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Travel Security Advice for Rwanda

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rwanda_mapRwanda_Overview

 


 

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:  

Rwanda is a landlocked developing country in central Africa.  Although it continues to recover from the 1994 civil war and genocide in which up to one million people were killed, it is currently safe, clean, and well-organized.  Economic activity and tourism are on the rise in Rwanda.  Hotels and guesthouses are adequate in Kigali, the capital, and in major towns, but are limited in remote areas.  Read the Department of State Background Notes on Rwanda for additional information.



ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: 

A passport is required and evidence of yellow fever immunization is recommended.  Visas are not required for American citizens entering Rwanda for less than 90 days.  U.S. citizens planning on working in Rwanda should apply for a work permit at the Directorate of Immigration as soon as possible after arrival in Rwanda.  Detailed entry information may be obtained from Rwanda’s Directorate of Immigration or from the Embassy of the Republic of Rwanda, 1714 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, Washington DC  20009, telephone 202-232-2882, fax 202-232-4544.  Overseas, inquiries may be made at the nearest Rwandan Embassy or Consulate. 

Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site.  For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.



SAFETY AND SECURITY:  

There are currently no travel restrictions in place within Rwanda, but travelers should use caution crossing the border into Burundi and eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). 

The Congo-based Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), including ex-Rwandese Armed Forces, Interahamwe, and other extremists who participated in the 1994 genocide, remain in eastern Congo.  A joint Congolese-Rwandan military operation against the FDLR began in January 2009 inside Congo.  The FDLR does not pose a serious security threat inside Rwanda.  Twice in 2008, the FDLR launched mortar rounds into Rwanda, near the border town of Gisenyi, and in a separate incident FDLR cadre crossed the border and killed a local official in the same area.  These appear to be isolated incidents. 

FDLR rebel factions are known to operate in northeastern DRC, Burundi, Tanzania, and Uganda (including near the popular tourist area of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park).  For information on travel to those countries, see the Department of State’s country-specific travel information, including Travel Warnings

Travelers need a permit to visit the Volcanoes National Park, which is available from Rwanda's Office of Tourism and National Parks (ORTPN).  ORTPN stipulates that the park can only be used for gorilla tours and nature walks.  There are no restrictions on visiting the Nyungwe Forest near the Burundian border in southwestern Rwanda.

In December 2008, April 2008 and April 2007, unknown assailants detonated small explosive devices in Kigali, twice at genocide memorial sites. 

There were two large scale protests against the German Embassy after the November 9, 2008 arrest in Frankfurt of the Chief of Protocol for the Government of Rwanda.  Smaller protests were conducted on a daily basis from November to December 2008.  Although no one was injured during the protests, some Westerners stated they were verbally harassed.
Mount Nyiragongo, just outside the Eastern DRC town of Goma and near the Rwandan border, is active and last erupted on January 17, 2002.   In January 2008, an earthquake centered in eastern Congo killed 39 people and injured about 700, including residents of the Rwandan border town of Cyangugu.

On occasion, travel by U.S. Embassy personnel may be restricted based on changing security conditions.  Visitors are encouraged to contact the appropriate U.S. Embassy Regional Security Office or Consular Section for the latest security information, including developments in eastern Congo, Uganda and Burundi.  (See Registration/Embassy Location section below.)  Warden messages sent to the American community are posted on the U.S. Embassy website.   

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ website,

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444.  These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.  For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s information on A Safe Trip Abroad.



CRIME: 

Pick-pocketing in crowded public places is common, as is petty theft from cars and hotel rooms.  Although violent crimes such as carjacking, robbery, and home invasion occur in Kigali, they are rarely committed against foreigners.  Americans are advised to remain alert, exercise caution, and follow appropriate personal security measures.  Although many parts of Kigali are safe at night, walking alone after dark is not recommended since foreigners, including Americans, have occasionally been the targets of robbery.  



INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: 

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.  If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for assistance.  The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, help you find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred.  Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed. 

Please see our information on Victims of Crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.  The U.S. Embassy provides information on its website about criminal justice in Rwanda

There is no equivalent to the 911 emergency telephone line in Rwanda.



CRIMINAL PENALTIES: 

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.  Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.  Persons violating Rwandan laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.  Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Rwanda are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.  Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.  Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.

The U.S. Embassy provides information on its website about criminal justice in Rwanda



SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:  

Telephone communication to and from Rwanda is generally reliable.  Cellular telephones and Internet connections are available in Kigali and large towns.  The two main telecom providers, MTN and Rwandatel, are migrating to a ten-digit phone number system and MTN announced that its changes will take effect February 1.  Rwandatel has already begun changing its landline telephone phone numbers by adding "0252" before the old six-digit number. 

Non-biodegradable plastic bags are banned in Rwanda, and travelers carrying them upon arrival at the Kayibanda International airport may have them confiscated and have to pay approximately $4 for a reusable cloth replacement.
International ATMs are not available in Rwanda.  The Rwandan franc is freely exchangeable for hard currencies in banks and the Bureaux de Change.  Several Kigali banks can handle wire transfers from U.S. banks, including Western Union.  Credit cards are accepted at only a few hotels in Kigali and only to settle hotel bills.  Hotels currently accepting credit cards for payment include the Kigali Serena (formerly Intercontinental) Hotel, the Hotel des Mille Collines, the Novotel Umubano, Stipp Hotel and the Kivu Sun Hotel.  Note that there may be an added fee for using a credit card.  Travelers should expect to handle most expenses, including air tickets, in cash.  Traveler's checks can be cashed only at commercial banks.  Because some travelers have had difficulty using U.S. currency printed before the year 2000, the Embassy recommends traveling with newer U.S. currency notes.



MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH 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 Faisal Hospital, a private facility that offers limited services and dental facilities.  There is also a missionary dental clinic and a few private dentists.  American-operated charitable hospitals with some surgical facilities can be found in Kibagora, in southwestern Rwanda, in Ruhengeri, near the gorilla trekking area, and in Rwinkavu, near the entrance to Akagera National Park.  The U.S. Embassy maintains on its website a current list of healthcare providers and facilities in Rwanda; this list is also included in the Consular Section’s welcome packets for American citizens.  There are periodic outbreaks of meningitis in Rwanda.  Yellow fever can cause serious medical problems, but the vaccine is very effective in preventing the disease. 

Malaria is endemic to Rwanda.  All visitors are strongly encouraged to take prophylactic medications to prevent malaria.  These should be initiated prior to entry into the endemic area.  Because of possible counterfeit of antimalarial medications, these should be obtained from a reliable pharmaceutical source.  Multiple outbreaks of ebola have been reported in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda in the past year, but none within Rwanda.

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Rwanda. 

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s website For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) websiteFurther general health information for travelers is available from the WHO.



MEDICAL INSURANCE: 

The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.  Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.



TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: 

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.  The information below concerning Rwanda is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Due to safety concerns, the use of motorbikes or van taxis for transportation is not recommended.  Regulated orange-striped (along the base of the vehicle) sedan auto taxis are safer, but be sure to agree on a fare before beginning the trip.  Public transportation can be dangerous due to overloading, inadequate maintenance, and careless drivers.

While the main roads in Rwanda are in relatively good condition, during the rainy season many side roads are passable only with four-wheel drive vehicles.  Nighttime driving, particularly outside major cities, is hazardous and is discouraged.  Often, roadways are not marked and lack streetlights and shoulders.  Many sections have deteriorated surfaces.  Due to possible language barriers and lack of roadside assistance, receiving help may be difficult.  Travelers may be stopped at police roadblocks throughout the country, where their vehicles and luggage may be searched.  Service stations are available along main roads.

In Rwanda, as in the U.S., traffic moves on the right-hand side of the road.  Drivers should exercise caution at traffic circles.  Although cars already in a traffic circle have the right of way, until 2004, cars entering traffic circles had the right-of-way.  Excessive speed, careless driving, and the lack of basic safety equipment on many vehicles are hazards on Rwanda's roads.  Many vehicles are not well maintained, and headlights are either extremely dim or not used.  Drivers also tend to speed and pass other cars with little discretion.  Some streets in Kigali have sidewalks or sufficient space for pedestrian traffic; others do not, and pedestrians are forced to walk along the roadway.  With the limited street lighting, drivers often have difficulty seeing pedestrians.  Drivers frequently have unexpected encounters with cyclists, pedestrians and livestock.

Third-party insurance is required and will cover any damages from involvement in an accident resulting in injuries, if one is found not to have been at fault.  The driver’s license of individuals determined to have caused an accident may be confiscated for three months.  Causing a fatal accident could result in three to six months' imprisonment.  Drunk drivers are jailed for 24 hours and fined Rwandan Francs 20,000 (approximately $35).  In the city of Kigali, contact the following numbers for police assistance in the event of an accident: Kigali Center, 08311112; Nyamirambo, 08311113; Kacyiru, 08311114; Kicukiro, 08311115; Remera, 08311116.  Ambulance assistance is very limited.  Wear seat belts and drive with care and patience at all times.  In case of an emergency, American citizens can contact the Embassy duty officer at 0830-0345.

For specific information concerning Rwandan driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax, and mandatory insurance, please contact the Rwandan Office of Tourism and National Parks, B.P. 905, Kigali, Rwanda, telephone [250] (252) 576-514, fax [250] (252) 576-515 or see the website of the Government of Rwanda.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. 



AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: 

As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Rwanda, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Rwanda's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards.  Further information may be found on the FAA's website.

Rwandair, which charters aircraft to fly its routes, has had difficulties maintaining its schedule, resulting in delayed and cancelled flights which have left passengers stranded for extended periods.



CHILDREN'S ISSUES: 

For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.



REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:  

Americans living or traveling in Rwanda are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration website so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Rwanda.  Americans without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.  The U.S. Embassy is located at 2657 Avenue de la Gendarmerie; the mailing address is B.P. 28, Kigali, Rwanda; tel. [250] (252) 596-400; fax: [250] (252) 596-591.  The Consular Section’s email address is This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it American Citizen Services hours are Tuesdays from 9:00 -17:00 and Fridays from 9:00 - 12:00 except on U.S. and Rwandan holidays.


This replaces the Country Specific Information for Rwanda dated February 6, 2009, to update the sections on Medical Facilities and Health Information, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, Registration/Embassy Location.

 


 

The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office also has information regarding Rwanda HERE.....

Looking for an Embassy ?, You can also check out our World Wide Embassies Listings Section HERE (For US Citizens) or HERE (For UK Citizens)........

There is also a Malaria Warning for Rwanda provided by the Centers for Disease Control Prevention HERE.....

Regards

The SW Team........

 

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