I found myself instantly loving Rwanda’s capital city of Kigali. Driving from the airport I saw a very pretty and clean city. Kigali is home to over 740,000 Rwandans and is surrounded by green hills. When we were there we were told that Kigali is one of cleanest and safest cities in Africa; I certainly always felt safe and comfortable.
We were spending a short time in Kigali on our way to Uganda. There, we would be visiting Bwindi National Park to see the Mountain Gorillas. Originally the plan was to see the Gorillas in Rwanda’s Volcanoes national park, but last year the government increased the permit prices to $1,500USD per day and Uganda stayed the same at $750USD. So when Bwindi NP was only a couple of extra hours of driving, it only made sense for us to cross the border.
We stayed one night at 2000 Hotel Downtown Kigali. The room only cost 67USD for the night but I did expect more from it. I think the photos on the booking site made it look fancier than what it actually was, the bathroom definitely needs some upkeep. But for one night it was fine, the bed was comfortable and we had great city views. I was happy with the location too, within walking distance to a few restaurants.
Nearly everyone we came across could speak fluent English so communicating was never a problem, although we did find ourselves a bit confused at times after receiving very vague directions.
Budget for the day:
I didn’t find Kigali expensive at all, a few basic expenses to give you an idea:
- Beer 1,000Franc
- Main Meals start from 4,000Franc
- Taxi (from our hotel to the Genocide Memorial return, approximately 3km) 5,000Franc
Kigali Genocide Memorial
The genocide memorial was the one place I really wanted to visit while in Kigali. I knew a bit about the genocide before arriving but not to this degree! It’s so hard to comprehend that one of humanities great tragedies happened in my life time. The intense brutality that thousands of innocent people received is devastating.
The memorial is a very beautiful and peaceful place and without a tour, you can enter for free (there is a donation box by the door though). Each room displays exhibits explaining the tribes’ histories and events that unfolded. Every room is as powerful as the next; I’d never been to a memorial before where I literally read every story and piece of information. As tears were running down my face I couldn’t believe that the world around Rwanda took a step back as this 100 day massacre took place. I appreciated the honesty of the memorial and all the survivors who donated photos and shared their story.
As emotional as it was, I do think it’s somewhere you definitely need to visit while in Kigali.
The rest of the day was spent wandering the streets and taking photos.
Drive to the Ugandan border:
The drive from Kigali to the Cyanika border crossing took approximately 2.5 hours, along a smooth tarred Road. We left Kigali at 8am on the Sunday morning and there was basically no traffic in the city. As we drove up and down hills it was clear to see why Rwanda has the name “land of a thousand hills”. It was a beautiful drive with so much to see. I felt at home too, with some sections of the road lined with Australian Eucalyptus trees.
Once we got to the border it was a reasonably easy process and took about 25 minutes. The border is crossed by foot and there are three check points you’ll need to stop at, we were the only white people there so we goSt plenty of stares but everyone was very friendly.
All up I wouldn’t say there is heaps to do in Kigali but you could definitely fill a couple of days. I did love my time there, a beautiful city filled with beautiful souls.
As I mentioned above the main reason I was visiting this part of the world was to see the Mountain Gorillas. The experience I had in Uganda was ridiculously amazing and if you click here you can read all about it.