Is it safe to travel to Rwanda? Is a common question asked by travelers planning a Rwanda safari to this amazing country- the land of a thousand hills. Rwanda is a safe country to visit for an Africa safari and here are the10 safe Travel advice for Rwanda.
10 Safari Travel Advance for Rwanda
By law, anyone visiting Rwanda for a safari is required to have health insurance. If you enter Rwanda without it, you have 30 days to get it. Rwanda’s medical facilities and services are inadequate which is why any visitor to Rwanda should purchase a travel insurance policy that includes comprehensive medical coverage as well as air medical evacuation.
If you do not have a travel insurance with medical coverage, receiving medication could be costly in case you become ill or get injured during your travel. Your travel insurance should include emergency assistance 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Crime in Rwanda
Rwanda is one of the most safe countries in Africa most especially for sole travelers, locals in Rwanda are friendly and hospitable. Also the crime rate in Rwanda is low with visitors occasionally witnessing petty crimes such as pickpocketing in the crowded settings such as markets and rental automobiles.
Travelers rarely fall victims of violent crimes.
Caution: Travelers are advised to respect the local customs, women travelers are urged to dress modestly.
While traveling in Rwanda, you will notice how clean the country is, in 2008, the government of Rwanda outlawed all non-biodegradable polyethylene plastic bags. In Rwanda, large signs warn tourists that luggage searches may be done at the airport, individuals found with plastic bags may be fined 50,000 Rwandan Francs (US$ 61) or face imprisonment, depending on the severity of the offense.
As a responsible tourists, you are advised to get rid of the plastic bags.
Getting around safely
Traveling in Rwanda between major cities, cities and bordering countries, Rwanda has a well-established and reliable bus network, normally there are scammers and touts lurking around transportation hubs, waiting for unsuspecting visitors.
When traveling around Rwanda using public means of transport, make sure you buy your tickets from the bus company counters. Mini-buses are a common mode of public transportation in Kigali – the capital of Rwanda and other major cities.
Buses are less expensive, however they will not leave unless it is completely filled as there is no set schedule for them. They are can also be overcrowded making long travels uncomfortable and frequently result in road vehicle collisions.
There are licensed taxis in Rwanda, these are clearly identifiable by their white hue, orange stripe and roof sign and many be seen at Kigali International Airport and around Kigali City. Taxis are the safest means of private transportation but they are not as cheap as public transportation.
You can get a taxi at a designated rank or have your hotel/restaurant call for one, the taxi does not have a meter, haggle the fare before getting in.
You can also rent a car to take you across Rwanda, driving in Rwanda at night is not recommended for tourists most especially the first –time visitors due to poor road conditions and unlit roads in rural areas. During the wet season, landslides and flooding can pose a threat to driving.
Rwanda – Uganda
The Rwandan government has now opened its border with Uganda following a political conflict between Rwanda and Uganda, residents of both countries were not allowed to cross into each other’s country for the past 2 years. However they can now cross the border and visit both countries freely, travelers should verify their documents with government officials at the respective offices at the borders.
Rwanda – Burundi
Because of the crime and the ongoing fighting between the government and rebel groups, Rwanda government travel advisories advise passengers to evaluate their need to travel within 6 miles (10 kilometers) of the border. Nyungwe Forest National Park and Volcanoes national park are found in the area of Rwanda – Burundi Border.
Relations between Rwanda and Burundi are very fragile, with Burundi prohibiting Rwandese from using public transport and Rwanda imposing trade restrictions on food imported from Burundi. At any time, border crossing may close. Because of the significant security risk, Burundi is classified a no-go zone. Violent crimes, conflict and terrorism are all prevalent in the Burundi.
Rwanda – The Democratic Republic of the Congo
According the Rwanda – government travel recommendations, border crossings between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo can close at any time, therefore tourists are urged not to rely on tis border. Local battles between the government forces and militia groups in North and South Kivu provinces have also raised security concerns near the border. There have been cases of kidnappings, robberies and sexual assaults.
According to the Rwandan Ministry of Health, any visitor to Rwanda who might have traveled from an Ebola – effected province in the Demcoratic Republic of Congo is subject to quarantine.
Possession of drugs, its use and trafficking are illegal in Rwanda with offenders facing steep penalties and possible prison time.
It is forbidden to photograph military personnel, government buildings or border crossing location.
Drunk driving is unlawful and carries a fine as well as jail sentences, it is also unlawful to use a cell phone while driving.
Talking about the Rwanda genocide in an inappropriate or contentious manner can result in a financial penalties and jail.
Gorilla trek safety
Mountain gorillas are the most popular tourist attraction in Rwanda, the government of Rwanda has made steps to safeguard the critically endangered gorillas while still ensuring sustainable and safe tourism. For safety considerations such as bandits, civil turmoil, potential injury and the safety of the gorillas and the guests themselves.
Visitors planning to visit Rwanda for a gorilla trekking safari, must organize their excursions with a reputable tour company such as Focus East Africa Tours with guides.
Controlled tourism prevents any potential health risk to the endangered mountain gorillas as they are susceptible to diseases, it also reduces the risk of human-gorilla interactions where people may be injured or killed.
Homosexuality is not illegal in Rwanda and is not universally accepted and remains taboo, Rwanda remains conservative with local LGBTQ+ persons facing discrimination, other African countries are perceived to be more homophobic.
Although there are a few gay – friendly establishments in Kigali, it is best for LGBTQ+ travelers to be covert at all times for safety reasons.
Malaria is widespread in Rwanda and the government has taken great steps to try to eradicate it through community – based initiatives such as distribution for free mosquito nets, home spraying and prompt medical assessment and treatment. There are numerous ways to protect yourself and keep well while traveling such as sleeping under a mosquito net, carry malaria fever as advised by your doctor and carry mosquito repellent lotion.
Rwanda genocide of 1997 is still a horrific incident haunting Rwanda up to today, in the genocide hundreds of thousands of Tutsi, moderate Hutus and the Twa people were killed as a result of the Rwandan government’s instigation of the genocide during the civil war in 1994.
As a result of the genocide, more than 2 million Rwandese were forced to flee their homes with many people going missing and families being torn apart, since the genocide there has been a lot of work done by the government to get past this horrific and tragic tragedy and create a more positive and safe future for the Rwandans.
The laws surrounding genocide are carefully enforced and encouraging racist or divisive behavior is unlawful and punishable by fines and imprisonment. Travelers are encouraged to keep any form of discussion of the genocide respectful and to avoid when possible.
Many of the Rwandese are still traumatized by the horrific event and it is a bad idea to refer to residents by their ethnicity, to learn more about the genocide you can visit many sites including the Kigali Genocide Memorial site.