsi or Hutu enhanced the distinction. Since independence, repeated violence in both Rwanda and Burundi has increased ethnic differentiation between the groups.

Passports & Visas

Visa rules may have changed since COVID-19. Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders. Make sure you meet all entry and exit conditions. Check with the nearest embassy, consulate or immigration department of the destination you’re entering.. 

In general, your passport should be valid for at least six months after the date of your intended departure date from Africa. It is your responsibility to ensure adequate passport pages, obtain any visas and satisfy any entry requirements.

PASSPORT PAGES – At least one blank “visa” (not “endorsement”) pages are required.

At this time, Australian, American, British, Belgium and South African tourists can get a 30-day tourist visa when you arrive. 

In general, all travellers require a passport valid for six months beyond arrival date. Visas can be obtained on arrival for stays of up to 30 days for a fee. Visitors can apply to extend their visa within 15 days of arrival.

Citizens of some countries that are not visa exempt will have to pay a fee of USD50.00 (this fee can change without notice).

Medical, Immunisations & Safety

When visiting Rwanda, if you have arrived from, transited through, a country with the risk of yellow fever, you are required to present a certificate of yellow fever vaccination upon arrival. 

Please see attached Addendum 1: New yellow fever vaccination requirements for travellers

For immunisations, please consult your medical practitioner or a travel medical centre for advice on medical issues related to your destination. The following websites may be helpful to you: http://smartraveller.gov.au and http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel. Please note that many immunisations require administration some weeks prior to travel in order to be effective. During your trip, should emergency assistance be required, each game-drive vehicle has radio contact with the camp and each camp has 24 hour radio contact with their base support headquarters. Medical emergency evacuation will be arranged if necessary. 

Take enough legal prescription medicine with you to last for the duration of your stay so you remain in good health. Carry copies of your prescription and a dated letter from your doctor stating what the medicine is, how much you’ll take and that it’s for personal use only. It is advisable to check if your medication is legal in each country you’re travelling to.

Malaria occurs widely throughout the country, including in Kigali.

Other insect-borne diseases also occur, such as dengue, chikungunya, African tick-bite fever.

To protect yourself from disease:

  • ensure your accommodation is mosquito-proof
  • use insect repellent
  • wear long, loose, light-coloured clothing

Consider taking medication to prevent malaria.

There is no risk of yellow fever in this country; however, there is a certificate requirement.

Under International Health Regulations, a yellow fever vaccination certificate is required from travellers over 9 months of age arriving from countries with risk of yellow fever transmission and for travellers having transited for more than 12 hours through the airport of a country with risk of yellow fever transmission.

According to World Health Organization (WHO), from 11 July 2016 (for all countries), the yellow fever certificate will be valid for the duration of the life of the person vaccinated. As a consequence, a valid certificate, presented by arriving travellers, cannot be rejected on the grounds that more than ten years have passed since the date vaccination became effective, as stated on the certificate; and that boosters or revaccination cannot be required. 

Travel Insurance

It is a pre–requisite of travel that all clients obtain comprehensive travel insurance cover at their own expense. it is always advisable to furnish your booking agent with your travel policy details – if applicable.

Further reading and understanding of travel insurance with frequently asked questions.

Your Health (Food & Water)

DRINKING WATER

In Rwanda, local tap water is not potable. 

Sealed bottled water is safe to drink and reputable brands can be purchased in hotels, restaurants, and grocery stores. You will be supplied with water at your camp, which has been filtered through a reverse osmosis process. 

It is essential that you drink plenty of water each day (a minimum of 2–3 litres). The dryness and heat will dehydrate you very quickly. If you are feeling lethargic or have a headache, there is a good chance it is simply dehydration, so make sure you increase your water intake. 

It is a good idea in the warmer months to travel with spare rehydrate sachets.

The water used for washing salads and making ice has also been filtered. 

Cash and Credit Cards, Tipping & Other

CURRENCY 

The country’s currency is the Rand (ZAR) and is used to purchase items locally, tipping and general expenses. There are limits on the amount of currency you can bring into South Africa. For cash in South African Rand, the limit is 25,000ZAR. For combinations of cash in other currencies, the limit is USD10,000 (or equivalent). You should declare any amount higher than this on entry to South Africa, but we highly advice not to travel with such values in this country.

Personal expenses in the camps, such as souvenirs from the camp shop, can generally be paid with Visa or MasterCard, in USD, or in the local currency. A surcharge may be levied on credit card transactions. Be sure to contact your bank prior to departure if you plan to use your credit card in Africa. When carrying USD cash, it is a good idea to carry small denominations as it is often difficult to get change. As a general rule, check that USD notes are 2010 or newer and not damaged or marked. 

Please consider carrying small denominations for tipping; most importantly for luggage porterage, road transfers, lodge staff and guides. Do not display excess cash in public areas.

GRATUITIES GUIDLINES

We would like to reiterate that tipping is not compulsory. Please do not feel obliged to do so. Tipping should be undertaken only by choice, subject to the service received. 

As such, we have enclosed a brief guideline to assist you. 

In addition, you may wish to add a nominal amount ranging between USD 15.00 to USD 30.00 per day for incidentals (subject to personal budget choice) – i.e. if additional activities are booked once on your journey, if travel arrangements change for any reason, in acknowledgement of good service received in another area, etc. 

Camp StaffThere will generally be a communal staff tip box at all the camps, or if not, the manager will inform you how best to offer any gratuity. The usual gratuity for camp staff is USD10-15 per guest per day
Professional Guides/Local Tour Leaders and ButlersUSD20 per person per day, given directly to the person at the end your stay at each camp
Gorilla Trekking GuidesWe recommend USD15 per person, per trek (usually there are two guides and it is standard practice to tip after each trek).
Gorilla Trekking TrackersWe recommend USD 10.00 per person, per trek for the group of trackers.
Trekking PortersWe recommend USD5-10 per porter, per trek (usually there are two guides and it is standard practice to tip after each trek)
Transfer only DriversWe recommend about USD3 – USD5 per transfer
Drivers/GuidesUSD10 per person given directly at the end your stay
Massage TherapistsWe recommend about USD5 – USD10 per treatment
Hotel StaysBaggage porterage is usually tipped (about USD2 – USD3 per guest per movement, depending on how much luggage). Tips for housekeeping are generally not expected unless significant services have been provided
Meals in Restaurants and Hotels10% of the bill which is customary on meal accounts if you are satisfied with the service. 
Non–Safari TransfersE.G. airport–hotel: We recommend around USD5 – USD10 per guest per movement, minimum USD5 total

We would like to emphasise that tipping is definitely not a requirement and should be undertaken only by choice, dependent on the service received.  We would also like to suggest that you tip only once, at the end of your stay or service. 

Climate, Clothing and Luggage

The highest peak is Mount Karisimbi, 4,507 meters (14,787 feet) high, located in the park. In these mountainous areas, rainfall is abundant, and showers can occur throughout the year.

Rwanda’s high altitude cool things down to give a remarkably pleasant tropical highland climate, albeit there is also a fair amount of rain. Temperatures do not change much month to month due to its proximity to the equator, yet varies considerably between locations, depending on their altitude.

From March to May, Rwanda’s long rainy season provides heavy and persistent showers.

June to mid-September is the long dry season.October to November is a shorter rainy season, and it’s followed by a short dry season from December to February. During the wet seasons, the air is cleared of dust, and the vegetation is green, with photo opportunities abound. But, both of Rwanda’s dry seasons also have light cloud cover moderating the temperatures and occasionally bringing light showers; typically though there is less mud underfoot for trekking, although the air might be dustier.

Cell Phones, Power, Photography and drones

CELL PHONES 

Tri–band cell phones on global roaming generally work in all major urban centres, however they do not work in the majority of safari camps. 

POWER 

Camps are powered by regular electrical power, solar power or generators. Voltage is 220–240V. There is usually ample electricity to charge batteries for digital and video cameras, iPods etc., but not for use of hair dryers and electric shavers etc. In some camps, the facilities for charging batteries are in the main camp area rather than in a room. Many camps have an array of adaptor plugs. 

For Rwanda there are two associated plug types, types C and J. The voltage (220–240V) is similar to most of the world (excluding USA) and a voltage converter will generally not be required, unless you’re travelling with 110V (i.e. USA) appliances.

PHOTOGRAPHY 

The local authorities are very sensitive about taking pictures of governmental buildings, military installations and embassies. 

Serious digital photographers may wish to bring a mobile device for the downloading of images. you are advised to bring a spare battery for use while the other one is being charged, a power converter/adaptor if applicable, cables for computers or cameras and additional flashcards. 

DRONES 

In Rwanda, drones can weigh up to 25 kilograms (55 pounds). Drones cannot be flown within a ten-kilometer (six-mile) radius of any airport or airfield. Drones cannot fly within 50 meters (164 feet) of people, structures, vehicles, ships, or animals. Drones are not permitted to be flown at night.
Drone laws are continually changing, and if you are interested in bringing a drone on your trip, we recommend double-checking the rules for each country you will be travelling through immediately before departure.

Safari Guru’s Rwanda Safari Requirements and a Packing List

Understand more about Packing for an African Safari, with a checklist of packing items, or download Safari Guru’s Rwanda’s Safari Pre-Departure Information Document for a packing list.

PDF Download – Rwanda Safari Pre-Departure Information Document

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DISCLAIMER: Please note that whilst we take every care to ensure the information contained herein is accurate, we cannot in any manner or form guarantee the accuracy and correctness thereof. The information is taken directly from relevant country government sources and the IATA travel centre, and can change at any time and without notice. You are therefore advised that any information contained herein should not be construed as a representation made by Safari Guru or its network of suppliers and ground handlers and it remains a travellers sole and absolute duty to double-check current information at the time of undertaking any travel.

Rwanda Safari Requirements best gorilla image by Safari Guru Deon De Villiers
It exceeded our expectations. Not just the gorillas. The people. The trackers. The guide. The bishops house. The food. The coffee. The genocide museum. How Rwanda rebuilt itself under this government after such awful events in 1994, only 25 years ago. And it was all super well organised. So thank you. A very sincere thank you to you and your team for making their holiday so memorable, we are very appreciative!
Sophie Piessens; Australia

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