Rwanda

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Thursday, 28 May 2015.   This advice has been reviewed and updated. There has been significant political unrest and violence in neighbouring Burundi during the election period in May/June 2015. Border crossings may close at short notice (see Entry and exit). The level of the advice has not changed. We continue to advise Australians to exercise a high degree of caution in Rwanda because of the threat of violence and criminal activity.

Rwanda overall

Within 10 kilometres of the border with Burundi

Within 10 kilometres of the border 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 threat 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 Rwanda, including in Kigali.
  • We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to within 10 kilometres of the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), because of the volatile security situation in this region. There is an ongoing threat of armed militias operating in the DRC crossing the border into Rwanda.
  • We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to within 10 kilometres of the border with Burundi because of the possibility of banditry and conflict between government forces and armed groups. This includes the portion of the Nyungwe Forest National Park bordering Burundi.
  • See Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.
  • 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:
    • organise comprehensive travel insurance and check what circumstances and activities are not covered by your policy
    • register your travel and contact details, so we can contact you in an emergency
    • subscribe to this travel advice to receive free email updates each time it's reissued
    • follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
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Entry and exit

As of 1 November 2014 Australian nationals are eligible for a visa on arrival at Rwandan entry points. A visa fee applies. However, visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. You should contact the nearest Embassy of Rwanda, which is in Japan, for the most up to date information.

There has been significant political unrest and violence in neighbouring Burundi during the election period in May/June 2015. Border crossings may close at short notice.

Border crossings into the Democratic Republic of Congo can also close at short 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. 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.

Safety and security

Civil unrest/political tension

We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Rwanda because of the threat of violence and criminal activity. Grenade attacks and other incidents of violence have occurred periodically since 2009, including in Kigali. People have been killed and injured in these attacks. 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 within 10 kilometres of the border with the DRC, due to the 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 within 10 kilometres of the border with Burundi because of the unsettled security environment, the high risk of conflict between government forces and rebels in Burundi, and the possibility of cross-border incursions by armed groups, including bandits.

There has been significant political unrest, including violence, in neighbouring Burundi during the election period in May/June 2015. Tens of thousands of refugees have fled into Rwanda.

The border can close without notice. This includes the portion of the Nyungwe Forest National Park bordering Burundi. If travelling to border areas, you should review the travel advice for Burundi.

You should seek local advice before visiting the Volcanoes National Park (Parc National des Volcans). Book with a reputable travel agent and only visit as part of an organised tour group. Permission from the Rwanda Office of Tourism and National Parks (ORTPN) is required before visiting the park. The ORTPN may provide military escorts to this area because of the risk of rebel attack.

Crime

While infrequent, 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 also occurs. When driving you should keep valuables out of sight, and ensure that windows are closed and doors are locked.

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Overseas bulletin.

Money and valuables

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. ATMs which accept international cards are scarce in Rwanda.

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

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 online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

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 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 Safety and security. You will be required to purchase a permit from the Rwandan Tourism Board before entering these parks.

Airline safety

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See instead the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Rwanda.

Please also refer to our general air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

You are subject to the local laws of Rwanda, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards. If you’re arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

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

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

See our Dual nationals page.

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.

In an effort to prevent the spread of Ebola into Rwanda, authorities banned the entry of all travellers who have been in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in the previous 22 days. Health screening was imposed at all border posts. Any non-residents with a fever of 37.5 degrees or above were not allowed to enter Rwanda. These restrictions may persist. For more information on the outbreak and other travel restrictions and preventative measures, see the Ebola outbreak in west Africa travel bulletin.

Where to get help

Depending on your enquiry, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurer. Your travel insurer should have a 24 hour emergency number.

If the matter relates to criminal issues, contact the local police. The national number is 112, although emergency calls to this number may go unanswered. You should also obtain a police report when reporting a crime.

If the matter relates to complaints about tourism services or products, contact the service provider directly.

The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and can’t do to assist Australians overseas.

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

See the High Commission website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

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.

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.

Additional Resources

For additional general and economic information to assist travelling in this country, see the following link:



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.