Rwanda: A Clean, Green Country

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We arrived in Rwanda after a long but uneventful flight from San Francisco to Vancouver to Istanbul to Kigali. We feel like we’re back in our second home.

Kigali is the capital of this beautiful country, and it’s incredibly safe, clean, and green. We always come a couple days early before we start our group trips — to acclimate to the time difference, to unwind after such long plane journeys, and to just enjoy this city.  

Kigali is the obvious place to begin and end a journey around Rwanda, but it’s just one of the many things we love about this country. While our all-inclusive vegan trips to Rwanda focus on the food and culture — as with all of our trips — the emphasis here is on nature and wildlife. 

We traipse through the Nyungwe forest tracking wild chimpanzees, trek through the Volcanoes national park trekking for mountain gorillas and golden monkeys, honor the work of Dian Fossey, and we relish the green rolling hills throughout as we also spend a day at Lake Kivu. Many people are unaware that there is another national park here called Akagera, where you can enjoy a safari drive in the home of lions, giraffes, hippos — even rhinos. 

We’ll get to all of that, but let me answer some general questions I get about traveling to Rwanda.    

HOW SAFE A COUNTRY IS RWANDA? 

Rwanda is a very safe country, with virtually no crime directed at tourists.  Still, it’s a good idea to use common sense and not flash your wallet in public when in a city or at a market. Exercise the same common-sense precautions as you do back home, and you should be fine. But in general, it’s a very safe country, and — even as a woman — I walk around the city and countryside with no concerns.

WHY IS RWANDA SO CLEAN?

One of the main reasons Rwanda is so clean is because they made plastic bags ILLEGAL in 2008! Rwanda is one of the few countries that has imposed a ban on plastic bags, and they DO actively enforce it. (Most luggage is searched during your arrival at the airport at customs or baggage retrieval, and they will confiscate any plastic bags you bring in with you.) 

The other reason it is such a clean country is because of a monthly communal ritual called Umuganda, a Kinyarwanda word that translates to “coming together in common purpose to achieve an outcome.” You can read more about our experience of it here.

WHEN IS THE BEST TIME OF YEAR TO TRAVEL TO RWANDA?

Between December and February or June to September. These periods are when temperatures are more moderate and there is less rain. As an equatorial country with a rich primate habitat, rain can be expected daily, but that’s one of the reasons this country is so green and verdant!

WHAT IS THE WEATHER LIKE IN RWANDA?

Rwanda has a temperate tropical highland climate due to its high elevation.  Most of the country is located on a plateau, around 5,000 feet (1,500 meters) above sea level, so for most of the year, and despite being just south of the Equator, Rwanda enjoys pleasantly warm day temperatures and cool nights all year round! In November, for instance, daily high temperatures are around 25°C (78°F), rarely falling below 25°C (73°F) or exceeding 28°C (83°F). 

HOW DO YOU GET AROUND THE COUNTRY?

The most common forms of local transportation are moto-taxis and buses, though most tourists get around the country on small or private tours that often use minivans and sedans. On Joyful Vegan Trips, we work with Amahoro Tours, our partners on the ground, to transport us around in landrovers since we go to national parks (to visit the mountain gorillas and the chimpanzees), and the terrain requires more rugged vehicles. We have become friends with some of the drivers, and we look forward to seeing them whenever we visit.

WHAT IS THE INFRASTRUCTURE LIKE IN RWANDA? WATER, ELECTRICITY, WIFI, ETC.?

WATER: Tap water is NON-DRINKABLE in Rwanda. For this reason, bottled water is recommended. On our Joyful Vegan Trips, to cut down on plastic water bottle usage, we have large several-gallon water containers in all our vehicles so our travelers can fill up their reusable bottles. 

ELECTRICITY: In Rwanda, the power plugs and sockets are of type C and J. The standard voltage is 230 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz. 

WIFI: Internet reliability is generally good in Rwanda. All hotels have WIFI. On our trips, we provide WIFI on board all our vehicles, though connectivity and speeds vary while we’re driving through the countryside.

WHAT LANGUAGES ARE SPOKEN IN RWANDA?

The country has four official languages: Kinyarwanda, English, French, and Swahili. You will do just fine speaking English here, but as a visitor to any country, it’s nice to learn a few courtesy words and phrases. 

WHAT ARE THE CURRENT COVID PREVENTION MEASURES?

Rwanda currently requests Covid tests before entering any national park, of which we will visit 2 (Nyungwe National Forest and Volcanoes National Park), and prior to departure from the country. 

WHAT VACCINES ARE REQUIRED IN RWANDA?

There are no mandatory vaccinations required to enter Rwanda, though according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the following vaccinations are recommended for Rwanda: hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, yellow fever and rabies. Other recommended vaccines include meningitis, polio, measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis), chickenpox, shingles, pneumonia, and influenza. Most of these vaccines last for several years; some need boosting after a few. Just check with your medical professional. 

IS MALARIA A CONCERN IN RWANDA?

Malaria is endemic in Rwanda. Antimalarials are the best protection against infection. Be sure to use mosquito repellents as a second barrier against the disease. Like with the above vaccines, it’s up to the individual traveler whether or not you want to take any anti-malaria medication, and again, it’s a good idea to consult your medical professional. 

HOW VEGAN-FRIENDLY IS RWANDA?

I have lots to share about the food in Rwanda, and of course on our trips, we ensure our travelers are spoiled with incredible cuisine, but the short answer is Rwanda is incredibly vegan-friendly. I often quip that everyone says they don’t eat a lot of meat, dairy, and eggs, but in Rwanda, it’s actually true. Most Rwandans don’t eat meat more than a few times a month (and when they do, it’s a small amount), and the typical diet consists of sweet potatoes, beans, corn, peas, millet and fruit. Of course, in a cosmopolitan city such as Kigali, international cuisine abounds.  

More soon on the food, gorillas, national parks, conservation, and so much more! Ask your questions below, and I’ll be sure to address them!

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