Rwanda Experience – Solo Travel

2 African countries, 7 days, 4 nights – Travel experience: Kigali, Rwanda-East Africa, and Johannesburg-South Africa.

where to stay in rwanda - kigali

Experience rwanda with me today. First, let me guess, you are probably wondering why someone would take up such a short trip and defy the enjoyment that was supposed to accompany visit to new places. Perhaps I should make a post sharing my reasons? Yeah? (I will think about it).

Hey Y’all, I have never been this excited to share anything but y’all stepping out of comfort zone this time was more rewarding. I remember watching EbonyLife TV some years back and what filled the screen was a documentary about the genocide that happened in Rwanda some 20 years ago and I have since then put Rwanda on my bucket list of travel .

visit rwanda - Kigali

Sometimes last year, a travel blogger shared her rwanda experience and it sort of reawakened my desire to visit the country. My plan to visit South Africa was ongoing and I thought, why not do a 2-night stopover in Kigali (Capital of Rwanda). It is visa on arrival that only cost $30 (approx N11, 000 depending on exchange rate).

stay at gisa stay 101

Day 1. Departure day, Saturday.

My flight was scheduled to depart at 15:30 but I got to the airport at a little after 5:00am, no thanks to INEC that shifted the presidential election to my travel day and since we plan for war at every election (Nigerians please don’t come after me for saying this), I had to get to the airport before curfew which was from 6 am to 6 pm.

This combined with the status of our MMA International airport was an experience on its own. Brought out a scarf to sleep on the floor while I patiently waited for checkin counter to open for 10am as scheduled.

My experience with Nigerian Immigration at MMA airport, Lagos

This officer collected my passport, looked at it returned it and asked me to meet “one man down there”. The “man down there” made inquiries on how much money I had with me and said expressly that the minimum amount required by immigration is $1000. Seriously bro, what I need that for? He went ahead to advise me to “help myself”. Errr, I’m a Nigerian, I know those words.

Furthermore, he said South African Immigration may not let me into their country considering the amount I had with me and I was like, okay bro why would you tell me to “help myself” to let me out of Nigerian Immigration when you believe South African immigration wouldn’t let me in? Not today satan, I’m giving no bribe. Oh yeah, I got my passport stamped and walked through immigration.

Traveling on Air Rwanda airline

For some reason, check-in started 30mins earlier, we boarded at about 12 noon and around 14:30, our flight was en route Kigali. Our flight wasn’t full and that was a great opportunity to search for an empty row and catch up on sleep as I would do anything for it.

Food in flight.

Traveling on air rwanda

The attendant was kind enough to give me one liter of Inkange bottled water. Four hours later we were in Kigali international airport and we arrived at 19:20 pm by their time (Rwanda is in East Africa and one hour ahead West Africa).

Arrived at Kigali International Airport

We moved over to immigration where there was a long queue. It got to my turn and I paid $30 for my visa fee with my debit card (I had dollars with me but it was more of 1 dollar notes which they refused to accept). This really hurt because GTbank charged me 367 naira per dollar. A lesson for you there.

experience  rwanda

But I was not leaving the airport until 2 hrs after. My pickup driver was nowhere to be found, now I won’t bore you with all that went down but thank goodness for free wifi at the airport and I was able to communicate till the driver came around.

Accommodation

Checked in to GISA STAY 101  KGL 237street UM. Gisa Stay is an apartment which is also budget-friendly especially if one is traveling on a budget. You also have the liberty to cook your own food if you so wish.

gisa stay 101

First night. It was cold. The temperature at 15 degrees Celsius. 

DAY 2. Sunday  

Rainy morning. Light rain.

Say it all, I was freezing. I never imagined the temperature in Kigali could be this low and no shame peeps it was the coldest weather I have ever experienced in my life. I had Breakfast which was bread, egg, and tea at $2 and slept again

Kigali is extremely beautiful and insanely clean.

Got up later around 4 pm to soak in the city and I was welcomed with a clean city full of greens. I was awe.

If we really look deeply as Africans, everything about us is beautiful.

Friendly people of Rwanda

My experience with the people of Rwanda was nothing short love, peace and friendliness. I met with two Rwandese that works at the facility where I stayed and they offered to take me to where to print and Y’all I was welcomed with this beautiful sight. Remember I came in at night and this was my first-time out.No printing shop opened. Instead of meeting up with friends to watch Manchester United vs Liverpool they decided to watch in a club because of me so that I won’t feel left out.

I requested for a bottle of water while they had soda (noteworthy, they serve soda with lemon slices in Kigali). We talked about how Africans think they are not beautiful by every standard, why women don’t accept their natural hair and many think their big lips are ugly. Quoting one of the guys “if we really look deeply as Africans, everything about us is beautiful”.

I also noticed how protective these guys were, trying to keep me off the road even when we were not on the road, the Kigali walkway is wide and secured enough. But these guys would rather keep me in the middle. I tried to protest this but their answer was “go anywhere in the world, we are the only ones that care for our women like Queens”.

the beautiful city of kigali

In the end, I was told I look Cameroonian and I am the first Nigerian that is quiet ( I know my country people like to make themselves known where ever they go so I understand…lol).

I had a great time with them. Noteworthy, I got kissed on cheeks every freaking time.

Second night.

Did some photoshoot of my room.

budget hotel in Kigali

Temperature dropped. Cold night

Day 3. Departure day, Monday

Woke up to another cold morning. Keep in mind it’s my departure day and no, I am not leaving Rwanda without an experience. I had plans to visit 3 attraction places in Kigali. The Kigali local market, the Kigali art museum and the Kigali genocide memorial center.

Remember the printing I needed to do in Day 2, ah, I got it done first thing in the morning and paid 200Rfr for 2 colored pages. The guy was extremely calm and helpful while we struggle to get my document sent to his email so he could print.

Kigali local market

The receptionist gave me the direction to the local market which was 15minutes by foot. I chose to walk it to and fro for me to soak in the beauty of this clean city called Kigali. One thing I discovered is that these people love African arts and display it with all pleasure.

Rwanda is a plastic free country.

Rwanda is part of the countries that has greatly reduced the use of plastic bags. It seemed the only plastic bags I saw while I was there were all mine. They use paper bags in place of plastic bags.

Communication in Rwanda:

Rwandan speak English, Kirwandiya, and French. You would likely have a hard time catching up with their English because of the accent and you are more likely to slow down when speaking to some locals. Some don’t understand English at all. As a solo traveler, I had to make myself fit into the locality, asking for help every now and then. The people are quite helpful and that was one experience I really enjoyed about the people of Rwanda. The people of Rwanda can be referred to as Rwandan or Rwandese as you might have noticed how alternatively I used these two nouns.

Rwanda Genocide memorial center

I got back to the hotel, dropped the items I got from the Kigali local market and headed to the infamous Rwanda Genocide Memorial where they have the remains of approximately 250,000 people who amongst the millions that died during the 1994 genocide period. A war between two tribes, the Hutu and the Tutsi, where one tribe felt they were superior (instigated).

Kigali Genocide Memorial Center – Gate Fee

It would amaze you that entry to the Rwanda Genocide memorial center is free however they accept a voluntary donation to keep up with the memories they are trying to preserve as well making it a continual educational resource and funding for children’s education.

You are about to experience the real Rwanda

A walk through the entire Genocide memorial center will take about 2 hours at the minimum, you will be given a radio to guide you through the walk because no one is dedicated for that job but this radio guide (to be returned) comes at $25 and you will also get a pin (brooch) however this is optional. You can decide to go in without the guide, this was my option.

Pictures taken at the Kigali genocide memorial center

By the time I was through, my legs almost couldn’t lift me. From the whole genocide story, the hurt, the pain the imagination of what actually happened, how the survivors are living their lives in this millennial had a whole toll on me and written all over my face.

Regardless, it was interesting to discover that the incidence has made Rwanda to what she is today, having a rapidly growing economy, a beautiful country that exudes love and peace.

Today people of Rwanda do no longer see themselves as a part of a particular group or sect but as Rwandan. Visiting the genocide memorial center is one experience that won’t leave me anytime soon.

And then I met a Nigerian named Sade at the Kigali genocide memorial center.

I left the Kigali genocide memorial center with the thought of how much a nation can achieve if her people have a sense of unity.

Got back to the hotel, and was taken to a club to grab something to eat by Fratel, he received me when I arrived at GISA Stay 101.

Went to pick my luggage and picked a bike to Kigali International airport.

Departure

Flight time was 22:20 pm

Would I be wrong if I don’t briefly talk about the beautiful Kigali International airport?

Small but beautiful, yeah, I know I mentioned it earlier. Free strong wifi Internet and provision to charge phones with different ports that work for all charging adapter. Seats are only found at boarding areas and you can’t enter departure wing when check-in counter of your airline has not opened.

Boarding area

Also, you will find at the boarding area just after immigration, a coffee shop. Rwanda is a big exporter of coffee and they boast of several types that are locally grown. There is a DUTY-FREE shop where you can do a mini shopping from perfume, chocolates, headsets, Rwandan tea and of course coffee.

Baggage check-in

While at this point, the guy attending to me said I looked pretty tired and asked what it was. I told him I went to the Kigali genocide memorial center and that it was a long walk. He then asked how my experience was and how I felt about what Rwanda went through. I could only sigh, he went silent for a minute and when he managed to speak again he said: “ I am a survivor”. I looked at him, told him I am proud of what they have done with their country, he smiled.

At 22:25, we took off. En route Johannesburg, South Africa.

Now, this Rwanda experience post is super long already so my Johannesburg experience will come up as a separate post and hopefully not this long.

Until then, subscribe to this blog so you can know when the next post goes live. Also don’t forget to drop a comment and share this post if you enjoyed reading.

With one word I picked up during my short stay in Kigali, I say “Muracozay”! (Thank you).

10 thoughts on “Rwanda Experience – Solo Travel

  1. This is a very engaging post. I like the fact that the country was able to rise from adversity.
    I’ll be sure to add Rwanda to my bucket lists of countries to visit.
    Thanks for sharing your experience.

    1. Thank you Sarah, if you need any assistance whenever you decide to visit, please let me know.

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