After living almost for 3 years in Kigali, it is difficult to come to a neutral conclusion. We will try to make a general story of what we were living and about places we have visited – not so many actually. We are not going to enter into what happened years ago in Rwanda, and we are not going to give you any opinion about it neither. The reason why we don’t want to talk about it is, that in our opinion, the conflict is not yet closed and it is still an open wound for many people. It is a question of time when this happens again. The reality is that after years living there we were not able to make any local friends. In fact, it is interesting because where we live right now (Kazakhstan) we do have many friends. Most of them are Kazakhs. The living in Kigali is NOT cheap at all. We were asked to pay for a simple western style apartment up to 3000$. We had to negotiate with local real estates to obtain something cheaper, however, the quality went dramatically down. We lived in 6 different houses during those 4 years. All of them with its defects but also with some positives.
It is not a coincidence that Rwanda is called a country of thousand hills. You can see a breath taking scenery during landing at Kigali. I have never seen so many varieties of green. Plants, forests, hills, deep reddish ground…
The capital itself is one of the biggest surprises of whole Eastern Africa. As a foreigner, you feel safe, living a normal life like you are used back home, including jogging at night without any problem. Nobody watching you, nobody cares. In rural areas, of course, you will definitely rise a bit of interest, when children trying to touch your hand and laughing at you surprised they see somebody different.
The truth is, as a foreigner, your life is pretty easy. Everything seems cheap to you, organic to you, basically – available. Many international companies have started business in Kigali within past 10 years. Japanese and Koreans have some good restaurant here as well.
Taking a “moto taxi” is the easiest and cheapest way of transport in all Rwandan cities and villages. If you like the risk and you like to put your life in hands of local drivers…
Almost everybody starts the tour around Kigali visiting the Genocide Memorial. Give yourself the time to see it, read a little about the history before entering the museum. We didn’t take any picture of the museum because we didn’t find it appropriate. Anyways, you can find a lot of information online with pictures included.
Kimironko market is a local market offering range of fresh fruits, vegetable, grains, meat and fish, even clothes and household items. It is common to “rent a boy” who will carry your grocery. It is just normal he will be also in charge of negotiating the price, so you don’t need to stress.
Caplaki craft village is the best choice for souvenirs shopping. There are many small kiosks where you can get some nice jewellery, wooden statues, all handmade stuff. However, prices tend to be higher so barging is a must.
The price of food is cheap in local markets and local stores. However, as good expats, we tried many restaurants in Kigali. Do not expect many food choices, but the in general, all the food is really fresh and organic. Our selection of places recommended for dining are: Khana Khazana for Indian Cuisine, Lalibela Ethiopian restaurant, Caribu for african style buffet, Sole Luna for a good pizza (amazing vegetarian pizza with fries on top), Republika – good for having a good steak with amazing city views. A good pastry selection can be found at Korean RZ Manna, coffee and croissant at Brioche. However, our favourite healthy junk was Mr. Chips, run by peculiar Canadian guy called Paul. After a good dinner you wanna go party (not our case), you can visit the famous Papyrus bar or Sundowner. If you fancy retro style with strong emotions, then you need to visit KBC bar. Better not to take any cash. Watch your trousers pockets.
We did several excursions out of Kigali that permitted us to know the real Rwanda… It is a must to visit Akagera Safari park. It is not a typical safari. You can go with your hired car (it is easy to rent one, but prices are pretty high, so it is recommended to negotiate with one particular), or rent a driver. We distracted this option, it is much more fun to go your own. Once registered at the desk point, you are basically alone. We went three times and we never seen anybody except us. Regarding animals, it is easy to see giraffes, zebras, deers, crocodiles and hipos. If you see monkeys – and you will see a LOT of them, be careful opening your car since they jump inside smelling your lunch basket. Recently white lions are being introduced to the park after 15 years since genocide. It is possible to sleep at the resort if you have enough money to pay for. We didn’t try, but our friends loved it.
Tea Plantation trip was another escape from the city. We did all the trip by motorbike. It is located at the border with Uganda. The tea factory is open to visitors only by invitation and permission form authorities (no idea how to get it), but visiting plantations is ok. It is nice but sad at the same time, to see those people working so hard, and especially children.
Muhazi Lake. A perfect escape for a weekend. We stayed at AGS Country Club. You can rent a pedal boat and have a nice trip around. The food is amazing – fresh fish from a lake, a cottage is comfortable. We must mention the hospitality of the owner – we were visited to enter the lake by pedal boat at the night, with full moon reflecting the water, with WHOLE electricity supply switched off. It was unforgettable experience. Following by breakfast served outside watching the nature. It is possible to do a mountain biking, but we preferred to use a motorbike to se things around. We have seen some small clay houses, local people were really surprised to see us, small children running behind and touching our hands. Sun set was breath taking.
One of the options for a good tourist in Rwanda is to see gorillas called silver backed. It is very expensive but worthy according to people who went. After paying that much money I have no doubts it was worthy. We decided to climb Bisoke crater lake at the border with DRC. After paying all the fees, we started our hike with a guide and 8 soldiers. According them, it was to protect us against salvage animals. Obviously, the purpose was other – take your own conclusions. The climb is really high and difficult, it is needed to be in a good physical condition. Once up, the effort you have done is really nothing comparing to what you see.