Tourists are usually welcomed warmly in Rwanda, and the country is largely considered safe for visitors. The possible exceptions are certain places along the Congolese and Burundian borders. Rwandan troops rumoured to be involved in the civil war that still plagues the northeast of Democratic Republic of the Congo, mainly due to the presence of Interhamwe who fled after the 1994 genocide. Gisenyi and Kibuye are considered safe, but the border situation can change at any time: check Foreign Office information and local sources for further advice.
Gorilla trekking near to the DRC border is generally considered safe, due to the large and continuous Rwandan army presence.
While travelling in matutus taxis in the countryside, don't be surprised if the matutu drives through several police/military check-points. This is done to check IDs, car registration and insurance, so it would be wise to bring at least a photocopy of passport with you everywhere you go in Rwanda.
The following is an excerpt from the U.S. State Department's Consular Information Sheet on Rwanda, last updated on 1-12-2006:
Medical and dental facilities are limited, and some medicines are in short supply or unavailable. Travelers should bring their own supplies of prescription drugs and preventive medicines. In Kigali, Americans may go to King Faycal Hospital, a private facility that offers limited services. There is also a missionary dental clinic in Kigali staffed by an American dentist. An American-operated missionary hospital with some surgical facilities is in Kibagora, in southwestern Rwanda. Another hospital with American physicians is in Ruhengeri, near the gorilla trekking area, and a Chinese hospital is in southeastern Rwanda in Kibungo. There is also a very good hospital near Lac Muhazi, where even people from Kigali go to. The U.S. Embassy maintains a current list of healthcare providers and facilities in Rwanda. This list is included in the Consular Sectionâs welcome packets for American citizens. There are periodic outbreaks of meningitis in Rwanda. Yellow fever can cause serious medical problems, but the vaccine, required for entry, is very effective in preventing the disease.HIV/AIDS is high among adults at 9% or 1 in 11. Practice safe sex. Avoid intravenous drug use.
Office Rwandaise du Tourisme et des Parcs Nationaux ORTPNStreet Address: Boulevard de la RÃ©volution no 1, Kigali, RwandaPostal Address: BP 905, Kigali, RwandaTel: 250 576 514 or 250 573 396 (http://www.rwandatourism.com)
Embassy of the Republic of Rwanda in Canada53 Gilmour Street, Ottawa, ON K2P 0N8, CanadaTel: 613 569-5420 (http://www.ambarwaottawa.ca)
Embassy of the Republic of Rwanda in the UK120-22 Seymour Place, London W1H 1NR, UKTel: 020 7224 9832 (http://www.ambarwanda.org.uk)
Embassy of the Republic of Rwanda in the USA1714 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20009, USATel: 202 232 2882 (http://www.rwandaembassy.org)
Kinyarwanda is the chief spoken language in Rwanda. It is also spoken in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo and in the south of Uganda Bufumbira-area. Kinyarwanda is a tonal language of the Bantu language family Guthrie D61. Kinyarwanda is closely related to Kirundi spoken in the neighboring country Burundi and to Giha of western Tanzania.
English and French are also official languages, and many residents particularly in urban areas will speak one or the other in addition to Kinyarwanda.
Due to the mass movement of people over the past fifty years, a result of the country's war torn history, you will likely encounter several people who speak a handful of other languages spoken in the East African region Kiswahili, Lingala, Luganda.... Most traders in Rwanda will speak enough Kiswahili to make a sale.
Rwanda is a very conservative society; most people dress modestly, especially women. Wearing shorts or tight skirts and skimpy tops is likely to get you stared at twice as much as normal.
It is unusual for a couple to make public displays of affection, even though many men walk hand in hand with male friends. Also, Rwandans will generally never eat or drink in public, apart from restaurants. Rwandan women are rarely seen smoking in public or out in bars unaccompanied.
Although there is no smoking ban in most public places like bars and restaurants, generally it's not encouraged. Sometimes people may complain of being disturbed with your smoking.
Rwandans are very private, reserved people and loud public confrontations shouting matches or obvious displays of emotion such as crying are also frowned upon. If you feel you are being overcharged by a trader, quietly persisting with the negotiation or your complaint! is likely to produce results much faster than an angry outburst!
It is also impolite to make eye contact with an elder.
Please understand that Rwanda is still recovering from a civil war and genocide in which over 800,000 people, perhaps a million, were killed. Many Rwandese lost relatives and friends. Remember to be sensitive to this sad fact when dealing with Rwandese. Most people today are trying to forget the tribal divisions and would rather be referred to as Rwandese than Hutu or Tutsi. It is considered impolite to ask someone about their ethnic origin.
There is not much political discourse in Rwanda, unlike in many neighboring countries such as Uganda and Kenya where people talk freely about the government and political issues, people in Rwanda will be uncomfortable if asked about their views or even if seated at a table where national politics is discussed.