Rwanda is a landlocked country located in Equatorial Africa, situated on the eastern rim of the Albertine Rift, a western arm of the Great Rift Valley, on the watershed between Africa's two largest river systems: the Nile and the Congo. Much of the country's land 26,338 km2 is impressively mountainous, the highest peak being Karisimbi (4,507m) in the volcanic Virunga chain protected by the Volcanoes National Park. The largest body of water is Lake Kivu, but there are other lakes around the country, such as Burera, Ruhondo, Muhazi and Mugesera, some of which have erratic shapes following the contours of the steep mountains that enclose them.
Primarily a subsistence agriculture economy, Rwanda nonetheless produces for export some of the finest tea and coffee in the world. Other industries include sugar, fishing and flowers for export.
All international flights arrive at Kigali International Airport, just 10 Km from central Kigali. International flights arriving in Kigali are with SN Brussels, Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, Air Burundi and Rwandair Express.
There are two direct flights from Brussels by SN Brussels Airlines. Rwandair Express has introduced two flights a day from Nairobi (Kenya) and Entebbe (Uganda), and two per week from Johannesburg. Rwandair also has daily flights to Bujumbura and 3 flights weekly to Kilimanjaro.Rwandair Express also now flys thrice a week to Rubavu (Gisenyi-Rwanda) every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday.
PASSPORT AND VISAS:
A valid passport with visa is mandatory. In view of the bilateral agreements, nationals of the following countries may visit Rwanda without visa for a period up to 90 days: USA, UK, Germany, Canada, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sweden, Mauritius, South Africa and Hong Kong. Visas can be applied for online or bought upon arrival.
The unit of currency is the Rwanda franc. The US dollar is the hard currency of preference. It may be impossible to exchange travellers' cheques away from the capital. Credit cards are usually only accepted at the major hotels in Kigali.
Kinyarwanda, French and English are official languages. French is widely spoken throughout the country. In the capital and other tourist centres, many people speak English.
Good Friday and Easter Monday, which fall on variable dates, are recognised in Rwanda. Other public holidays are :
1 January (New Year's Day);
1 February (National Heroes Day);
7 April (Genocide Memorial Day);
1 May (Labour Day);
1 July (Independance Day);
4 July (National Liberation Day);
15 August (Assumption Day);
1 October (Patriotism Day);
25 December (Christmas Day), and
26 December(Boxing Day).
WHEN TO VISIT:
Rwanda is a country that is visited throughout the year. Gorilla trekking and other forest walks are less demanding during the drier months. The European winter is the best time for birds, as Palaearctic migrants supplement resident species.
WHAT TO WEAR:
Dress codes are informal. Daytime temperatures are generally warm, tourists are usually advised to carry lots of light clothing, supplemented by light sweaters for the cool evenings and heavier clothing for the Parc des Volcans and Nyungwe. When tracking gorillas, wear sturdier clothing to protect against stinging nettles, and solid walking shoes. A hat and sunglasses provide protection against the sun, and a waterproof jacket may come in handy in the moist mountains.
WHAT TO BRING:
Binoculars will greatly enhance game drives and forest walks, as will a good field guide to East African birds. Bring a camera and an adequate stock of film. Print film is available but transparency film is not. Toiletries and other essentials can be bought in the cities.
Rwanda has an excellent cell phone network covering almost the entire country.
International phone calls can be made easily. Appropriate SIM cards for the network are readily available everywhere, even in remote towns, and cell phones can be purchased or rented from major shops in Kigali. Most towns of any size will have several Internet cafes and computer centres.
Rwanda has possibly the best roads in East Africa. Most visitors who have booked through a tour company will be provided with good private vehicles, usually 4* 4 wheel drive. All of the major centres are connected with local and luxury bus services. Air charter services are available anywhere in the country.
HIKING AND BIKING:
The fine road network, with little traffic, offers wonderful opportunities for long bicycle trips across the verdant hills and valleys. Mountain biking and hiking can be enjoyed on the thousands of kilometres of fine rural trails linking remote villages, criss-crossing the entire country.
Gorilla Permits can be arranged by a travel operator, or can be purchased directly through the Office Rwandaise du Tourisme et des Parcs Nationaux (ORTPN) / The Rwanda Office of Tourism and National Parks, at the headquarters in Kigali, or at their office in Musanze.
SAFETY AND HEALTH
A certificate of yellow-fever vaccination is required. Much of Rwanda lies at too high an elevation for malaria to be a major concern, but the disease is present and prophylactic drugs are strongly recommended. It is advisable not to drink tap water. Bottled mineral water can be bought in all towns. Hospitals are located in all major towns.
SEASONS AND CLIMATE
A combination of tropical location and high altitude ensures that most of Rwanda has a temperate year-round climate. Temperatures rarely stray above 30 degrees Celsius by day or below 15 degrees Celsius at night throughout the year. The exceptions are the chilly upper slopes of the Virunga Mountains, and the hot low-lying Tanzania border area protected in Akagera National Park. Throughout the country, seasonal variations in temperature are relatively insignificant. Most parts of the country receive in excess of 1,000mm of precipitation annually, with the driest months being July to September and the wettest February to May.
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