COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Rwanda is a densely-populated, landlocked, developing country in central Africa, andisstillrecovering from the 1994 civil war and genocide. Economic activity and tourism are on the rise in Rwanda. Hotels and guesthouses are numerous in Kigali, the capital, and in major towns, but are limited in ruralareas. Read the Department of State Fact Sheet on Rwanda for additional information on U.S.-Rwanda relations.
SMART TRAVELER ENROLLMENT PROGRAM (STEP) / EMBASSY LOCATION: If you are going to live in or travel to Rwanda, please take the time to tell our Embassy about your trip by enrolling in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). If you enroll, we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements. It will also help your friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency. You should remember to keep all of your information in STEP up to date. It is important during enrollment or when you update your information to include your current phone number and email address where you can be reached in case of an emergency.
Local embassy information is available below and at the Department of State's list of embassies and consulates.
U.S. Embassy Kigali
2657 Avenue de la Gendarmerie
Telephone: 250 (252) 596-400
Facsimile: 250 (252) 596-591
Mailing address: B.P. 28, Kigali, Rwanda
Consular Section e-mail: email@example.com.
American Citizen Services hours: Tuesdays from 9:00 - 12:00 and Fridays from 9:00 - 12:00 by appointment.
The Embassy is closed on U.S. and Rwandan holidays.
ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS FOR U.S. CITIZENS: All travelers must have at least six months validity remaining on their passport on the day of entry into Rwanda. A valid passport and a yellow fever certificate of immunization are required for those 9 months of age and older. Visas are not required for U.S. citizens entering Rwanda for fewer than 90 days of tourism. U.S. citizens planning on remaining in Rwanda for more than 90 days must apply for a permit within 15 days of their arrival at the immigration office in Kigali.
If you plan on working in Rwanda you should review the information concerning Rwandan visas before departing the United States, and apply for a work permit at the Directorate of Immigration as soon as possible after your arrival in Rwanda. Any type ofwork in Rwanda, including volunteer work and unpaid internships,requires a work visa. If you plan to apply for any type ofwork orresidency visa, you will need to bring your police report from your local or state police and/or the FBI with you to Rwanda. Many visa categories (there are more than 20) also require a curriculum vitae or presentation of credentials from a sponsoring institution. You may also be required to present either your original high school or university diploma or a stamped, certified copy. Visa requirements in Rwanda are complex and stringent, and the Rwandan government may deport or heavily fine visa violators.
Detailed entry information may be obtained from Rwanda’s Directorate of Immigration and/or The Embassy of Rwanda, located at 1714 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, Washington DC 20009, telephone 202-232-2882, fax 202-232-4544. Overseas, inquiries may be made at the nearest Rwandan Embassy or Consulate.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information Page.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Rwanda.
THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY: There are currently no daytime travel restrictions in place for official U.S. citizens within Rwanda, but please review U.S. Embassy Kigali’s messages for U.S. citizens in Rwanda.
In April 2012, conflict erupted in the eastern DRC between the Congolese armed forces (FARDC) and M23, an armed group comprised of formerly integrated soldiers who defected from the FARDC. Ongoing fighting between those forces and among other armed groups has caused thousands of Congolese to enter northwest Rwanda as refugees.
In mid November 2012, cross-border fire landed within the borders of Rwanda in the vicinity of Gisenyi. One week later, there was an apparent incursion by armed militants in the vicinity of Mudende. In early December 2012, a small element of armed individuals allegedly crossed the border from Eastern DRC and attacked a ranger camp northwest of Kinigi. The attack, which occurred just south of Volcanoes National Park, left one ranger dead. The Government of Rwanda has accused the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) of responsibility for these incursions. The FDLR is an armed group that includes former soldiers and supporters of the regime that orchestrated the 1994 genocide and that continues to operate in eastern DRC, near the border of Rwanda.
Grenade attacks aimed at the local populace have periodically occurred in Rwanda in recent years. The most recent attacks took place on March 30, 2012, at two separate locations in Kigali; one at the Nyarugenge market in Kigali City Center, which injured four bystanders and the second in front of local stores in Kangondo Village, which injured two bystanders. A January 24, 2012, attack at a bus stand in Gitarama injured 14 bystanders. A January 3, 2012, grenade attack in the Kibagabaga neighborhood of Kigali killed two and injured 16 bystanders. Additionally, a July 12, 2011, attack at a moto-taxi stand in Rusizi District, located near the southwestern border town of Cyangugu, wounded several dozen bystanders. Prior to this attack, there were several incidents in Kigali including an attack on March 1, 2011, in the Nyamirambo District and on January 28, 2011, in the Remera-Giporoso area. These attacks resulted in numerous injuries and several deaths. In 2010, grenade attacks occurred in Kigali on August 11, May 15, April 10, March 4, and February 19, all resulting in damage and casualties. In December 2009 small explosive devices were detonated on three occasions in commercial establishments in Huye (Butare), Southern Province, injuring several people. At least 4 people were killed and 52 injured in a hand grenade attack in rural Nyanza District, Southern Province, on September 26, 2009. In July 2009, December 2008, April 2008, and April 2007, unknown assailants detonated small explosive devices in Kigali, twice at genocide memorial sites. The Embassy urges you to remain vigilant, exercise caution, and avoid crowds, demonstrations, or any other form of public gathering.
An area of potential concern is the Mount Nyiragongo volcano, just outside the eastern DRC town of Goma and near the Rwandan
border. The volcano is active and last erupted on January 17, 2002, killing 47 people, destroying 15% of Goma and leaving
120,000 people homeless. In January 2008, an earthquake centered in eastern Congo killed 39 people and injured about 700,
including residents of the Rwandan border town of Cyangugu.
On occasion, travel by U.S. Embassy personnel may be restricted based on changing security conditions. U.S. Embassy personnel are prohibited from driving outside Kigali city limits after dark (6:00 p.m.), and are not permitted to use motorcycle-taxis or mini-bus taxis. Visitors are encouraged to enroll inthe Smart Traveler Enrollment Program at step.state.gov so that they will receivethe latest security information. (See Enrollment/Embassy Location section above.) Messages sent to the U.S. citizen community are also posted on the U.S. Embassy website.
Stay up to date by:
CRIME: Pick-pocketing in crowded public places is common, as is petty theft from cars, hotel rooms, and other public places, including churches. Although violent crimes such as carjacking, robbery, rape, and home invasion occur in Rwanda, they are rarely committed against foreigners. Over the past year, however, the Embassy has received several reports of late night assaults and robberies involving pedestrians, primarily in, but not limited to, the Kiyovu district of Kigali. The Embassy has also noted anincrease inreportedresidential burglary attempts throughout Kigali. You are advised to remain alert, exercise caution, and follow appropriate personal security measures.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. We can:
There is no equivalent to a “911” emergency telephone line in Rwanda. You may contact local police by dialing 112 for emergency, 113 for traffic accident, and 3511 for abuse by a police officer (including attempts at bribery).
Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While you are traveling in Rwanda, you are subject to its laws. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own and criminal penalties will vary from country to country. There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States. You can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. Rwanda has strictly enforced laws on appropriate speech regarding the genocide. If you break local laws in Rwanda, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not wherever you are.
Persons violating Rwandan laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Rwanda are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Please see our information on U.S. Criminal Penalties.
Based on the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, bilateral agreements with certain countries, and customary international law, if you are arrested in Rwanda you have the option to request that the police, prison officials, or other authorities alert the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate of your arrest, and to have communications from you forwarded to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
Visas: U.S. citizens are permitted to enter Rwanda visa-free for tourism visits up to 90 days. An appropriate visa is required for any other purpose (work, volunteering, religious mission, etc.) and you must apply for it as soon as possible after arrival with the Directorate of Immigration. If you fail to do so, you may be denied an exit stamp, detained, and/or heavily fined.
Telecommunications: Telephone communication to and from Rwanda is generally reliable. Cellular telephones and Internet connections are available in Kigali and large towns. There are two main telecom providers, MTN and Tigo. A third, Rwandatel, is transitioning to new ownership, but still provides service in some areas.
Plastic bags: Non-biodegradable plastic bags are banned in Rwanda. Travelers carrying them upon arrival at the Kayibanda International airport may have them confiscated and have to pay approximately $4 for a reusable cloth replacement.
Currency: International ATMs are scarce and unreliable in Rwanda. As of October 2011, there are only two international ATMs in Rwanda; both of these accept only Visa ATM cards. The Rwandan franc is easily exchangeable for hard currencies in banks and the Bureaux de Change. Several banks in Kigali can handle wire transfers from U.S. banks, including Western Union. Credit cards are accepted at only a few hotels in Kigali, and then only to settle hotel bills. Hotels currently accepting credit cards for payment include the Kigali Serena Hotel (formerlytheIntercontinental), the Hotel des Mille Collines, the Laico Umubano, Stipp Hotel, and the Lake Kivu Serena Hotel. Please note that there may be an added fee for using a credit card. Travelers should expect to pay for most expenses, including airplane tickets, in cash. Traveler's checks can be cashed only at commercial banks. Most banks and exchange bureaus will not accept U.S. currency printed before the year 2006. Additionally, many exchange bureaus offer preferential rates for $100 bills and hotels or exchange bureaus may refuse to accept smaller bills. The Embassy recommends traveling with newer U.S. currency notes.
Accessibility: While in Rwanda, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what you would find in the United States. Buildings with elevators and ramps are limited, though newly-constructed buildings have improved access and facilities.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: There are very few emergency municipal response services. Ambulances are available in Kigali through SAMU by calling 912 from any mobile phone, or through King Faisal Hospital at 078 830 9003. Ambulance service is basic and works solely as transportation, usually with no medical treatment involved. Outside of Kigali, ambulances are extremely scarce. Medical and dental facilities are limited, and some medicines are in short supply or unavailable; you should carry your own supply of properly-labeled medications to cover your entire stay. In Kigali, King Faisal Hospital is a private facility open 24-hours that offers basic services with nurses on duty in the emergency room and physicians generally available. There is also a missionary dental clinic and a few private dentists. Charitable hospitals run by U.S. organizations with some surgical facilities can be found in Kibagora, in southwestern Rwanda, in Ruhengeri, near the gorilla trekking area, and in Rwinkavu, near the entrance to Akagera National Park.
The U.S. Embassy maintains a current list of healthcare providers and facilities in Rwanda on its website.
There are periodic outbreaks of meningitis in Rwanda, and the meningitis vaccine is recommended if you are traveling during the dry season, May-October. Yellow fever can cause serious medical problems, but the vaccine is very effective in preventing the disease. The yellow fever vaccine is required for all travelers over 9 months of age, and travelers who cannot show proof of vaccination will not be permitted to enter Rwanda.
Malaria is endemic to Rwanda. We strongly encourage U.S. citizens visiting Rwanda to take prophylactic medications to prevent malaria. These should be initiated prior to entry into the endemic area. Many malaria prophylaxis medicines are not available in Rwanda and, because of possible counterfeit of antimalarial medications, these should be obtained from a reliable pharmaceutical source before arrival. Multiple outbreaks of Ebola have been reported in neighboring DRCin 2007 and Uganda in 2008, but none within Rwanda. Rabies is present throughout the country. All bites, scratches, and licks should be taken seriously and post-exposure rabies treatment sought. Pre-exposure rabies immunization is recommended for long-term travelers, and those adventure travelers who will be more than 24 hours away from reliable post-exposure treatment.
Schistosomiasis, transmitted by waterborne larvae that penetrate intact skin, presents significant risk throughout the country. All fresh water lakes in the area should be considered contaminated. You should avoid swimming or wading in Lake Kivu and all freshwater exposure.
You can find more information on vaccinations and other health precautions, on the CDC website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) website. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: You can’t assume your insurance will go with you when you travel. It’s very important to find out BEFORE you leave whether or not your medical insurance will cover you overseas. You need to ask your insurance company two questions:
In most places, doctors and hospitals expect payment in cash at the time of service. Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctors’ and hospital visits in other countries. Medicare does not pay for any medical care received outside of the United States or its territories. If your policy doesn’t cover you when you travel, it is a good idea to take out another policy for your trip. For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page. A medical evacuation from Rwanda may cost upwards of $30,000.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in Rwanda, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Rwanda is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance. In Rwanda, as in the United States, traffic moves on the right-hand side of the road.
U.S. Embassy personnel are prohibited from driving outside Kigali city limits after dark (6:00 p.m.), and are not permitted to use motorcycle-taxis or mini-bus taxis. Due to safety and security concerns, the use of motorcycle-taxis or mini-bus taxis for transportation is not recommended. Regulated orange-striped (along the base of the vehicle) sedan auto taxis are safer, but be sure to agree on a fare before beginning yourtrip. Public transportation can be dangerous due to overloading, inadequate maintenance, and careless drivers.
The main roads in Rwanda are in relatively good condition, but during the rainy season many side roads are passable only with four-wheel drive vehicles. Nighttime driving, particularly outside major cities, is hazardous and is discouraged. Often, roadways are not marked and lack streetlights and shoulders. Many sections have deteriorated surfaces. Due to possible language barriers and lack of roadside assistance, receiving help may be difficult. You may be stopped at police roadblocks throughout the country, where your vehicle and luggage may be searched. Service stations are available along main roads.
You should exercise caution at traffic circles. Cars already in a traffic circle have the right-of-way, but up until 2004, cars entering traffic circles had the right-of-way. Excessive speed, careless driving, and the lack of basic safety equipment on many vehicles are hazards on Rwanda's roads. Many vehicles are not well maintained, and headlights are either extremely dim or not used. Drivers tend to speed and pass other cars with little discretion. Some streets in Kigali have sidewalks or sufficient space for pedestrian traffic, while others do not, and pedestrians are forced to walk along the roadway. Street lighting is limited and drivers often have difficulty seeing pedestrians. Additional road hazards include cyclists, pedestrians, and livestock.
Third-party insurance is required and will cover any damages from involvement in an accident resulting in injuries, if you are found not to have been at fault. The driver’s license of individuals determined to have caused an accident may be confiscated for three months. Causing a fatal accident could result in three to six months' imprisonment. Drunk drivers are jailed for 24 hours and fined 20,000 Rwandan Francs (RWF)(approximately $35). Call 311 from any mobile phone to reach local police or any of these local police station numbers. Ambulance assistance is very limited but can be obtained in Kigali by dialing 912. Wear seat belts and drive with care and patience at all times. In the event of an emergency, U.S. citizens can contact the Embassy duty officer at 078-830-0345.
Rwandan traffic laws prohibit the use of mobile phones while driving and, if apprehended, the driver will be fined 10,000 RWF (about $18). Hands-free devices may be used. As of August 2010, after-market tinted window treatments are prohibited on all vehicles; those apprehended will be required to remove them.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. For specific information concerning Rwandan driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax, and mandatory insurance, we suggest that you visit the website of the Rwanda Office of Tourism and National Parks or the Rwanda National Police who are responsible for road safety.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Rwanda, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Rwanda’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.
This replaces the Country Specific Information for Rwanda dated July 25, 2012 to update the section on Threats to Safety and Security.