Nestled in the heart of East Africa, Rwanda is a country of remarkable beauty and resilience, captivating travellers with its breathtaking landscapes, vibrant culture, and extraordinary wildlife encounters. Despite its tumultuous past, Rwanda has emerged as a beacon of hope and progress, offering visitors a truly unique and enriching travel experience.


Rwanda is located in the eastern part of the African continent, bordered by Uganda to the north, Tanzania to the east, Burundi to the south, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west.

What type of traveller will enjoy Rwanda

Rwanda appeals to a diverse range of travellers, from nature enthusiasts seeking close encounters with mountain gorillas to cultural aficionados eager to explore the country’s rich heritage and traditions. Adventure seekers, eco-conscious travellers, and those with a passion for wildlife and conservation will all find something to love in Rwanda.

Rwanda’s approach to sustainability

Rwanda is committed to sustainability and conservation, with initiatives in place to protect its natural resources and promote responsible tourism practices. From community-based tourism projects to efforts to preserve endangered species, Rwanda is dedicated to ensuring that its beauty and biodiversity are preserved for future generations.

How to travel to and around Rwanda

Travelling to Rwanda from Australia typically involves connecting flights through major international hubs such as Dubai (DXB) with Emirates, Doha (DOH) with Qatar, or Johannesburg (JNB) with Qantas or South African Airways. Kigali International Airport (KGL) is the main gateway to the country, offering connections to various destinations across Africa and beyond. Airlines servicing Kigali International Airport are: RwandAir, Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, KLM, Qatar Airways and Turkish Airlines. Helicopter transfers within Rwanda are available through Akagera Aviation. Rwandair operates flights domestically and inter-Africa. Once in Rwanda, travellers can explore the country by road, with reliable transportation options available, including taxis, buses, and rental cars.

Top experiences to have in Rwanda

A land of a thousand hills, Rwanda also has a thousand experiences to be had. Here are some of the must-do and see experiences in Rwanda.

Gorilla Trekking

Gorilla Trekking is a must. Photo Credit: Kate Webster

Today nearly half of the world’s 1000 remaining mountain gorillas live at the intersection of Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the Virunga Mountains of central Africa. The best place to witness these mountain gorillas is on a trek in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. Consisting of 125 km2 of mountain forest and the six Virunga Volcanoes, the lush forested slopes of the mountains form an appropriately dramatic natural setting for what is arguably the most poignant and memorable wildlife experience in the world: gorilla trekking. A permit will set you back USD$1500, of which the money is put straight back into the protection and conservation of the gorillas. It is advisable to hire a porter (cost USD$15) for your trek, not only for the unfailing assistance as your trek and climb, but to help fund a living for the once poachers that pilfered the national park. It gives them the incentive to stay on the anti-poaching path.

Spot Big 5 in Akagera National Park

Wildlife is abundant in Akagera NP. Photo Credit: Kate Webster

Located in North Eastern Rwanda, at the country’s border with Tanzania, is Akagera National Park. A common view around Rwanda, the mountainous scenery surrounding Akagera National Park is quite simply beautiful. The landscape inside the park ranges from low, wide, plains dominated by grass and cactus-like Euphorbia candelabra shrub that morphs into both thick and thin forests amongst rugged terrain that is so characteristic of Rwanda. It’s here you can experience the Big 5, and more, in Rwanda. The game drive experience is a scenic one, with wildlife like elephants, rhinos, buffalos and antelope species including; elands and topis. There are also Maasai giraffes, monkeys, savannah birds, civets, leopards, hyenas, as well as serval cats. While you can self-drive around the park (staying on the designated roads), it is recommended you hire a guide who is so knowledgeable about the flora and fauna that is found in the park.

Learn about the country’s history at the Kigali Genocide Memorial

A place to remember. Photo Credit: Kate Webster

A visit to the Kigali Genocide Memorial provides a better insight into Rwanda’s harrowing past. The memorial is the final resting place for more than 250,000 victims of the Genocide against the Tutsi. It is a place for remembrance and learning. While there are several memorials around the country, the Kigali Genocide Museum is the most popular to visit. A tour of the entire memorial takes approximately one hour and thirty minutes. The memorial is open seven days a week, however, on the last Saturday of every month, the memorial is open from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm due to Umuganda, when all Rwandans meet to undertake community work. The Kigali Genocide Memorial is a guided experience. Visitors can choose to be guided by one of the staff witnesses or purchase the KGM digital guide which provides an audio-visual tour of the memorial. Costs start from USD$15.

Get communal at Red Rocks

Rwanda – Red Rocks Rwanda. Photo Credit – Kate Webster

Red Rocks Rwanda is a place that is all about the community, and beyond this, promoting sustainable tourism through community and conservation programs. They bring under-served communities into the tourism supply chain and support community development projects that help people help themselves through the Red Rocks Initiative. Here you can truly delve into the local life of Rwandans by getting hands-on making banana beer, learning the local dances, creating some artwork and so much more. You can even stay on a little longer in the budget accommodation ranging from a hostel room to a tranquil campsite.

Hiking in Nyungwe Forest National Park

Nyungwe NP is a must visit. Photo Credit: Kate Webster

The largest tropical afro-montane rainforest in east or central Africa, Nyungwe forest is probably the most preserved forest in Africa. Nyungwe Forest National Park was established as a national park in 2004 and some say it is the most important site for biodiversity in Rwanda. It is home to over 1000 species of creation after all. Nyungwe is located near Cyangugu town in Southwestern Rwanda, about 225km and a 4-5 hour drive from Kigali. It is bordered by the Rwanda-Burundi border in the South. Lake Kivu and the Democratic Republic of Congo lie on the west side of the park. It covers an area of about 1020 sq. km and has an elevation of 1600-2950m above sea level. Roads that wind over hills and through tea plantations lead you to Nyungwe National Park.  Here you can experience Kamiranzovu swamp, hiking trails throughout, the forest canopy walk, birding, primate tracking and more.

Pick Tea in Gisenyi

Pick tea with the locals. Photo Credit: Kate Webster

Visiting a tea plantation may not be the most obvious of things to do in Rwanda, but in the province of Gisenyi, one of the best activities to partake in is just this. During the rainy season, Pfunda plantation‘s tea production is in full swing, and a tour of the premises allows visitors to amble amongst the surrounding crop fields and soak in some knowledge on the art of tea making, from picking and drying, to cutting and shipping. Pfunda is one of the most sustainable tea companies in the region, employing local community members to ensure that the region feels the direct benefits of the business.

Hear the Singing Fishermen of Lake Kivu

Listen to the singing fishermen. Photo Credit: Kate Webster

Lake Kivu is Rwanda’s largest lake and is located on the country’s western border. The atmosphere around the lake is relaxed and communal. The two biggest towns on the Rwandan side of the lake are Kibuye and Gisenyi, and both are excellent locations for solo excursions. Gisenyi, the bigger of the two towns, shares a border with the city of Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and thus has a larger selection of restaurants, bars, and general activities. However, kayaking, hikes, boat rides, and more are available from both towns. Buses run from Kigali to Kibuye and Gisenyi fifteen times a day, leaving from the Nyabugogo Bus Terminal every thirty minutes starting at 7 am. It’s here you can see the famous Singing Fishermen of Lake Kivu as they head out in their three-hulled fishing boats. With characteristic long poles attached to their bows and sterns, these fascinating boats become slowly silhouetted against the darkening sky. In small groups, they seek the deep water a few kilometres out into the lake from where they cast their nets and fish throughout the night.

Have a cultural experience at Gorilla Guardians Village

Rwandan culture on show. Photo Credit: Kate Webster

In Musanze you will find the Gorilla Guardian Village (formerly known as Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village), an award-winning venture that was founded in 2004 and is owned entirely by local communities.
Since its inception, the Gorilla Guardian Village has significantly helped in improving the livelihoods of communities living near the Volcanoes National Park, which houses the mountain gorillas. The venture offers employment to hundreds of former poachers and potential poachers, thereby curtailing human pressure on the Volcanoes National Park. Set in a replica of the traditional Rwandan palace, here you’ll be regaled by Rwandan Intore dancers and drummers, Batwa pygmies will showcase their bow and arrow skills, while a little village walk will introduce you to the local community’s way of life.

Visit the Palace and the King’s Cows

The King’s cows. Photo Credit: Kate Webster

The King’s Palace, located in Rwanda’s Nyanza ya Butare district, was the traditional seat of Rwanda’s kingdom. This historical location was of key importance during the colonial era. The ancient palace has been reconstructed in Rukari and visitors can now explore the replica King’s Palace, built using traditional materials and methods. Learn about the evolution of farming and building through the centuries, and then venture into the grounds to meet the long-horned cows, known as Inyambo. They’re beautiful to look at, with a stately elegance you don’t generally expect from cows, until you learn they’re part of the royal heritage, used in many important ceremonies. You can find out about the breeding techniques and listen to the amahamba songs the shepherds sing as part of the grooming process.

Make friends with locals

Rwandans love to share their lives and culture. Photo Credit: Kate Webster

At first the Rwandan people appear shy and withdrawn, but if you open up and talk to them you will find a friendly and often cheeky nature with them. The best way to immerse yourself in a country is to talk to the people who live there. Try and learn some of the local lingo, which helps and impresses when you can greet people in their own language.

Banking and Currency

The official currency of Rwanda is the Rwandan franc (RWF), and ATMs are readily available in major cities and towns. Credit cards are accepted at most hotels, restaurants, and tourist establishments, but it’s advisable to carry some cash for smaller purchases and in more remote areas. You can also use USD and sometimes it is preferred. Most prices for accommodation, National Park fees and permits and tours are offered in USD.

Tipping Guide

Tipping is not mandatory in Rwanda but is appreciated for excellent service. It is important to note that tipping should be made discrete. A tip of around 10% is customary in restaurants, and small gratuities for hotel staff, guides, and drivers are also welcome. In restaurants, a tip of around 10% of the total bill is generally considered appropriate if the service is satisfactory. Safari guides, trackers, and lodge staff often rely on tips as part of their income. It is recommended to tip guides and trackers around USD 10-15 per person per day and lodge staff around USD 5-10 per person per day, depending on the level of service and personal satisfaction. However, please note that tipping is discretionary, and clients should feel free to adjust amounts based on their own experience and satisfaction.

Visa and Entry Requirements for Australian Passport Holders

Australians can get a free 30-day tourist visa on arrival. Entry and exit conditions can change at short notice. You should contact the nearest high commission/embassy or consulate of Rwanda for the latest details. Citizens of all countries are allowed to get visa upon arrival without prior application. Citizens of country members to the African Union, Commonwealth and La Francophonie can get free visas upon arrival in Rwanda for a visit of 30 days. A citizen of East African Community Member States can receive a pass/entry visa free of charge upon arrival for a six-month stay in Rwanda.

Visitors from the following countries can be granted 90-day visas at no cost upon arrival in Rwanda: Angola, Benin, Central African Republic, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, The Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis, Ghana, Guinea, Indonesia, Haiti, Mauritius, Philippines, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Sao Tome and Principe, Singapore and the State of Qatar.

Citizens of countries that are not visa exempt have an option of applying online or at the Rwanda Diplomatic Mission of the country of residence before departure. Those applying online have the option to pay online or upon arrival. There is no single affiliated agent that is authorised to apply for a visa on your behalf. The visa fees must not exceed 50 USD for single entry visa or 70 USD for multiple entry.

The land border between Rwanda and Burundi has been closed since 11 January 2024. The border will remain closed until further notice. Smartraveller advise you exercise a high degree of caution within 10 kilometres of the border with Burundi. The security situation within 10km of Rwanda’s border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is unstable, and conflict can occur with little notice. There have been cross-border incursions in recent years, and the situation in eastern DRC has become more volatile in 2024 (see the DRC travel advice). Don’t cross the border. Reconsider your need to travel within 10 kilometres of the border with the DRC, including the town of Gisenyi.

Electricity and Power Sockets

Rwanda uses Type C and Type J power sockets, with a standard voltage of 230V and a frequency of 50Hz. Travellers from Australia will need a plug adapter and may also require a voltage converter for certain appliances. It is advisable to carry a universal travel adapter to ensure compatibility with various socket types.

Medical Advice and Vaccinations

While no vaccinations are required for entry into Rwanda, it’s recommended to be up to date on routine vaccinations and consider vaccinations for diseases such as hepatitis A, typhoid, and yellow fever. Malaria is prevalent in Rwanda, so travellers should take appropriate precautions, including antimalarial medication and mosquito repellent. It is crucial for travellers to consult with a healthcare professional or a specialized travel clinic well in advance of their trip to receive personalized medical advice and recommended vaccinations.

Language Spoken and Use of English

The official languages of Rwanda are Kinyarwanda, French, and English. English is widely spoken, especially in tourist areas and among the younger population, making it relatively easy for English-speaking travellers to communicate. However, it can also be beneficial to learn a few common local phrases in Kinyarwanda, the national language, to enhance cultural interactions and show respect for the local customs.

Customs and Cultural Awareness

Rwanda has a rich cultural heritage, and it is important for travellers to be aware of and respectful towards local customs and traditions. Some key customs to keep in mind include greeting others with a handshake, respecting elders, and dressing modestly in public places. Additionally, it is customary to ask for permission before taking photographs of local people or their homes. It is also essential to respect wildlife and adhere to responsible tourism practices, including maintaining a safe distance from animals and following the instructions of guides and rangers.

Be careful when taking photos. It’s illegal to photograph government buildings. Also note, plastic bags are banned and officials may fine you for having them.

Top Tips for travelling in Rwanda

  • Book gorilla trekking permits well in advance, as they are limited and tend to sell out quickly.
  • Respect local customs and traditions, including dress codes and etiquette when visiting religious sites and cultural attractions.
  • Stay hydrated and wear sunscreen, as Rwanda’s high altitude and equatorial climate can result in strong sun exposure.
  • Embrace the concept of “pole pole” (slowly slowly) and take your time to savour the beauty and tranquillity of Rwanda’s landscapes and experiences.
  • Engage with local communities and support sustainable tourism initiatives to make a positive impact during your visit.

To discover more about Rwanda, visit the tourism board Visit Rwanda website –

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