More than its picturesque scenery, spotless streets and amazing hospitality, Rwanda offers visitors a very special travel experience.
Some say that experiencing a country first-hand (read: roughing it) is the best way to get the truest sense of the place and way of life. Others prefer the peace of mind offered by a tour guide. Whichever kind of traveller you are, Rwanda will make you feel welcome.
Despite the fact that it’s expensive (a deodorant costing R25 in SA costs R100), there are places that cost very little to see and enjoy. Here are five of them:
1. The Kigali Genocide Memorial pays tribute to more than 250 000 Rwandans who were murdered by Hutus during the country’s 1994 civil war. There are also many other deeply moving memorials around the country.
Cost: Entrance is free of charge. As a way of helping sustain the memorial, you can hire the informative audio tour device that will help you navigate the the memorial garden and graveyard.
2. Pick up a souvenir or two. Kigali might not offer high-end malls, but you can find beautiful arts and crafts, handmade accessories, Kitenge cloth and more.
Cost: Prepare to spend anything from RWF2 500-50 000 for an artwork.
Where to go: Try Caplaki Craft and Kimironko markets, both in Kigali. If time allows, visit the Shokola Coffee Shop for a freshly brewed cuppa.
3. Sample local cuisine. In a world where fast-food franchises are fast dominating the food sector, Rwanda’s mercifully free of these outlets. Instead, there are staple dishes like nyama choma (grilled goat meat – about RWF3 000-5 000 for a plate) and matoke (a deep-fried or mashed green starchy banana, often served with salsa).
Where to go: I loved the different variations of matoke served at the Serena Hotel in Kigali, while locals hail Nile Grill as the best nyama choma spot in town.
4. Explore the city on a moto (taxi-bike): You need to hang on tightly to the driver, as he weaves the bike in and out of traffic, but this is the quickest way to get around town (about RWF500 a ride). Mini buses and buses are also commonly used.
5. View the city: Gaze out from the Presidential Suite balcony at the Serena Hotel, the MTN Bourbon Café or the Sun City Hotel in Nyamirambo.
- A gorilla safari, which costs $750, is definitely worth doing. Prepare for some serious bush-whacking as you navigate the Volcanoes National Park to spend time with these primates in their natural habitat.
- For something less strenuous and expensive, golden monkey trekking is a popular pursuit.
- A picnic at Lake Kivu, in the Gisenyi District (three-and-a-half hours from Kigali) is another good option.
Kemong Mopedi’s trip was sponsored by Serena Hotels and Thousand Hills Expeditions. SAA has a code-share partnership with RwandAir.