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Rwanda

Rwanda is a relatively stable East African country, and easily accessible from Kenya and Uganda. It is relatively easy, safe and simple to travel around. It is landlocked, surrounded by Uganda to the north, Tanzania to the east, Burundi to the south, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west.

Rwanda is not only the land of a thousand hills, but also a country rich in flora and fauna and stunning natural beauty in its scenic rolling and breathtaking green savannah. The country hosts some rare species of animals like the silverback mountain gorillas as well as unique birds and insects in the tropical forest of Nyungwe.

Regions

Cities

  • Kigali
  • Byumba
  • Rubavu, formerly Gisenyi
  • Muhanga, formerly Gitarama
  • Huye, formerly Butare
  • Kibungo
  • Karongi, formerly Kibuye
  • Musanze, formerly Ruhengeri

(Cities were renamed a few years ago when the administrative structure of Rwanda was re-vamped. The former names refer to old provincial capitals. Expect people to use either name listed to refer to these cities.)

Other destinations

Rwanda has 3 national parks:

  • Akagera National Park
  • Volcanoes National Park – home to the mountain gorillas, this park spreads into Uganda and Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Nyungwe National Park

Understand

It's been two decades since the civil war and genocide of 1994 that devastated this tiny country, and it's come a long way. Shake off your memories of war and expect a warm and friendly welcome to a beautiful country.

History

Hunter gatherers settled the territory in the stone and iron ages, followed later by Bantu peoples. The population coalesced first into clans and then into kingdoms. The Kingdom of Rwanda dominated from the mid-eighteenth century, with the Tutsi kings conquering others militarily, centralising power, and later enacting anti-Hutu policies. Germany colonised Rwanda in 1884 as part of German East Africa, followed by Belgium, which annexed it in 1916 during World War I. Both European nations ruled through the kings and perpetuated a pro-Tutsi policy. The Hutu population revolted in 1959. They massacred numerous Tutsi and ultimately established an independent, Hutu-dominated state in 1962. The Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front launched a civil war in 1990. Social tensions erupted in the 1994 genocide, in which Hutu extremists killed an estimated 500,000 to 1 million Tutsi and moderate Hutu. The RPF ended the genocide with a military victory.

People

The population is young and predominantly rural, with a density among the highest in Africa. Rwandans are composed of three ethnic groups: the Hutu, Tutsi and Twa.

Climate

Although Rwanda is located only two degrees south of the equator, Rwanda's high elevation makes the climate temperate. The average daily temperature near Lake Kivu, at an altitude of 1,463 m (4,800 ft) is 22.8°C (73°F). During the two rainy seasons (Feb–May and Sep–Dec), heavy downpours occur almost daily, alternating with sunny weather. Annual rainfall averages 800 mm (31.5 in) but is generally heavier in the western and northwestern mountains than in the eastern savannahs.

Holidays

  • 1 January - New Year's Day
  • 1 February - Heroes Day
  • Good Friday - variable
  • 7 April - Genocide Memorial Day
  • 1 July - Independence Day
  • 4 July - Liberation Day
  • 15 August - Assumption
  • Eid al Fitr and Eid al-Adha (Islamic holidays that vary with the lunar calendar)
  • 25 December - Christmas
  • 26 December - Boxing Day

Get in

A passport is required to enter Rwanda and a certificate of vaccination for yellow fever is normally required to return back to the country of origin. Visas are not required for citizens of Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Hong Kong, Kenya, Philippines, Mauritius, Singapore, Uganda, or Tanzania.

  • If arriving by air, citizens of many countries may get an 30 day single entry visa on arrival for USD30, which can be extended by the immigration office in Kigali, although this process is sometimes tedious. Generally, Rwandan embassy and consulates can issue one month tourist visas for around the same price without much hassle. Contact your nearest embassy or consulate for more information.

If you are travelling overland, it is no longer possible to obtain a visa at the border. However, visa application can easily be made on-line. You will within a few days receive an entry visa acceptance by email. Bringing this acceptance letter, the visa will be issued at the border. The USD30 visa fee is paid at the border.

Bona fide tourists may also want to consider the East Africa Tourist Visa announced in Jan 2014 and first issued in Mar 2014 that allows travel between Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda with multiple entries in a 90 day period for USD100 and without "restrictions on country of origin". Rwanda has made the smart move of setting up an on-line website to issue these, which means that many tourists may want to first land at Rwanda's capital airport of Kigali rather than Entebbe or Nairobi since this visa must be issued by the country that you first plan to visit (similar principle to Schengen visas in the EU).

By plane

There are direct international flights into Kigali from Brussels, Istanbul, Amsterdam. RwandAir has, since the end of Aug 2011, started flights to Dubai (via) Mombasa using its new Boeing 737-800 and separately to Jo-Burg using the same aircraft. There are also daily flights from Entebbe airport in Uganda, Johannesburg and Addis Ababa. Additionally, there are connections three times a day from Nairobi, and several flights a week to Bujumbura. The Rwandan capital is also easily accessible (3hrs by road) from the Goma airstrip in DRC.

airlines that fly to Kigali airport

  • Brussels airlines.
  • Ethiopian airlines.
  • Flydubai airlines.
  • Kenya airways.
  • KLM airlines.
  • Qatar airways.
  • RwandAir.
  • Turkish airlines.

By car

By bus

  • In Uganda, many bus companies make the 8-10 hour journey from Kampala in Uganda to Kigali. As 2015, it costs RWF8,000 from Kigali to Kampala on Horizon. Jaguar charges RWF6,000-8,000 - early buses are cheaper. The most reliable bus company is Kampala coaches, Jaguar and Ontracom from Rwanda.
  • Tanzania has one open border with Rwanda, but this is a far more difficult way to enter Rwanda due to the remoteness and lack of roads in western Tanzania. A bus runs from Mwanza to Benako (both Tanzania) and from Benako buses run onto Kigali. Another town to consider on this route is Ngara (Tanzania).

Several buses run from Dar es Salaam via Morogoro and Dodoma (they all leave Ubungo bus station around 06:00-07:00) to Kahama daily. You will have to spend the night in Kahama and then get a minibus or shared taxi on to the border. From the Rwandan side of the border, there are minibuses to Kigali.

  • In Burundi, there are two ways to enter from Rwanda, and security in the border areas varies. For the intrepid, there is a daily direct service from Kigali to Bujumbura operated by Yahoo Car, and since 2007, a new "luxury" service operated by Belvedere Lines. If there are security concerns on the Bujumbura - Huye - Kigali route, it is also possible to go along the road bordering (but not entering) DRC. You will probably have to do this in a series of minibuses via Cibitoke, Bugarama (Rwanda) and Cyangugu (Rwanda). With both of these routes, check the security situation with your embassy (the Belgian embassy has the best information).and now there some like volcano express.
  • For Democratic Republic of the Congo, much of the country remains off limits to many tourists due to instability, though Goma and Bukavu can be visited easily from Rwanda.

By train

In 2009, Rwanda & Tanzania announced a plan to build a railway line between Isaka, Tanzania and Kigali and Uganda.

Get around

Short distances can be travelled either on foot, or by taxi-velo (bicycle taxi). Taxi-velos are widespread, and are relatively inexpensive but not allowed in urban areas. A taxi-velo driver will cycle, and the passenger will sit rather precariously on the back.

Motorcycle taxis (taxi-moto) are also popular, especially in Kigali, a normal journey will cost from USD1-2. If you look like a foreigner and are walking on the main road, drivers will probably come up to you to offer a ride. Most of the drivers speak only very basic English or French, if they speak any.

Taxis are less common, and are best found at taxi stations, by waiting at the taxi sign at bus stops, or by calling them. They are significantly more expensive, even short rides cost RWF2,000, almost USD4, and longer rides can be RWF5,000 or more (almost USD10).

Slightly longer distances, indeed the whole country, can be travelled by Matatu (or Twegerane, literally let get closer). These white minibuses are found throughout East Africa, and are crammed full of adults, children, and anything else you can think of (bags, chickens).

Talk

Kinyarwanda is an official language and the chief spoken language in Rwanda. It is also spoken in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo and in southern Uganda. Kinyarwanda is a tonal language of the Bantu language family, closely related to Kirundi spoken in the neighboring country Burundi and much more distantly related to other Bantu languages such as Swahili.

In addition to Kinyarwanda, Rwanda's other two official languages are French and English. While French was the former language of administration under Belgian colonial rule, since the civil war the Rwandan government has moved away from the Francophone sphere of influence, most prominently switching the primary language of education to English in 2008. The result of this has been that those people educated in Rwanda previously tend to have some knowledge of French, while huge numbers of returned refugees who were educated in neighboring Anglophone countries tend to know English. In addition, Rwanda has introduced Swahili as a required subject in the school curriculum as a result of its membership within the East African Community. Swahili is also widely spoken among traders and returned refugees from Kenya, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

See

  • National Museum of Butare, ? 0252 553131NOCC. 09:00-17:00. In Huye – National Museum of Rwanda FRw3,000 for foreigners; FRw2,000 for foreign residents. Extra charge for photography..
  • The Genocide Memorial in Kigali – good insight into one of the world's greatest tragedies. It's free to walk around but audio guides are USD10. Tour guides can be hired for small groups. (http://www.safariyako.com/places-to-go/kigali-memorial-center)
  • The Nyamata Genocide Memorial is a worthwhile complement to the Gisozi Memorial Centre in Kigali. Located in the town of Nyamata, 40 minutes south of Kigali on a newly paved road, the memorial is in a church where over 10,000 people were killed during the 1994 genocide. Visitors take a short tour and see the evidence of the genocide that remains there today - victims' clothing piled on benches, the roof pockmarked with bullet holes, and the open crypts behind the church that hold the remains of over 40,000 people from the area. An extremely moving look into one of the places where the genocide was carried out. If you wish to take photographs of the site, you will need to purchase a permit in Kigali before travelling to Nyamata. It is open 7 days per week and is free to visit. Donations are encouraged as they receive little support from the government.
  • The Ntarama Genocide Memorial, just 20 minutes away from the Nyamata memorial, is also worth visiting. Like the Nyamata memorial, this site was a church before the genocide, and was nationalised to serve as a memorial after thousands of people were killed within its walls. The church itself is different than Nyamata, with victims' clothing eerily displayed from the rafters of the church as a grim reminder of what happened there. Visitors can see large chunks of the outer wall missing, where grenades were used to force entry. Ntarama also has a peaceful memorial garden and wall of names in the back of its compound. Ask the resident guide for a tour in English or French, and remember to give them a donation for the site afterwards; it gets almost no support from the government. To get there, take the highway from Kigali to Nyamata and follow the signs for the Ntarama memorial, before you reach Nyamata. It is open 7 days per week and is free to visit. Donations are encouraged as they receive little support from the government.

Do

  • Lake Kivu in Western Rwanda – a large lake bordering the DRC, it's a nice place to relax for a week or so.
  • Parc National des Volcans, home of the mountain gorillas, and the setting for Gorillas in the Mist, author Dian Fossey's research. If you can afford it, it's an excellent experience, and even possible as a daytrip from Kigali. Inquire at the Rwandan Office for Tourism and National Parks (ORTPN), Boulevard de la Révolution n° 1, Kigali, +(250) 576514 or 573396, reservation@rwandatourism.com, [1]. It costs USD750 per person (1 Jun 2012). Besides that, you will have to take an official taxi which costs another USD50. Prices are rising constantly, and you should really consider if you want them to get away with these rip-off prices, because as long as there are people who pay them, they will continue to raise them.

Buy

Money

The currency is the Rwandan franc (French: franc rwandais, Kinyarwanda: Ifaranga ry'u Rwanda), denoted by the symbols "FRw" or "RF" or "R?" (ISO currency code of RWF (sometimes displayed as FRw, and possibly RF or R?).

The smallest-value note is a FRw500 note, which is the smallest note in physical size, as well. There are also notes in denominations of 1,000, 2,000, and 5,000, with the larger notes becoming slightly larger in physical size. There are no generally-circulated notes over FRw5,000, which can be cumbersome since a FRw5,000 note is roughly equivalent to USD8. Since few places in Rwanda accept credit cards, travellers need to make provision to carry around a large bundle of cash if travelling outside of Kigali, especially if staying longer than a few days.

Coins valued at FRw100 are commonly used. However, smaller coins (FRw50, 20, 10, 5, and 1) are generally not accepted by street merchants and smaller restaurants and hotels. The only place to obtain smaller coins is through a bank or a large store, such as a supermarket. It's common for most businesses in Rwanda, including currency exchangers and gas stations, to round transactions to the nearest FRw100.

You get a slightly better exchange rates by bringing USD50 bills or higher (year 2006 or newer) to exchange for Rwandan francs.

There are ATMs all over Rwanda. Depending on your bank, this can be a much cheaper way to get francs because the ATMs use a much better exchange rate than the money changers. Master card, Visa card, Union pay, Amex cards, Diners club, JCB card are accepted at Bank of Kigali, Equity bank, Ecobank, Kenya Commercial Bank. GT Bank.

Eat

The local "Brochettes" (kebabs) are delicious and are available in most bars and restaurants. Small bars will primarily serve goat brochettes, and goat liver brochettes are often of higher quality to the locals. Zingalo is goat intestine, sometimes also served as a brochette. Some locals prefer this and it could be brought to you without asking at very "local" places, so try to see whether other diners seem to be enjoying the spiral looking treat and specify you do not want it when you order ("OYA zingalo!"). Some restaurants also serve beef and fish brochettes, and a few will serve chicken. Brochettes are usually taken with french fries ("frites") or fried or grilled ibitoke.

If Rwanda has a staple food, it is ibitoke (sing. igitoke). Ibitoke are starchy, potato-like bananas, which are not sweet like plantains. While plantains are available in Rwanda, they are not seen as particularly Rwandan food. Igitoke/banana are served boiled in sauce, grilled, or even fried. You can also refer to them as matoke, which is usually easier for foreigners to pronounce. The sweet bananas in Rwanda are delicious but considerably smaller than the matoke bananas. If you want this type of banana, ask for small banana or sweet banana and you will usually get what you are looking for.

In urban areas a local buffet known as "Melange" is sold at lunchtime. This consists of a buffet of mostly carbohydrates such as potatoes, bananas, rice, and cassava accompanied with some vegetables, beans, and a small amount of meat or fish with sauce. Rwandan buffets are not all you can eat! You may fill your plate only once, and with practice you'll be able to stack your plate high like the locals do. Prices range from just over USD1 to USD5 or even USD10 depending on the grade of the eatery and the variety of food available. Most of the upper segment buffets (USD3 and above) offer a salad buffet too. Many of the cheaper Melange places are unmarked.

Kigali has a much better range of restaurants than the rest of the country. Here you can find several Indian and Chinese restaurants, as well as Italian, Greek, French and multi-cuisine establishments charging around USD10 for dinner.

Sleep

Accommodation is usually fairly basic and significantly more expensive than neighbouring Uganda and Tanzania. Very basic accommodation will cost US$8-20.

A few nice hotels can be found in Kigali, the most famous of which is the "Hotel des Milles Collines", as featured in the movie Hotel Rwanda. Movie buffs hoping to stay in the film set will be disappointed though, as the film was produced in South Africa. The Hotel is now open after extensive renovation. Most hotels in Kigali are in the US$50 and above range, although there are a few bargains to be had if you look around.

There is a relatively inexpensive hotel run by Catholic nuns called St Paul right in the centre of town. It's located right behind the church by the same name right across from the roundabout. has Twin beds (without self-contained bathroom).

Lake Kivu: Kibuye:

There is a fairly inexpensive hotel called Home Saint Jean (phone number: 0252 568 526) in Kibuye. They have dorms and private rooms.

The Discover Rwanda Youth Hostel is Kigali is a good place for backpackers to stay.

Drink

In most shops you will find milk, water, juices and soft drinks. In most bars the choice is limited to their offering of about 5 different sodas and 4 different beers, Turbo King, Primus, Mützig and Amstel. Primus and Mützig are available in small and large sizes, whereas Amstel is available only in 330mL bottles. Rwandans are known for their fondness for large beers and when you order Amstel, it is common for a server to bring out 2 bottles at a time. Bralirwa in the west of the Rwanda produces most of the beer and soft drinks available in Rwanda. Inyange produces juices and soft drinks.

There are also local banana beer preparations called Urwagwa, normally brewed at home and available only in plastic containers but now also sold in bottles at some shops and bars.

Stay safe

Tourists are usually welcomed warmly in Rwanda, and the country is largely considered safe for visitors. The possible exceptions are certain places along the Congolese and Burundian borders. Rwandan troops rumoured to be involved in the civil war that still plagues the northeast of Democratic Republic of the Congo, mainly due to the presence of Interhamwe who fled after the 1994 genocide. Gisenyi and Kibuye are considered safe, but the border situation can change at any time: check Foreign Office information and local sources for further advice.

Gorilla trekking near to the DRC border is generally considered safe, due to the large and continuous Rwandan army presence.

While travelling in matutus (taxis) in the countryside, don't be surprised if the matutu drives through several police/military check-points. This is done to check IDs, car registration and insurance, so it would be wise to bring at least a photocopy of passport with you everywhere you go in Rwanda.

Stay healthy

The following is an excerpt from the US State Department's Consular Information Sheet on Rwanda updated on 1 Dec 2006:

Medical and dental facilities are limited, and some medicines are in short supply or unavailable. Travellers should bring their own supplies of prescription drugs and preventive medicines. In Kigali, Americans may go to King Faycal Hospital, a private facility that offers limited services. There is also a missionary dental clinic in Kigali staffed by an American dentist. An American-operated missionary hospital with some surgical facilities is in Kibagora, in southwestern Rwanda. Another hospital with American physicians is in Ruhengeri, near the gorilla trekking area, and a Chinese hospital is in southeastern Rwanda in Kibungo. There is also a very good hospital near Lac Muhazi, where even people from Kigali go to. The US Embassy maintains a current list of healthcare providers and facilities in Rwanda. This list is included in the Consular Section’s welcome packets for American citizens. There are periodic outbreaks of meningitis in Rwanda. Yellow fever can cause serious medical problems, but the vaccine, required for entry, is very effective in preventing the disease. HIV/AIDS is high among adults at 9% or 1 in 11. Practice safe sex. Avoid intravenous drug use.

Cope

Office Rwandaise du Tourisme et des Parcs Nationaux (ORTPN), Boulevard de la Révolution no 1, Kigali Tel: +250 576 514 or 573 396

Embassy of the Republic of Rwanda in Canada 53 Gilmour Street, Ottawa, ON K2P 0N8, Canada Tel: +1 613 569-5420

  • Embassy of the Republic of Rwanda in the UK

120-22 Seymour Place, London W1H 1NR, UK Tel: +44 20 7224 9832

  • Embassy of the Republic of Rwanda in the USA

1714 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20009, USA Tel: (202) 232 2882[2]

Respect

Rwanda is a very conservative society; most people dress modestly, especially women. Wearing shorts or tight skirts and skimpy tops is likely to get you stared at twice as much as normal.

It is unusual for a couple to make public displays of affection, even though many men walk hand in hand with male friends. Also, Rwandans will generally never eat or drink in public, apart from restaurants. Rwandan women are rarely seen smoking in public or out in bars unaccompanied.

Although there is no smoking ban in most public places like bars and restaurants, generally it's not encouraged. Sometimes people may complain of being disturbed with your smoking.

Rwandans are very private, reserved people and loud public confrontations (shouting matches) or obvious displays of emotion (such as crying) are also frowned upon. If you feel you are being overcharged by a trader, quietly persisting with the negotiation (or your complaint!) is likely to produce results much faster than an angry outburst!

It is also impolite to make eye contact with an elder.

Please understand that Rwanda is still recovering from a civil war and genocide in which over 800,000 people, perhaps a million, were killed. Many Rwandese lost relatives and friends. Remember to be sensitive to this sad fact when dealing with Rwandese. Most people today are trying to forget the tribal divisions and would rather be referred to as Rwandese than Hutu or Tutsi. It is considered impolite to ask someone about their ethnic origin.

There is not much political discourse in Rwanda, unlike in many neighbouring countries such as Uganda and Kenya where people talk freely about the government and political issues, people in Rwanda will be uncomfortable if asked about their views or even if seated at a table where national politics is discussed.

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Image credit: Darren Garrett

A 17-year-old boy of Bengali immigrant parents once told me how much he loved riding a bicycle—but that he would drive a car when he was an adult.

We were cycling from London to the coastal city of Brighton at the time. His mind was clearly infused with cultural notions of car ownership as a form of status and wealth — but more than that, it seemed to hinge on an idea that cycling belonged to a time of childhood, youth, and, broadly, of innocence. His image was in harmony with futurist author H.G. Wells, who wrote in 1905: “Cycle tracks will abound in utopia.”

In an age of politics proud to knock the vulnerable, where many fear for society’s loss of innocence, the way bicycles are creating a place for themselves on the world’s car-filled roads offers both a beacon and guide. It shows how a fringe and fragile, but rational idea can survive a political climate that prides itself on the ability to be firm, tough, and even mean.

Physics alone makes a compelling case for the value of the bicycle. Designed to human proportions, bicycles are recognized as the most energy-efficient means of transport available — better even than walking. A bicycle requires around 50 calories per passenger mile, and while cars vary greatly in efficiency rates, the equivalent figure starts at around 1,500. The bicycle is to transportation what pulleys and winches are to lifting; in their very essence, and even quite literally, bicycles give power to the powerless.

Over history, this quality has made them ever-present in both social change and protest. In 1896, American suffragette Susan B. Anthony famously pronounced of the bicycle, ‘’I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.’’ In the grainy footage of Chinese protesters clearing the wounded from Tiananmen Square in 1989, bicycles are visible bearing stretchers and helping protesters get around. In Saudi Arabia, as religious leaders prop up a conservative nation reliant on oil prices, the country’s first domestically produced film, Wadjda, features a young girl determined to resist the forces that try to stop her from riding the green bicycle she dreams of owning. The bicycle toes a delicate cultural line, along which it is powerful enough to inspire, but innocent enough not to offend censors.

In many examples, the bicycle plays both practical and emotional roles. Kimberly Coats, a cycling advocate who’s worked across Africa, has seen bicycles allow health workers to cover otherwise-impossible distances. Coats now runs women’s cycling club Team Rwanda Cycling, and explains how women have been slower to take up riding in Rwanda than in Ethiopia, Eritrea, and other places she has worked. “It’s been an uphill battle to find women interested in learning to cycle and then having the fortitude to stand up to the cultural stigma placed on them for riding,” she says. “It’s a slow process, but it is a process, and we are witnessing change. It’s not just freedom; bicycles are essential to a better quality of life in Africa.”

Una publicación compartida de Team Rwanda (@teamrwanda) el 31 de Dic de 2016 a la(s) 10:04 PST

Coats’ partner organization, Qhubeka, runs a number of projects across Africa that reward community work with bicycles. In the informal settlement of Kayamandi, in South Africa’s Western Cape province, 18-year-old Olwethu is now able to cycle to school and pursue ambitions of studying medicine. “Riding my bicycle has brought me closer to myself. It has taught me to be brave. The bicycle has changed my life,” she says. “I’m standing proud to show that I can ride my bicycle as a female and that not only men can ride. We also can do this.”

Those qualities are well-summarized in a 2012 message, encouraging riders to join a bicycle phalanx as it made its way to New York’s Union Square and Occupy Wall Street protests: “Bike Blocs at street protests have the advantage of being able to break up and reform. The spontaneity of a Bike Bloc means that participants are able to easily move through the streets without needing leaders or a decided route … In the past, Bike Blocs have provided a tremendous amount of solidarity and logistical support to demonstrators who are on foot.”

In both Western and non-Western settings, the low barriers to obtaining and using a bicycle, which requires little maintenance and is largely resilient against most kinds of mechanic failure, predisposes the technology toward inclusivity.

Although it’s hard to plot a single, accurate timeline in such a global trend, 2009 might usefully be seen as a tipping point in the cultural renaissance of the bicycle — a moment when its marginal, grassroots appeal started to go mainstream. With a greater number of people living in cities than the world’s rural areas for the first time, a pendulum tipped — bringing with it the need for efficient transport in settings that now define most of the human presence on Earth.

In the manicured spaces of the modern Western city, the bicycle offers a safe, healthy means of rebellion, perfectly attuned to the new vogue. Financial institutions in London and New York, which flocked eagerly to sponsor cycle hire schemes, have led the clamor around buying a slice of H.G. Wells’ prophesied utopia.

Nonetheless, the bicycle now has an almost existential appeal. In Paris, Mayor Anne Hidalgo has begun closing stretches of urban expressway so that the banks of the River Seine can see a “reconquest” by bikes and pedestrians. Back in London, Mayor Sadiq Khan has pledged to double cycling investment, build more bike lanes, and “make London a byword for cycling.” Campaigners are determinedly holding his feet to the fire on those promises, but the way politicians are now expected to come to the table with positive sound bites on bicycles demonstrates how central they are in the creation of modern, livable spaces.

This growing political popularity of cycling is not only the prevail of public-spirited leftists. In New York, it was finance-billionaire-turned-mayor Michael Bloomberg who first insisted Manhattan streets must accommodate bicycles. Some of the most impressive cycle infrastructure in London was signed-off by Boris Johnson; a man educated at Eton and Oxford, belonging to the highest walks of the British class system. To traditional conservatives, cycling seems to have a life-affirming appeal that draws resilience, thanks to the diversity of its gene pool.

The notion that bicycles form part of the architecture of a healthy city is also growing outside the West. Clarisse Linke is Brazil’s country director for the global Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, through which she has successfully pushed for the implementation of bicycle infrastructure in sprawling, gridlocked São Paulo. A well-integrated network of bike lanes has boosted the popularity of cycling on key routes by 116 percent, while also delivering large reductions in fatal accidents.

“The bike lane program came with a broader movement for reclaiming public spaces in São Paulo,” explains Linke. “There’s also an important mindset change in the population, which started to discover the need and joy of being ‘out in the streets.’ Bikes play an important role in that, as citizens have the possibility to interact with other citizens while outside a car.”

A city-centric view of the unstoppable roll of the bicycles, however, is perhaps wishful thinking. In thriving urban areas, we see bicycles in a glorified role as an avatar for metropolitan liberty. Cycling is celebrated in a city’s culture, media, and politics; cycling fashion is championed, each fatality is given broad coverage, condemned by campaign groups, and commemorated by protesters willing to close junctions by lying down in the street — an action that channels the idea of a sit-in into a “die-in.”

Una publicación compartida de karen ball (@didyoumakethat) el 29 de Jun de 2015 a la(s) 10:16 PDT

It isn’t only a question of urban areas, however. Different cities have different characteristics. Activists in the concrete sprawl of Houston, Texas, have been moved to begin a “ghost bike” project in which painted bicycles are left at those places where cyclists have been killed by drivers; their deaths treated by police as if such events were an obvious cost of using the road network on two wheels. Despite the existence of a grassroots cycling community to condemn the injustice, its presence has not yet permeated the minds of public servants.

Outside major metropolitan areas, the rights of cyclists are even more easily flouted. The statistics bear this out. In the U.K., rural roads host just 32 percent of every billion miles cycled, but are home to 58 percent of cycling fatalities. When the League of American Bicyclists ranked state policy on cycling (measuring a mix of state spending on bikes, long-term planning, and enforcement against driving offenses), it was Washington that topped the table, with West Coast companionship from Oregon and California also inside the top 10. States with lower urban density, like Alabama, Kentucky, Kansas, and Nebraska, propped up the bottom of the list.

Then there’s the curious phenomenon of the extreme anger that the mere presence of cyclists on our streets seems to evoke in some. Despite cyclists frequently suffering as the victims of roads, allowances for bicycles attract an ire that seems to go well beyond mere infrastructure. In New York, Bloomberg’s pro-bike changes saw a rival politician remark that, if elected, he would “tear out his fucking bike lanes.” Cycling communities are full of stories of unwarranted road rage. Even London’s former mayor, Boris Johnson, mercurial in his love of cycling, criticized fellow riders in 2012 for thinking of themselves as “morally superior.”

Julian Huppert, who served as MP for the U.K.’s top cycling city, Cambridge, tells similar stories about Eric Pickles, a minister with a bruising reputation for dismissing bikes. “He attacked Cambridge for focusing on cycling, describing it as the choice of the ‘elite,’” Huppert tells me. “In Cambridge, over a third of trips for work or education are done by bike; imagine the gridlock if we stopped cycling!”

These incidents aren’t isolated. In an era of Brexit and Trump, bicycles can be readily found in the basket of goods used to typify supposedly out-of-touch city types. The same nostalgic politics that harkens back to a glorious, unfettered past sees the curtailment of car use, imposition of speed limits, and affordance of greater rights to cyclists as an arrogant imposition of the future, a world of “political correctness gone mad.”

One common view of bicycles, rational and human-scale, is as a vehicle of liberalism, while cars become the prevail of those with an affinity for libertarian power. On roads dominated by heavy traffic, the cyclist quickly learns what it is to feel a minority, vulnerable, and structurally and systematically discriminated against. What happens in a culture that diminishes the value of rules, or scoffs at those that protect the vulnerable, is an increasingly central question of modern politics—but a familiar one in cycling.

Una publicación compartida de Qualitytraining (@quality__training) el 10 de Feb de 2017 a la(s) 6:08 PST

Looking at the road through this political lens, the value of bicycle campaigning takes on broader resonance for how vulnerable ideas can protect and advance themselves in judgmental times. A number of characteristics have, in this regard, always worked in the bicycle’s favor. For starters, cycling is an active, physical activity with a real-world manifestation that is at odds with the sometimes cerebral disposition of liberal thought. To cycle is to vote with your bike, and in a network built around cars, it’s a de facto public protest.

While liberal politics can struggle to offer symbols that enforce abstract ideas with semiotics that evoke feeling, the bicycle as a visual icon — instantly recognizable and unifying — has a galvanizing, rallying role in campaigns. Despite efforts — both positive and critical — to typecast cyclists, bicycles have broad appeal across a political spectrum; adherents are as likely to be proponents of conscientious living as they are to believe in a free-market world of survival of the fittest.

Many of those who campaign for cycling provisions genuinely see it as an answer to their perceptions of the world’s ills: climate change, pocketbook politics, self-reliant transport, taxpayer value for money, improved public health, emotional well-being. The belief that the bicycle really could fix all of our problems, whatever they are, creates an absolute vision that serves bicycle campaigning with both a practical roadmap and a religious zeal. It’s easier to build a utopia if you can imagine what it looks like, even if the only detail in that image is plenty of bikes.

The necessity of walking the talk is also paramount, and international cycling groups have exemplified much of what is required in smart, successful campaigning: Point to positive examples elsewhere, create healthy competition between nations and cities, get media visibility, don’t indulge rivalry between groups in the same movement, share knowledge, make politicians aware, hound them where they do not acknowledge you and praise them where they do, reply to consultations, write letters, propose visions. In short — be busy. Cycling has the added bonus of creating its own tribe — cyclists — and a value system is always at its strongest where it resides in the shared form of a community, rather than in potentially atomized, isolated individuals.

This inclusivity and action has had a tendency to filter upwards, making it possible to put ideals into practice. Female politicians have been instrumental in pushing through transport changes to the good of cycling: Anne Hidalgo has made Paris a leading light of the movement, Janette Sadik-Khan (no relation to London’s mayor) bossed Bloomberg’s transport policy, and Val Shawcross has been stalwart in London’s pro-bike changes.

The consistent thread in all of this is one of bicycles as a solution; an idea that can open those ghettos that form when busy roads segregate public space. It is not a combative form of transportation, but rather one that is well suited to pulling down the walls between groups and breathing air into the places where hostile politics fester.

Much of this can help in forming templates for how the politically vulnerable ideas and minorities of this world can now fortify themselves — designing transport to relegate motor traffic and prioritize humans and human interaction is only a metaphor for a broader struggle getting underway. Coats, though talking of bicycles in Rwanda, has words that are global in their relevance: “What I love about cycling is that it’s a sport that can cut through ethnic divisions, country conflict, and help overcome social and cultural stigma.”

In sympathy with this, the bicycle offers a pace of travel that is itself an incitation to patience. Change happens slowly, and you will more likely win a war by converting an opponent than defeating them. Huppert recalls how campaigners once struggled to get cycling issues into Parliament, but after a debate was scheduled and attracted a packed house in September 2013, it became easier to secure funding and changes further down the line.

Una publicación compartida de Colleen Lidz (@klidz) el 21 de Sep de 2014 a la(s) 11:09 PDT

Linke describes São Paulo’s eventual embrace of its bicycle infrastructure as evidence for the same gradual acceptance. “Public opinion changed significantly since the start, when the media voiced several criticisms, amplifying problems and making the population go against the program,” she says. “In the beginning, critics simply denied the possibility of bikes in São Paulo — saying that ‘bikes are good for Amsterdam, but they don’t fit in São Paulo.’”

Clear in Linke’s reflection, however, is a desire to welcome rather than punish those slow to come around to her way of thinking. “As the network moved forward and started to show new cyclists on the road, the main criticisms moved their focus from, ‘We don’t want bike lanes’ to ‘These bike lanes are not so good, we want better ones,’” she explains. “The media support changed along with the population’s support towards the bike lane program.”

Against a backdrop of social media burnout, and the unsettling capacity of the internet to create multiple realities, the fake-news furor of the 2016 U.S. presidential election seemed a high watermark for the feeling that the delicate bonds that secure human empathy are under threat.

As Donald Trump makes and unmakes both his promises and insults, playing fast and loose with facts along the way, the concept of gaslighting has been popularized as a term used to describe a process of taking control of a subject by making targets question their own memories, perceptions, and even sanity. Gaslighting is done through chicanery and contradiction, conjecture and non sequitur, rather than outright opposition.

But if gaslighting’s purpose is to unhinge people from their sense of self, cycling as a form of transport is the opposite, an antidote. It offers space to think. To ride is a small act of self-affirmation. I cycle, therefore I am; I am pedaling, I move forward, I feel the wind on my skin.

The word “transport,” unpacked to its etymology, means literally “across doors.” It represents the gray area between home and work, lived realities that we strive constantly to control. Transport is very often the thing that happens while we are making other plans.

As concern for the state of our public discourse begins to mount, as we rue our inability to communicate across divides that seem very new and needlessly wide, perhaps the humble bicycle, a transportation mode that puts people in contact with one another and gives them back that control they seem to crave, offers a unique opportunity to remake those realities for the better.

This piece was originally published at How We Get To Next and is reposted here with permission.

Some rights reserved Licence Creative Commons

The single story about Africa

Photo by Tanja Heffner

In her famous TED talk, Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie warned viewers of “The Danger of a Single Story.” She tells a poignant story of her experience living with her American college roommate in the United States to illustrate her point:

“My roommate had a single story of Africa. A single story of catastrophe. In this single story there was no possibility of Africans being similar to her, in any way. No possibility of feelings more complex than pity. No possibility of a connection as human equals.[…] If I had not grown up in Nigeria, and if all I knew about Africa were from popular images, I too would think that Africa was a place of beautiful landscapes, beautiful animals, and incomprehensible people, fighting senseless wars, dying of poverty and AIDS, unable to speak for themselves, and waiting to be saved, by a kind, white foreigner… The single story creates stereotypes and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”

How can you make sure that you too don’t get trapped in a single story of Africa? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Understand the geography of the African continent.

Africa is bigger than the United States, China, India and all of Europe combined. And yet too often, a negative news story about simply one of Africa’s fifty-four countries ends up negatively affecting the whole continent. For example, a BBC article reported that when the Ebola epidemic hit Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea, even countries in sub-Saharan Africa lost tourist revenue: advance bookings for 2015 in Tanzania were 50% lower. Tourists couldn’t understand that cities like Rome and Madrid were closer to the center of the of Ebola outbreak than Tanzania was. Instead they simply assumed that any country in Africa was automatically more dangerous.

2. Acknowledge the successes on the continent, instead of single-mindedly focusing on the negative.

It’s way too simplistic to focus only on the bad news coming out of Africa, particularly when there are plenty of things Africa does better than the States: According to data by the World Bank, Rwanda leads the world in female representation in their government (64% of their government officials are female. In the United States, that number is 18%). Unlike the United States, African countries offer paid maternal leave. Countries like the Central African Republic, Chad, Namibia all also have higher voter turnout rates than we do.

3. Read and watch Western portrayals of the Africa with a critical eye.

As Courtney Martin wrote, “single stories are born, not just from inadequately seeing real people (although that is sometimes the case), but inadequately writing real people — creating caricatures rather than characters.” This happens too often when Westerners attempt to portray African people in their art.

Check out this viral Youtube video made by an organization called Mama Hope, which points out the various stereotypes African men are tired of seeing in Hollywood movies. And check out Binyavanga Wainaina’s video instructing Westerners “How not to write about Africa”:

Keep these videos and idea in mind anytime you’re reading books or watching movies about the continent and its people.

4. Diversify your news sources.

In 2013, the #SomeoneTellCNN controversy in Kenya showed how Western new outlets reporting on Africa can often get the story wrong. Journalists get lazy and write pieces that don’t give the story the actual nuance (or even accuracy) it deserves.

To make sure you’re getting the full context of a story, check out news outlets that actually feature African journalists on the ground. Here are a few:

  • Africa is a Country — This was founded by Sean Jacobs in 2009 and aimed to “challenge the received wisdom about Africa from a left perspective, informed by his experiences of resistance movements to Apartheid.”
  •  

  • Africa Check — This non-profit organization was created in 2012 to “promote accuracy in public debate and the media in Africa” and “raise the quality of information available to society across the continent.”
  •  

  • Okay Africa — This website reports on African youth culture and art, and aims to fill “a much needed gap in representations of Africa by presenting a forward-thinking, nuanced view of Africa today.”
  • Rwanda (Bradt Travel Guide)

    Philip Briggs

    Entering its sixth edition, the Bradt guide to Rwanda continues to provide the most comprehensive coverage of any English-language guidebook on the market. Bradt Rwanda has long been the go-to guide for visitors to this historical and resurgent land of a thousand hills, and it continues to be in a class of its own when it comes to in-depth information on this emerald slice of Central Africa. With freshly researched and updated information on developments across the country, this new edition includes information on the ongoing revival & repopulation of Akagera National Park, up-to-date maps of rapidly modernising Kigali, and the latest on excursions into the neighbouring DRC. Written in an engaging and colourful style, Bradt's Rwanda is packed with personal anecdotes of people and places met across the country. With an emphasis on eco-tourism, there is a dedicated chapter to each of the national parks outlining all the practicalities: how to get there; how to obtain a permit; where to spot wildlife; how to identify flora; and how to identify the best trips offered by tour operators. The land of a thousand hills comes with surprises over every ridge; trek the dew-laden forests searching for mountain gorillas, swim on the dramatic shores of Lake Kivu, and stop to contemplate the despair from which this country has so magnificently risen at one of the poignant genocide memorials. There is much to see besides gorillas: the mountain-ringed inland sea; the immense Nyungwe Forest National Park with its chimpanzees, monkeys, and rare birds; the wild savannah of Akagera National Park; and, perhaps above all, the endless succession of steep cultivated mountains.

    Manners in Rwanda: Basic Knowledge on Rwandan Culture, Customs, and Kinyarwanda Language

    Joy Nzamwita Uwanziga

    If someone out there is planning on going to Rwanda, I would highly recommend picking up this book. It's light in tone, often humorous, and entails almost everything you will meet in terms of challenges and general wonderment when embarking on a surreal journey to Rwanda. The practical advice here will really help on your trip. Some amazing interactions with locals and cultural experiences make the book interesting. For those of you who are obsessed with the sheer variety in the many types of Rwandese cuisine, this is your book. It is pretty entertaining, and also I would recommend this to historians as well as those with an interest in African culture. This book is a must read, especially while travelling to Rwanda with a desire to explore. Prof. András Szöllösi-Nagy DSc, PhD Rector of UNESCO-IHE, Delft, the Netherlands

    Rwanda Travel Journal: Perfect Size 100 Page Travel Notebook Diary

    CreativeJournals

    Lightweight and perfect for traveling, this soft cover notebook Rwanda travel journal is ideal for tucking into a full bag or suitcase. The cover is a glossy finish so that you can easily wipe it off (if it ends up covered in something delicious-tasting, or lands in a mud puddle ;) Keep your memories for longer by journalling them in your Rwanda travel journal. A nice affordable travel notebook designed with the traveler in mind. This would make a great gift for the traveler in your life. Bon voyage!

    Manners in Rwanda: Basic Knowledge on Rwandan Culture, Customs, and Kinyarwanda Language (Multilingual Edition)

    Joy Nzamwita Uwanziga

    If someone out there is planning on going to Rwanda, I would highly recommend picking up this book. It's light in tone, often humorous, and entails almost everything you will meet in terms of challenges and general wonderment when embarking on a surreal journey to Rwanda. The practical advice here will really help on your trip. Some amazing interactions with locals and cultural experiences make the book interesting. For those of you who are obsessed with the sheer variety in the many types of Rwandese cuisine, this is your book. It is pretty entertaining, and also I would recommend this to historians as well as those with an interest in African culture. This book is a must read, especially while travelling to Rwanda with a desire to explore. Prof. András Szöllösi-Nagy DSc, PhD Rector of UNESCO-IHE, Delft, the Netherlands

    A Thousand Hills to Heaven: Love, Hope, and a Restaurant in Rwanda

    Josh Ruxin

    One couple's inspiring memoir of healing a Rwandan village, raising a family near the old killing fields, and building a restaurant named Heaven. Newlyweds Josh and Alissa were at a party and received a challenge that shook them to the core: do you think you can really make a difference? Especially in a place like Rwanda, where the scars of genocide linger and poverty is rampant?While Josh worked hard bringing food and health care to the country's rural villages, Alissa was determined to put their foodie expertise to work. The couple opened Heaven, a gourmet restaurant overlooking Kigali, which became an instant success. Remarkably, they found that between helping youth marry their own local ingredients with gourmet recipes (and mix up "the best guacamole in Africa") and teaching them how to help themselves, they created much-needed jobs while showing that genocide's survivors really could work together. While first a memoir of love, adventure, and family, A THOUSAND HILLS TO HEAVEN also provides a remarkable view of how, through health, jobs, and economic growth, our foreign aid programs can be quickly remodeled and work to end poverty worldwide.

    City Maps Kigali Rwanda

    James McFee

    City Maps Kigali Rwanda is an easy to use small pocket book filled with all you need for your stay in the big city. Attractions, pubs, bars, restaurants, museums, convenience stores, clothing stores, shopping centers, marketplaces, police, emergency facilities and the list goes on and on. This collection of maps is up to date with the latest developments of the city. This city map is a must if you wish to enjoy the city without internet connection.

    Rwanda, 5th (Bradt Travel Guide)

    Philip Briggs

    Rwanda is the world’s premier gorilla-tracking destination and was made famous as the setting for the film Gorillas in the Mist. However there is much to see beyond magical encounters with gorillas; Lake Kivu, the mountain-ringed inland sea; the immense Nyungwe Forest National Park with its chimpanzees, monkeys, and rare birds; and the wild savanna of Akagera National Park. Written in an engaging and colorful style this edition is packed with anecdotes of people and places met across the country.

    Land of Second Chances: The Impossible Rise of Rwanda's Cycling Team

    Tim Lewis

    Everyone deserves a second chance.     The 1994 Rwandan genocide shook the world and devastated a nation. Almost two decades later Rwanda is starting to piece itself back together. Against this backdrop the Rwandan cycling team is competing for acceptance into a global sport.      Meet Adrien Niyonshuti, a child of those tragic times with an Olympic dream. Meet Jock Boyer, the first American to ever compete in the Tour de France; a man with a dark past, hoping to rebuild his life coaching the team. Meet Tom Ritchey, the inventor of the mountain bike, and the US money man looking to recover from a personal crisis. Meet Paul Kagame, the President of Rwanda. Is he a strong force for Rwandan redemption or a man with too much power?     The Land of Second Chances is an inspiring true story of struggle, hope and redemption.

    Exercise a high degree of caution; see also regional advisories.

    The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The Government of Canada takes the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provides credible and timely information in its Travel Advice. In the event of a crisis situation that requires evacuation, the Government of Canada’s policy is to provide safe transportation to the closest safe location. The Government of Canada will assist you in leaving a country or a region as a last resort, when all means of commercial or personal transportation have been exhausted. This service is provided on a cost-recovery basis. Onward travel is at your personal expense. Situations vary from one location to another, and there may be constraints on government resources that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide assistance, particularly in countries or regions where the potential for violent conflict or political instability is high.

    Be vigilant and avoid large crowds. In recent years, a number of grenade attacks have taken place throughout the country, particularly in Kigali and the Southern Province. The attacks usually occur at nightfall and take place at busy locations such as bus stations and markets. On September 13 and again on September 14, 2013, grenades exploded in a market in a suburb of Kigali, resulting in at least two deaths, and many injuries. Similar incidents took place in July 2013 in Kigali, and in March 2013 in Kimironko.

    Regions bordering Burundi and parts of the DRC (see Advisory)

    The presence and movement of Rwandan refugees returning from neighbouring countries may cause tensions in rural areas. Although significant progress has been made in promoting national reconciliation, the security situation in these rural areas remains fragile. No violent incidents have been reported recently in the towns of Kibuye, and Cyangugu, near the border with the DRC, or in the town of Butare, near the border with Burundi. The Rwanda-DRC border could be closed without notice.

    Crime

    The level of crime is relatively low in Rwanda. However, petty theft occurs from cars and hotel rooms, and pickpockets are active in crowded places. Incidents of armed robbery have recently increased in Kigali at night. The number of house robberies in Kigali has also been steadily increasing over the past 12 months. Remain alert to your surroundings and ensure that personal belongings and vehicles are secure. Do not show signs of affluence and do not venture out alone or travel outside major cities after dark. Exercise caution and avoid crowded places.

    Demonstrations

    Demonstrations occur and have the potential to suddenly turn violent. They can lead to significant disruptions to traffic and public transportation. Avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings, follow the advice of local authorities and monitor local media.

    Road travel

    In general, the main roads in Kigali and linking Kigali to other cities are relatively well maintained; however, dirt roads, particularly the Gisenyi-Kibuye-Cyangugu road, are poor. Excessive speed, careless driving, the lack of basic safety equipment on many vehicles, the presence of pedestrians, cyclists and livestock on the roads, and the lack of streetlights pose hazards. Some roads may be difficult or impossible to access during the rainy season. Avoid travel after dark, particularly in rural areas. Police checkpoints are frequent.

    The use of mobile telephones while driving is illegal, unless fitted with a hands-free device.

    Third-party insurance is required to cover damages for those involved in accidents resulting in injuries but found not to have been at fault. Driver's licences of those found to have caused an accident can be confiscated during the investigation. If an accident results in death, you may be subject to a jail sentence. Drunk drivers are subject to a short prison sentence and a fine.

    Public transportation

    Shared taxis (minivans), the most common form of public transportation, can be dangerous due to overloading and reckless driving. Use licensed auto taxis, which are orange-striped. Confirm the fare before departing. There is no rail network in operation.

    Be cautious when using motorbike taxis as they are unsafe, and do not use them at night.

    Air transportation

    Consult our Transportation FAQ in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.

    Adventure tourism

    No recent incidents have been reported at the Parc National des Volcans and the Nyungwe Forest National Park. Park permits must be purchased from Rwanda’s Office of Tourism and National Parks. Within the parks, be accompanied by an official guide and only use established trails.

    General safety information

    Tourist facilities are adequate in Kigali and other major towns, but are limited in remote areas. In remote areas, access to electricity is not possible and the use of generators is common. During the dry season, there may be water shortages in some areas of the country and in some parts of Kigali.

    Emergency services

    Although ambulance services exist, they are insufficiently equipped.  The ambulance service can be contacted by calling 912. In other emergencies, such as robberies, help from the police can be obtained by calling 112. Police officers, especially those on the street, do not always speak French or English.

    In the event of a traffic accident in Kigali, police assistance can be obtained by calling 113. If you are involved in an accident outside of Kigali, it is recommended that you go directly to the nearest police station.

    Health

    Related Travel Health Notices
    Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
    Vaccines

    Routine Vaccines

    Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.

    Vaccines to Consider

    You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.

    Hepatitis A

    Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread by contaminated food or water. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.

    Hepatitis B

    Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.

    Influenza

    Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.

    Measles

    Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.
     

    Rabies

    Rabies is a disease that attacks the central nervous system spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from a rabid animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).

    Typhoid

    Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives, or with weakened immune systems. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should consider getting vaccinated.

    Yellow Fever Vaccination

    Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.

    Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

    * It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
    Risk
    • There is a risk of yellow fever in this country.
    Country Entry Requirement*
    • Proof of yellow fever vaccination is required for travellers from all countries.
    Recommendation
    • Vaccination is recommended.
    • Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care provider.
    • Protect yourself from mosquito bites.
    Food/Water

    Food and Water-borne Diseases

    Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.

    In some areas in East Africa, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in East Africa. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!

    Schistosomiasis

    Schistosomiasis is caused by blood flukes (tiny worms) spread to humans through contaminated water. The eggs of the worms can cause stomach illnesses like diarrhea and cramps or urinary problems. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Avoid swimming in contaminated water. There is no vaccine available for schistosomiasis.

    Travellers' diarrhea
    • Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
    • Risk of developing travellers’ diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
    • The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.

    Insects

    Insects and Illness

    In some areas in East Africa, certain insects carry and spread diseases like African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), chikungunya, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, dengue fever, leishmaniasis, lymphatic filariasis, malaria, onchocerciasis (river blindness), Rift Valley feverWest Nile virus and yellow fever.

    Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.


    Malaria

    Malaria

    • There is a risk of malaria throughout the year in the whole country.
    • Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by mosquitoes. There is no vaccine against malaria.
    • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in well-screened air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider sleeping under an insecticide-treated bednet or pre-treating travel gear with insecticides.
    • See a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss the benefits of taking antimalarial medication and to determine which one to take.

    Animals

    Animals and Illness

    Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, and bats. Certain infections found in some areas in East Africa, like avian influenza and rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.


    Person-to-Person

    Person-to-Person Infections

    Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practise proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.

    Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.

    HIV

    HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks and impairs the immune system, resulting in a chronic, progressive illness known as AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). 

    Practise safe sex while travelling, and don’t share needles, razors, or other objects which could transmit infection.

    Remember that HIV can also be spread through the use of unsterile medical equipment during medical and dental procedures, tattooing, body piercing or acupuncture. Diseases can also be spread though blood transfusions and organ transplantation if the blood or organs are not screened for HIV or other blood-borne pathogens.

    Tuberculosis

    Tuberculosis is an infection caused by bacteria and usually affects the lungs.

    For most travellers the risk of tuberculosis is low.

    Travellers who may be at high risk while travelling in regions with risk of tuberculosis should discuss pre- and post-travel options with a health care provider.

    High-risk travellers include those visiting or working in prisons, refugee camps, homeless shelters, or hospitals, or travellers visiting friends and relatives.


    Medical services and facilities

    Medical services and facilities

    Medical facilities are limited and scarce outside of Kigali. Hospitals in Kigali are adequate for routine procedures. Serious medical problems require air evacuation.

    Health tip

    Trekkers may experience acute mountain sickness (AMS) at high altitudes. AMS can be deadly. Carry travel and health insurance that includes provisions for helicopter rescue, medical evacuation, and treatment for accidental injury and medical emergencies.

    Keep in Mind...

    The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

    Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

    You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention page for more information.

    Penalties for drug-related offences are severe.

    Photography of government buildings is prohibited. You should also avoid taking photographs in border areas.

    Non-biodegradable bags are prohibited in Rwanda. If you arrive with such bags at the airport in Kigali, they might be confiscated.

    An International Driving Permit is required.

    Money

    The currency is the Rwandan franc (RWF). Only the larger hotels accept credit cards, mostly to settle hotel bills. Check with the establishment beforehand. Expect to handle other expenses in cash. Only commercial banks cash traveller’s cheques.

     Automated banking machines (ABMs) are limited to Kigali, and often do not accept Canadian ABM cards. Credit card cash withdrawals are available through a few banks in Kigali only.

    Climate

    Earthquakes

    Seismic activity is unpredictable and infrequent, but the possibility of earthquakes exists.

    Volcanoes

    Volcanic eruptions have occurred in Goma (DRC) and may pose a hazard in Gisenyi in northern Rwanda.

    Rainy season

    During the two rainy seasons (February to May and September to December), intense thunderstorms are frequent. Roads may become impassable to all but four-wheel-drive vehicles. Landslides and floods are common during these seasons. Keep informed of regional weather forecasts and plan accordingly.