Kigali is the capital and the biggest city in Rwanda. The city has grown to become one of the most preferred Backpacking destinations in East Africa. This is due to its history, attractions, and people.
If you are planning a Backpacking Kigali trip, here is a guide with all you need to know before starting your journey.
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Backpacking Kigali General Information
Kigali is not a big city as compared to Nairobi or Kampala. Using BodaBodas (Moto-Taxi) is probably the best way to move around the city. The city has the most disciplined BodaBoda riders in East Africa which makes riding on the motorcycles a “must do”. There are also public buses and taxis in the city.
When it comes to security in East Africa, in Kigali you will feel safer. The city is calm, clean, and her people are very generous.
Where to eat & Drink
If you are looking for local or international cuisine, well-brewed coffee or a place to relax and enjoy a cold beer, Kigali will not disappoint. For a complete food guide in Kigali, check out Eat out Rwanda.
The safest foreign exchange bureaus are found in shopping malls and banks. You should get information about bureaus with the best rates from your host. If you have to carry cash, have it in USD, GBP, Euro or KES as they are the easiest currencies to convert to Rwandan Frank (RFW) in Kigali.
RFW (1 KES = 8.54 RFW, US$1 = 850 RFW) – The rates are not standard as they change all the time.
Banks & ATMs
Most international banks are available in Kigali. Bank of Kigali, Kenya Commercial Bank, Equity Bank, I & M Bank, Eco bank and CBA are the most common.
People & Language
The most spoken languages in Rwanda are Kinyarwanda, English, and French. Many residents in Kigali understand and speak English so it will be easy for you to move around.
Nightlife in Kigali may not be as vibrant as compared to Nairobi or Kampala but it cannot be downplayed. Rwandans love to party too. Some of the best places to experience nightlife in Kigali are; Executive Car Wash, Ubumwe Grande Hotel, Envy, Papyrus, and K club.
Kigali is growing at a very fast rate. Shopping malls are coming up at a fast rate making. There are also many local markets with a variety of gifts and wares.
Phone and Internet
Rwanda uses 240V, 50Hz. The Internet is available in most office and accommodation facilities. For calls and personal internet, you can buy an Airtel Rwanda or MTN Rwanda mobile Sim Card.
Accommodation in Kigali City
Kigali has many options when it comes to accommodation. You can choose to stay in a budget backpacker’s hostel, a budget guest house or a high-end hotel. Below are the rates for most facilities in Kigali.
- Budget Accommodation: $15 – $60 USD per night
- Mid-range hotel: $60 – $120 USD per night
- Luxury – High end: Anything over $120 USD per night
Kenyan Backpacker’s recommended facilities
Discover Rwanda Youth Hostel
Discover Rwanda Youth Hostel – Rwanda’s first youth hostel – located near the center of Kigali, is the perfect place for you to stay while exploring the city (land) of a thousand hills. The hostel is about 12 Km from Presidential Palace Museum and 4Km from Inema Arts Center. The property offers free WiFi, “Nyama Choma” and business facilities. The rooms at the hostel have a balcony and are fitted with a wardrobe and a desk. The units include a shared bathroom with free toiletries and all the rooms come with a garden view.
- Rates: from $10 (Camping), $13 (Dorm) to $60 (Double room En-Suite)
- Book Now: Booking Com
If you don’t like the idea of staying in a backpacker’s/youth hostel, then Heartland Hotel is the place to be.
The hotel is located in the Nyamirambo area with its rooms overlooking the hill slopes of mount Kigali. I have stayed in this facility in the past and can highly recommend them.
- Rates: $30 (DELUXE ROOMS), $40 (SUPERIOR ROOMS) and ($50 PRIME ROOMS).
- Book now: Booking Com
The Rujo Hostel is located about 1.1 km from Kigali Centenary Park. This is another one of the best backpacker’s hostels in the city. The facility is close to shopping centers and attractions in Kigali including MTN Centre Kigali, Belgian Peacekeepers Memorial and Inema Art Centre.
- Rates: Starts from $15 (Dorms).
- Book now: Booking Com
Midrange and Luxury Hotels
For more midrange and high-end facilities, you can check out Best luxury hotels in Kigali page on booking com.
Things to See and Do While Backpacking Kigali
Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre
“The Kigali Genocide Memorial Center is the final resting place for more than 250,000 victims of the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. It honors the memory of the more than one million Rwandans killed in 1994 through education and peace-building.”
Everyone should visit this place to learn about the World and what it really means to be human.
Location: Gisozi, about ten minutes’ drive from the city center.
Website: Kigali Genocide Memorial Center
Inema Arts Centre
Inema Arts Center was founded by two self-taught brothers (Emmanuel Nkuranga and Innocent Nkurunziza) and it’s now a collective of Rwandan creative artists.
The Center provides space for 10 artists in residence to explore their creative talent and specializes in contemporary African Arts, Crafts, Music, and Dance.
Location: Kacyiru, Kigali, Rwanda
Website: Inema Art Center
Presidential Palace Museum
The Presidential Palace Museum is located in Kanombe, on the eastern outskirts of Kigali. The Palace – also known locally as ‘Habyarimana’s house’- is the palace of former President Habyarimana, whose plane was shot down in April 1994, the event that sparked the Rwandan Genocide.
Location: Habyarimana’s house
Kandt House Museum (Kigali)
Located on Nyarugenge Hill in Kigali city, this is a natural history museum showcasing Rwandan’s way of life during the colonial rule under the Germans. The Museum used to be the residence of a German explorer named Richard Kandt and now it’s run by the Institute of National Museums of Rwanda.
Walk along the Nyamirambo Main Street
If you love taking walks, then the Nyamirambo stretch should be part of your to-do list. Along this long street, you will experience Kigali like a local with the amazing view of Kigali hills.
In the morning it is common to find people running up and down the hill and if your accommodation facility is nearby you can join in.
Go Moto (Take a Motorcycle Trip)
Unlike in other East African Capitals, motorcycles (Moto-Taxi) in Kigali are very safe to ride on. The riders are very disciplined and make experiencing Kigali on a motorcycle amazing.
Kigali Cultural Village
Are you are looking for a place to shop? If yes, then head to Kigali Cultural Village (KCV). This is a traditional marketplace where local and foreign travelers can buy handicrafts, gifts and experience Rwandan culture.
Kigali Executive Car Wash
For those who would love to relax, eat BBQ (Nyama Choma) and enjoy a cold beer, Kigali Executive Car Wash – commonly known as Car Wash – is a great spot. This is the place where you will meet a majority of Kenyan expats hanging out.
Kigali is not a big city but there are many things to do and places to visit around it. Whether you love art, culture, nightlife, history, conservation or just sightseeing, you will find a place nearby to visit.
Other places worth checking out within Kigali.
- Ivuka Arts Studio
- Niyo Arts Gallery
- Gorilla Statue
- Yego Arts
- Kigali Centenary Park
- Belgian Peacekeepers Memorial
- The Rock of Kamegeri
For those who would love to extend their road trip beyond Kigali, below are some of the places worth visiting.
- Nyamata Genocide Memorial Center
- Akagera National Park
- Lake Bunyonyi
- Lake Kivu – Gisenyi
- Mount Karisimbi
- Volcanoes National Park
- Nyungwe National Park
- Ethnographic Museum
Backpacking Kigali City Maps
On this map you’ll find all the attractions, Hotels, Banks, Restaurants, ATMS, Exchange bureaus and bus stops to help you during your Backpacking Kigali trip. Click here to go to the map
Useful Travel Resources for Backpacking Kigali
- Bus Travel in East Africa
- Buses from Nairobi to Kigali Via Kampala
- Living in Kigali: Living in Kigali, Rwanda for Expats.
- East African Community: Travelling in East Africa.
Traveling from Kenya? Get Your copy of “THE COMPLETE NAIROBI to KIGALI via KAMPALA ROAD TRIP GUIDE” Now!