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Rwanda

If you’re travelling to Rwanda, our travel advice and updates give you practical tips and useful information.

Get travel and medical insurance

Before travelling, the Department strongly recommends that you obtain comprehensive travel insurance which will cover all overseas medical costs, including medical repatriation/evacuation, repatriation of remains and legal costs. You should check any exclusions and, in particular, that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.

Overview

Security Status

We advise you to take normal precautions in Rwanda.

If you are travelling near the DRC/Rwanda and Burundi/Rwanda borders, we advise you to exercise a high degree of caution.

Latest alert

Rwanda is generally safe and crime levels are relatively low. However, there have been reports of burglary, theft and mugging in Kigali. You should take precautions with valuables and remain vigilant.

The eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) remains volatile, and the situation in Burundi has also become volatile with increased tensions and violence related to the ongoing political crisis. There’s a continuing risk that the security situation in the region could deteriorate rapidly. You should remain alert to the possibility of military incursions, stray bullets and/or artillery fire entering Rwanda if you’re near the DRC border. 

Emergency assistance

Because there is no Irish Embassy or Consulate in Rwanda, we’re limited in the help we can offer you in an emergency. The best help is often close at hand so if you have problems, try talking to your local contacts, tour operator representative or hotel management. 

If there is an emergency, or if you need help and advice, you can contact the Irish Embassy in Kampala in Uganda or our Consular Assistance Unit at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Dublin on +353 1 408 2000.

Other EU embassies

You can also contact the Embassies or Consulates of other EU countries for emergency consular assistance, advice and support.

Our tips for safe travels

  • Purchase comprehensive travel insurance which covers all your intended activities
  • Add an alert for your destination within the Travelwise App.
  • Register your details with us so that we can contact you quickly in an emergency, such as a natural disaster or a family emergency
  • Follow us on twitter @dfatravelwise for the latest travel updates
  • Read our Topical ‘Know Before You Go’ guide

 

Safety and security

Practical advice

  • Get advice locally about areas of risk and security concerns
  • Take common-sense precautions about safety and security
  • Know who to contact in case of an emergency

Border areas

Irish citizens should exercise caution when travelling near the Rwanda-DRC border given the possibility of fighting there. You should be alert to the possibility of incursions, stray bullets or artillery fire entering Rwanda. There are many points where the border is not marked.

Take care not to cross the border unintentionally at any of these points. The border crossings between Rwanda and the DRC at Gisenyi/Goma and Cyangugu/Bukavu are currently open between 6am and 6pm. Both borders are liable to short notice closure and you shouldn’t rely on them as points of exit from DRC. If you are crossing regularly between Rwanda and the DRC you may encounter immigration difficulties if you have not regularized your residency status.

Take care when travelling near the border with Burundi due to instability and the risk of banditry.

Parc National des Volcans

It’s safe to visit gorillas or climb volcanoes in Parc National des Volcans as long as you are part of an organised tour. You should note that the park authorities only permit gorilla trekking that is undertaken as part of an organised tour.

Terrorism

Although the threat from terrorism in Rwanda is low, there is still a global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be against civilian targets, including places frequented by tourists and expatriates.

Grenade attacks

Since 2011, there have been a number of grenade attacks throughout Rwanda, mainly in Kigali and Musanze. There were 2 grenade attacks in Musanze, northern Rwanda, in January 2014. There were 2 grenade attacks in Kicukiro market in Kigali in September 2013. There were also grenade attacks in Nyabugogo market in Kigali in July 2013 and on Kimironko taxi park in Kigali in March 2013. The attacks resulted in fatalities and a large number of injuries. Although there have been no grenade attacks for over 18 months, further indiscriminate attacks cannot be ruled out, including in places frequented by foreigners. You should remain vigilant.

Crime

While levels of crime are relatively low in Rwanda, there has been an increase in petty theft. Always take sensible precautions: 

  • Don’t carry your credit card, travel tickets and money together - leave spare cash and valuables in a safe place. 
  • Don’t carry your passport unless absolutely necessary and leave a copy of your passport (and travel and insurance documents) with family or friends at home.
  • Avoid showing large sums of money in public and don’t use ATMs after dark, especially if you’re alone. Check no one has followed you after conducting your business.
  • Avoid dark and unlit streets and stairways, and arrange to be picked up or dropped off as close to your hotel or apartment entrance as possible.
  • Keep a close eye on your personal belongings and hold on to them in public places such as internet cafés, train and bus stations.

Reporting crime

If you’re a victim of a crime while in Rwanda, report it to the local police immediately. And you can contact us at our Embassy in Kampala in Uganda if you need help.

Driving

If you’re planning to drive in Rwanda, you should be careful. Avoid road travel after dark as roads are unlit and driving standards are poor. The road infrastructure from Kigali to all major towns is generally good but roads can be narrow and winding.

If you want to drive:

  • Bring your full Irish driver’s licence and your international driving permit and make sure you have adequate and appropriate insurance
  • Note that driving is on the right side
  • Keep your vehicle doors locked and your bags kept out of sight to prevent opportunistic theft
  • Be careful during the annual rains in late spring and autumn. Roads may become impassable for anything but four-wheel-drive vehicles. There may be landslides or floods on some of the major roads

Hiring a vehicle

If you’re hiring a vehicle, we advise you not to hand over your passport as a form of security. If you’re allowing your passport to be photocopied, keep it in your sight at all times.

Check that you have adequate insurance and read the small print of the vehicle hire contract (particularly any waiver that will come into effect if the vehicle is damaged).

Public transport

We strongly advise against taking shared taxis or motorbike taxis due to the high rate of accidents.

 

Local laws and customs

Remember, the local laws apply to you as a visitor and it is your responsibility to follow them. Be sensitive to local customs, traditions and practices as your behaviour may be seen as improper, hostile or may even be illegal.

Photography

Photography of public buildings is prohibited. 

Plastic bags

Plastic bags are banned in Rwanda and any visible bags may be confiscated on arrival.

Natural disasters and climate

Rainy seasons

During the two rainy seasons (February to May and September to December), Rwanda frequently experiences intense thunderstorms. Landslides and floods are also common during these seasons. If you’re travelling to or living in Rwanda, monitor regional weather forecasts and always follow local authorities’ instructions about security and evacuation.

Earthquakes

The last recorded earthquakes in Bukavu (eastern DRC) and Cyangugu in south-west Rwanda were in 2008. Both caused a number of fatalities. If you’re travelling to Rwanda, make sure you find out from local contacts or your hotel what you should do in the event of an earthquake.

Additional information

Yellow fever certificates

You may be asked for your yellow fever vaccination certificate when you are checking in for your flight to Rwanda and/or on arrival at Kigali International Airport.

Passports

It’s advisable to take a number of photocopies of your passport with you when travelling to Rwanda and you should carry a photocopy of your passport at all times during your stay. Your passport should be valid for at least 6 months from the date of entry into Rwanda. You will need one blank page on your passport for entry stamps.

Health

Check with your doctor well in advance of travelling to see what vaccinations you need for Rwanda.

Only limited medical facilities are available in Rwanda. In the event of serious accident or illness evacuation by air ambulance to Kenya or South Africa may be required. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.

There is a high risk of malaria in all areas of Rwanda, including Kigali.

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 112 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.

More advice

Ireland doesn’t have an Embassy or Consulate in Rwanda so we can’t verify detailed travel advice to ensure that it’s accurate, appropriate and up to date. However, we encourage you to conduct your own research and to read these links to travel advice from other foreign ministries: