New Rwanda and eastern DRC trip report

Eric Futtrup writes:

First, this is a very good guidebook, which me and my travel mate brought two copies of, so we plan and read ahead. I was also very happy that you included the Goma/Virunga chapter – though there are a few things that needs to be updated.

Rubavu – map p.194: The Petit Barriere on the map, near the lake is actually the Grand Barriere! Also, at least according to Lac Kivu Lodge staff, this is the only border where tourists can cross.

Goma visit information:
– to visit Goma/DRC, you need two entry visas to Rwanda – since this is done on-line, it is easy to book two visas, one for your initial entry, and one for your re-entry from Goma
– the border control is straight forward at the Grand Barriere, near the lake. Change money at one exchange booth, 50 meters north of the border. There are NO exchange facilities on the DRC side. Get your exit stamp from the Rwanda office, a few meters before the border, cross the border, get your feber-check (Ebola), hand over your invitation at the DRC post, after 10 minutes you get your visa, and the last thing is that you have your yellow fever certificate registred at the next door window.
– The Lac Kivu Lodge is highly recommended. Prices from $70 for a double. It is located at the lake side, and is very well run with a good restaurant where all the diplomats and UN workers come and relax and have dinner. They are very helpful with transfers, lunch bags and what else you need. http://www.lackivulodge.com/
– Visa (p2939: costs 100$ on the visitvirunga.org homepage – you get a scanned copy of a fax from Kinshasa!!! But it works, and it takes about 7 days to get.
– Nyiragongo (p299) – the information is quite accurate – the volcano opened up again in october 2014, and up to 14 persons can visit per day. Plan for a workday-visit, since weekends fill up with UN and NGO’s from Goma and Kigali. We were 2 persons on the volcano and I had one of the best experiences of my life! Porters: 24$, a bag of charcoal: 5$ which is a very good investment – just remember that it should be part of what your porter can carry. At the moment they have dome-tents inside the crater rime huts, since the huts have not been fully repaired after the M23 ‘war’. Current prices can be seen on the visitvirunga.org webpage.
– Gorilla tracking (p301) – also a great experience – we were 3 people of this day, tracking a group of 22 – do the Congo gorilla trek to have a very special experience with few others people, not because of the price. It is cheaper, but with the transport and visa, you the cost would be the same as in Rwanda.

Transport
All Kigali busses leave from the Nyabugogo bus terminal. One of the thing that worried me a lot before going was how to make reservations for busses. I could not see it from the bus companies webpages or in the Bradt guide. But it turned out to be very, very easy. At the Nyabugogo terminal, all bus companies each have a ‘shop’ where you buy your tickets for today or any other day. You don’t get a numbered seat, but they never put more people in the busses than there are seats. You should still be there about 30 minutes before your departure to have a good seat and have your bags placed in the storrage or below a seat. We often had to pay 1000Rfr for two bags.

Other:
– Cafe Bourbon also has it’s own coffee brand, and the Lac Kivu or Virunga coffe makes a great souvenir or gift to bring home.
– Heaven Restaurant (p99) – also has a small souvenir shop with items from women projects where  http://www.heavenrwanda.com/artists – ‘Azizi life is a social enterprise that partners with over 280 artisans and helps them connect to both the local and global market’

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