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Grand Escapades’ Budget Guide To Rwanda

Depending On Your Priorities!

Visiting an Ex-Poachers Village near the Parc National des Volcans, Rwanda

Type Of Travel

When traveling through Rwanda, you first have to decide if you want to focus on the country itself and hence backpack through Rwanda or if you want a “Safari” kind of experience, going through several National Parks (including the Parc National des Volcans). This decision will have a clear and direct impact both on the type of experience you will have and especially on the level of your budget.

I personally decided to backpack (actually Flashpack) through Rwanda to better discover the country, with the exception of one day Gorillas Tracking, which I exclude of the budget: this specific activity cost actually more than the total of all other expenses for 13 days in Rwanda!

Note that backpacking is extremely easy in Rwanda, much easier than most African countries, as yes, Rwanda can really be called “The Switzerland of Africa”.

 

Itinerary & Time Of The Visit

In January 2017, I spent 2 weeks in Rwanda. Of course I went to the Parc National des Volcans & Tracked Mountain Gorillas – This was one of my motivations for returning to Uganda & discovering Rwanda.

I also visited 4 different Memorials of the Genocide, one of the darkest episodes in Human History, each actually showing a different aspect of those horrid events: Kigali Memorial Center, Nyamata Genocide Memorial (near Kigali), Murambi Genocide Memorial (near Butare / Huye), Bisesero Genocide Memorial (near Kibuye / Karongi)

But there are various other aspects of the country that really deserve your attention and at least a few extra days! I also discovered:

  • Kigali & Nyamata;
  • Nyanza, Huye (Butare) and Nyamagabe in the South;
  • Musanze (Ruhengeri) & the Volcanoes National Park in the North;
  • And last but not least scenic Lake Kivu to the West, especially Karongi (Kibuye) and Rubavu (Gisenyi), conveniently linked by a ferry that covers this route twice a week in each direction.

 

Global Budget

If choosing a “Safari” type of travel, expect to pay at least 200 USD per day (depending on the number of people in the group), and significantly more if you add many activities like Chimpanzees Tracking, Golden Monkey Tracking and especially Mountain Gorillas Tracking or if you want to splurge in some luxury lodges.

If you chose to focus your attention more on the country than on the National Parks, your budget will be significantly lower, as shown bellow – Note that it is easy to book online & independently a Gorilla Permit through the Rwanda Development Board, and that you can have both experiences independently…

Costs per Person per Day in € 2017
Long Distances’ Transport € 1,50
Short Distances’ Transport € 3,35
Total Transport €  4,85
Hotels € 28,25
Restaurants & Food €  7,30
Drinks & Going Out €   1,95
Every Day Life €   0,95
Total Living € 38,45
Visits & Tours € 16,10
Activities €  0,00
Total Tours & Activities € 16,10
Total Country: € 59,40

Hostels & Hotels

The hostel infrastructure is now well developed, catering for every budget, even in more remotes parts of the country, and now offers a very decent price-quality ratio. Beware that the slightest upgrade will mean a significant increase in prices!

City Hostel / Hotel
Name
Type of
Accommodation
Type of Room Price
per Night (€)
Duration
(Nights)
Evaluation
(1 to 5 Stars)
Kigali Okapi Hotel Hotel Single Room 38,40 3 ***
Musanze / Ruhengeri Amahoro Guesthouse Hotel Single Room 33,37 3 ***
Huye / Butare Motel du Mont Huye Hotel Single Room 17,66 2 ***
Karongi / Kibuye Home Saint-Jean Hotel Single Room 23,55 3 ***
Rubavu / Gisenyi Centre d’Accueil
Saint-Francois Xavier
Hotel Single Room 17,66 1 ***
Total Rwanda 28,25 12  

Restaurants & Food

If you choose to eat where locals do and chose one of those buffets, prices are low or very low (1 to 2,5 € for a copious lunch), but most such restaurants are stuffy and the buffet sometimes overcooked…

Most guesthouses also have pleasant restaurants with airy terraces or courtyards, but are significantly more expensive (5 to 8 € for a meal without drinks).

City Restaurant
Name
Type of Meal Type of
Restaurant
Price
Food (€)
Evaluation
(1 to 5 Stars)
Kigali Okapi Hotel Diner Hotel 4,71 ***
Musanze / Ruhengeri La Paillotte Lunch Restaurant 4,36 ****
Musanze / Ruhengeri La Paillotte Diner Restaurant 5,89 ***
Huye / Butare Hotel Ibis Diner Hotel 7,65 ****
Karongi / Kibuye Home Saint Jean Lunch Hotel 7,07 ****
Karongi / Kibuye Home Saint Jean Diner Hotel 7,42 ****
Karongi / Kibuye Urugwiro Restaurant Lunch Restaurant 2,12 ***
Rubavu / Gisenyi L’Auberge Diner Restaurant 5,30 ***
Rubavu / Gisenyi Centre d’Accueil Saint-Francois Xavier Breakfast Hotel 3,53 ***
Total Rwanda 5,34  

Drinks & Going Out

Depending on where you have a drink, a large beer (64 cl) will cost you on average 1.8 €, quite a bargain! If you want to switch to cocktails or especially wine, prices are much, much higher, though!

City Bar
Name
Type of Drink Type of
Bar
Price
Drink (€)
Evaluation
(1 to 5 Stars)
Kigali Okapi Hotel Large Beer Hotel 1,77 ***
Kigali Hotel des Milles Collines Large Beer Hotel 4,71 ****
Musanze / Ruhengeri Amahoro Guesthouse Large Beer Hotel 1,18 ****
Musanze / Ruhengeri La Paillotte Large Beer Restaurant 1,18 ***
Huye / Butare Hotel Ibis Large Beer Hotel 1,41 ****
Karongi / Kibuye Home Saint Jean Large Beer Hotel 1,53 ****
Rubavu / Gisenyi L’Auberge Large Beer Restaurant 1,18 ***
Rubavu / Gisenyi Tam Tam Large Beer Bar 1,41 ***
Total Rwanda 1,80  

Transport

Rwanda is a small country with an overall excellent road & transport infrastructure. Transport times are hence relatively low, and it is easy to crisscross the country. Rwanda is actually the easiest country to move around I have experienced in Africa, by far!

On the way to Kisesero Genocide Memorial, nwear Kibuye, Lake Kivu, Rwanda

Bus schedules are taken seriously: if your transport is scheduled to leave at 08:30, it does so, even if it’s not full (and each passenger has a sit) – The first time I experienced this in Africa…

Within cities or for shorter distances, you can also take a moto-taxi, whose driver will always offer you a helmet.

On Lake Kivu, a Ferry is now running on schedule from Gisenyi to Cyangugu via Kibuye and back:

  • On Sunday & Thursday, they run North to South (Gisenyi at 07:00 am, Kibuye at 10:30 am, arriving at Cyangugu at 04:00 pm).
  • On Monday and Friday, they run South to North (Cyangugu at 07:00 am, Kibuye at 13:00 am, arriving in Gisenyi at 05:00 pm).
  • The boat is crowded and not everyone gets on board, so be at the peer approx. 1 hour ahead of time and immediately register and join the line. When I took the boat, a special line was made for “Mzungus”, to insure that all foreigners would get on board…
  • The cabin is very crowded, so rather choose to stand on the narrow decks and enjoy the views on Lake Kivu…
From To Via Type of Transport Distance
Route
(Km)
Travel Duration
(Hours)
Price
(€)
Price per
100 km (€)
Kigali Nyamata & Back Bus 52 3,00 € 2,41 € 4,64
Kigali Musanze Bus 96 2,25 € 2,06 € 2,15
Musanze Butare Kigali Bus 232 4,50 € 7,07 € 3,05
Butare Nyamagabe & Back Bus 58 1,00 € 1,18 € 2,03
Butare Kibuye Nyanza Bus 165 5,00 € 3,66 € 2,22
Kibuye Bisesero & Back Moto 60 3,00 € 8,24 € 13,74
Kibuye Gisenyi Boat 100 3,00 € 2,94 € 2,94
Gisenyi Rutinda Musanze
Kabale
Bus 211 4,50 € 8,28 € 3,93

Tours & Activities

Tours & activities are expensive in Rwanda, and might represent a big chunk of your budget, even if you completely ignore the wild life…

Of course you have Gorillas Tracking, which costs no less than 750 USD… And you need a 4WD for the day (add another 80 USD, and it is not easy to find someone for sharing, as you have to track the same Gorilla Family as the people with whom you share!)

Other activities are also pricey: Golden Monkey Tracking is 100 USD, Chimpanzees Tracking is 90 to 120 USD, and each time you need… a 4WD!

For boat trips on Lake Kivu, it is not difficult to find fellow travelers, for instance at the Home Saint Jean in Karongi / Kibuye.

Splurge At Reasonable Costs?

Rwanda is not exactly the place to splurge, as this will very quickly blow your budget… Big time!

You can afford a relatively decent level of comfort for a reasonable price, but each attempt to upgrade will strongly impact your budget.

Reduce Costs?

Of course, you can travel with a much lower budget than I did! I was actually more Flashpacking than really Backpacking. The main budget where you can save money is on local Tours & Activities, which are really expensive.

If you want an example of how to travel on a much lower budget in Rwanda, check the excellent blog of Sonia & Ainara. At least Africa is written in English…

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