An East African Country, Rwanda is a simple country to travel around and it’s fairly safe as well. Its neighbors are Burundi, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Uganda.
Rwanda is a country that’s rich in flora and fauna and offers its visitors plenty of things to see – the green savannah, the silverback mountain gorillas, and the tropical forest of Nyungwe that shelters a lot of unique species of insects and birds.
Known as the land of a thousand hills, Rwanda presents itself to tourists with an equatorial climate that’s being tempered by altitude – the highest peak is Kigali, of 1500m. The rainy season, lasting from September to December and from March to the end of May, causes significant rainfall that influences the climate of the country as well.
In this country, you can also find the Akagera National Park and the Volcanoes National Park. The latter is home of the famous mountain gorillas – noteworthy is the fact that this park spreads into the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda.
It’s true, there is plenty to see here – but what you are wondering is how safe is Rwanda for tourists, right? Of course, that’s why you are here!
No need to worry, you are in the right place! The following paragraphs represent our Rwanda safety guide, in which we will present you everything you have to know about this country before starting your journey.
Highest Risks You Expose Yourself To When Visiting Rwanda
Overall Risks in Rwanda: LOW
So far, there have been no reports of serious crime in Rwanda and the country is being labeled as being safe. However, that doesn’t mean the petty crime has not made itself comfortable on the streets of Rwanda.
Street crime, such as pickpocketing, burglary, and theft, has been reported as increasing – though they don’t pose any danger to tourists if they take the required precautions.
The problems that Rwanda has are not necessarily located inside the country, but rather in the neighboring countries. For example, the political crisis in Burundi has led to violence and increased tensions among the population – this, in turn, has led to the deterioration of Burundi’s relations with Rwanda.
On the other hand, the Democratic Republic in the Congo is in a pretty unstable situation as well. There’s the chance of military incursions, with troops that might open fire near the border between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Moreover, there have been reports of an outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, more exactly in the Beni territory of the North Kivu province. Therefore, you should take the required safety measures against this disease before entering Rwanda, as it may spread.
Pickpocketing and Theft Risks in Rwanda: LOW to MEDIUM
Petty crime usually occurs in Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda. There have been reports of mugging and bag snatching on the city’s streets. There’s also the chance that you might get caught in a traffic jam – when this happens, criminals will try to steal from the cars that are stuck in one.
Therefore, it is recommended that you lock the doors of your vehicle during travel. You should also be accompanied by a convoy if you plan to travel longer distances, as lone cars are more likely to be approached by criminals.
Moreover, it is thought that foreign tourists are being more and more targeted by muggers, mostly because they are thought of as being easy targets, as well as wealthy.
- How to avoid pickpocketing and theft in Rwanda?
As a tourist, since you are considered wealthy, one of the Rwanda safety travel tips would be to avoid displaying any valuable items. Smartphones, cameras, and any other gadgets should be kept in a safe place when you are not using them. Don’t walk with your phone in your hand because you might be left without it very fast.
Moreover, be very careful when traveling around the capital city of Rwanda, as the level of street crime has increased during the past few months here.
If you’ve been pickpocketed or approached by a mugger, it is recommended that you keep calm and don’t fight back. Being criminals, it’s possible that they are armed and, of course, dangerous.
Don’t take any risks and head straight to the police stations in case something happens. Let the officers solve your problems – it’s the wise thing to do!
Scam Risk in Rwanda: LOW
Next on our Rwanda safety guide is one issue that even though it might not be reported as happening, can still affect a great number of unfortunate tourists; namely, scams.
Scams might present to you in a variety of forms – rigged machines and, of course, people. You should get informed on what scams are practiced abroad and have the necessary attitude when you meet someone that seems a bit shady.
- How to avoid getting scammed in Rwanda?
It is recommended that you avoid ATMs, especially those that are near the airports, as they are likely to be rigged. Instead, you should withdraw the money you need from inside the bank – because it is a much safer alternative, if not the safest. Moreover, you could be approached by muggers and scammers when you try to withdraw money from an ATM.
If locals approach you and ask for help, or even offer to help you, you should politely refuse them – as we mentioned before, you must also have an appropriate attitude towards anyone that might be dangerous or have hidden intentions.
Kidnapping Risk in Rwanda: LOW
Kidnapping is not common among tourists in Rwanda. There has been the case of a Ugandan trader that has been kidnapped by Rwanda’s authorities – however, the latter denies this happening.
This is believed to have happened because of the tensions between the two countries. Moreover, the relation between Rwanda and Burundi is not looking good as well – in 2016, Burundi has banned all public transport vehicles from entering Rwanda. There have also been reports of cross-border raids, carried out by Burundi on the local inhabitants of the areas in Rwanda that are near the border.
- How to avoid getting kidnapped in Rwanda?
Even if the risk is low, you should be careful when traveling the streets of Rwanda, especially those of the capital city. It is not your hometown and, therefore, you should avoid traveling during the night – there are some off-limits military zones in the capital that are not signposted and most of the times not lit, which makes them even more dangerous for any curious tourist.
Travel around fairly populated areas, avoid any alleys, and, most important, don’t get lost!
In case something happens, you must remain calm and try to alert the authorities as soon as possible. Don’t try to fight off the aggressors as they might be armed.
Terrorism Risk in Rwanda: LOW to MEDIUM
How safe is Rwanda for tourists when it comes to terrorism? It is safe – there have been no reports of terrorist attacks in Rwanda, but the danger is still there.
There is a certain risk of terrorist attacks because of the tense situations with the neighboring countries – some of them being susceptible to them. Because of this, it is recommended that you avoid official buildings and churches, as there are likely to be targeted by terrorist groups.
- How to avoid terrorism in Rwanda?
Still, you have to keep in mind that most terrorist attacks are not intended to harm people, but rather damage buildings and sending a message. However, this does not mean you should treat them lightly. If you notice any suspicious activity, you should retreat to a safe place and try to alert the authorities of the situation.
Risks for Women Traveling Alone in Rwanda: LOW
Rwanda is a generally stable country – but when it comes to if is Rwanda safe to visit for people that are traveling alone, precaution is required.
While alone, you are susceptible to being pickpocketed and mugged – that’s why we recommend you never travel alone, especially after the sunset.
Moreover, if we are to ask ourselves if is Rwanda safe for solo women travelers, then the answer would be no – because you can never know what might happen. As mentioned before, there have been no reported cases of sexual violence and kidnappings recently, but a tourist should still be cautious when roaming on the Streets of Rwanda.
- How to avoid crime as a solo woman traveler in Rwanda?
If you are a woman traveling alone, the first thing you should do after getting into the country is to order a taxi, and not hail for one on the street. A cab found on the street might be illegitimate and have a criminal as the driver.
Then, once again, we recommend you don’t travel during the night – especially far away from the capital. You should try and find a tourist group and join them for increased safety.
However, the risks of unpleasant scenarios are low – the worse that could happen would probably be being pick pocketed or mugged.
Rape Risk in Rwanda: LOW
Next, on our Rwanda safety guide, we ask the question if is Rwanda safe to visit when it comes to sexual violence. It was once a problem, but now there are no reports of tourists caught in any unpleasant situations.
During the genocide that took place in 1995, it is said that over one thousand women have been raped – however, things have changed a lot. There are two memorials dedicated to the genocide, the Nyamata Genocide Memorial and the Ntarama Genocide Memorial, which show that the people of Rwanda have been affected by what happened in 1995 and have ultimately changed their lives.
As mentioned earlier, there are little to no risks for the tourists that visit Rwanda – as most danger is located and possible to come from in the neighboring areas. Therefore, the chances that something unpleasant might happen are low, however, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take any precautions.
- How to avoid getting raped in Rwanda?
One of the most important Rwanda safety travel tips is to not travel alone and/ or during the night. You are likely to get approached by muggers, or even worse.
You should stay in populated areas – but also avoid crowds of people. Stick to other groups of tourists and you shouldn’t get into any trouble.
If anything happens, you should go to the authorities as soon as possible and give them a full report of what happened.
Risks for People Traveling With Children in Rwanda: LOW
There might be no risks for you and your children – but that doesn’t mean you should let them wander off through a market full of people, for example. If you have a restless child, it’s recommended that you do not lose sight of him or her and always hold them by their hand.
- How to avoid unwanted scenarios?
Nothing serious might happen to them, but you will have to search for them if they go missing. If you find yourself in a situation where you cannot pay attention to your children, you should ask one of your companions to keep a close eye on them.
Naturally, you should instruct them as to what they are allowed to do and not during your holiday trip.
Natural Disaster Risks in Rwanda: MEDIUM
The most frequently occurring natural disaster in Rwanda is landslides. They have a frequency of 52.9%, while drought, the next major natural disaster, one of only 17.6%.
Moreover, landslides have a rate of mortality of 50.8%. This means you should drive carefully, in case you are traveling by car, as these landslides can happen at any time. Other natural disasters that might occur in Rwanda are floods and earthquakes, both being almost as deadly as landslides.
Earthquakes have a rate of mortality of 31.6% and a frequency of 11.8%, while floods of 17.6% and 17.6%, respectively. It is recommended that you listen to the weather report before starting your journey – but also know what you should do in case of an earthquake.
Transportation Risks in Rwanda: MEDIUM
Roads in Rwanda are overall in a good condition, especially those from Kigali to all the other major cities. Be careful if you are traveling to the country in autumn or late spring, as the annual rains can cause landslides. Even though roads are in good condition, it is advised that you avoid driving after dark, as the driving standards are quite poor, mainly due to the fact that most roads are unlit.
In terms of public transportation, you will most likely have to rely on shared taxis and motorbike taxis. It is, however, better to either walk the distance if it is short or carefully choose the vehicle you are going to get in, as the two mentioned types of vehicles are prone to accidents.
If you plan to travel to Burundi, do not do so from within Rwanda, as Burundi has banned all public transportation from crossing the Border. There are also reports of cross-border raid that often target local inhabitants, so you might want to avoid visiting the villages near the Burundi border.
Traveling to the DRC also comes with a certain instability and is not recommended. Even if foreign nationals are not directly affected by the many changes imposed by the governments of the two countries, you can expect additional checks at the border if you plan on crossing to the DRC or Burundi.
Night-Clubs, Pubs, and Bar Risks in Rwanda: LOW to MEDIUM
First of all, it is worth mentioning that Rwanda doesn’t come with a history of drink-spiking drugs being used. Even though there are no reports of such incidents, you should still be careful when ordering a drink and we recommend you to keep an eye on it, just in case.
When it comes to night-clubs, pubs, and bars, there are little to no reported incidents that occurred in such facilities. Naturally, we can assume that most muggings and petty thefts have occurred in this kind of locations, as criminals often take advantage of slightly drunk or dizzy people. In this respect, we recommend you to keep your belongings close to you and don’t trust too much someone you’ve just met.
Health Risks in Rwanda: MEDIUM
The Rwandan law states that every person that’s on the country’s territory must have adequate health insurance. Therefore, make sure to travel with proper travel health insurance as well as with enough funds to cover the costs of any treatment or medicine that you might have to pay for.
In terms of health risks, Rwanda comes with a high risk of malaria in all of its areas, including Kigali.
When it comes to medical facilities, be aware of the fact that the country has only limited medical facilities – in case you are subject to a serious accident or medical emergency you may have to be evacuated by air ambulance to South Africa or Kenya. So, make sure that the funds you have for medical expenses can cover an emergency air transfer as well.
In case of an emergency, the number you have to call is 112. If you are referred to a medical facility, you should contact your insurance company as soon as possible and inform them on your current status.
List of Vaccines You Need in Rwanda
Because of the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, you should get acquainted with precautions that must be taken in regards to this disease. Moreover, there are certain vaccines you need to have before traveling to Rwanda:
- MMR boosters
- Hepatitis A and B
- Yellow Fever
Most Dangerous Areas in Rwanda
- The borders with the DRC and Burundi – they are not particularly dangerous, but you may be caught in a cross-border raid that’s meant to target local inhabitants.
Rwanda is overall a safe country and there are no areas that you should purposely avoid. All you have to do is take the basic safety measures mentioned throughout this article and try to stay away from the border areas with Burundi and the DRC, as the situation between these countries and Rwanda is still strained.
If you are visiting remote areas or areas that are far away from any major cities, it is better if you ask for advice/ opinions from the locals as to which areas you should avoid, as they know the surrounding regions much better and can give you valuable insight, both in terms of driving or traveling on foot.
Concluding Remarks: Is Rwanda Safe to Visit?
Reaching the end of our Rwanda safety guide, it’s time to analyze the information presented so far and give you a final answer – which is yes. Rwanda is safe to visit and tourists shouldn’t have any issues while exploring the land.
Still, you do have to take some safety measures before hitting the road, for increased safety. After all, it’s a foreign country you are probably visiting for the first time – it’s only a matter of common sense that you would try your best to make this trip as safe as possible.
Don’t forget to check the latest news and get informed on the situation of Rwanda – and of the neighboring countries as well.