Kigali is a bustling and welcoming city that is awash with culture and interesting things to see and do. If you’re interested in history surrounding the genocide of the 90s, there are several museums, centres and memorials throughout the city that are dedicated to the memory of this period of history. The Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre is particularly good, as is the Kandt House Museum of Natural History.
Hotels that are worth a look, if not a stay include the Mille Collines hotel in the Kiyovu area which acted as a makeshift refugee camp during the genocide. It was also famously depicted in the film ‘Hotel Rwanda’. It was also the setting for famous novel by Quebecois writer Gil Courtemanche ‘Un Dimanche a la piscine a Kigali’ and it’s movie adaptation.
The Presidential Palace Museum is worth a visit and its mandatory guided tours help you take a step back through time as to what life was like for an African dictator in the 70s and 80s. It also houses an impressive display on Rwandan clothing.
If you’re looking to kick back and relax, the Zenora Wellness centre is a great place worth a visit with great facilities and welcoming staff. For the fitness minded there is a 10km running circuit through Kigali’s suburbs as well with some stunning views over rice paddies. It’s flat and worth a wander.
Essentially, Kigali has one of the most temperate climates you could hope to find. It remains around the same temperatures year round – under around 30 and above 15, even in the winter season. This makes any time to visit the region ideal temperature wise, but rain wise is another story. Most rainfall comes in February to April and then again in October to December. The warmest month is typically August and there are dry periods in June and July, making these the ideal times to go. If you don’t like rain, try to avoid March and April in particular. Due to these rains, the coolest month is May but only marginally as the temperatures are still around 25C as daytime highs, but perhaps only a touch less in May. Aside from these little titbits, almost any time is a good time to go to Kigali, and Rwanda in general.
There are a number of international flights that come through Kigali and its airport is quaint and cute with little issues, although some may find it cheaper to fly into neighbouring Uganda and bus it to Kigali, which is about nine hours in total, depending on the border crossing.
Kigali, and Rwanda in general are high risk of Yellow Fever and so Yellow Fever vaccinations should be acquired in advance of travel. Airlines that service Kigali include Air Uganda, South African Airways, Turkish Airlines, KLM, Brussels Airlines and Kenya Airways. Ethiopian also do daily flights between Addis Ababa and Kigali.
Motorcycle taxis are the cheapest way to get around town and are significantly cheaper than regular taxis. Matatus are minibuses and are a popular and convenient way to get around, and are found throughout the area. They are well maintained and usually a delight to travel in. Services can be acquired to other cities throughout Rwanda.
Swahili won’t run you foul and neither will French. While English is widely spoken in Kigali, it isn’t always found outside the city. The main language is Kinyarwanda, and cheat sheets for Kinyarwanda can be found online.
ATMs are widespread. Certain European imported goods in Kigali are often extortionate. Try buying Kenyan or East African equivalents to lower costs. Rwanda prides itself on its handicrafts, so make sure to check out some local markets. Rwandan coffee is extremely nice, but be sure to shell out a bit more for the decent stuff. Honey is also a delicious option to purchase. If you’re interested in helping out the local community, try buying your souvenirs from Tubahumurize Association. All proceeds go to help those with severe mental and emotional problems with trauma counseling, vocational training and various educational and co-operative programs.
Kigali is well serviced in terms of hotels and cafes and restaurants, including places that serve international cuisine.
Kigali is the capital city of Rwanda and is a friendly, relatively safe city set in the hills of the country, making it a great base of traveling for people coming to the country.
Kigali is a relatively new city. Founded in 1907 by Dr Richard Kandt under German colonial rule, the city was born but Kigali wasn’t immediately the capital of Rwanda. It wasn’t until Rwandan independence in 1962 that the city became the capital. The traditional capital had been the seat of the kings of the region – Kings Yuhi V, Mutara III and Kigeli IV which was the town of Nyanza. The colonial seat of power was in Butare which was also known as Astrida in those days. Butare was initially considered to be the capital of the country but Kigali was more central and won out over Butare. Following this, Kigali grew rapidly in commerce and economic means as well as becoming the cultural centre of the country.
Kigali was unfortunately the site of the brutal Rwandan genocide that occurred in the early 90s where over one million Tutsi were slaughtered brutally by Hutu militias and some members of the Rwandan army. Today it’s a fantastic hilly city with a great climate, a stopping off point for travelers before they head off to other regions such as the thick forests to try and spy gorillas.