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Home / General Travel Tips /
XYZ Consular Info: Rwanda

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XYZ Consular Info: Rwanda

Rwanda - Consular Information Sheet
April 11, 2002
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Rwanda is a landlocked developing country in central/east Africa. It is recovering from a civil war and genocide in which as many as one million people were killed. Hotels and guesthouses are adequate in Kigali, the capital, and in major towns, but they are limited in remote areas.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A passport and evidence of yellow fever immunization are required. Visas are not required for American citizens entering Rwanda for less than 90 days. U.S. citizens planning on working in Rwanda should apply for a work permit at the Department of Immigration as soon as possible after arrival in Rwanda. Detailed entry information may be obtained from the Embassy of the Republic of Rwanda, 1714 New Hampshire Avenue, N.W., Washington D.C. 20009, telephone 202-232-2882, fax 202-232-4544, Internet site: http://www.rwandaemb.org/rwanda/. Overseas, inquiries may be made at the nearest Rwandan embassy or consulate.
Travelers who wish to travel to the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) with visas and/or entry/exit stamps from Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda or Zimbabwe may experience difficulties at the DRC airport or other ports of entry. Some travelers with those visas or exit/entry stamps have been detained for questioning in the DRC.
In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian if not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: In July 1999, the Government of Rwanda reopened the Parc National des Volcans. The Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) provides security in the park against attacks by rebel groups operating from the DRC.
The RPA also provides military escorts for visitors viewing the mountain gorillas. Visitors are not permitted to visit the park without permission from Rwanda's Office of Tourism and National Parks (ORTPN) and are strongly advised against visits to the park apart from organized gorilla tours. The ORTPN has just begun programs of nature walks. Military escorts also accompany these tours. Visitors are strongly advised to leave the park by 6:00 p.m. Due to past insurgent activity in the area, visitors should exercise extreme caution while in the park and follow ORTPN and military escorts' instructions closely.
Insurgent activity has been reported in southwestern Rwanda in Nyungwe Forest. The U.S. Embassy strongly urges American citizens to avoid travel through the Nyungwe Forest on the Butare-Cyangugu Road during the hours of twilight and darkness. The Embassy advises against visiting the Nyungwe Forest Park until insurgent activity has ended.
Visitors are encouraged to contact the U.S. Embassy regional security office or Consular Section for the latest security information on both parks. (Please see section 17 on Registration/Embassy Location.)
REGIONAL TERRORISM: One of the many Hutu extremist rebel factions in the Great Lakes region has committed, and continues to threaten, violence against American citizens and interests. This faction was responsible for the March 1999 kidnapping and murder of several Western tourists, including U.S. citizens, in neighboring Uganda. Hutu rebel factions are known to operate in northeastern DRC and surrounding areas, including sections of Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania and Burundi.
CRIME INFORMATION: Pick-pocketing in crowded public places is common, as is petty theft from cars and hotel rooms. Although violent crimes such as carjackings, robberies, and home invasions are rarely committed against foreigners, one should remain alert and exercise caution.
The loss or theft of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to local police and to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. The pamphlets, A Safe Trip Abroad and Tips for Travelers to Sub-Saharan Africa, provide useful information on personal security while traveling abroad and on travel in the region in general. Both are available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office , Washington D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs or http://travel.state.gov.
MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical facilities are limited, and some medicines are in short supply or unavailable. Travelers generally bring their own supplies of prescription drugs and preventive medicines. In Kigali, Americans can go to King Faycal, a private hospital that offers limited services. A list of medical providers is also available at the U.S. Embassy. A missionary hospital run by Americans is located in Kibogora, in the southwest of Rwanda, and it has some surgical facilities.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas, including emergency services such as medical evacuations.
Travelers should be aware that evidence of and/or assurances from U.S. insurance companies will not be accepted as settlement of medical expenses in Rwanda.
When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the United States may cost well in excess of 50,000 dollars (US). Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, please ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or if you will be reimbursed later for expenses that you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.
Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical Information for Americans Traveling abroad , available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.
OTHER MEDICAL INFORMATION: Malaria is prevalent in Rwanda, and there are periodic outbreaks of meningitis. Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's international travelers hotline at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax, 1-888-CDC-FAX (1-888-232-3299); or by visiting the CDC's Internet home page at http://www.cdc.gov.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Rwanda is provided for general reference only, and it may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor
Excessive speed, careless driving, and the lack of basic safety equipment on many vehicles are hazards on Rwanda's roads. Drivers frequently have unexpected encounters with cyclists, pedestrians and livestock. Nighttime driving is particularly hazardous and discouraged. Often, roadways are not marked, and they lack streetlights and shoulders. While the main roads in Rwanda are in relatively good condition, during the rainy season many side roads are passable only with four-wheel drive vehicles. Travelers may be stopped at police roadblocks throughout the country, where their vehicles and luggage may be searched. Service stations are available along main roads. Public transportation can be dangerous due to overloading, inadequate maintenance and careless drivers.
In Rwanda, one drives on the right-hand side. Cars entering traffic circles have the right-of-way. Third-party insurance is required and will cover any damages if you are involved in an accident resulting in injuries and you are found not to have been at fault. If you are found to have caused the accident, your driver's license can be confiscated for three months. If you cause an accident that results in a death, you can be sentenced to three to six months' imprisonment. Drunk drivers are jailed for 24 hours and fined FRW 20,000(approximately $45). In the city of Kigali, you can call the following numbers for police assistance in the event of an accident: Kigali Center, 08311112; Nyamirambo, 08311113; Kacyiru, 08311114; Kicukiro, 08311115; Remera, 08311116. Ambulance assistance is non-existent. Please wear your seat belt and drive with care and patience at all times.
For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites , please see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://.travel.state.gov/road_safety.html. For specific information concerning Rwanda driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax, and mandatory insurance, please contact the Rwandan Office of Tourism and National Parks, B.P. 905, Kigali, Rwanda, telephone 250-76514, fax 250-76512.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service at present, nor economic authority to operate such service between the United States and Rwanda, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the Rwandan Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards.
For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the United States at tel. 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at tel. (618) 256-4801.
COMMUNICATIONS: Telephone communication to and from Rwanda is generally reliable. Cellular telephones and Internet connections are available in Kigali and the large towns.
CURRENCY REGULATIONS: The Rwandan franc is freely exchangeable for hard currencies in banks and the Bureaux de Change. Several Kigali banks can handle wire transfers from U.S. banks, including Western Union. Credit cards are accepted at only a few hotels in Kigali and only to settle hotel bills. Travelers should expect to handle most expenses, including air tickets, in cash. Travelers checks can be cashed only at commercial banks.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Rwandan law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Rwanda are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.
DISASTER PREPAREDNESS: In 2002, Rwanda experienced the eruption of Mount Nyiragongo which lies across the border in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Tremors were felt throughout Rwanda, including in the capital, Kigali.
Seismic activity is unpredictable and infrequent, but American citizens should be aware of the possibility of earthquakes. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov/.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone 1-888-407-4747.
REGISTRATION/EMBASSY LOCATION: U.S. citizens who plan to travel to Rwanda are urged to register with the U.S. Embassy and to obtain updated information on travel and security in Rwanda. The U.S. Embassy is located at Boulevard de La Revolution; the mailing address is B.P. 28, Kigali, Rwanda, telephone 250-05601/05602/05603, fax 250-502128; e-mail address is amembkigali@hotmail.com. The Embassy's Internet web site is http://www.usembkigali.net
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This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated April 18, 2001 to update the sections on Safety and Security, Regional Terrorism, Children's Issues, and Registration/Embassy Location, and to add a section on Disaster Preparedness.