rwanda at a glance
Land of a Thousand hills
Lying at the heart of Africa, Rwanda is one her most dynamic leisure destinations, offering vibrant cities, pristine wilderness and an exceptionally hospitable people. A unique and largely undiscovered venue, Rwanda also offers unrivalled biodiversity, beautiful mountains, some of the oldest and most precious rain forests on earth, five volcanoes, 23 lakes, numerous waterfalls, and three stunning national parks. As to wildlife, Rwanda boasts 13 species of primates (25% of the total number in Africa), and 670 species of birds, many of which are globally endangered. Sports lovers, meanwhile, can enjoy walking, trekking or mountain biking along thousands of pristine trails, mountaineering, volcano exploration, fishing, boating and a plethora of water sports, while cultural options include a pageant of traditional dance, historical sites, and displays of ethnic art and heritage.
Official nameRepublic of Rwanda, Republika y'u Rwanda. A verdant country of fertile and hilly terrain, the small republic bears the title "Land of a Thousand Hills" (French: Pays des Mille Collines; Kinyarwanda: Igihugu cy'Imisozi Igihumbi).
LocationRwanda is in East/Central Africa, east of Democratic Republic of the Congo with Uganda to its north and Burundi to the south. Rwanda also shares its eastern border with Tanzania.
AreaTotal: 26,338 sq km.
Capital city and major townsKigali.
BordersLandlocked country bordered by Uganda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Tanzania. Burundi 290 km, Democratic Republic of the Congo 217 km, Tanzania 217 km, and Uganda 169 km.
ClimateRwanda has a temperate climate with two rainy seasons from February to April and November to January. The temperature is mild in mountains with frost and snow possible at higher altitudes.
PopulationJust under 10 million people live in Rwanda making it the most densely populated country in Africa. Life expectancy is around 49 years. Birth rate is on average 5.37 per woman. Literacy rate is just over 70%.
Ethnic make-upHutu (Bantu) 84%, Tutsi (Hamitic) 15%, and Twa (Pygmy) 1%
ReligionRoman Catholic 56.5%, Protestant 26%, Adventist 11.1%, Muslim 4.6%, indigenous beliefs 0.1%, and none 1.7% (2001).
LanguageKinyarwanda (official) which is a universal Bantu vernacular; French (official); English (official), and Kiswahili (Swahili) which is used in commercial centers.
TourismTourism is one of the fastest growing sectors and is now the country's leading foreign exchange earner, generating US$214 million in 2008, up by 54% on the previous year. Despite the genocide, the country is increasingly perceived internationally as a safe destination, and one million people are estimated to have visited the country in 2008, up from 826,374 in 2007. The country's most popular tourist activity is the tracking of mountain gorillas, which takes place in the Volcanoes National Park. Other attractions include Nyungwe Forest, home to chimpanzees, Ruwenzori colobus and other primates, the resorts of Lake Kivu, and Akagera, a small savanna reserve in the east of the country. Each year in June, the country celebrates Kwita Izina - The Baby Mountain Gorilla Naming Ceremony. People come from all over the country and the world to participate in this unique event.
CommunicationsInternet country code .rw International dial code 250
Cell phones are widely used. The use of fixed telephone landlines is not widespread in the country. Internet cafes exist, and generally provide cheap but slow connections. The postal system is mostly reliable. Those wishing to receive post must register and pay for annually, a Post Office Box at the Post Office.
MediaNewspapers: Rwanda has two English language newspapers: The New Times and Rwanda Newsline.
TV: There is one national television station: Rwanda Television which broadcasts feeds from various international broadcasters during the day. The evening programming largely consists of locally produced news programming repeated in Kinyarwanda, English and French.
Subscription based satellite television is easily available; particularly in Kigali. There is currently only one operator: South African based DSTV.
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 0, FM 10 (two main FM programs are broadcast through a system of repeaters; international FM programming includes the BBC, VOA, and Deutchewelle) (2007)
HistoryIn 1959, three years before independence from Belgium, the majority ethnic group, the Hutus, overthrew the ruling Tutsi king. Over the next several years, thousands of Tutsis were killed, and some 150,000 driven into exile in neighboring countries. The children of these exiles later formed a rebel group, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), and began a civil war in 1990. The war, along with several political and economic upheavals, exacerbated ethnic tensions, culminating in April 1994 in the genocide of roughly 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The Tutsi rebels defeated the Hutu regime and ended the killing in July 1994, but approximately 2 million Hutu refugees - many fearing Tutsi retribution - fled to neighboring Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, and the former Zaire. Since then, most of the refugees have returned to Rwanda, but several thousand remained in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo (the former Zaire) and formed an extremist insurgency bent on retaking Rwanda, much as the RPF tried in 1990. Despite substantial international assistance and political reforms - including Rwanda's first local elections in March 1999 and its first post-genocide presidential and legislative elections in August and September 2003 - the country continues to struggle to boost investment and agricultural output, and ethnic reconciliation is complicated by the real and perceived Tutsi political dominance. Kigali's increasing centralization and intolerance of dissent, the nagging Hutu extremist insurgency across the border, and Rwandan involvement in two wars in recent years in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo continue to hinder Rwanda's efforts to escape its bloody legacy.
EconomyRwanda is a poor rural country with about 90% of the population engaged in (mainly subsistence) agriculture. It is the most densely populated country in Africa and is landlocked with few natural resources and minimal industry. Primary foreign exchange earners are coffee and tea.
Agricultural productionCoffee, tea, pyrethrum (insecticide made from chrysanthemums), bananas, beans, sorghum, potatoes; livestock.
Industrial productionCement, agricultural products, small-scale beverages, soap, furniture, shoes, plastic goods, textiles, cigarettes.
CurrencyRwandan francs (RWF) per US dollar - 550 (2008 est.), 585 (2007), 560 (2006), 610.
Credit cards and traveller's cheques
Some credit cards are accepted in the major hotels, American Express is the most widely accepted.
TippingTipping is appreciated. Most hotels and restaurants include a 10% service charge.
TimeGMT +2 all year-round.
Electricity230-240 volts AC at 50Hz.
WaterRwandan tap water is not recommended to drink. Bottled water is readily available.
LandscapeRwanda's terrain consists of mostly grassy uplands and hills with a mountainous altitude declining from west to east. Its lowest point is the Rusizi River at 950 m and its highest point is Volcan Karisimbi which stands at 4,519 m. Rwanda's countryside is covered by grasslands and small farms extending over rolling hills, with areas of rugged mountains that extend southeast from a chain of volcanoes in the northwest. The divide between the Congo and Nile drainage systems extends from north to south through western Rwanda at an average elevation of almost 9,000 feet (2,743 m).On the western slopes of this ridgeline, the land slopes abruptly toward Lake Kivu and the Ruzizi River valley, and constitutes part of the Great Rift Valley. This western section of the country lies within the Albertine Rift montane forests ecoregion.The eastern slopes are more moderate, with rolling hills extending across central uplands at gradually reducing altitudes, to the plains, swamps, and lakes of the eastern border region. Therefore the country is also fondly known as "Land of a Thousand Hills" (Pays des mille collines).
The national parks and reservesVolcanoes Park, Nyungwe Forest and Akagera Park.
FloraThe vegetation of Rwanda ranges from dense equatorial forest in the northwest to tropical savannah in the east.
FaunaRwanda naturally supports a widely varied fauna, but the rapid population growth in recent decades has resulted in the extirpation of most large mammal species outside a few designated conservation areas.
AvifaunaRwanda is a wonderful destination for birdwatchers with 670 species having been recorded in an area which is smaller than Belgium. Prime bird watching destinations include Nyungwe and Akagera.
Entry requirementsA valid passport. Most visitors to Rwanda require a visa to enter the country.
Health certificationVisitors arriving from areas affected with yellow fever and cholera require certificates of inoculation. Malaria and Bilharzia are endemic.
VaccinationsA number of vaccinations are recommended for visitors to Rwanda (check with your doctor in advance).
MalariaMalaria is endemic in tropical Africa and protection against it is necessary.
HIV/AIDSHIV/AIDS is a serious problem throughout Africa.
Medical insuranceTravellers to Rwanda are recommended to obtain medical insurance prior to arrival.
SecurityRwanda is a safe country to travel in. Rwandans are warm-hearted and generous people and are eager to help visitors get the most out of their stay As in all countries, a little common sense goes a long way and reasonable precautions should still be taken, such as locking valuables in the hotel safe and not walking alone at night.
Travelling to RwandaThe transport system in Rwanda centres primarily on the road network, with paved roads between the capital, Kigali and most other major cities and towns in the country. Rwanda is also linked by road to other countries in East Africa, notably to the port of Mombasa via Kampala and Nairobi, which provides Rwanda's most important trade route. There is no public water transport between the port cities on Lake Kivu, although a limited private service exists. The principal form of public transport in the country is share taxi, with express routes linking the major cities and local services serving most villages along the main roads of the country. Coach services are available to various destinations in neighbouring countries.
By air: The country has an international airport at Kigali, serving one domestic and several international destinations; it lies 10km from central Kigali. The national carrier, Rwandair Express, flies directly to Kigali from Entebbe, Johannesburg, Nairobi and Kilimanjaro.
DrivingRwandans drive on the right (international driving licence required).
DressingUganda has no winter and lightweight clothing is worn all year-round. It is considered insulting by local tradition to dress scantily or improperly. Daytime temperatures are generally warm to hot, evenings are cooler, especially at high altitudes.