HOW TO PREPARE FOR A TRIP TO RWANDA
I lived in Rwanda for a year and a half. It is a stunningly beautiful country and of course has a complicated past. Here are some tips to prepare for a trip there.
- •Bring USD in $100 bills no older than 2006There are ATMS, but I know several people who have had their card information stolen using these. You get the best exchange rate on new $100 bills. And the only places that take credit cards are nice hotels. Bring Visa and not MasterCard.
- •Get a Yellow Fever vaccine and documentation that you got itThere is no cure for Yellow Fever and many countries in Africa won't let you in without proof that you have had a vaccination. Most will allow you to pay to get one on arrival. Better to get one before you go.
- •Don't ask people about the genocide or their ethnicityRwandans are now considered "Rwandans", not Hutus and Tutsis and it is taboo to ask. People are not supposed to talk about the genocide except during the month of April. Some people will share their stories, but do not expect it. I recommend reading the book "We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families" by Philip Gourevitch
- •Don't bring plastic bags into the countryThey are banned (due to their impact on the environment) and will be confiscated at the border if found
- •Book your visit to see the mountain gorillas earlyIf you are going to to be there for a short period and go in peak tourist season (summer), slots to see the gorillas can book up months in advance, so best to reserve early. Also, be prepared for a wet, hard, steep hike with lots of stinging nettles!
- •Learn to say hello, goodbye, thank you, what is your name, and my name is ... in KinyarwandaEven just these few phrases go a long way
- •Bring anti-malaria meds with youOptions: Malarone, Doxycycline (the least expensive), and Larium (some people get nightmares with this). There isn't malaria in the higher altitudes, but there is in Kigali and lower locations.
- •Tourist visas are $30 for Americans and you can get them on arrival (as of this writing)It is easiest to pay in USD. You can also mail away for one in advance
- •Hot news just off the press-there is a new escalator in the airport