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Travel Guide

Getting there
Alliance Express flies directly from Kigali to Entebbe (Uganda), Johannesburg (South Africa), Nairobi (Kenya) and Bujumbura (Burundi). In partnership with SAA and SA Alliance Air; it also flies from Kigali to the USA via Johannesburg and to London via Entebbe. Other international flights are with Sabena (Brussels), Kenya Airways (Nairobi), Ethiopian Airlines (Addis Ababo), Air Tanzania (Dar es Salaam) and Air Burundi (Bujumbura). All international flights arrive at Kanombe Airport, 1 0km from central Kigali. An airport tax of US$20 is levied upon departure.

Passport and visas
A valid passport is mandatory. Visas, required by all visitors except nationals of the USA, Germany, Canada, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo, cost US$35 upwards depending on place of issue. Nationals of countries without an embassy can obtain a visa on arrival by prior arrangement with their hosts, who can arrange a focilité d’entrée.

A certificate of yellow-fever vaccination is required. Much of Rwanda lies at too high an elevation for malaria to be a major concern, but the disease is present and prophylactic drugs ore strongly recommended. It is advisable not to drink tap water. Bottled mineral water can be bought in all towns.

The unit of currency is the Rwanda franc, which traded at around US$1 = Rfr 400-450 in September 2000. The US dollar is the hard currency of preference. It may be impossible to exchange travellers’ cheques at a good rate (or at all) away from the capital.

Public Holidays
In addition to Good Friday and Easter Monday, which fall on variable dates, the following public holidays are recognised in Rwanda:

1 January New Year’s Day 15 August Assumption Day
28 January Democracy Day 25 September Republic Day
7 April Genocide Memorial Day 1 October Heroes Day
1 May Labour Day 1 November All Saint’s Day
1 July Independance Day 25 December Christmas Day
5 July National Liberation Day 26 December Boxing Day

When to visit
Rwanda can be visited throughout the year. Gorilla tracking and other forest walks are less demanding during the drier months. The European winter is the best time for birds, as resident species are supplemented by Palaearctic migrants.

What to wear
Dress codes are informal. Daytime temperatures are generally warm, so bring lots of light clothing, supplemented by light sweaters for the cool evenings and heavier clothing for the Parc des Volcans and Nyungwe. When tracking gorillas, wear sturdier clothing (for instance jeans and a thick long-sleeved shirt) to protect against stinging nettles, and solid walking shoes. A hat and sunglasses provide protection against the sun, and a waterproof jacket may come in handy in the moist mountains.

What to bring
A pair of binoculars will greatly enhance game drives and forest walks, as will a good field guide – for birders, Van Perlo’s Illustrated Checklist to the Birds of Eastern Africa is the only guide to describe all species found in Rwanda. Bring a camera and an adequate stock of film. Toiletries and other essentials can be bought in the cities, but it is easier to bring all you need with you.

230/240 volts at 50Hz.

In addition to the indigenous language of Kinyarwanda, French and English are official languages. French is widely spoken throughout the country. In the capital and other tourist centres, many people speak English.

Mountain gorilla visits:
Visits to gorillas must be booked through the ORTPN offices. You can do this by either contacting the Kigali Headquarters on 76514 or through the ORTPN office in Ruhengeri on 546645. You must present yourself at the ORTPN offices situated at the prefecture offices in Ruhengeri (opposite the Hotel Muhabura) at 08h00 on the day of your visit. ORTPN currently has a team of 80 trackers and anti-poachers, many of whom speak French or English.

To minimize human disturbance to the gorilla groups, visitors must maintain a distance of 7m proximity to the gorillas, the duration of each visit is limited to one hour and maximum number of visitors is restricted to 8 people per group per day. You must also be aware that you will not be permitted to see gorillas if you are sick and ORTPN reserve the right to refuse you entry to the park if they deem your illness infectious. This is not only out of concern for your personal safety, but for the well-being and protection of the mountain gorillas as illnesses that are easily combated with the human immune system can be fatal to a gorilla.

Visitors must be at least 15 years of age to visit gorillas and identification will be required when making the payment for verification.

Fees for mountain gorilla visits:

The fee for gorilla visits is $250 per person for non-nationals and 5,400 FRw for Rwandan citizens. You must organise your own transportation to take you up to the park boundaries. Although ORTPN can offer assistance, you should contact them prior to making your visit.

Guide lines for a gorilla visit:
• Please note that spitting in the park is strictly prohibited, especially when close to a gorilla group.

• Once with the group should the occasion arise that you need to cough, please cover your mouth and turn away from the gorillas.

• When with the gorillas, please keep your voice level low and only talk in whispers.

• If you get stung by a nettle, please refrain from crying out load and try not to make any rapid movements that may frighten the gorillas.

• If a gorilla should charge or vocalize at you, then do not be alarmed, stand still and look away and certainly never run, the guides may ask you to move slowly away if necessary.

• Never make any rapid movements and do not disturb the vegetation when with the group, there may be a gorilla hidden behind the leaves.

• Please do not leave litter anywhere in the park.

Advice for your visit:
The climate in Ruhengeri is unpredictable although you can generally expect both sun as well as rainfall during the day. Ruhengeri is 1,700m above sea level. It is generally quite cold, particularly in the evening. Recommended clothing is long trousers and shirts when in the forest to avoid nettle stings. It is likely that you will get hot whilst walking though the forest and will cool down having reached the gorillas due to the high altitude, so you are advised to bring additional clothing.

Nights are quite cold, so a warm jumper is advisable for the evenings.

Wellington boots or hiking boots as well as waterproof raingear are essential when on a gorilla visit. You are strongly advised to bring a water bottle and a small snack although eating, drinking and smoking in the presence of the gorillas is forbidden.

Photography is permitted, although you may not use a flash and if you are intending to bring a video camera, then this must be cleared with ORTPN and will involve a fee. Porters are available to help you with transporting your baggage for a small charge.

The altitude during gorilla visits may cause difficulties for some visitors, however pace yourself, drink plenty of water and make sure you eat well the day prior to your trip and eat a substantial breakfast. No one should feel deterred from making this trip!

The authorities have made security of visitors among their highest priorities. Security escorts are therefore provided.