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About Rwanda

GENERAL INFORMATION

THE LAND OF A 1000 HILLS AND HOME OF THE MOUNTAIN GORILLAS

Known as the ”Land of Thousand Hills”, Rwanda boasts undulating green landscapes of hills, Africa’s largest protected rain forest, Volcanoes, coffee and tea plantations. It is Home to one third of the World’s remaining Mauntan Gorillas,fourteen species of Primates, one third of Africa’s bird species, Four National Parks, including Akagera , a big game safari Park with resorts and islands on the expansive Lake Kivu, graceful dancers, artistic crafts, the amazing annual event Kwita Izina(Naming of Baby Gorillas) Ceremony and the friendliest of people. Rwanda also has a rich culture that includes captivating music and dance, a growing contemporary art industry and wonderful crafts including pottery, basketry, painting, jewelry, woodcarving and metalwork. A window into Rwanda’s history is provided by the many Memorial Sites and Museums preserved around the Country.

Rwanda is landlocked Republic country 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:Congo River and numerous rivers, some forming the source of the River Nile. The country lies 75 miles south of the equator in the Tropic of Capricorn, 880 miles ’as the crow flies’ west of the Indian Ocean and 1,250 miles east of the Atlantic Ocean - literally in the heart of Africa. Rwanda is bordered by Uganda to the north, Tanzania to the east, Burundi to the south and the democratic republic of Congo to the west.Much of the country’s area is impressively mountainous.Rwanda has five volcanoes , the highest peak being Karisimbi(4,507m) in the volcanic Virunga Chain protected by Volcanoes National Park.Rwanda has also  twenty-three lakes as well as several rivers and the largest body of water is Lake Kivu,but numerous other lakes are dotted around the country, notably Muhazi lake, twins lakes(Buerera and Ruhondo), Lake Ihema and Mugesera in the southwest, some of which have erratic shapes following the contours of the steep mountains that enclose them.
In prehistoric times as much as one third of Rwanda was covered with montain rainforest. Today the only large tract of forest left in Rwanda is Nyungwe in the southwestern part of the country; it covers almost 1000 square kilometers. Some areas of forest are also found in the Volcanoes National Park in the northeast, but most of the natural vegetation here is bamboo forest and open moorland.The highlands in large parts of the country are now dominated by the terraced agriculture that gives the Rwandan countryside its beautiful and pleasant character. The eastern part of Rwanda has entirely different vegetation, the typical African bush, a mix of savannah and grassland dominated by acacia trees as well as
RWANDA AT A GLANCE
Capital
(and largest city)
Kigali
1°56.633′S 30°3.567′E
Official language(s) Kinyarwanda, French,English,Kiswahili. In most tourist centers, English is spoken. French is widely spoken throughout the country.
Demonym Rwandan, Rwandese
Government Republic
     President Paul Kagame
     Prime Minister Dr Ngirente Edouard
 Independence from Belgium
Date July 1, 1962
Area
Total Area 26,338 km2
10,169 sq mi
Water (%) 5.3
Population (2012)                                                                    10,537,222
Density 400.07/km2
1,029.9/sq mi
GDP per capita $644
Currency Rwandan franc (RWF)
Time zone CAT/UTC+2/+2GMT
Drives on the right
ISO 3166 code RW
Internet TLD .rw
Calling code
Natural resources                                                          Tin, gold and natural gas
+250
 .Elevation; 1000 - 4500 meters above sea level
. Vegetation; from equatorial forest in northwest to savanna in the east
. Land use; 48% agriculture use, 23% forest, 20% grazing land, 9% other
. Main exports; Coffee & Tea
. Credit cards; Only accepted at few major establishments
GEOGRAPHY

Geography

Land Area: 26,338 square Kilometers.
Population: 10,537,222 (2012).

Rainfall: Rainy seasons: March - May and October - November(Average of 110-200 mm. per month).

Average Temperature: 24.6 - 27.6ºc. Hottest months: August, September.
Altitude: Ranges from 1000-4500m above sea level.
Main water bodies: Lake Kivu, Lake Muhazi, Lake Ihema, Lake Bulera, Lake Ruhondo, Lake Mugesera.
Vegetation: ranges from dense equatorial forest in the north-west of the country to tropical savannah in the east.
Main National Parks/Animal Reserves: Nyungwe, Akagera and Virunga Volcanoes National Parks.

Anyone visiting ’the land of a thousand hills’ is in for a multitude of surprises. The loveliness and variety of the landscapes in this ’green country’ is dominated to the north by volcanoes and bordered by Lake Kivu to the west. In Rwanda the great animals of the wild are protected from poachers and roam free in the vast national parks. The Volcanoes National park in the Virunga volcanic mountains with its high altitude forests, are world famous for mountain gorillas - timid and passive family oriented giants - which is teeming with wildlife both large and small, while Lake Kivu to the west offers beautiful beaches, jutting pennisulas and an archipelago of islands.

ABOUT CLIMATE IN RWANDA

Rwanda has a temperature climate with temperatures of 25-30ºc during the day and 15ºc at the night throughout the year. Nights can be Chilly in Nyungwe National Park and the volcanoes National Park. Most parts of the Country receive in excess of 1,000mm of rainfall. Rwanda experiences two rainy seasons:the long rains between February to June and the short rains between mid-September to mid-December. Dry months are January, July and August to mid-September. The Country can be visited throughout the year.

RWANDA ECONOMY

Radical reforms which have made it easier for businesses to get credit, pay taxes, starting a business have boosted Rwanda’s ratings in the World Bank’s ‘Doing Business Report’.

Rwanda is the most improved economy worldwide since 2005 (World Bank Doing Business Report 2014 ).

It came in 32nd out 189 countries as per 2014 Word Bank Doing Business Report

In 2013, the World Bank Doing Business report reflects Rwanda the 2nd easiest to do business in Africa after Mauritius.

Rwanda is the easiest country to do business in East Africa

WHEN TO VISIT RWANDA

Rwanda can be visited any time of the year even during the rainy seasons as the scenery then is greener and the skies are clearer. The wet seasons season is the best time to trek chimpanzees in Nyungwe forest as they during dry season's wander further away into the forest and consequently are harder to spot.

As there are two rainy seasons. The long rains from mid February to beginning of June and the short rains from mid September to mid December. Although it can be raining quite heavily in the mountains these periods, it is no problem to travel these periods either. The main dry season lasts from June to September and is the best time to trek the gorillas in Volcanoes National Park. It is also worth noting that with the above mentioned, the climate is not uniform throughout the country. It is drier in the east than in the west and north. Sometimes the volcanoes can even be capped in snow. Kigali and Volcanoes National Park can become rather chilly. The areas around Lake Kivu are generally rather sunny and pleasant all year round.

MOUNTAIN GORILLAS

There are only 750 Critical Endengered Mountain Gorillas remaining in their natural habitat. These habitats are in Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo. Mountain Gorillas are found in the high altitude forests surrounding these volcanoes. These gentle giants reside in their misty mountain home. Presently, Rwanda not only enjoys the best security in the region but also has the easiest access routes for visiting the mountain gorillas. There are currently 7 habituated gorilla families that can be visited: In order to minimize behavioral disturbances to the gorillas, only 8 people are allowed to visit each of the families and for a period not exceeding 1hour. This means that only 56 people are allowed in the park daily. The limits serve to protect gorillas from the risk of exposure to human- borne diseases.

HEALTH

Practical health tips when traveling to the warm heart of Africa, the home of mountain Gorillas. Rwanda is a pleasant country to visit and does not present any major health hazards. The main towns have hospitals although for any serious problems Kigali is the best place to get a help. All towns normally have a well-stocked pharmacy although the individual traveler should bring any known personal medication along.

As one always should when traveling to any remote area, it is wise to consult your doctor 6-8 weeks prior to departure for updated advice on health care and precautions. It is strongly recommended to up date personal immunization protection for tetanus, polio, diphtheria, hepatitis A and typhoid. Yellow fever vaccination is required for all visitors over 1 year of age and as the vaccination is not valid until 10 days after vaccination it is important to have this done in good time as this will be checked upon arrival to Rwanda. This dangerous virus is spread by mosquitoes and is on the increase in the world.

Malaria is less prevalent in Rwanda than in many other African countries but as it does exist in some parts of Rwanda using prophylactic drugs and preventing mosquito bites will reduce the risk of getting malaria. Lariam / Mefloquine and Malarone are currently the 2 most commonly used prophylactics but medical advice should always be sought by the individual prior to departure. Persons with certain medical conditions should not take Mefloquine. It is also important to try and avoid mosquito bites between dusk and dawn, as this is the period when the malaria-carrying mosquito is most active.

 

HELPFUL EQUIPMENTS

Useful advice on recommended equipment when trekking and traveling through the land of a 1000 hills! Personal trekking equipment

The following is a suggested list of items to bring along, specifically if your safari includes trekking the gorillas and / or the chimpanzees. It is highly recommended that visitors prepare themselves and attain a reasonable level of physical fitness prior to doing a trek, as the terrain is mountainous and at times fairly steep.

During periods of rainfall the terrain can be muddy and slippery.
. Good, waterproof hiking footwear.

 .Good grip soles important.
. Change of shoes, suggested comfortable sports shoes, Hiking shoes or similar
. Comfortable socks & T-shirts
. Raincoat or rain poncho, preferably also covering head.
. Long trousers / jeans of good quality to protect against stinging nettles
. Long sleeved summer jacket for nettle protection and a sweater for chilly evenings
. "Day back pack" to carry change of T-shirt, socks, sweets, camera, raincoat, snacks etc Camera with plenty   of light sensitive film, for digital cameras extra memory card! Hat and high level sunscreen
. Water container
. Sweets, chocolates etc
. Walking stick (can also be arranged locally)
. Re-hydration mixture, paracetamol and any personal medication
ABOUT THE CAPITAL KIGALI

Rwanda's capital is beautifully located on a number of hills. It is conveniently located in the center of the country and is well connected with good roads to all boarder crossings. As such it is a good base for safaris to all the places of interest in Rwanda. The population of Kigali has since independence grown from 25,000 to an estimated 600,000.

Although not very many attractions are found here it is one of Africa's safest cities and the atmosphere is pleasant. There are full  internet connection 4 G, several good hotels with Wifi and restaurants well worth a visit. The visitor can join a very interesting city tour and however horrific, a visit to the genocide museum is a sobering experience and as well recommended.

There are a number of good bars and nightclubs, which however safe and fun offer the same hazards as such establishments do worldwide. Normal caution and care should be taken when visiting such places anywhere in the world.

MONEY AND CREDIT CARDS

Come prepared - how to make the financial aspect smooth during your visit.

The local currency is the "Rwanda Franc" and there are several denominations up to RwFr 5000. Be careful, as some older and newer notes are rather similar.

There are several foreign exchange bureaus in Kigali offering similar rates, the most widely accepted currencies are US$, Euro and to a certain extent also French Francs and Sterling Pounds. There is also an exchange bureau at Kigali International airport.

Sometimes Banks do not open during the weekend and once opened queues can be long and rather slow. For fast and efficient money transfers there are several Western Union offices in Kigali and most other towns have at least one Western Union office.

Few establishments accept credit cards so be careful to check this before running up a bill at for example restaurants. Major hotels, restaurants and lodges do although accept some credit cards, sometimes with an extra charge added on tope of the bill. Travelers cheques are not recommended as they are not widely accepted and if you do decide to bring some of your travel budget in travelers cheques it is very important to bring all documents related to them including the purchase receipt, you will not be able to change travelers cheques if you do not have all related purchase documents as well as a valid, internationally accepted personal identification.

RWANDA TRAVEL TIPS

Money and currency:

Rwanda’s unit of currency is the Rwandese Franc (RWF),  Notes are in denominations of RWF 500, 1,000, 2000, and 5000, while coins are RWF 1, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100.

It is recommended to travel with US dollars as most banks and Forex Bureaus do not accept traveler’s cheques in exchange for cash.

Only banks, Forex Bureaus, hotels and lodges are authorized dealers as recommended by the company to change money. US$ bills produced before 2000 are not accepted, while those produced between 2001 – 2005 will fetch a lower exchange rate same as small bills (5, 10, 20) at 650 RWF.

Credit cards are usually accepted at major hotels, souvenirs shops and shopping malls in Rwanda. (Except local markets.)

Kenya, Tanzania/Uganda currency is not accepted here, but can be exchanged only in local banks and Forex Bureaus. Visitors may import an unlimited amount of foreign exchange.

It is advisable to pay your extra bills and check out the night before you depart from a hotel or lodge to avoid long delays in the morning.

Language: Kinyarwanda is the National language, while French and English and Swahili are official languages. English  is widely spoken throughout the country.

Gorilla Permits: Gorilla Permits are the single most demanded item in Rwanda. Purchase of Gorilla Permits needs to be arranged well in advance through your local tour operator. The Single sales agent for permits is at the Rwanda Development Board Office at the Kigali headquarters.

General Clothing:

Safaris are informal and casual dress in comfortable lightweight cottons is appropriate.

A hat and a pair of sunglasses are advisable for protection against the sun

Laundry can be done at most lodges, but please make sure you hand in you laundry requirement at least a day before departure. Note: express laundry facilities might not be available in all hotels/lodges.

Light comfortable shoes such as sneakers or lightweight hiking boots are recommended

Be prepared for cool evenings at higher altitudes of Virunga Mountains and Nyungwe, where you may need a sweater and trousers/jeans.

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