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Rwanda Travel Guide

Rwanda

Overview

Parks & Reserves

Wildlife

Birds

Best Time To Visit

Weather & Climate

Popular Routes

Getting There

Malaria & Vaccinations

Safety

Overview – Rwanda
Encountering a mountain gorilla’s gaze is a profound experience, but Rwanda’s attractions extend far beyond. Venture to Volcanoes National Park for exceptional gorilla trekking adventures. Explore Nyungwe National Park to encounter chimpanzees and a diverse group of 12 other primate species. Akagera National Park is the perfect spot to observe the iconic Big Five in their natural habitat. For a serene retreat, consider relaxing lakeside at the beautiful Lake Kivu for several days.
feature rwanda - bush2city (3)
rwanda travel map
Rates (USD)
$319 to $1,060 pp/da
Best Time To Go
June to September marks the dry season.
High Season
Gorilla permits are limited from June to September.
Size
26,338km² / 10,169mi²
Pros & Cons
Top destination to observe mountain gorillas
Blend primate encounters with a traditional savannah safari
Well-rounded mix of vehicle, boat, and walking activities
A paradise for birdwatching enthusiasts
Scenic splendor
Superb roads and infrastructure
Safe and clean
Not ideal for a traditional savannah safari.
High-priced destination.
Wildlife

Nestled in the biodiversity-rich Albertine Rift, Rwanda is a treasure trove of wildlife. The nation is not only renowned for its gorillas and chimpanzees but also hosts a diverse range of other primates like the Ruwenzori colobus and golden monkeys. On boat tours, visitors commonly encounter hippos and crocodiles. Meanwhile, the expansive savannahs of Akagera National Park are alive with a plethora of species, including giraffes, buffaloes, zebras, and defassa waterbucks, with lions always a thrilling sight nearby.

Weather & Climate

Positioned on the equator, Rwanda enjoys stable temperatures throughout the year, generally around 27°C (81°F), with no typical summer or winter. The climate is marked by two main seasons: a Dry season spanning June to September and a Wet season from October to May. The Wet season is further divided into short and long rains, separated by a brief dry interval. The short rains last from October to December, and the long rains, which are the heaviest, run from March to May.

Best Time To Visit

Rwanda is a year-round destination, but for optimal conditions, it’s best to avoid April, when rainfall is at its peak. In these months, trekking paths can become quite muddy, posing challenges for gorilla trekking—a once-in-a-lifetime activity that is sensitive to weather disruptions. Rain during this period might affect the quality of your trekking experience. The ideal time to visit Rwanda is from June to September, when the weather tends to be drier, making wildlife easier to observe and the trekking conditions more favorable.

Premier Parks, Reserves & Wildlife Areas
- gorilla trekking
- Classic Safari
National Parks & Game Reserves – Rwanda
All Parks & Reserves
Wildlife & Animals – Rwanda

Rwanda stands among only three nations worldwide that provide a sanctuary for the endangered mountain gorillas. Observing these magnificent animals in the bamboo-covered slopes of the dramatic Virunga Mountains is an experience that leaves a lasting impression. In addition to gorillas, you can also engage in tracking expeditions for habituated chimpanzees and golden monkeys.

Hippo
Wildebeest
Zebra
Buffalo
White Rhino
Black Rhino
Giraffe Commo
Elephant
Leopard
Lion
Wildlife Highlights

Beyond its 15 primate varieties, Rwanda shelters an impressive array of 136 other mammal species. To encounter classic safari wildlife, visit Akagera National Park in the eastern part of the country. This stunning savannah reserve is teeming with wildlife, including elephants, buffalo, zebras, and giraffes, along with several species of antelope such as topi, impala, and defassa waterbuck. The reserve has also welcomed the recent reintroduction of black and white rhinos and lions.

Best Time for Wildlife Viewing

Gorilla trekking in Rwanda is possible year-round with nearly guaranteed sightings. Yet, the optimal conditions for tracking are during the Dry season from June to September, which is also the prime time for wildlife viewing in Akagera National Park. The months of March and April, being the wettest, are less favorable for visits.

Recommended Wildlife Books
Stuarts’ Field Guide to the Larger Mammals of Africa
Comprehensive coverage of large mammals; app available by Chris Stuart and Mathilde Stuart
The Safari Companion: A Guide to Watching African Mammals
by Richard D. Estes
East African Wildlife
by Philip Briggs
Wild Rwanda: Where To Watch Birds, Primates, & Other Wildlife
by Ken Behrens, Christian Boix and Keith Barnes
Wildlife Photos
rwanda wildlife (4)
Birds - Rwanda

Rwanda stands out as a premier destination for bird enthusiasts, with an impressive tally of over 700 species recorded in an area that’s smaller than Belgium. Its mountainous birding spots are considered among the best in Africa. The high-altitude rainforests in and around Nyungwe National Park are particularly rich, home to 29 unique Albertine Rift endemics. These rare birds are also spotted in the Volcanoes and Gishwati-Mukura National Parks, enhancing Rwanda’s status as a top birding locale.

Notable Birds in Rwanda

African jacana
common
African fish eagle
common
Black-headed weaver
common
Red-chested sunbird
common
Great blue turaco
common
Best Time for Bird Watching

Rwanda is a superb year-round destination for birdwatching, highlighted by its rich variety of resident birds. The forests of Nyungwe are a hotspot for Rwanda’s avian treasures, with birding conditions peaking between January and June when the birds are notably active and vocal. Although April’s heavy rains may pose some logistical challenges, the drier months from June to September present ideal conditions for exploring. Trails are less muddy and hiking is more comfortable during this period, which coincides with the prime season for gorilla trekking as well.

Recommended Birding Books
Birds in Rwanda: An Atlas & Handbook
An essential buy; comprehensive but cumbersome for field use by Jean Vande weghe, Gael Vande weghe
Birds of East Africa: Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi
The best field guide that includes complete coverage of Rwanda by Terry Stevenson and John Fanshawe
eGuide to Birds of East Africa (app)
The app version of the above book is comprehensive for Rwanda by Terry Stevenson and John Fanshawe
Birds of Africa: South of the Sahara
Complete for Rwanda but the vast scope makes it cumbersome by Ian Sinclair and Peter Ryan
Wild Rwanda: Where To Watch Birds, Primates, & Other Wildlife
A ‘how to’ guide that’s essential for serious birders by Ken Behrens, Christian Boix and Keith Barnes
Facts & Figures

Bird Species

550+

Migratory Birds

Oct to Apr

Best Time To Visit – Rwanda

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

The ideal time to visit Rwanda is from June to September, during the Dry season, when conditions are perfect for wildlife viewing. This period is especially good for primate treks in the forest, including gorilla trekking, as the paths are drier and easier to navigate. While the rainforest environment naturally remains damp, the Dry season offers the most accessible and enjoyable walking conditions.

Best Time
Dry season: June to September
High Season
June to September: During this period, lodges may be fully booked, and it is essential to reserve gorilla permits well in advance.
Low Season
March, April, October, November: These months are the peak of the rainy season.
Best Weather
June to August: This period experiences the least rainfall.
Worst Weather
April: This month sees the most rainfall, making forest trails slippery.
June to September – Dry Season – Winter
Ideal for gorilla trekking
Forest trails are less slippery
In Akagera National Park, the vegetation is thinner, making animals easier to spot
Even in high season, the parks don’t feel overcrowded
Sunshine is more abundant
Gorilla permits must be booked well in advance
The scenery is typically more lush and beautiful during the Wet season
October to May Wet Season – Summer
The landscapes are lush and green, with clear, haze-free skies
Potential discounts during the low season
Akagera hosts newborn animals
Forest trails become slippery and pose challenges
Gorilla trekking departures proceed as scheduled, even during heavy rain
Wildlife Photos
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​Weather & Climate – Rwanda

Nestled along the equator, Rwanda boasts a climate with steady temperatures year-round, eschewing the dramatic shifts of winter and summer. The dry season reigns supreme from June to September, offering a respite from the rains. Yet, even within the wet season, stretching from October to May, January and February emerge as islands of drier weather, adding intrigue to Rwanda’s meteorological tapestry.

Kigali’s Climate Compared to Rwanda’s Parks

Typically, the eastern part of Rwanda, including Akagera National Park, shares Kigali’s warm climate, but it’s not scorching hot because it’s up high. On the other hand, the parks in the western mountains, like Volcanoes, Nyungwe, and Gishwati-Mukura National Parks, are cooler, with temperatures around 16°C to 21°C (61°F to 70°F) during the day. As you go up higher, it gets even cooler, dropping about 6.5°C for every 1,000 meters climbed. These parks also get more rain because they’re up in the mountains and covered in forests.

Wet Season – June to September

During these months, most of the country sees little rain, except for the rainforests, where showers can happen anytime.

In June, July, and August, the east has afternoons around 27°C/81°F, but it’s colder in the mountain parks. Nyungwe is about 21°C/70°F during the day, and Volcanoes NP is even cooler at 16°C/61°F.

In September, it’s still dry early on, but rain might start. Temperatures stay about the same, but the mountain parks get a lot of rain in September.

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Wet Season – October to May

The Wet season brings two main rainy periods, separated by a dry spell.

 

October, November & December – Known as the ‘Short rains’, Nyungwe and Volcanoes National Park get a lot of rain during this time. Daytime temperatures are around 19°C/66°F in Nyungwe and 15°C/59°F in Volcanoes NP. Safaris in Akagera National Park are usually rain-free.

 

January & February – Between the short and long rains, there’s usually a break, but it might rain anytime in Nyungwe and Volcanoes NP.

 

March, April & May – The ‘Long rains’ period sees frequent rain, especially in Nyungwe and Volcanoes NP, where it can rain for days at a stretch.

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Popular Routes – Rwanda
rwanda travel map
The Wildlife Circuit

You can easily include Rwanda in your East or Southern African safari trip. Volcanoes National Park, where you can see mountain gorillas, is just a 2½-hour drive from Kigali, the capital. But Rwanda has more to offer too! Check out the popular route below to see the best of what the country has to offer.

Once you touch down at Kigali International Airport, consider spending a night in the city before embarking on a memorable journey around Rwanda. Here’s a suggested loop, starting with Nyungwe National Park, then moving on to Lake Kivu, and finally to Volcanoes National Park. If you’re up for it, Akagera National Park can be explored separately as a side trip from Kigali (a 2½-hour drive away).

 

Here’s a breakdown of the destinations and suggested durations:

Kigali (1 to 2 days): This exceptionally clean and safe city is home to the poignant Kigali Genocide Memorial, a must-visit.

Nyungwe National Park (2 to 4 days): Dive into the high-altitude rainforest for thrilling chimpanzee trekking, forest hikes, and an exhilarating canopy walk.

Lake Kivu (1 to 3 days): Enjoy the breathtaking scenery of this picturesque lake nestled in East Africa’s Rift Valley.

Volcanoes National Park (2 to 4 days): Delve into the heart of gorilla territory for an unforgettable gorilla tracking experience. You can also hike to Dian Fossey’s grave and track golden monkeys.

 

 

Popular add-ons include:

Akagera National Park (2 to 4 days): Explore this scenic Big Five reserve offering boat trips, night drives, and exhilarating game drives.

​Getting There – Rwanda

Kigali International Airport (KGL), located on the outskirts of the capital city of Kigali, is likely to serve as your entry point into Rwanda.

 

Rwanda is a compact country, and transportation within its borders is primarily by vehicle. The speed limit throughout Rwanda is set at 60 kilometers per hour. Alternatively, for swift travel, Akagera Aviation offers charter helicopter transfers to various destinations within the country.

 

The sole domestic flight operates between Kigali and Kamembe Airport (KME) in Rusizi, situated at the southern tip of Lake Kivu, operated by RwandAir. However, this flight is seldom utilized by travelers.

 

Typically, Bush 2 City Adventure will arrange for your pickup either from the airport or your accommodation, and they will coordinate further transportation as part of your safari package.

Main Park Map
rwanda travel map
Flights & Airlines to Botswana

For the most up-to-date information on airlines serving Rwanda and ticket prices, I recommend checking Skyscanner. It provides a comprehensive overview of available flights and allows you to compare prices from various airlines. Additionally, you can book flights directly through airline websites such as RwandaAir for convenience and ease of booking.

Domestic Airlines & Flights in Rwanda

Akagera Aviation

Rwanda Ai

Passport, Visa & Other Entry Requirements
Entry requirements are subject to change, therefore, it is advisable to reach out to your local Rwandan embassy or high commission to confirm the current information provided below.

A passport is required for all foreign visitors and has to be valid for at least six months.

Passports must have an unmarked and available visa page for endorsement.

Visas on arrival are available for citizens of all countries. For further information, please visit www.migration.gov.rw.

For those traveling to Rwanda in conjunction with Kenya and/or Uganda, there’s an option to purchase a joint visa covering all three countries. Visit www.migration.gov.rw for more information.

Travelers arriving from yellow-fever-infected countries in Africa or the Americas must present a yellow-fever vaccination certificate upon arrival.

For additional details, including any vaccination-related entry requirements, please refer to the website of your local Rwandan embassy or high commission, or consult the government travel advisories provided below:
United States – travel.state.gov
United Kingdom – www.gov.uk
Canada – travel.gc.ca
Australia – www.smartraveller.gov.au
New Zealand – www.safetravel.govt.nz
EU member states – ec.europa.eu
Ireland – www.dfa.ie
Malaria & Vaccinations – Rwanda

The details provided on this page serve as a general guideline and should not substitute a consultation with your travel doctor. For comprehensive and current information regarding travelers’ health in Rwanda, consider consulting the trusted resources listed below, including government organizations and travel clinics.

Vaccinations

It’s recommended to receive vaccinations; for detailed immunization advice, please visit the listed websites and review our FAQ section below.

Malaria Risk

Most of the country poses a high risk, except for Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Parks, where the risk is low due to their high altitude. Akagera National Park and the Lake Kivu area are notably high-risk zones. The greatest risk of transmission occurs during the Wet season (October to May). For more detailed advice, please refer to the websites listed below.

More Info
Safety & Security – Rwanda

From our perspective, Rwanda offers a secure environment for travelers, particularly those embarking on organized safaris. While a few governments advise against travel to select remote border areas, the popular tourist destinations remain safe. For further details, please consult the travel advisory links below. Rwanda warmly receives countless visitors each year, with the vast majority enjoying trouble-free experiences.

 

Here are some insights on staying safe while exploring Rwanda:

Staying Safe on Wildlife Viewing Activities

Your safari guide is dedicated to your safety throughout your journey—all you need to do is adhere to their instructions. During a self-drive safari, only exit your vehicle where it’s deemed safe to do so, and maintain a safe distance from animals. For more tips:

 

Keeping Safe on a Gorilla Trek:
Gorilla trekking is incredibly safe. These gentle giants rarely pose any threat to humans, as they’re accustomed to our presence. Before your trek, a park ranger will brief you on how to interact respectfully with the gorillas. Thousands of people visit Rwanda for gorilla treks each year without any issues.

 

Staying Safe on a Chimp Trek:
Chimp trekking is also very safe. The chimpanzee communities you’ll visit are habituated to human observers. Before you set out, a park ranger will explain how to behave around the chimps.

Staying Safe in Cities & Towns

Crime rates tend to be higher in cities worldwide, and this is also true for Rwanda. Common crimes include petty theft and pickpocketing, though violent crime is notably scarce. Participating in guided activities is generally safe, and exploring the city on your own can be safe too, provided you take basic precautions. It’s advisable to ask your hotel for area-specific safety advice, avoid displaying valuables, carry only the necessary amount of cash, and use taxis instead of walking at night. For additional safety tips relevant to many African cities:

Other Tips on Staying Safe

Please review the information on the following pages about malaria and vaccination requirements for Rwanda, as well as general travel safety tips.

Safari Tours to Rwanda

$5127 to

$11424 pp (USD)

Kenya:

Private tour,

Luxury,

You Visit: Nairobi, Lake Naivasha, three days Masai Mara, three days Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater & two days Amboseli.

$2840 to

$6527 pp (USD)

Tanzania:

Private tour,

Luxury,

You Visit: Arusha (Day 1), Tarangire NP, Lake Manyara NP, Two days Serengeti NP & Ngorongoro Crater: 24/7 Service – All Accommodations & Round trip airport transfer

$15729 to

$8976 pp (USD)

Kenya:

Private tour,

Luxury,

You Visit: Lake Manyara National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, Serengeti National Park, Amboseli National Park, Ol Pejeta Conservancy & Masai Mara Game Reserve

Things to know before traveling to the destination

What is the currency used in Rwanda?
“The currency used is the Rwandan Franc (RWF).”

 

What time zone is Rwanda in?
“Rwanda is in the Central Africa Time Zone (CAT), which is two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+2), the same as the rest of Southern Africa.”

 

Can I use my credit cards in Rwanda?
“Yes, Visa and MasterCard are generally accepted throughout Rwanda, including at Wilderness destinations. However, American Express and Diners Club cards are not accepted at our Wilderness properties.”

 

What type of power sockets are used in Rwanda?
“In Bisate, the national power grid supplies electricity, supported by a backup generator. Each Forest Villa offers 220V plug points, which include multi-plug adaptor charging facilities with USB for charging mobile devices and batteries, and for the use of sleep apnea machines. Magashi operates entirely on solar power with a generator backup for emergencies, providing 230V multi-plug adaptor charging facilities and USB ports. On request, we also provide charging facilities for sleep apnea machines.”

 

What should I pack for a safari in Rwanda?
“You should check for luggage weight or size restrictions with your Travel Designer. The dress code in Rwanda is not strict, but conservative dress is recommended for women. Pack warm clothing for cooler months and lighter clothing for the summer. Bright colors and white are discouraged on safari.”

 

How is the weather in Rwanda?
“Rwanda enjoys a temperate tropical highland climate, with cooler temperatures than typical equatorial countries due to its high elevation. In Kigali, temperatures range from 12°C to 27°C throughout the year, with minimal variation. The mountainous north-west, including Bisate, is generally cooler than the east.”

 

What should I wear when gorilla trekking in Rwanda?
“Since the forests can be rainy and wet, it’s advisable to pack warm, protective clothing and comfortable walking or hiking boots. Also, bring a hat and a lightweight parka or raincoat.”

 

Where is Rwanda located?
“Rwanda is a landlocked country situated in East-Central Africa, bordered by Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, and the Republic of Congo.”

 

When is a good time to visit Rwanda?
“Gorilla trekking is possible all year at Volcanoes National Park. For wildlife viewing in Akagera National Park, the drier seasons are best, as animals tend to gather at water sources.”

 

What kind of food is enjoyed in Rwanda?
“Traditional dishes in Rwanda include Liboke, which is chicken cooked and served in banana leaves, Sambaza, a fried, spicy fish served with spiced ginger rice, coconut fish, and Kachumbari, a traditional tomato and onion salad.”

 

Why should I visit Rwanda?
“Rwanda is renowned for its mountain gorillas, birdwatching, classic East African safari experiences, cultural encounters, hiking, and award-winning luxury camps set in breathtaking parts of the country.”

 

What is Rwanda’s culture?
“The cultural landscape of Rwanda includes several groups, with the three most distinct being the Hutu, Tutsi, and Pygmy Twa.”

 

What does ‘Rwanda’ mean?
“The name ‘Rwanda’ comes from a Kinyarwanda verb meaning ‘expansion.'”

 

What can I see in Rwanda?
“Rwanda offers extraordinary biodiversity, iconic wildlife, volcanoes, montane rainforest, and sweeping plains. You can explore these landscapes by boat or 4×4 vehicle in Akagera National Park, go gorilla and golden monkey trekking in Volcanoes National Park, and visit vibrant Kigali. Other highlights include various national parks, natural forests, and volcanic lakes like Lake Kivu, one of Africa’s Great Lakes.”

Is a visa required to enter Rwanda?
“Yes, a visa is required for entry into Rwanda. Citizens of Commonwealth member states, African Union countries, and Francophonie countries can obtain a thirty-day tourist visa for free upon arrival.”

 

Do I need to obtain a permit for gorilla trekking in Rwanda?
“Yes, it is necessary to secure a permit for gorilla trekking in advance of your arrival, as recommended by the Rwanda Tourism Board (RDB). Permits are crucial for supporting conservation efforts and aiding community development around Volcanoes National Park. Our Wilderness Rwanda Travel Shop & Touring, along with your Travel Designer, can assist with the permit application process. They can also provide information on standard, discounted, or private gorilla trekking permit options and costs.”

Is a yellow fever vaccination required for Rwanda?

“Yellow fever vaccination is not mandatory for entry into Rwanda. However, if your travel plans include Kenya and Uganda as well, you will need to be vaccinated against yellow fever. It’s best to confirm this requirement with your travel clinic and Travel Designer before your trip.”

 

Should I take malaria medication when traveling to Rwanda?

“Although Bisate is situated at an elevation that generally does not pose a malaria risk, other parts of Rwanda, including Magashi in Akagera National Park, are malaria-risk areas. We recommend consulting with your medical practitioner or travel clinic about malaria prophylaxis. Make sure to do this several weeks before your trip as some preventive medications need to be started well in advance of your arrival in Rwanda.”

Photo Gallery of Rwanda

Map of Rwanda

Photo Gallery