Democratic Republic of the Congo

Long wracked by political strife, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (previously known as Zaire) is slowly beginning to stabilise and welcome tourists across its borders again. Virunga National Park has had more than 5,000 tourists since 2010. It’s an intense country to travel, but those intrepid souls who dare to explore it will be richly rewarded with pristine tropical landscapes, magnificent wildlife and a memorable cultural experience. Congo’s highlights include its exceptional National Parks and Wildlife reserves, five of which are World Heritage Sites. Arguably the premier tourist attractions are the guided treks that offer travellers the chance to experience primates in their natural habitat - including mountain and lowland gorillas, chimpanzees and endemic bonobos.


Entry Requirements

Virunga National Park has an agreement with the DRC immigration and can arrange a special tourist visa to visit Virunga. Inspired Journeys can facilitate the visa application. All we need is a copy of your passport and for you to fill out a one page visa application form. The visa is US $105

To qualify for a visa you must also book a Mountain Gorilla Permit, Volcano Permit or accommodation at Mikeno Lodge at Virunga National Park.

This visa is valid for up to 14 days and can only be used for entry into DRC via Goma/Gisenyi & Bukavu/Rusizi (Rwanda) or via Bunagana (Uganda) borders. It takes approximately 14 days to process this visa once all the paperwork has been submitted, so it is important you leave enough time to apply before you intend to travel. This visa allows you to visit Virunga National Park in North Kivu and Kahuzi Biega National Park in South Kivu DRC.

Alternatively you can contact the DRC embassy in your home country and apply for a visa there.


Banking and Currency

Currency

Because of the parlous state of the economy, the only true repository of value is the US Dollar. Free circulation of foreign currencies is now allowed within the country. Note that purchase of airline tickets within the country can be made only with money exchanged officially.

Franc Congolais (CDF) = 100 centimes. Currently the exchange rate is around 1,000 CDF = US$1. However due to the precarious nature of the economy, the denominations of the currency are subject to rapid change.

Please ensure that any US dollar notes are printed 2010 (2013 for $50 or $100 notes) or later and that they have no rips or tears. Notes printed before 2010 or with damage will not be accepted. If you pay for something in US$ you will receive larger amounts of change in dollars, but smaller amounts are likely to be given in CDF. It helps if you bring small change with you, as particularly if you are paying locals for porter services, it is very difficult for them to provide correct change to break larger notes.

The use of MasterCard and Visa credit cards is limited to Kinshasa ,Goma & Bukavu's major hotels. Credit cards cannot be used to obtain cash advances at banks. However you may be able to withdraw dollars from the ATMs in Kinshasa, Goma and Bukavu- this will depend on your particular bank and card type.

Travellers cheques are not recommended. Commission fees are very high, and traveller's cheques are not accepted outside Kinshasa.

The import and export of local currency is prohibited. The import of foreign currency is limited to US$10,000 and the export of foreign currency is unlimited.


Travel, Transport and Getting Around

International Flights into the country mainly land in Kinshasa, although Ethiopian Airlines fly from Addis Ababa into Goma three times a week. If you are visiting the east side of the country, it is easy to fly into Kigali then drive 3.5 hours to the border and cross into D.R.Congo.

Motorbike taxis are readily available to get around Goma, and hotels can usually organize a car taxi for you, but travel outside of the city can be difficult. It is highly recommended that you use a reputable travel agency to arrange any excursions beyond the boundaries of Goma for you.

There are flight connections from N'Djili Airport (Kinshasa) to over 40 internal airports and 150 landing strips. Small planes may be available for charter.

Car hire facilities are available on a limited basis at the airport. Owing to poor maintenance, the roads are among the worst in Africa and only achieve a fair standard around the main towns. It is wise to check that bridges are safe before crossing. An International Driving Permit required.

Taxi services are available in Kinshasa but unreliable.

Conventional bus services in Kinshasa can be severely overcrowded. Minibuses and converted truck-buses also offer public transport, and are known as fula fulas. Pick-up trucks are known as 'taxibuses'. A better standard of transport is provided by shared taxis, which are widely available. There is little or no public transport in most other large centres.

The main internal railway runs from Lubumbashi to Ilébo, with a branch to Kalemie and Kindu, and from Kinshasa to the port of Matadi. Rail services are generally subject to disruption. There is no air conditioning, but there are couchettes and dining cars on the principal trains.

Over 1,600km (1,000 miles) of the Congo River are navigable and, in normal circumstances, there are services from Kinshasa to the upriver ports of Kisangani and Ilébo. Services at present, however, are unreliable owing to political instability and fuel shortages.


Food, Drink and Cuisine Advice

All water should be regarded as being a potential health risk, so it is advisable to use bottled water for drinking, brushing teeth or making ice. Food prepared in a reputable hotel should be safe to eat, but in general milk is unpasteurised and should be boiled. Powdered or tinned milk is available and is advised. Avoid dairy products that are likely to have been made from unboiled milk. Only eat well-cooked meat and fish. Vegetables should be cooked and fruit peeled.

Goma has a few good restaurants that serve a mix of international cuisines. Ones we can recommend are Le Chalet, Lac Kivu Lodge, Bon Pain & Le Petit Bruxelles.

There are a number of good restaurants in Kinshasa & Lubumbashi, but prices are high. Hotels and restaurants which cater for tourists are generally expensive and serve international and national dishes. Small restaurants and snack bars offer Chinese, French and Belgium food.

A 10% service charge is typically added to hotel and restaurant bills, otherwise a small amount (a few thousand francs or a few US dollars) as an extra tip is always appreciated.


Climate and Weather

The climate in the Democratic Republic of Congo varies according to distance from the equator, which lies across the north of the country. The dry season in the north is from December to February, and in the south, April to October. The temperature is warm year round and humidity is high.

You can travel to the East of the Country (Goma/Bukavu) all year round but there are certain pros and cons to various months.
Rainy Season is Mid-March to May and also November,
Dry Season is December-Beginning of March and June-October

The benefit of traveling during the rainy season is that you will have clearer views from the volcano and if you are a keen photographer your night and landscape photos will come out much clearer, but you are more likely to get wet at some point on your volcano hike. As the gorilla treks leave early in the morning it is likely you will avoid the rain, but you do have a higher chance than in the dry season of rain during your visit which may disrupt your photo opportunities.

In the dry season it can be very dusty so those particles in the air can lead to 'noise' in the background of your photos, but you are less likely to encounter rain during your gorilla visit which can improve photo quality. You are also less likely to get heavily rained on while climbing the volcano.


Clothing and Dress Recommendations

Lightweight clothing made from natural fabrics is recommended all year. Rainwear is advised during the rainy season.


Electricity and Plug Standards

For the most part, electrical sockets in the Democratic Republic of Congo are one of the two European standard electrical socket types: The "Type C" Europlug and the "Type E" and Type F" Schuko. Also reported to be in use is the "Type D" Indian socket. If your appliance's plug doesn't match the shape of these sockets, you will need a travel plug adapter in order to plug in.


Electrical sockets in the Democratic Republic of Congo usually supply electricity at between 220 and 240 volts AC. If you're plugging in an appliance that was built for 220-240 volt electrical input, or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then an adapter is all you need. If your appliance is not compatible with 220-240 volt electrical input, a voltage converter will be necessary.



Rwanda

The first thing that springs to most people’s minds when thinking of Rwanda is its turbulent political history. But today’s Rwanda is a far cry from the nation it was in the mid-90s: the country has emerged from the shadows and has much to offer visitors, most notably the tracking of endangered mountain gorillas in the lush Virunga National Park, which extends across the peaks and jungle-covered slopes of the volcanic Virunga Mountains. Other major tourist attractions include expansive Lake Kivu, ancient Nyungwe Forest with its rich population of primate species, and the game-rich savannah lands of Akagera National Park.

Quick facts

  • Official Name: Republic of Rwanda
  • Population:        12,159,586
  • Area:                      26,338 km2
  • Capital City:       Kigali (population: 745,261)
  • Major Religion: Christianity
  • Currency:             Rwanda franc (RWF)
  • Time Zone:          GMT +2
  • Country code:   + 250
  • Altitude:               Ranges from 1000-4500m above sea level.

Geography

Known as the 'Land of a Thousand Hills', Rwanda rests just below the equator and its small size has a rich geography with mountains, volcanoes, savannas, and many lakes. Rwanda is a landlocked country in East-Central Africa, surrounded by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Tanzania, and Burundi. 

Language

The national language is Kinyarwanda. French, English and Swahili are the other official languages. French is widely spoken throughout the country. In the capital and other tourist areas, many people speak English.

The People

Rwanda is one of the world’s most densely populated countries. Rwandans are drawn from just one cultural and linguistic group, the Banyarwanda, although within this group there are three subgroups: the Hutu (84%), Tutsi (15%) and Twa (1%). The Twa are a forest-dwelling pygmy people descended from Rwanda's earliest inhabitants.

Economy

Rwanda has a presidential system of government. The president is Paul Kagame of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), who took o­ath in 2000. Rwanda's economy suffered heavily during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, but has since strengthened. The economy is based mostly on subsistence agriculture. Coffee and tea are the major cash crops for export. Tourism is a fast-growing sector and is now the country's leading foreign exchange earner.

 


Entry Requirements

Single entry visa

As of 1 June 2018, tourists from all countries can apply for a tourist visa on arrival at Kigali Airport or another port of entry into Rwanda. If you prefer to apply for your visa beforehand, you can do this online, by visiting the official Rwandan Immigration site: https://www.migration.gov.rw 

You will need a ‘Letter of invitation’ to apply for the visa. This can be organised through an Inspired Journeys representative (ground handler) in Rwanda. It usually takes about 3-5 working days for a Rwandan visa to be approved online. Once it is approved, print a copy and take it with you to present on arrival in Rwanda.

The cost of a visa is US$30 per entry. Visas are single entry and valid for 30 days from day of entry.

Note: If you leave Rwanda and want to return to Rwanda, you will need a new visa and need to pay for it again.

East African Visa

Please note that clients who are traveling to Rwanda, Uganda and/or Tanzania can apply for the East African Visa $100 to cover their entry to all three of these countries. If you are first entering Rwanda, you can use this link to apply for the visa along with a ‘Letter of Invitation’ that we will supply you: https://www.migration.gov.rw

Note: East African Tourist Multi-entry visas become invalid after you travel to D.R.C., so you will be required to purchase a new visa if you plan to re-enter Rwanda/Uganda/Kenya after your trip to D.R.C.

Passport

Passports are required by all foreign visitors and must be valid for 6 months after you return home. Please make sure that you have at least two blank pages available for each country you intend to visit.

As a general precaution, we recommend you make several copies of your important travel documentation (passport, credit cards,, itinerary,  airline tickets,  insurance cover, visas etc.), leave a copy at home and bring a copy with you. Keep your originals somewhere safe (i.e. on you) and your copies somewhere else (i.e. in your main luggage). In the unfortunate circumstance that you lose your passport, a copy helps greatly to receive an emergency travel document.


Banking and Currency

Currency

The currency in Rwanda is the Rwandan Franc (RWF).

Rwanda Franc (RWF) = 100 centimes. Notes are in denominations of RWF 5,000, 2,000, 1,000 and 500. Coins are in denominations of RWF100, 50, 20, 10 and 5.

The import and export of local currency is limited to RWF5000. The import and export of foreign currency is unlimited, but must be declared upon arrival and exchanged within 8 days.

US dollars are widely accepted in Rwanda. Many lodge and restaurant prices will be set in US dollars while outside of lodges (souvenirs, snacks, etc.) Francs will be necessary. 

Banking

Banking hours: Mon-Fri 0800-1200 and 1400-1700, Sat 0800-1200.

There are many ATMs available throughout Kigali which accept Visa and MasterCard, although they become scarcer as you enter the rural areas. Please check with your bank for charges and advice when using international ATMs.

The maximum amount of Rwandan Francs you can withdraw per transaction at an ATM is 200,000 RWF (about $240 USD) and most machines will allow two withdrawals of 200,000 RWF. You can withdraw USD from KCB ATMs scattered around town ($500 USD maximum per withdrawal).

Credit cards are acceptable at most supermarkets, restaurants and accommodation in Kigali. MasterCard and Visa are the preferred cards. In the rural areas it is only money in Rwanda Francs that they can accept.

It may be difficult to change traveller's cheques outside Kigali.

You can exchange money in the several exchange bureaus (FOREX bureaus) in Kigali, they can offer a slightly better exchange rate than most banks. US dollars printed before 2006 are not accepted in the country. When you exchange money, use big notes (50 or 100 US dollar). The exchange rate of smaller notes is much lower. Make sure notes are not cut, or damaged in any way, as they will not be accepted.


Travel, Transport and Getting Around

RwandAir flies internally to the southeastern town of Cyangugu. Akagera Aviation provides helicopter flights all over the country.

There is a lot of work being done to improve the roads, and in some places you will find smooth tarmac, while in others you will be going along pot-holed dirt paths.A 4-wheel drive vehicle is needed for some local roads. There can be landslides on some of the major roads during annual rainfall in spring and autumn.Extra care should be taken at night, as headlight use is erratic. During rainy season some roads can become impassable.

There are no international car hire companies operating in Rwanda, but there are several local companies. You will find these listed in the Eye magazine given away at the airport and in hotels (www.theeye.co.rw)

Taxis can be found in large towns and cities. Look for the official orange stripe. Fares are reasonable, but should be agreed in advance (ask a local if you think you are being overcharged). Tipping is not expected.

Bicycle and scooter taxis are the quickest and cheapest way to get around in the towns, however they are risky.

Minibus taxis provide links to and from all towns and some villages. Although it is not common for foreigners to travel this way, they are quite safe and efficient. However you will have to wait until they are full before departure if you get on at the start of the route. The Virunga Express (www.virungatravel.com) and Onatracom Express provide more direct intercity links.

Rwandans drive on the right. It is illegal to use a mobile phone while driving unless with a hands-free set. Seat belts must be worn in the front. It is advised not to drive after drinking, breathalisers are in use and if found to have more than 0.8 mg of alcohol per 1 litre of blood, you are likely to face imprisonment. Speed limits are 40km/per hour in the city and 60km outside the city. If the car in front is using the left indicator it often means it is not safe to overtake, the right indicator tells you the road ahead is clear.

An International Driving Permit is required. An entry permit is needed if you have travelled from outside the country, insurance document and driving licence.

You can hire a boat to take you from Gisenyi to Kibuye if you ask at one of the lakeside hotels.


Health and Medical Information

Vaccinations

In preparing for your trip to East Africa it is advisable that you meet with either your physician or a travel health clinic between 6 to 8 weeks before you travel so that you can get the proper vaccinations and begin your anti-malaria tablets.

Yellow Fever

It is imperative for all travellers to Rwanda to obtain a yellow fever vaccination (over the age of 9 months) no less than 10 days prior to travelling. Yellow fever is a current risk in Rwanda due to the outbreaks taking place in the region. A certificate of yellow fever vaccination is required. Your country of origin and other African countries like South Africa will also deny re-entry without the vaccination, after you have been to a country with Yellow Fever.

The following vaccinations are recommended but not required when visiting Rwanda;

  •  Polio
  •  Hepatitis A
  •  Hepatitis B – If you are planning to spend more that 6 months in Rwanda or Uganda
  •  Typhoid (through contaminated food or water)
  •  Rabies - If you are planning to come into direct contact with animals
  •  Diphteria
  • Tetanus

Malaria

Malaria is present in Rwanda. Even though less prevalent than other African countries, due to the high elevation.  We recommend you to consult your physician or a travel clinic before you travel for advice on precautions against malaria. Other insect-borne diseases also occur. The best way to avoid malaria is still to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are most active at dusk & dawn so cover up at that time and put lots of mosquito repellent (that contain DEET) on. Don’t forget your ankles. Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats when outdoors. Ensure your accommodation is mosquito proof, use air-conditioning and/or sleep under mosquito nets.

First aid

Most hotels and lodges are equipped with a first aid kit but we would still recommend that you bring a small airtight container with a few well-chosen articles. The most common problems that travellers experience in Rwanda, are upset stomachs, heat stroke, strained muscles, twisted ankles, minor cuts & grazes, & itchy bites. The following is a list of medicine that may assist with these;

  • Plasters
  • Travel sickness tablets
  • Antiseptic cream
  • Anti-histamine cream and pills
  • Pain relieving tablets (paracetamol, ibuprofen)
  • Cold medication
  • Indigestion tablets
  • Eye drops for dry/irritated eyes
  • Medication for upset stomachs (i.e. anti-diarrhoea such as Imodium)
  • Rehydration salt sachets
  • Bandage for a sprained ankle
  • Deep heat for sore muscles or sprained ankle
  • Blister plasters (Compeed)
  • After-sun moisturiser
  • If you have any allergies i.e. insect stings, or an asthma condition

Please make sure you bring enough of your required medication with you. If you are on chronic or special medication, put some in your hand luggage and some in your main luggage.

Medical insurance

We strongly recommend to have comprehensive medical travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical cost and is valid in the D.R.C., including medical evacuation and repatriation. Check that your insurance covers you for the whole time you will be away and what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy.


Safety Notices

Although Rwanda has lived through a turbulent history, the country is relatively safe and stable. You can safely walk in Kigali on your own. We do recommend that you exercise usual safety precautions, as you would at home. Do not walk by yourself at night. Don’t carry around a large amount of cash in a crowded area and keep your money out of sight. Be cautious with your belongings, especially when in public transportation, markets or in more downtown areas. Avoid crowded places, keep your money and valuables in safe place, and if you decide to go out at night to experience the nightlife of Kigali be cautious. Avoid wearing expensive watches and jewelry.


Food, Drink and Cuisine Advice

Food is generally safe to eat if well-cooked and hot. If in doubt, veer towards larger restaurants in cities and those aimed at tourists, which will have undergone government safety checks. Avoid buying food from the side of the road and don’t drink tap water. Use bottled water and filtered water or otherwise boil or sterilise. Milk is unpasteurised and should be boiled. Powdered or tinned milk is available and is advised. Avoid dairy products that are likely to have been made from unboiled milk. Only eat well-cooked meat and fish, preferably served hot. Vegetables should be cooked and fruit peeled.

The majority of the population in Rwanda live off subsistence farming and so their meals rely heavily on starchy crops such as potato, maize and cassava. This is generally served with kidney beans and cabbage and where meat can be afforded it is most often goat. However, the restaurants of Kigali and other towns will generally serve grilled meat with french fries and sometimes rice with spicy stews.

Hotels generally serve a reasonable choice of European dishes, and there are Chinese, Greek, Indian, Italian and Middle Eastern restaurants. Some restaurants also serve Franco-Belgian cuisine and African dishes. A fairly good selection of beers, spirits and wines is available. Beer is also brewed locally.

You will see brochettes on most menus, these are basically a skewer of your chosen meat or fish served with rice or chips. Other local specialities include: tilapia, a white fish found in Lake Kivu and also farmed locally and appears often on menus; Matoke, cooked plantain, which may be served when you are expecting potatoes (and usually tastes a lot like potatoes!). Ugali (or bugali) is a paste made from maize and water, to form a porridge-like consistency that is eaten throughout East Africa.

The spiciest of chili oils is found at every bar and restaurant in Rwanda. Known as Akabanga, it is served in a small eyedropper and adds a great bit of heat to any curry, soup, or vegetable dish. Don’t put more than a few drops on your food, however, as this stuff is the real deal.

Primus is the local beer of choice. Mutzig is very similar but more expensive and often comes in large 700ml bottles. The local banana wine is for the brave, it is called urwangwa and you should be able to pick up a bottle in a supermarket to try in the privacy of your room.


Climate and Weather

Despite its proximity to the equator, due to the high altitude of most of the country, Rwanda has a temperate climate with temperatures seldom climbing above 25°C. Temperatures vary considerably between locations depending on their altitude.  In the capital, Kigali (1,567m), the average daily temperature is around 21°C. Expect cooler temperatures, particularly in the mornings and evenings, in the areas with higher altitudes, such as Volcanoes National Park (2,500m – 4,500m) and Nyungwe Forest National Park (highest point 3,000m). As well as light rain showers even in the dry season.

The long dry season is from June to September and there are two annual rainy seasons, the first from mid-March until the beginning of June and small rains from mid-September to December. The best time for gorilla and monkey tracking is the dry season - if only to spare you getting drenched (you can still see them in the rain, they just get a bit grumpy). The dry season is also good if you want to see game in Akagera National Park because thirst will draw the animals to the watering holes. You will also find at this time the roads are less dangerous and the risk of malaria is lower. The rainy season is the best time to see chimpanzees and is also the time when the place is at its most lush and green.


Clothing and Dress Recommendations

Lightweight cotton or linen clothing is recommended for most of the year with warmer clothes for cooler upland mornings and evenings. Long trousers & long sleeved shirts for protection from forest vegetation and the sun.  If possible natural colors: brown, khaki, green, beige. Pack with layering in mind, as the climate changes throughout the day.  Rainwear is advisable especially during the rainy season and sunglasses, sunscreen and a sunhat are recommended year round. A good pair of walking shoes is essential. Please ensure that you have worn in your hiking boots before you travel so that they will be comfortable and avoid blisters.

If you have gaiters, please bring these as they are useful for protecting your legs against nettles and preventing things getting in your shoes. At Volcanoes National Park gaiters can be hired for US$5 if you don’t bring your own.

Laundry

Laundry is offered in most of the places you will be staying, although it may come with a small extra charge. Please note that most laundry is done by hand, so please ensure that the clothes you bring are hand-washable. Please note that ladies’ underwear cannot be included in the laundry, but laundry  etergent is usually provided in the rooms.

Luggage

We recommend you to bring a bag or suitcase made from soft material. Hard cover suitcases are difficult to place in the car and are likely to break on the bumpy roads. It is advised to carry all your valuables and important medication in your hand luggage, as baggage can sometimes go missing.

Please always check with your airline about the maximum luggage weight allowance. Domestic flights are usually light aircraft that impose strict luggage allowance of 15kgs per person including hand luggage. Keen photographers with extra photographic equipment need to advise us in advance as we may need to reserve an extra seat on the plane (at extra charge) to allow for extra luggage.


Electricity and Plug Standards

Electrical sockets (outlets) in Rwanda are one of the two European standard electrical socket types: The "Type C" Europlug and the "Type E" and "Type F" Schuko. If your appliance's plug doesn't match the shape of these sockets, you will need a travel plug adapter in order to plug in. Travel plug adapters simply change the shape of your appliance's plug to match whatever type of socket you need to plug into. If it's crucial to be able to plug in no matter what, bring an adapter for both types.

Electrical sockets (outlets) in the Republic of Rwanda (République du Rwanda) usually supply electricity at between 220 and 240 volts AC. If you're plugging in an appliance that was built for 220-240 volt electrical input, or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then an adapter is all you need.

But travel plug adapters do not change the voltage, so the electricity coming through the adapter will still be the same 220-240 volts the socket is supplying. North American sockets supply electricity at between 110 and 120 volts, far lower than in most of the rest of the world. Consequently, North American appliances are generally built for 110-120 volts.


General Guidance

Packing list

Clothing:

  • Layers - long and short sleeve shirts and trousers
  • A warm fleece or jumper
  • A lightweight waterproof and windproof jacket
  • Comfortable but sturdy shoes
  • Flip flops or sandals
  • Swimming costume (Bathing suit)

Miscellaneous:

  • Small day pack (To carry essentials; such as camera, rain rear & sunblock)
  • Personal toiletries
  • Sun cream of SPF 30 or more     
  • Lip balm
  • Insect repellent     
  • A hat or baseball cap                         
  • Sunglasses (with neck strap)
  • (Head) torch
  • Binoculars (8x40/8x42 is recommended)
  • Camera (with 200/300mm lens)
  • Dust protection for your camera equipment.
  • Zip-lock bags
  • Extra batteries & charger for your camera  
  • Extra memory cards
  • Adaptor 
  • If you wear contact lenses, bring your prescription glasses as well for comfort, as eye irritations can happen while travelling under different climates to what you are used to.
  • Small notebook
  • Good book or kindle

Extra comforts:

  • Small pillow for use on transport & if the hotel pillows are uncomfortable
  • Ear plugs
  • Good quality water bottle

Tipping

Tipping in Rwanda is not obligatory and it fully depends on your satisfaction with service provided. But even a small amount to show your gratitude will be highly appreciated. US$ or local currency are best.

Nowadays, tipping is customary for service in restaurants and bars in Rwanda, due to the large international tourist presence. In restaurants we recommend a tip of about 10% of the bill if you are a happy with the service.

We recommend that you tip your guide/ranger, tracker, porter direct at the end, as a rough guideline you might want to tip from US$ 5-10 per guest per day. If you are happy with the service in the lodges/camps, it is a nice gesture to give general camp staff a tip; we recommend a tip of around US$ 5-10 per guest per day. This can be placed in the communal tipping box. This is very much a rough guide and you are completely free to give whatever you feel is appropriate.

  • Driver in Rwanda: $ 10 per day per person
  • Carrying of luggage: US$1 - US$2 per movement of luggage
    • If there is a shared tip box at the lodge this is not necessary. Smaller lodges regularly have them but larger hotels are less likely to.
  • Transfer drivers (e.g. in cities or between airport and hotel/lodge): $2 per person per transfer

Activities:

  • Primate trekking: 
    • 1 guide:  US$20 - US$25 per group
    • 6 - 8 trackers: US$5 per tracker per group
  • Akagera game drives:  guide $10  per person per day
  • Azizi life experience:
    • Half day tour: US$5 - US$10 per person/ US$20 per group
    • Full day tour: US$5 - US$10 per person / US$40 per group
  • Kingfisher journeys (sup, canoeing & kayaking): US$5 - US$10 per person/ US$20 per group
  • Kigali city tour:
    • Half day tour: US$5 - US$10 per person / US$20 per group
    • Full day: US$10 per person / US$40 per group
  • Africa rising cycling tours: US$5 - US$10 per person / US$20 per group
  • Hikes:
    • Guide: US$20 - US$25 per group
    • Porters (max. 15kg): US$5 - US$10 per group per trip

Common Kinyarwanda words

  • ‘Amafaranga’ meaning Money
  • ‘Amakuru yawe’ meaning how are you?
  • ‘Ni Meza’ meaning Fine
  • ‘Mwaramutse’ meaning Good morning
  • ‘Murakoze’ meaning Thank you,
  • ‘Mwirirwe’ meaning Good afternoon/evening,
  • ‘Muramuke’ meaning Good night ,
  • ‘Oya meaning No and ‘Yego’ meaning Yes

Recommended reading/watching

Movies/documentaries:

  • Rising from the Ashes
  • Hotel Rwanda
  • Sometimes in April
  • Beyond the gates
  • 100 days

Books:

  • A Thousand Hills to Heaven: Love, Hope and a Restaurant in Rwanda – Josh Ruxin
  • Land of a Thousand Hills: My Life in Rwanda - Rosamond Halsey Carr with Ann Howard Halsey
  • Shake Hands With The Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda - Romeo Dallaire
  • We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families - Philip Gourevitch
  • Ordinary Man: The True Story Behind Hotel Rwanda - Paul Rusesabagina
  • Land of Second Chances: The Impossible Rise of Rwanda's Cycling Team – Tim Lewis
  • Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak - Jean Hatzfeld

 


Tanzania

The name Tanzania conjures up images of wildebeest stampeding across vast savannah, rain forests teeming with monkeys and birdlife, and great plains brimming with legions of game. All of these natural wonders and more are on offer in this exceptionally diverse African nation. Visitors typically visit Tanzania to partake in at least one of the four well known Tanzanian tourist experiences: a relaxing seaside vacation on the picturesque island paradise of Zanzibar, an underwater tour of some of the world’s most renowned dive sites around the gorgeous Spice Islands, a safari adventure in some of Africa’s most impressive game reserves, or a hiking excursion around Mount Kilimanjaro National Park. Whichever of these incredible holidays you choose, you will undoubtedly be welcomed by some fabulously friendly and peaceful inhabitants who, despite being divided into 120 different ethnic groups and cultures, live in harmony with one another and provide some of the most wonderfully exotic local cuisine you could imagine. With all of this diversity on offer, the most difficult part of your Tanzanian holiday experience is likely to be deciding where to go!


Banking and Currency

Currency

In Tanzania, the unit of currency is the Tanzanian Shilling, which is divided into 100 Cents. Notes are issued in denominations of 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, and 10000 Shillings. Coins are issued in denominations of 50, 100 and 200 Shillings.

Banking

Banks are open from 9:00am to 3:00pm Monday to Friday. Many banks are equipped with 24 hour ATM machines. 

Credit cards and travellers checks are not widely accepted in Tanzania. Where they are accepted can high service fees and poor exchange rates be expected. Major foreign currencies - particularly US $ - are accepted in Tanzania and are convertible at banks and bureau de changes in the main towns and tourist areas. If bringing cash in US $, please make sure bank notes are in good condition, with no cuts or damage and are not older than 2004. Most banks offer higher exchange rates for US $ 100 / US $ 50 bank notes compared to US $ 20 / US $ 10 or US $ 5 bank notes.


Travel, Transport and Getting Around

If you are visiting a number of parks and reserves in Tanzania, you can either drive or fly between them. Roads in most of the wilderness areas are in poor condition and unmarked, and self-driving is not recommended. Operators will supply you with a driver who doubles as an informal guide; alternatively, you can arrange to fly to your destination and utilize a car and driver supplied by the lodgings. Elsewhere in Tanzania, towns and cities are linked by a steady stream of buses and dala-dalas (minibuses), and in the cities, there is public transport in the way of buses, dala-dalas, taxis, and, in some places, bicycles or tuk-tuks.

Precision Air run regular services, mostly via Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro or Zanzibar, to all main towns and other destinations in East Africa and beyond. All national parks and some of the top-end luxury lodges have airstrips and Coastal Air operates between these and the main airports on the mainland and the islands of Zanzibar, Pemba and Mafia. ZanAir has frequent connections between Zanzibar, Pemba and the mainland.

Driving is on the left hand side of the road


Food, Drink and Cuisine Advice

Most camps, lodges or hotels cater specifically to tourists and serve Western-style food, ranging in standard, but generally are excellent. Game lodges tend to offer a daily set menu with a limited selection, so it is advisable to have your tour operator specify in advance if you are a vegetarian or have other specific dietary requirements. First-time visitors to Africa might take note that most game lodges in and around the national parks have isolated locations, and driving within the parks is neither permitted nor advisable after dark, so that there is no realistic alternative to eating at your lodge. 

Tap water in Tanzania is generally not safe to drink, and most travellers try to stick to mineral water. Filtered and bottled water can be difficult to find you are travelling outside of main town and so it is advisable to stock up. Most camps, lodges and hotels have bottled water readily available.


Climate and Weather

Just south of the equator, Tanzania is huge and its sheer size means that the climate varies considerably within it. However, generally the main rainy season, or the 'long rains', lasts during about MarchApril and May. Afternoon tropical downpours are the norm – which are heavier and more predictable beside the coast and on the islands. The humidity is high and daily temperatures reach the low-mid 30°s.

The long dry season lasts throughout JuneJulyAugustSeptember and October is when rainfall is unusual, even on the islands. Temperatures vary hugely with altitude and location, but it's usually a fine, clear sky and sunny weather – it's a great time to visit Tanzania. During November and December there's another rainy season: the 'short rains'. These are much lighter than the main rains and less reliable.

If it has rained during the short rains, then it normally dries up for a few months, January and February, which is Tanzania's 'short dry season', before starting to rain again in earnest in March.


Clothing and Dress Recommendations

It never gets really cold in Tanzania so lightweight clothing, preferably cotton or linen, is recommended. While on a game viewing safari, avoid brightly coloured clothing, stick to whites, beiges, khakis and browns. There may be long days sitting in safari vehicles, so it is advisable to wear light comfortable clothing such as short sleeved shirts and cotton/linen trousers or shorts. Denim will become too hot and extremely uncomfortable. Walking shoes and socks will be required.

The evenings will be chilly, so long sleeved shirts and trousers should be worn. A sweater may be needed. These will also prevent you being bitten by insects. A hat should be worn at all times outside. The sun may sometimes not feel hot, but it can still easily burn, especially if it is cloudy and overcast.

If visiting Zanzibar or any coastal town don't forget to take a swimsuit, as it is invariably warm. Ladies are recommended to take cotton skirts, blouses and dresses. Sandals are a must for this environment! On the beaches and within the confines of hotels, normal swimwear is acceptable but nudity is not.

As over a third of the population in Tanzania is Muslim, it is therefore not etiquette for ladies to walk around in public displaying their legs and shoulders. Remember to dress modestly as short shorts, miniskirts, vests and tank tops will be frowned upon.


Electricity and Plug Standards

The electricity supply in Tanzania is 220/240 volts at 50Hz. Plugs are 3 point square (UK Type).  Adapters are available at major airports.


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