Tourists are usually welcomed warmly in Rwanda, and the country is largely considered safe for visitors. Exceptions are certain places along borders of the DRC and Burundi. Rwandan troops or a militia may be involved in the civil war that still plagues the northeast of DRC, mainly due to the presence of Inherahamwe in Kinyarwanda/AKA 'Interahamwe' Hutu paramilitary.
They carried out the Rwandan Genocide acts against the Tutsis in 1994. The Interahamwe formed RTLM, the genocidal radio station which was used to broadcast where the Tutsis were fleeing. Interahamwe can be translated this way: Intera is derived from the verb gutera, meaning "to work". The hamwe means "together" and is related to the word rimwe for "one". "Work" was used as slang on racist radios - 'working'someone meant using the machete or killing.
Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines RTLM was a Rwandan radio station which broadcast from July 8, 1993 to July 31, 1994. It played a significant role during the April–July 1994 Rwandan Genocide.The station's name is French for "One Thousand Hills Free Radio and Television", deriving from the description of Rwanda as "Land of a Thousand Hills". It received support from the government-controlled Radio Rwanda, which initially allowed it to transmit using their equipment.
Widely listened to by the general population, it projected racist propaganda against Tutsis, moderate Hutus, Belgians, and the United Nations mission UNAMIR. It is widely regarded as having played a crucial role in creating the atmosphere of charged racial hostility that allowed the genocide to occur.
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.
On occasion, travel by U.S. Embassy personnel may be restricted based on changing security conditions. U.S. Embassy personnel are prohibited from driving outside Kigali city limits after dark 6:00 p.m., and are not permitted to use motorcycle-taxis or mini-bus taxis. Visitors are encouraged to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program at step.state.gov so that they will receive the latest security information. See Enrollment/Embassy Location section above. Messages sent to the U.S. citizen community are also posted on the U.S. Embassy website.
The Embassy urges you to remain vigilant, exercise caution, and avoid crowds, demonstrations, or any other form of public gathering, due to killings, injuries, and thrown hand grenades in crowds, last incident December 2012.
Gorilla trekking, usually through tour and safari groups, near the DRC border is generally considered safe, due to the large and continuous Rwandan army presence - check re: recent security alerts.
While travelling in twegerane taxis in the countryside, don't be surprised if the twegerane is stopped at 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 your passport with you everywhere you go in Rwanda.
Check the U.S. State Department's Consular Information Sheet on Rwanda for continuous information.
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. The U.S. Embassy maintains a current list of healthcare providers and facilities in Rwanda. This list is included in the Consular Section’s welcome packets for American citizens.
If you will be visiting an area of Rwanda with malaria, you will need to discuss with your doctor the best ways for you to avoid getting sick with malaria. The malaria risk is moderate in all regions per the CDC. Ways to prevent malaria include the following:Taking a prescription antimalarial drug.Using insect repellent and wearing long pants and sleeves to prevent mosquito bites.Sleeping in air-conditioned or well-screened rooms or using bednets.All of the following antimalarial drugs are options for preventing malaria in Rwanda: Atovaquone-proguanil, doxycycline, or mefloquine. Yellow fever is a risk; vaccination is recommended.Cholera outbreaks occur in Rwanda periodically; most recently in 2009.
Louse-borne typhus has occurred at epidemic levels.
Schistosomiasis may be acquired by swimming, wading, rafting, or bathing in contaminated fresh water. Swimming and bathing precautions are advised see below.
HIV human immunodeficiency virus infection is reported, but travelers are not at risk unless they have unprotected sexual contacts or receive injections or blood transfusions.
Other infections include:African trypanosomiasis sleeping sickness transmitted via the tsetse fly.Lymphatic filariasis elephantiasis,a tropical disease. Infection occurs when filarial parasites are transmitted to humans through mosquitoes.Onchocerciasis Onchocerciasis is often called "river blindness" because it is found often in fertile river deltas and causes blindness. The blackfly is the carrier.
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 language of the Bantu linguistic family. It 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.
Office Rwandaise du Tourisme et des Parcs Nationaux ORTPNStreet Address: Boulevard de la Révolution 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)
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.
Greetings are extremely important in Rwanda. It is impolite not to return a greeting or to start a conversation without a proper greeting. Younger persons must greet older persons first, and women greet men first. When being introduced for the first time or when greeting a professional colleague, Rwandans shake right hands and may place the left hand under the right forearm as a sign of respect. Some young urbanites “kiss the air” near each cheek while shaking hands.
Usual greetings include Muraho Hello, it's been a while, Mwaramutse Good morning, or Mwiriwe Good afternoon/evening. The initial greeting is usually followed by Amakuru? How's the news? or, among close friends, Bite se? How are things going?. The typical response is Ni meza Fine or Ni meza cyane Very fine.
Avoid eye contact with a superior or elder. The distance between people when they converse indicates their relationship: friends require little or no distance, while superiors must have more. Friends of the same sex often hold hands while walking or talking, but such public contact between members of the opposite sex is not appropriate.
Pass items to an older person with both hands. Rwandans toss their head to the side while uttering 'eh' to express disbelief, usually when they are listening to a personal experience. Pointing with the finger or hand is impolite; instead, the head is used, with the chin and mouth jutting in the direction indicated.
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 by your smoking.
Rwandans are very private, reserved people and loud public confrontations or obvious displays of emotion are frowned upon. If you feel you are being overcharged by a trader, quietly persistence is likely to produce results much faster than an angry outburst
Understand that Rwanda is recovering from a civil war and genocide in which approximately a million people were murdered. Many lost relatives and friends. Remember to be sensitive to this extreme tragedy when associating with people. Most people today are trying to forget. It is considered impolite to ask someone about their ethnic origin.
There is not much political discourse in Rwanda due to erupting violence, 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.