Is Rwanda Safe? 10 Essential Travel Tips for Visitors

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How safe is Rwanda? Whether you're experiencing the local culture or checking out the gorillas, here are 10 safe travel tips for Rwanda.


Rwandan countryside Photo © Getty Images/SquareStory500px

1. Plastic bags

One thing you will notice while traveling around is how clean Rwanda is; the government banned all non-biodegradable polyethylene plastic bags in 2008. There are large signs at the airport warning travelers that luggage searches can be conducted; those found with these bags may be fined 50,000 Rwandan Francs (US$61) or even jailed depending on the seriousness of the offense. Be a responsible traveler and ditch the plastic bags.

2. Travel insurance

By Rwandan law, anyone traveling in the country must have health insurance. If you arrive into the country without it, you have 30 days to sort it out. Rwanda's medical facilities and services are basic so it's vital that any traveler to Rwanda takes out a travel insurance policy with adequate medical coverage including air medical evacuation.

3. Crime in Rwanda

Rwanda is one of the safest destinations in Africa, particularly for solo travelers. Crime is relatively low, with visitors sometimes experiencing petty crime, and locals are welcoming, friendly and hospitable. Pickpockets are active in crowded places, such as markets, and hire cars may be broken into for valuables. Violent crimes against travelers are rare.

Women travelers are advised to dress modestly out of respect for the local culture.

4. Getting around safely

Rwanda has a well-established and reliable bus network between major cities, towns and neighboring countries. Make sure you buy your tickets from the bus company counters as scammers and touts hang around the transport terminals waiting for unsuspecting travelers. Minibusses are a common form of public transport around the capital, Kigali and to other major towns. They are cheaper however, the downside is that the bus won't leave unless it's full and there is no structured timetable. Plus they can be packed, rather uncomfortable for long trips and often end up in road vehicle incidents.

Licensed taxis can be found at Kigali International Airport, and around the capital and are easily identified by their white color, orange stripe and roof sign. While not as cheap as public transport, they are the safest mode of private transport however, you will need to either pick one up at a designated rank or get your hotel/restaurant to call for one. The taxi should have a meter; if it doesn't negotiate the fare before hopping in.

You can hire a car to explore Rwanda but driving at night is not advised, largely due to the poor road conditions and unlit roads in rural locations. Landslides and flooding can also present danger to drivers during the rainy seasons in autumn and late spring.

5. Border safety

Rwanda – Uganda

Rwanda reopened its border with Uganda in 2022, and relations beween the countries have continued to improve.

Rwanda – Burundi

Government travel advisories warn travelers to reconsider their need to travel within 6mi (10km) of the border due to crime and the ongoing conflict between the government and rebel groups. This area also includes the Nyungwe Forest National Park and Volcanoes National Park.

The border between Rwanda and Burundi reopened in 2022, but relations between the two countries are strained, with Burundi banning public transport from Rwanda, and Rwanda implementing trade restrictions on food entering the country from Burundi. Border crossings can close at any time. Burundi is currently considered a "reconsider travel" destination due to the high security risk, with advisories against travel to certain areas. The country is experiencing high levels of violent crime, conflict and terrorism.

Rwanda – The Democratic Republic of the Congo

Government travel advisories indicate that the border crossings between Rwanda and the DRC can close without notice, so travelers are advised not to rely on them. There is also a heightened security risk near the border due to instability in eastern DRC and incidents of violent clashes. Kidnapping, robbery and sexual assaults have occurred.

6. Local laws

  • Drug possession, use and trafficking is illegal in Rwanda, with offenders receiving heavy fines and potential jail time
  • Photography of military, government buildings and border crossing points is prohibited
  • Drink driving is illegal and punishable by a fine and jail time. Using a cell phone while driving is also illegal
  • Inappropriate and divisive talk about the Rwandan genocide can result in financial penalties and imprisonment.

7. Gorilla trek safety

The mountain gorillas are one of Rwanda's main tourism drawcards and the government has taken measures to protect these animals and ensure that tourism is sustainable and safe. Travelers must book a guided tour to see the gorillas for safety reasons such as bandits, civil unrest, potential injury and for the safety of the animals themselves. Controlled tourism prevents any potential health risk to the gorillas as they are susceptible to diseases plus reduces the risk of human-gorilla interactions where people may be injured or killed.

8. LGBTQ+ safety

Homosexuality isn't illegal in Rwanda but it's not widely accepted and still considered a taboo. The country is still conservative, with local LGBTQ+ people experiencing prejudice however there are other African countries which are considered more homophobic. Kigali does have a few gay-friendly spots but it's best for safety reasons that LGBTQ+ travelers remain discreet at all times.

9. Malaria

Malaria is present all across Rwanda and the government has taken significant steps to try and eradicate this disease with various community initiatives such as mosquito nets, house spraying and rapid medical assessment and treatment.

10. Rwandan genocide

In 1994, the Rwandan government instigated the genocide during the civil war, which saw hundreds of thousands of Tutsi, moderate Hutus and Twa people murdered. More than two million Rwandans were displaced, with many people missing and families torn apart. With changes in government since the genocide, there has been considerable work done to move beyond this horrible and tragic event in order to create a more positive and safe future for all Rwandans.

Laws around the genocide are strictly enforced and the promotion of racist or divisive behavior is illegal and punishable by fines and jail time. Travelers are advised to keep any talk about the genocide respectful and it's advised to avoid talking about it. Many locals have been affected by the atrocity and still experience trauma. Travelers should also avoid referring to locals by their ethnicity. To learn more, visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial.

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  • Petra said

    I have been to remote mountain villages in Northern Rwanda and I didn't feel safe. Many locals were rude to us (I was travelling with my boyfriend) and behaved aggressively.
    Travellers should be aware that not all parts of the country are friendly, unlike neighbouring Uganda, where travelling is a delight, people welcoming you and supporting you every day.


  • Scott said

    My wife and I have had a VERY different experience than Petra during our 4 trips to Rwanda! From the north Kidaho in the north to Nyamata in the south, from Lake Kivu of the west to Kayonza of the east and all across Kigali, we have never met a "mean" or upset individual anywhere in this country!

    Rwanda is one of the most visually stunning countries on the planet.

    People are quite friendly and helpful and the food is amazing!


  • Emma said

    Petra, sorry for the bad experience you had in Rwanda. Indeed, Rwanda as other countries is also a diverse nation. But I will say that as a Rwandan i'm totally surprised and disappointed of those people who treated you that way as it's not common in Rwandan society.


  • Jack said

    I have to echo Petra. I rented a motorcycle to criss-cross Rwanda for a month without any guide/tour, so there was no Rwandan there to give me cover from potentially hostile locals or to guide me from one friendly bubble to another and give me a false impression of the country. In Kigali, every Rwandan I passed by was either neutral or very friendly towards me, great place to be no doubt. However, the remote parts and backcountry roads were a different story. For example, the closer I got to the shared border between the DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda (near Virunga), the more threatening things got. About 20% of locals showed visual/facial displeasure upon sighting me and a minority angrily and loudly yelled at me in very hostile and threatening ways, some with sharp farm tools in hand. I never triggered anything either as I kept completely to myself and only stopped on the side of the road to take a meal break, to check my map, or to take a picture of very public landscape views (not someone's home or individuals). I never actively sought out contact with anyone and just tried to mind my business. Some groups of young men angrily yelled at me as I was passing by on my motorcycle through town, on a road everyone else had to use (I wasn't riding on private property). Since I was the only tourist I saw in the remote areas for a 100km radius given COVID, I certainly didn't feel safe if something happened to me our there. There were also very few police checkpoints to run for help to, maybe 3 for every 150 km of road.


  • Karugaba Pius said

    Do you want the best tourism experience, visit Rwanda today, for sure I was in Rwanda but everything was just amazing ,from personal security, cleanliness of the country , the green environment,good roads to mention but a few...I would recommend everyone from all over the world to visit , I was there in 2019.

    I didn't even want to go to my country
    Long live Rwanda and all Rwandans in the world


  • Ebrima said

    Please I need to go in Rwanda because I like this country


  • Seth Oppong said

    My plans are far advance to visit Rwanda. However I hope regardless of the indifference behavior some tourists have had from the locals, I hope I do not go through same.


  • H van sloten said

    Hi there, i work for klm and will have a lay over for 3 days in Kigali.
    Does anybody recommend a guide or company to show me ( us) around to see some of this beautifull country?
    In which place we can have a night to stay?
    I have no idea about the distances?


  • Mohamed said

    We are planning to drive to Kigali from Uganda
    Any advice please ?
    Looking forward to explore Rwanda
    Guide tour would be helpful


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