RwandaOfficial Name: Republic of Rwanda
Must have at least six months validity remaining
BLANK PASSPORT PAGES:
One blank page required for entry stamps
TOURIST VISA REQUIRED:
Yes, effective November 1, 2014
Yellow fever vaccination required upon entry
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY:
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT:
Embassies and Consulates
#2657 Avenue de la Gendarmerie (Kacyiru)
Telephone: +(250) (252) 596-400
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(250) (252) 596-400, and dial 1.
Fax: +(250) (252) 596-591
Rwanda is a densely-populated, landlocked, developing country in central Africa, and is still recovering 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 rural areas. Read the Department of State Fact Sheet on Rwanda for additional information on U.S.-Rwanda relations.
Entry, Exit & Visa Requirements
Visa requirements in Rwanda are complex and stringent, and the Rwandan government may deport or heavily fine visa violators. For visa information, visit the Rwandan Directorate General of Immigration and Emigration website or contact the Embassy of Rwanda, telephone
202-232-2882. Overseas inquiries should be made at the nearest Rwandan embassy or consulate.
Effective November 1, 2014, Rwanda requires that all U.S. citizens possess a visa at the time they request entry into Rwanda. A visa valid for 30 days for the purpose of tourism can be purchased for $30 upon arrival at Kigali International Airport or at Rwanda’s land borders. Accepted forms of payment include U.S. dollars printed after 2006 and credit cards issued by Visa. U.S. citizens planning on remaining in Rwanda for more than 30 days must apply for a permit within 15 days of their arrival at the Directorate General of Immigration and Emigration in Kigali.
As of August 2014, Rwanda instituted Ebola screening procedures at all ports of entry, including Kigali International Airport, although there has been no reported outbreaks of Ebola within the country. Please see the most recent message to U.S. Citizens concerning current screening procedures.
A valid passport and a yellow fever certificate of immunization are required for those nine months of age and older.
Any type of work in Rwanda, including volunteer work and unpaid internships, requires a work visa. Review the information concerning Rwandan visas before departing the United States, and apply for a work permit at the Directorate General of Immigration and Emigration as soon as possible after your arrival in Rwanda. A certified copy of your police report from your local or state police and/or the FBI is required for any work or residency visa. Many visa categories also require a curriculum vitae or presentation of credentials from a sponsoring institution. An original high school or university diploma or a stamped, certified copy may also be required. It is extremely difficult to obtain police reports or other required documents outside of the United States and the U.S. Embassy cannot assist you in obtaining them. Therefore, we recommend obtaining certified copies before leaving the United States.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Rwanda.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.
Safety and Security
Please review the Embassy’s latest security messages for U.S. citizens in Rwanda.
Grenade attacks aimed at the local populace in Rwanda have occurred on a recurring basis over the last five years. Three attacks occurred in Kigali in 2013, killing five and injuring 42 persons. Two more attacks occurred in the city of Ruhengeri (also known as Musanze) in early 2014. Remain vigilant, exercise caution, and avoid crowds, demonstrations, or any other form of public gatherings.
U.S. citizens should exercise extreme caution when traveling near the Rwanda-DRC border given the possibility of renewed fighting between the Congolese armed forces (FARDC) and the M23 armed group. While M23 was defeated militarily in November 2013, the FARDC and peacekeepers of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) continue to engage in combat operations against other armed groups in the DRC state of North Kivu, which borders Rwanda.
In June 2014, cross-border fighting between the Rwandan Defence Forces and FARDC, north of the city of Gisenyi (also known as Rubavu), resulted in the deaths of several combatants. In late August 2013, cross-border fire landed within the borders of Rwanda, in Rubavu district, including within the city of Gisenyi. In early December 2012, a small element of armed individuals 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 Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) claimed responsibility for this incursion. 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 with Rwanda.
An area of potential concern for a natural disaster is the Mount Nyiragongo volcano, just outside the eastern DRC town of Goma and near the Rwandan border. Mount Nyiragongo last erupted on January 17, 2002 killing 47 people, destroying 15 percent of Goma, and leaving 120,000 people homeless. Rwanda is also located in a seismically active region. 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. In November 2012, an earthquake centered in southern Uganda was felt as far south as Kigali.
Akagera National Park and Wildlife Areas: Remember the risks involved when traveling through the habitats of wild animals. Approaching large animals, even when in a vehicle, can result in injury or death.
Use only official Kigali city buses, most of which are owned and operated by Kigali Bus Service, and established taxi or car services. Most regulated taxis are white with a colored stripe along the bottom of the doors. Driving outside the Kigali city limits, or the limits of other major cities, after dark (6:00 p.m.) is not recommended. Do not use motorcycle-taxis or mini-bus taxis as they are unsafe. See the Travel & Transportation section for more information.
To stay connected:
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program so we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements.
- Follow the Bureau of Consular Affairs on Twitter and Facebook.
- Bookmark the Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which contains the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution.
- Follow the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda on Twitter and visiting the Embassy’s website.
- In the event of an emergency, contact us at 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the United States and Canada, or via a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444, from other countries.
- Take some time before traveling to consider your personal security and checking for useful tips for traveling safely abroad.
CRIME: Pick-pocketing in crowded public places is common, as is petty theft from cars, hotel rooms, and other public places, including churches. Smart phones and other portable/mobile electronics are particularly targeted by thieves. Violent crimes such as carjacking, robbery, rape, and home invasion are rarely committed against foreigners but residential burglaries throughout Kigali have increased. Burglars may break and enter, attempt to trick domestic staff into allowing them unimpeded entrance, or seek to co-opt residential security guards to participate in burglaries. Remain alert, exercise caution, and follow appropriate personal security measures. U.S. citizens who reside in Rwanda should also ensure their domestic staff understands these 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:
- Replace a stolen passport.
- Help you find appropriate medical care if you are the victim of violent crimes such as assault or rape.
- Put you in contact with the appropriate police authorities, and if you want us to, contact family members or friends.
- Help you understand the local criminal justice process and direct you to local attorneys, although it is important to remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime.
The Rwandan equivalent to a “911” emergency telephone line can be reached by dialing 112, though emergency calls to this number may go unanswered. For non-emergency situations, contact local police by dialing 112, 113 for traffic accident, and 3511 for abuse by a police officer (including attempts at bribery).
Please see our information for victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
Local Laws & Special Circumstances
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. Persons violating Rwandan laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Rwanda strictly enforces its laws about appropriate speech regarding the genocide. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Rwanda are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. In Rwanda, you may be taken in for questioning if you do not have your passport with you or if you take pictures of certain buildings. If you break local laws in Rwanda, your U.S. passport will not help you avoid arrest or prosecution.
Non-biodegradable plastic bags are banned in Rwanda. Travelers carrying them upon arrival at the Kigali International Airport may have them confiscated.
There are also some things that might be legal in Rwanda, but still illegal in the United States.
It is a crime prosecutable in the United States to engage in sexual conduct with children and use or disseminate child pornography in a foreign country. You can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods, regardless of local law. If you break local laws in the Rwanda, your U.S. passport will not help you avoid arrest or prosecution.
While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested in that country, others may not. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate as soon as you are arrested or detained overseas.
Telecommunications: Telephone communication to and from Rwanda is generally reliable. Cellular telephones are available for purchase in many large towns and cellular service is reliable along most major routes in Rwanda. There are three main cellular providers: MTN, Tigo and Airtel. Internet service is increasingly available throughout Rwanda, but high-speed connections are often unavailable or unreliable and expensive.
Currency: Travelers should expect to pay for most expenses, including airplane tickets, in cash. Most Rwandan banks and businesses do not accept traveler’s checks. The Rwandan franc is easily exchangeable for hard currencies in banks and cash exchange bureaus. Most banks and exchange bureaus will not accept U.S. currency printed before 2006 so travel with newer U.S. currency notes. Additionally, many exchange bureaus offer preferential rates for $100 bills and hotels or exchange bureaus may refuse to accept smaller bills.
International ATMs are increasingly available in every major city in Rwanda. ATMs in Rwanda accept only Visa cards; MasterCard cards may be used for cash withdrawals for a fee at Access Bank locations co-located with Western Union offices. Beware of ATM skimmers at some ATMs which can steal card data for fraudulent use. Several banks in Kigali and Western Union branches can handle wire transfers from U.S. banks.
Credit cards are accepted at hotels, restaurants, and large grocery stores in Kigali, and to a lesser extent at some hotels and restaurants in other cities. Be sure to confirm the available method of payment with businesses in advance.
WOMEN TRAVELER INFORMATION: If you are a woman traveling abroad, please review our tips for Women Travelers.
LGBT RIGHTS: There are no laws that criminalize sexual orientation or consensual same-sex sexual relations; however, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals face societal discrimination and abuse.
For more detailed information about LGBT rights in Rwanda you may review the State Department’s annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. For further information on LGBT travel, please read our LGBT Travel Information page.
ACCESSIBILITY: While in Rwanda, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from is found in the United States. Persons with disabilities face limited access to transportation and public buildings though newly-constructed buildings have improved access and facilities. While sidewalks are ubiquitous along major routes in Kigali, they are not found in most other cities and they do not include curb-cuts.
Consult the CDC website for Rwanda prior to travel for the most up to date health information. Make sure your health insurance covers you while overseas and consider supplemental insurance that includes medical evacuation. Medical and dental facilities are limited, and some medicines are in short supply or unavailable; you should carry your own supply of medications in their original packaging to cover your entire stay. There are some Western-trained physicians but many are locally trained, where the standard of medical education is not on par with the United States.
There are very few emergency municipal response services. Ambulances are available in Kigali through the Service d'Aide médicale d'Urgence (Emergency Medical Service, 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. Ambulance companies expect payment either up front or upon delivery. They charge an initial 5,000 Rwandan Francs (RWF), and then an additional amount per kilometer traveled. Ambulances are extremely scarce outside of Kigali.
In Kigali is King Faisal Hospital, a private hospital that offers 24-hour assistance with physicians and nurses on duty in the emergency room. Hospitals supported 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 Rwinkwavu, near the entrance to Akagera National Park. The National Teaching Hospital of the University of Rwanda is located in Huye (formerly Butare).
Disease Outbreaks: Mosquito borne illnesses such as malaria and yellow fever are a major problem throughout the country. Prevention of bites and proper immunizations are important for all areas. Use mosquito repellents containing at least 20 percent DEET or picaridin and sleep under insecticide-impregnated mosquito nets if possible. Malaria prophylactic medication should be initiated prior to entry. Many malaria prophylactic medicines are not available in Rwanda and, because of possible counterfeit of anti-malarial medications, should be obtained from a reliable pharmaceutical source before arrival.
Be up-to-date on all childhood vaccinations. In addition, there are periodic outbreaks of meningitis in Rwanda, and the meningitis vaccine is recommended if travel will be taken during the dry season, May-October. Rabies is common in Rwanda; all animal bites, scratches, and licks should be immediately washed with soap and water and evaluated to determine if further rabies immunization is warranted. Pre-exposure rabies immunization is recommended for long-term travelers and adventure travelers who will be more than 24 hours away from reliable post-exposure treatment. Post-exposure treatment for rabies is not always available.
Schistosomiasis is caused by a parasitic worm. Avoid wading, swimming, bathing, or washing in, or drinking from bodies of fresh water including Lake Kivu.
Tuberculosis (TB) is an increasingly serious health concern in Rwanda. For further information, please consult the CDC's information on TB.
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.
Travel & Transportation
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in Rwanda, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. Traffic safety is hazardous due to excessive speeds, careless driving, poorly maintained vehicles, and lack of basic safety equipment on many vehicles. 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. Service stations are available along main roads. Due to possible language barriers and lack of roadside assistance, receiving help may be difficult.
Use only official Kigali city buses, most of which are owned and operated by Kigali Bus Service, and established taxi or car services. Do not use motorcycle-taxis or mini-bus taxis as they are unsafe. Public transportation can be dangerous due to overloading, inadequate maintenance, and careless drivers. Regulated sedan auto taxis (which have a colored stripe along the doors) are safer, but fares should be negotiated before passengers embark. Car services tend to operate newer luxury 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. Headlights are either extremely dim or not used. Police may stop travelers at roadblocks throughout the country and search the vehicle and luggage.
Wear seat belts and drive with care and patience at all times. Exercise caution at traffic circles and traffic lights, as drivers do not always respect the right-of-way. 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, cyclists, and livestock.
Third-party insurance is required and will cover any damage from involvement in an accident resulting in injuries, if the driver is 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 up to eight years imprisonment. Drunk drivers are jailed for 24 hours and fined up to $400.
In the event of an emergency, U.S. citizens can contact the U.S. Embassy at 250-252-596400, then dial 1. Local police may be reached at 311 from any mobile phone.
Rwandan traffic laws prohibit the use of mobile phones while driving and, if apprehended, the driver will be fined 10,000 RWF (about $15). Hands-free devices may be used. After-market tinted window treatments are prohibited on all vehicles; those ticketed for this offense 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, visit the website of the Rwanda Development Board, which is responsible for tourism, or the Rwanda National Police, which is 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.