Rwanda

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Friday, 13 December 2013.   It contains new information under Entry and Exit and Health (yellow fever). We continue to advise Australians to exercise a high degree of caution in Rwanda because of the risk of violence and criminal activity.

Rwanda overall

Border with Burundi

Border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, including towns of Gisenyi, Kibuye and Cyangugu

Summary

  • We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Rwanda because of the continuing risk of violence and criminal activity.
  • Pay close attention to your personal security at all times and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.
  • People have been killed and injured in grenade attacks in Kigali and Southern Province. Travellers are advised to exercise a high degree of caution in the period surrounding the Genocide Commemorations (which begin on 7 April each year). See under Civil unrest/political tension for more details.
  • We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to areas bordering the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), because of the volatile and unpredictable security situation in this region. There is a persistent risk that armed militias operating in DRC may cross the border into Rwanda.
  • We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to the areas bordering Burundi because of the high risk of banditry and conflict between government forces and armed groups. These areas include the Nyungwe Forest.
  • If travelling to border areas, travellers should also consider the travel advice of the neighbouring country.
  • Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Rwanda. The Australian High Commission in Kenya provides consular assistance to Australians in Rwanda.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
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Entry and exit

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Rwanda for the most up to date information.

The border crossings with DRC and Burundi can close with little or no notice.

Rwanda is listed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as endemic for yellow fever. Yellow fever is a serious and potentially fatal disease preventable by vaccination. A valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate is required for entry into Rwanda.

As the quarantine requirements for yellow fever vaccination differ between countries, we recommend that you check the yellow fever entry requirements for all countries you intend to enter or transit by contacting their foreign missions in Australia. Some airlines may require passengers to present a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate before being allowed to board flights out of the country. For more information about yellow fever, including Australian re-entry requirements, see the Department of Health website.

Make sure your passport has at least six months' validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Safety and security

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General advice to Australian travellers.

Civil unrest/political tension

We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Rwanda because of the risk of violence and criminal activity. Grenade attacks and other incidents of violence have periodically occurred since 2009, including in the capital Kigali and Southern Province. People have been killed and injured in these attacks, most recently in September 2013. Genocide memorial sites, markets and taxi and bus stops have been targeted. In previous years fatal attacks have occurred in the period surrounding the Genocide Commemorations (which begin on 7 April). Travellers should be particularly vigilant at this time.

You should avoid all protests, rallies and demonstrations as they may turn violent.

Border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo: We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to the areas bordering the DRC, due to the volatile and unpredictable security situation in this region. Since October 2008, heavy fighting has occurred in the DRC, close to the border with Rwanda, particularly in North Kivu Province, DRC. There have been reports of incursions by armed groups into Rwanda’s Rubavu District, near Gisenyi and Mutura, where they were engaged by the Rwanda Defence Forces. The situation remains volatile and could deteriorate without warning. There is an on-going risk of cross-border incursions by armed militias operating from the Kivu provinces in the DRC. If travelling to border areas, you should review the travel advice for DRC.

Border with Burundi: We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to the areas bordering Burundi because of the unsettled security environment, the high risk of conflict between government forces and rebels in Burundi, and the risk of cross-border incursions by armed groups, including bandits. The border can close without notice. If travelling to border areas, you should review the travel advice for Burundi.

If you are planning to visit the gorillas or climb volcanoes in the Volcanoes National Park (Parc National des Volcans), you should seek local advice before visiting this area. It is also advised that you book with a reputable travel agent. Permission from the Rwanda Office of Tourism and National Parks (ORTPN) is required before visiting the parks. The ORTPN may provide military escorts to these areas because of the risk of rebel attack. We strongly recommend that you only visit as part of an organised tour group.

Crime

Petty crime targeting foreigners and tourists, including bag snatching, pickpocketing and robbery, does occur in Rwanda. You should avoid walking or travelling after dark and remain vigilant during daylight hours. Theft from hotel rooms, residences and vehicles occurs. When driving you should ensure that windows are closed, doors locked and valuables out of sight.

Money and valuables

Before you go, organise a variety of ways to access your money in Rwanda, such as credit cards, travellers' cheques, cash, debit cards or cash cards. Rwanda is a cash-based society. Credit cards are only accepted at large hotels (check with your intended hotel before travelling to determine which credit cards they accept). Travellers' cheques can only be cashed at commercial banks. International ATMs are scarce in Rwanda. You should consult with your bank to find out the most appropriate currency to carry and whether your ATM card will work in Rwanda.

Most shops and businesses will not accept or exchange US dollars dated pre-2006.

Make two photocopies of valuable documents such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.

While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.

As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

You are required to pay an additional fee to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.

Local travel

Main roads between Kigali and other major towns are generally in good condition. Many secondary roads are only accessible by four-wheel drive vehicles, particularly during the rainy season. You should avoid driving at night as roads are unlit and driving standards are poor. The US Embassy prohibits its staff from driving outside of Kigali city limits after dark. Poorly maintained vehicles, speeding drivers and roaming animals pose additional safety risks. For further advice, see our road travel page.

We recommend that you use only licensed auto taxis, which are orange-striped, and confirm the fare before departure. Minivans (shared taxis) and motorbikes should be avoided, especially at night, due to reckless driving, poor maintenance and the risk of petty crime.

Police road blocks are common throughout the country. Travellers may be stopped and vehicles and luggage searched.

Access to the Volcanoes National Park (Parc National des Volcans, also known as the Virunga National Park) and Nyungwe Forest requires permission from the Rwandan Tourism Board Offices (ORTPN) (see also Civil Unrest/Political Tension above). You will be required to purchase a permit from the Rwandan Tourism Board before entering the parks.

Airline safety

Please refer to our air travel page for information about aviation safety and security.

Laws

When you are in Rwanda, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

Penalties for the possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are severe and convicted offenders can expect lengthy prison sentences and heavy fines.

Homosexual activity may lead to harassment by the public and/or police. See our LGBTI travellers page.

Photographing government buildings is prohibited.

Plastic bags are prohibited in Rwanda. You may be fined and the plastic bags confiscated on entry at the international airport and in public places.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Information for dual nationals

Our Dual Nationals brochure provides further information.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

Medical facilities are very limited throughout the country. In the case of an accident or illness, medical evacuation by air ambulance to Nairobi (Kenya) would be necessary and, if serious, a medical evacuation from Kenya to a destination with the required facilities would be recommended. A medical evacuation from Rwanda could cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Rwanda is listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as endemic for yellow fever. Yellow fever is a potentially fatal viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes, which is preventable by vaccination. We strongly recommend that you are vaccinated against yellow fever before travelling to Rwanda. See the Entry and Exit section for important information about vaccination certificate requirements. For more information about yellow fever, see the Department of Health website.

Malaria occurs widely throughout the year in Rwanda. Other insect-borne diseases also occur. We encourage you to take prophylaxis against malaria and take measures to avoid insect bites, including using insect repellent at all times, wearing long, loose-fitting, light coloured clothing and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof.

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including HIV/AIDS, meningitis, meningococcal, tuberculosis and rabies) are prevalent with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. We advise you to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food. Do not swim in fresh water to avoid exposure to certain water-borne diseases such as bilharzia (schistosomiasis). Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

Where to get help

Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Rwanda. You can obtain consular assistance from the nearest Australian High Commission which is in Kenya:

Australian High Commission
Riverside Drive (400 metres off Chiromo Road)
Nairobi, Kenya
Telephone: (+254 20) 427 7100
Facsimile: (+254 20) 427 7139
Website: www.kenya.embassy.gov.au/nair/home.html
Email: australia.hc.kenya@dfat.gov.au

If you are travelling to Rwanda, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

In a consular emergency, if you are unable to contact the above High Commission you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

The rainy seasons are February to May and September to December. Heavy rains can occur during these months and have the potential to cause flooding and mudslides throughout Rwanda. Damage caused by heavy rain may inhibit the delivery of essential services and the ability to travel around Rwanda, as roads may be impassable.

North-western Rwanda is in an active seismic zone and is subject to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The most recent earthquake occurred in 2008 on the border with the DRC and a volcanic eruption occurred in 2002. Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.

For parents

For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling with Children page.



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.