How to enjoy a self-driving vacation in Kigali, Rwanda

How to enjoy a self-driving vacation in Kigali, Rwanda


This is mainly done by budget travelers who may not afford or wish to book full-packaged safaris by travel agents.

A number of car rental agencies can be found in Kigali and these offer a variety of cars from which you can rent your preferred choice.

A self-drive Rwanda vacation can be an exciting and enriching experience, offering the opportunity to explore the country’s stunning landscapes including highlands like Bisoke and Karisimbi, vibrant cities mainly Kigali, unique wildlife in the Volcanoes National Park and rich cultural heritage at your own pace.

Volcanoes National Park is famous all over the world for the mountain gorilla tours in Rwanda where a number of visitors book permissions at $1500 each to come and watch these beautiful endangered primate species whose population stands at not more than 1100 individuals on the planet.

In this article let’s take you through the things you need to know to embark on a self-drive adventure in Rwanda.

  • First of all, you need to prepare yourself for the trip. After booking a car with a rental agent online and the time is here to hit the road, ensure you have a valid Driving Permit whether international or from your native country. Driving in Rwanda with these permits is valid with your entry visa.
  • Renting a vehicle from reputable agencies is advisable. Ensure the vehicle is well-maintained and suitable for Rwandan roads. Most of the roads in Rwanda are paved so even a simple 4WD drive such as a Toyota Rav4 can take you to the country’s top travel destinations.
  • Worried about getting lost in Rwanda, download offline maps or use GPS navigation apps like Google Maps or Maps.me. These can direct you to all places you may wish to access. However, cellular coverage can be limited in some areas so expect some simple errors in proximity.
  • Make sure you hire a car in Rwanda with clear terms and insurance policies. Most car rental agents offer comprehensive insurance with their cars and if you are planning to cross a border to another country, a COMESA fee would be required.
  • Keep your travel documents with you always and these may include your passport, driver’s license, vehicle third-party insurance, and rental agreement handy at all times. If you are to cross borders with the car, don’t forget a car log book copy and owner’s authorization letter that permits you to cross with the vehicle.

Rwanda has a mix of paved and unpaved roads. While major routes are generally in good condition, rural roads may be rough and require cautious driving with a 4×4 car.

Make sure you abide by the traffic rules such as driving on the right-hand side of the road. Seatbelts are mandatory for all occupants, and mobile phone use while driving is prohibited.

Always remember that Rwanda has semi-automated traffic monitoring machines that issue fines in case of any violated traffic rule such as overspeeding. Speed limits in Rwanda typically range from 40-60 km/h in urban areas and up to 80 km/h on highways.

You should always be vigilant for wildlife, pedestrians, and cyclists, especially in rural areas and near national parks. Violating the rights of any of the above comes with huge fines that may end up ruining your trip.

You are always advised to keep your tank filled, especially when venturing into remote areas, as fuel stations may be scarce outside major towns. Total or Shell petrol stations are recommended.

Safety and Security in Rwanda is assured. Personal Safety should always start with you by exercising caution, particularly at night, and avoiding displaying valuables or large amounts of cash. Locking doors after parking the car for shopping or overnight stays is advised.

Lastly, respect local customs and traditions, including dress codes and social norms, to ensure a positive interaction with locals.

A number of destinations are available at your disposal for a car rental Rwanda adventure and these include but are not limited to;

Volcanoes National Park, which is the country’s top travel destination. Exploring this lush rainforested national park draws you to encounters with endangered mountain gorillas on guided treks.

Besides gorilla tours in Rwanda, Volcanoes also has a number of other primates including the rare golden monkeys, and monkeys among others.

The second renowned travel destination is the Nyungwe Forest National Park from where you can discover Rwanda’s biodiversity with chimpanzee trekking, canopy walks, and birdwatching in this ancient rainforest.

Kigali city itself is a tourist hub. Travelers visit the capital city’s museums, markets, and memorials, including the Kigali Genocide Memorial, for insights into Rwanda’s history and culture.

Others include Ahagera National Park, Rwanda’s only wildlife park where you can do game viewing during game drives and boat launches, Lake Kivu for relaxation on the shores, or embark on activities such as boat tours, kayaking, and hiking along the Congo Nile Trail.

Besides all, you can do cultural experiences, and engage with local communities through cultural homestays, traditional dance performances, and craft markets showcasing Rwanda’s artisanal heritage.

By adhering to local regulations, driving safely, and embracing the unique experiences Rwanda has to offer, you can make the most of your self-drive journey in this captivating land of a thousand hills.

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