As we found other people’s entries really helpful when planning our trip, we decided to post a summary of our 3 weeks stay in Rwanda in November 2012. We had a truly wonderful trip and really enjoyed Rwanda’s natural beauty and its welcoming people. We were travelling as a family: parents and 3 grownup children! We mostly tried to do budget travel but we did splurge for trips to the National Parks.
We arrived in Kigali and stayed at AEE (African Evangelical Enterprise) guesthouse (neighbourhood: Remera, quite a distance from downtown but close to the airport). It was 15 000 fr (25 USD) for a double room. The rooms were simple and clean and the bathrooms were down the hall, the grounds were quite nice with some spots for sitting outside. They tried to overcharge us on the two occasions we paid and we actually decided to stay at another place for our final stay in Kigali.
We went to Nyanza by local bus (Volcanoes Express): the bus left from Nyambogogo bus station. The King’s Palace was a 45 minute walk outside of the town and there were very few directions showing the way. We visited the King’s Palace which was well worth a visit and we had excellent guided tour which explained the King’s way of life (8000 fr each).
We then continued by public transit to Huye (Butare )where we spend the night. We stayed at the Hotel du Mont Huye 25 000 fr (40 USD) for a triple room which included breakfast. Even though we had reserved by phone, they had no record of our reservation. The grounds were nice and the staff was friendly. The next day we visited the National Museum (8000 fr each). It’s worth reserving several hours for this museum which explains the history of Rwanda (excluding the genocide).
We then travelled back to Kigali (about 2 and ½ hours) to pick up 2 of the family members who arrived a few days later. In Kigali, we recommend the genocide memorial. There are many restaurants, coffee shops and a great nightlife depending on your interests. The city is amazingly clean. If you have the time and interest, the local bus routes are definitely the cheapest (200 fr, 0.35USD) and probably the most interesting way to travel around the city.
Next we travelled by 4X4 to Nyungwe National Park. We rented a jeep with a driver for 65 000 fr per day (110 USD: included driver’s allowance & unlimited mileage) excluded gas (about 40 USD per day, depending how much you drive, obviously!) and tip (we tipped about 8 USD per day). We rented from AZ IMPEX which is not a tour company. Our driver was very nice, accommodating and drove very carefully and this was the least expensive rental that we were able to find. The drive to Nyungwe was about 5-6 hours on quite nice roads. We stayed at KKCEM Guesthouse in Kitabi which was on the East end of the park (closest end to Kigali). We paid 10 000 fr (18USD) for a room with a double bed. The place was quiet, clean and simple and hot water was available. We had reserved via email but they did not have our reservation when we arrived. There was a restaurant which served breakfast, lunch and dinner (3000 fr). Dinner was buffet style and the restaurant also served as a cafeteria for the college students.
We stayed at Nyungwe for 3 days and went on several walks inside the park. We bought the 2-3 day long trails pass which was 70 USD per person. There were 3 reception centres in the park, one in the east, one in the west and one in the middle. Accommodations are just outside the park on the East or the West. We also went for Chimp tracking (90USD per person) which starts at 5AM at the West End of the park (2 hours from the East). If Chimp tracking, it may be worth paying the extra money to stay at the West end; otherwise, you have to wake up at 2:30 am! Chimp tracking was very strenuous and requires lots of water! You must book in advance for the chimps. While it would be possible to get to Nyungwe by public transit, it would be very difficult to get around the park without your own vehicle.
We then returned to Kigali before going on a day trip to Akagara National Park. This also requires your own vehicle. Entrance to the park was 30 USD per person and a car fee of less than 10 USD. Even though a guide is optional (15 USD), we strongly recommend one as they know were the animals are most likely to be found! This was one of the highlights of our trip, we saw giraffes, zebras, hippos, gazelles and were even lucky enough to see 2 elephants! The drive from Kigali is about 2 hours. We recommend that you arrive in the park around 7am so you can find a guide and have the whole day for the park. We stayed in the park for about 7 hours before driving back to Kigali the same day.
Next we went from Kigali to Musanze (Ruhengeri) by public bus with Virunga (about 2000 fr). The trip was about 2 hours and quite comfortable if you don’t have too much luggage. We stayed at the Tourist Rest House (8000 fr/15USD for a double bed). The staff was really friendly and helpful and there was a good little restaurant; however, the rooms were small, drab and the hot water was sporadic. We rented a 4X4 from Musanze for 80USD per day including gas & driver’s allowance to get to the National Park (Amahoro Tours). We went to see the golden monkeys (100 USD per person) which was really great, the monkeys were very energetic and we saw them up close. Plus, it was an easy walk to get to spot them. The next day we went to see the gorillas and it was a mesmerizing experience (750 USD per person). We had booked directly with the ORTPN from Canada and wired the money and there were no difficulties with this. You definitely need your own transportation when going into the Volcanoes National Park, trying to improvise is unfortunately not a good idea.
From Musanze we went to Rubavu (Gisenyi) by public bus with Virunga (about 1500 fr). The trip was about 1 hour.We stayed at Inzu Lodge, a beautiful spot at Rubona 7km outside of the town. We stayed in comfortable beds set up in safari tents (20 000 fr/35USD). It had a great view, a delicious restaurant, lots of beautiful touches and it was altogether a great place to relax, wind down and spend some time reading and eating.
From Rubavu we returned to Kigali by public bus (3000 fr), about 3 hours. Upon returning to Kigali we stayed at the Procure St-Famille located in downtown Kigali (12 000 fr/20USD including breakfast). If looking for a budget option downtown, this is viable; however, the washroom and showers left much to be desired and the rooms were very plain… it may be worth upgrading a little if you can afford it!
Here is some contact information:
Kigali: A.E.E. Guesthouse —firstname.lastname@example.org
Huye (Butare): Motel du Mont Huye – Telephone 250 788 401228 (no email address)
Kitabi: KKCEM Guesthouse— email@example.com.
Musanze: Tourist Rest House –Telephone: 250 785 227990 / 252 252 546635 (no e-mail address); they remembered our reservation
Rubavu: Inzu Lodge –firstname.lastname@example.org