Backpacking Rwanda

Although Rwanda is one of the smallest countries in Africa and has experienced some serious crises in its recent history, it still is a worthwhile destination for backpackers. This holds particularly true for those who love to spend time surrounded by nature. Rwanda borders Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Uganda. Due to its warm Central African climate and diverse landscapes resulting from the country’s proximity to Lake Victoria, Rwanda attracts plenty of visitors. Besides vast jungles that are home to the last mountain gorillas, you can also explore the extensive Savannah or take a trip to one of Rwanda’s lively cities.

Enjoy exploring our ideal backpacking route for Rwanda.


Important Basics

Official languages

Kinyarwanda, French, English, Swahili

Basic vocabulary (Kinyarwanda)
YesYego
NoOya
Thank youMurakoze
HelloMwaramutse
GoodbyeMwirirwe
Capital city

Kigali

Form of government

Presidential republic

Telephone area code

+250

Currency

Rwanda Franc

Climate

ø Highest daily temperature: 26 to 28°C
ø Highest temperature at night: 15 to 16°C
Due to the country’s location near the equator, there are only marginal differences in temperature and no standard seasons.

Fun fact

The use of plastic bags is banned in the whole of Rwanda.

Cities

Kigali

Your trip begins in the capital city of Rwanda. In Kigali, you can visit various art galleries and enjoy the stunning view that you can get from the top of Mount Kigali. While in the city, you should definitely visit the Kigali Genocide memorial. Taking part in the museum tour allows you to learn all about the country's tragic history and is sure to leave you feeling quite emotional. As the Rwandan Genocide is part of the country’s more recent history, you also have the opportunity to meet and speak to first-hand witnesses at the museum.

The food in Rwanda is just as colourful as the country itself. You can choose between international cuisine, traditional Rwandan cuisine and a combination of the two. Make sure to plan for at least one day spent strolling through the streets and countless markets of the city.

Sleeping in a 6-person dormitory at a hostel will cost you €11 per night.

Musanze

For many visitors, this is the starting point for their adventure into gorilla country. The region does, however, have even more to offer. In the adjoining Volcanoes National Park, you can see not only mountain gorillas but also other primates, golden monkeys and countless species of birds. In addition, you can enjoy hiking on the surrounding volcanoes, marvel at some of the cave formations or spend the day by Lake Karago – the absolutely stunning nature there is sure to capture your heart and mind.

Pitching a tent on one of the hostel’s campsite will cost you €8 per night.

Lake Kivu

Lake Kivu is another highlight of any trip to Rwanda. Natural beauty surrounds the lake in abundance.

You can take your pick from a variety of seaside towns, each a welcoming spot for tourists. In Rubona/Gisenyi, you’ll find plenty of resorts that make for great places to relax. Boat tours, kayaking, hiking and bike rides are among the most popular activities to take part in while in the area. There’s also a public beach. Be sure to ask the locals about the current quality of the water and, if in doubt, don’t swim in the lake for too long. Take a stroll along the shore and visit a beach bar from which to enjoy the sunset with a drink in hand. The town, of course, also has a main market. While there, consider looking for a souvenir or two.

Spending the night in a 10-person dormitory at one of the hostels in town costs €20 a night.

Nyungwe

Nyungwe Forest is one of the oldest forests in Africa. The area’s rich diversity of wildlife, which also includes several colonies of chimpanzees, can be explored via 15 different routes that lead you through deep forests and towards stunning waterfalls. You can also book various safari trips that include several days of trekking. The 160 metres long suspension bridge, which runs high above the peaks of the national park at a height of 70 metres, is definitely a highlight of any trip to Nyungwe Forest. If you’re up for it, you could even spend an entire week here and still find something new to discover every day.

The hostels near Nyungwe National Park offer great accommodation. For €17 per night, you’ll be able to sleep in a single room that is located close to the forest.


Kigali

Kigali

Your trip begins in the capital city of Rwanda. In Kigali, you can visit various art galleries and enjoy the stunning view that you can get from the top of Mount Kigali. While in the city, you should definitely visit the Kigali Genocide memorial. Taking part in the museum tour allows you to learn all about the country's tragic history and is sure to leave you feeling quite emotional. As the Rwandan Genocide is part of the country’s more recent history, you also have the opportunity to meet and speak to first-hand witnesses at the museum.

The food in Rwanda is just as colourful as the country itself. You can choose between international cuisine, traditional Rwandan cuisine and a combination of the two. Make sure to plan for at least one day spent strolling through the streets and countless markets of the city.

Sleeping in a 6-person dormitory at a hostel will cost you €11 per night.

Musanze

Musanze

For many visitors, this is the starting point for their adventure into gorilla country. The region does, however, have even more to offer. In the adjoining Volcanoes National Park, you can see not only mountain gorillas but also other primates, golden monkeys and countless species of birds. In addition, you can enjoy hiking on the surrounding volcanoes, marvel at some of the cave formations or spend the day by Lake Karago – the absolutely stunning nature there is sure to capture your heart and mind.

Pitching a tent on one of the hostel’s campsite will cost you €8 per night.

Lake Kivu

Lake Kivu

Lake Kivu is another highlight of any trip to Rwanda. Natural beauty surrounds the lake in abundance.

You can take your pick from a variety of seaside towns, each a welcoming spot for tourists. In Rubona/Gisenyi, you’ll find plenty of resorts that make for great places to relax. Boat tours, kayaking, hiking and bike rides are among the most popular activities to take part in while in the area. There’s also a public beach. Be sure to ask the locals about the current quality of the water and, if in doubt, don’t swim in the lake for too long. Take a stroll along the shore and visit a beach bar from which to enjoy the sunset with a drink in hand. The town, of course, also has a main market. While there, consider looking for a souvenir or two.

Spending the night in a 10-person dormitory at one of the hostels in town costs €20 a night.

Nyungwe

Nyungwe

Nyungwe Forest is one of the oldest forests in Africa. The area’s rich diversity of wildlife, which also includes several colonies of chimpanzees, can be explored via 15 different routes that lead you through deep forests and towards stunning waterfalls. You can also book various safari trips that include several days of trekking. The 160 metres long suspension bridge, which runs high above the peaks of the national park at a height of 70 metres, is definitely a highlight of any trip to Nyungwe Forest. If you’re up for it, you could even spend an entire week here and still find something new to discover every day.

The hostels near Nyungwe National Park offer great accommodation. For €17 per night, you’ll be able to sleep in a single room that is located close to the forest.

Rwanda Route Map

Itinerary and Stops.

Tag
Route/Station
Transport
Unterkunft
1. Home - Kigali
Home - Kigali
Flight
230
Night (6-bed dorm)
11
2. Kigali
Kigali
-
Night (6-bed dorm)
11
3. Kigali – Musanze
Kigali – Musanze
Bus
4
Night (tent)
8
4. Musanze
Musanze
-
Night (tent)
8
5. Musanze
Musanze
-
Night (tent)
8
6. Musanze – Lake Kivu
Musanze – Lake Kivu
Bus
5
Night (10-bed dorm)
20
7. Lake Kivu
Lake Kivu
-
Night (10-bed dorm)
20
8. Lake Kivu
Lake Kivu
-
Night (10-bed dorm)
20
9. Lake Kivu – Nyungwe
Lake Kivu – Nyungwe
Bus
10
Night (single room)
17
10. Nyungwe
Nyungwe
-
Night (single room)
17
11. Nyungwe
Nyungwe
-
Night (single room)
17
12. Nyungwe – Kigali
Nyungwe – Kigali
Bus
7
Night (6-bed dorm)
11
13. Kigali
Kigali
-
Night (6-bed dorm)
11
14. Kigali – Home
Kigali – Home
Flight
230

Total price.

Flights 460,00
Transportation 26,00
Tours 0,00
Accommodation 179,00
Total665,00

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Dos and Donts, Food & Drinks, Costs.

Breakfast

Mandazi: A tasty treat made by frying dough in oil. They taste a bit like doughnuts and are sometimes also made with coconut milk.

Soups

Corn soup:  The classic puree made from corn flour is frequently also turned into a soup and flavoured with lots of spices.

Main courses

Brochette: Grilled meat on a skewer. Generally speaking, meat is a delicacy in Rwanda and, due to the high level of poverty among wide sections of the population, isn’t eaten daily.

Matoke: A puree made from plantains. This is a staple dish, sweet and unbelievably tasty.

Isombe: A puree made up of cornflour and cassava leaves. The cassava leaves make this a proper speciality, one most frequently eaten in the more rural areas of Rwanda.

Ibihaza: A dish that consists of cubed pumpkin and is served with beans.

Sambaza: These small, fried silverfish are commonly eaten as an appetizer. When served in combination with potatoes, they do, however, also make for a great main course.

Drinks and snacks

Urwaga: A traditional banana beer that is found most commonly in the more rural regions of Rwanda. It’s usually brewed at home. As one step of the process, the banana pulp is buried in the ground and allowed to ferment. Afterwards, millet flour is added.

Milk: A simple glass of milk is served with almost every meal. There are even designated milk bars in Rwanda.

Coffee: The coffee grown in Rwanda is among the best in the world. It, of course, tastes even better when you’re actually there!

Rwanda

The exchange rate for 100 Rwandan francs is around €0.09 (as of June 2020). See prices for certain products and the cost of living below:

Cost of living

Food

Free time

Personal hygiene

Dos

Be open and conversational: Rwandans are usually friendly and helpful people, so don’t let possible language barriers keep you from striking up a conversation. With just a little bit of patience and some creativity, you’ll eventually get your point across.

Go shopping: You’re sure to find something good at one of the numerous markets. They’re truly the ideal places to search for authentic souvenirs.

Try the cuisine: Go all out and try as much Rwandan food as you possibly can – you won’t regret it!

Don'ts

Expect everyone to speak English: Unfortunately, English isn’t that widely spoken in Rwanda. As such, it’s best to enter into conversations with a bit of caution and without assuming you’ll be understood.

Touch wild animals: During your stay in Rwanda, you’ll come across plenty of wild animals. Try not to get too close and definitely do not try to feed them.

Talk about politics: As is the case with many of the other countries in Africa, politics aren’t a particularly easy topic in Rwanda. Avoid bringing up politics and be especially careful not to sound like you are judging the country based on some of the events in its past.

Visa, Visa, Passport & Vaccinations

Passport

yes

Temporary passport

yes

National ID

no

Temporary national ID

no

Child’s pass

yes

Visa

yes

Vaccine

no

Additional Remarks.

We recommend researching the travel document, visa and entry requirements for your home country before your departure. If you travel to Rwanda, consult a health care provider before you leave to discuss vaccination requirements.

The team at Backpacker Trail wishes you lots of fun and an unforgettable trip!

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