Important COVID-19 travel guidance
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office currently advises British nationals against all but essential international travel. Travel to some countries and territories is currently exempted.
This advice is being kept under constant review. Travel disruption is still possible and national control measures may be brought in with little notice, so check our travel guidance.
Safety and security
The eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) which neighbours Rwanda remains unstable, and conflict can flare up with little notice. There have been incidents of violent clashes on the DRC-Rwanda border in recent years:
- On 4 October 2019, an attack in Kinigi, adjacent to Volcanoes National Park, is reported to have caused the death and injury of approximately 14 people. The Government of Rwanda report that the area is now secure following the deployment of additional security forces and tourism services continue to operate as normal in the Park.
- On 19 October 2019, a grenade attack in Kamembe Town, Rusizi District in the South-West of Rwanda injured 4 people.
There have been other violent incursions into the South West of Rwanda. On 15 December 2018, a military incursion killed a number of civilians near Kitabi, on the edge of the Nyungwe Forest National Park, which borders Burundi.
If you plan to visit areas close to the DRC or Burundi borders, such as popular tourist destinations including Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Parks, you should be alert to the risks and exercise caution. All travellers should keep up to date with developments on the current situation, including via your tour operator, the local media and this travel advice.
The border crossings between Rwanda and the DRC at Gisenyi/Goma and Cyangugu/Bukavu are usually open between 6am and 6pm. Both borders are liable to close at short notice and you should not rely on them as a point of exit from DRC.
If you’re crossing regularly between Rwanda and the DRC you may encounter immigration difficulties if you have not regularised your residency status.
The situation in Burundi remains unstable. Tensions along the Rwanda/Burundi border remain heightened, with allegations from both sides of cross-border raids targeting local inhabitants.
In July 2016, Burundi banned public transport vehicles from crossing the border with Rwanda.
Rwanda has changed its own travel advice, which advises Rwandan nationals against travel from Rwanda to Uganda. This does not affect travel by other internationals including British nationals, but does mean additional checks may take place at the border.
Gorilla trekking is available as part of organised tours in the Volcanoes National Park.
Following the 4 October 2019 attack in Kinigi, adjacent to Volcanoes National Park, the Government of Rwanda has reported that the area is now secure and trekking and other tourist services will continue to operate as normal. If you plan to travel close to the border with the DRC you should remain aware of the risks, exercise caution, and keep up to date with developments on the current situation, including via your tour operator, the local media and this travel advice.
Grenade attacks have occurred sporadically over the last five years. Genocide memorial sites, markets, bus stops, and taxis have been targets in Kigali and Ruhengeri (Musanze). The most recent grenade attack was on 7 May in Kimironko in Kigali, which killed one person in a hair salon. Previously there was an attack on 19 October 2019 in Rusizi District, South-West Rwanda, which injured 4 people. While such attacks have reduced in frequency, further indiscriminate attacks cannot be ruled out, including in places frequented by foreigners. You should remain vigilant.
Levels of crime remain relatively low in Rwanda, but there have been reports of increased instances of burglary, theft and mugging in Kigali in recent months. Incidents of bag snatching, mugging and stealing from vehicles in traffic jams targeting foreigners have been reported in recent months.
You should take sensible precautions. Take care when walking at night. Pre-arrange transport. Lock car doors when driving, don’t leave valuables in cars when parked and don’t leave cars unsupervised in the town centre. Don’t carry large amounts of money or other valuables.
Some off-limits military zones in Kigali may not be well-lit or signposted. You should take extra care when walking around less populated zones, particularly at night time.
You can drive using a UK driving licence or an International Driving Permit for up to one year, after which you should apply for a Rwandan licence. To apply for a local driving licence, you need to write a letter of application to the Commissioner Traffic and Road Safety attaching your existing licence and a copy of your visa or Foreign Resident ID card, and pay a fee.
Roads from Kigali to all major towns are good. There can be landslides during the annual rains in late spring and autumn. Avoid road travel after dark as roads are unlit and driving standards are poor.
Shared taxis (mini-vans) and motorbike taxis are the most common form of public transport within towns and around the country. However, they are also the most vulnerable to accidents.
Before using internal or regional flights that are not with major international carriers, you should check the airline’s accreditation and see whether the airline operates in line with the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) safety standards.
Health and safety
Levels of health and safety in Rwanda are lower than in the UK. There have been incidences of buildings and construction sites collapsing, causing deaths and serious injuries. Fire safety standards are also variable, with incidences of fire in residential and public places a continuing risk.
There have been a number of building fires apparently caused by poor wiring and substandard electrical cables. Take extra care when using electronic equipment.