Rwanda is among the highly-ranked African countries for tourists, and this is because the small country packs quite the punch when it comes to what you can do and see there.
Whether you are attracted by the endangered mountain gorillas, the local culture and history or the unbelievable natural beauty of this land of a thousand hills, Rwanda give more than you expect. But before you can call some people and plan a trip, you need to know whether it is safe to go to Rwanda. Let's look more into that.
Is Rwanda Safe?
The simple answer is YES, Rwanda is safe to visit for tourists from all countries. According to the Global Peace Index research from 2020, Rwanda is the 15th most safe African country to travel to and stay in.
According to the Crime Index report, Rwanda ranks best of all African countries and surpasses other countries like Denmark, Netherlands and China in the same report.
Rwanda's recent history - especially with the 1994 genocide makes many people question whether things have really changed, or whether travel agents are actually trying to sell a trip. The First moment of stepping into Rwanda makes this worry completely fade away.
Rwanda has moved on from the tribal genocide days and the reconciliation has paved the way for everyone to enjoy the hospitable faces in all parts of the country.
Safety For Solo Females
Solo female travellers will be as safe as anyone. Rwanda's crime rate is very low. As a solo female traveller, you are advised to avoid the sketchy parts of any town - especially at night.
While not at the levels of other places, you might have to turn down some advances from men hitting on you but this happens everywhere.
If you are using the services of a local tour guide, he/she will be your company and make sure you are not in unpredictable situations.
Safe For Self-Guided Travellers
Rwanda is a small country and you can safely move from Kigali the capital to any part of the country in under 3 hours. For most of the towns near popular attractions, such as Ruhengeri, Musanze and Lake Kivu, you can very easily get public buses that go there at any time of the day.
You will be very safe on the road and in the places you visit. As a self-guided traveller, make sure to plan extensively and book accommodation ahead of time.
Safety For LGBTQ+
Like most African countries, Rwanda doesn't legalize same-sex relationships. While there are some few spots that are openly friendly, it is not widely accepted and it might be best to exercise some discretion.
Public Displays of Affection are not the norm for any sexual orientation - gay or heterosexual.
As with most of Africa, questions about one's sexual orientation are not common conversation and it is unlikely that someone will ask for that information if you don't know them on a certain level.
Safety with Gorillas
Seeing the mountain gorillas is safe and you shouldn't be worried about anything, security-wise or being attacked by the gorillas.
The gorillas you will see are habituated and quite used to seeing visitors, so you won't freak them out. The gorilla trek is led by experienced rangers who are very familiar with both the forest and the gorillas. You will also be briefed on what you should avoid doing, to make sure the gorillas don't fear you.
As for the safety of the gorillas, you will only track them if you have no communicable diseases like cough or flu. You will also stay at a social distance to avoid any risk of cross-transmission. The briefing covers all this and much more.
Learn more about gorilla trekking eligibility and what is needed before one is allowed to track the mountain gorillas.
Staying Healthy In Rwanda
Aside from the security concern, your safety also includes health and well-being. The biggest health concern - especially with Western tourists is usually Malaria. Here are some tips to keep your body feeling and working great.
- Consult your doctor about taking anti-malaria medicine
- Sleep under a mosquito net
- Carry your regular medication
- Bring sunscreen to avoid sunburns, the tropics are always hot
- Disclose your dietary restrictions, to avoid allergic reactions to food.
- Be careful about street food, especially if your stomach is sensitive
- Don't drink tap water. Bottled water and a reusable water bottle will work
- Long sleeve clothing, and insect repellant to keep insects away - especially in the national parks.
As far as your health is concerned, you should always make sure to first consult your doctor for professional advice
Learn more about staying healthy on an African safari to avoid illnesses, allergies and malaria.
Places To Avoid
While Rwanda is always safe, you are advised to the cautious of the areas near the borders with DRC, and sometimes the border with Burundi as well.
Every now and the areas near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo become places of caution, especially if there is fighting across the border - as well as displacement of people.
If you plan on visiting these areas or crossing from Rwanda to the nearby places in DRC, make sure to talk to your guide and stay informed on the safety situation.
While Rwanda is very safe, here are some common-sense safety tips to have in mind.
- Don't use, or traffic drugs and substances
- Don't walk alone/unguided in sketchy parts, especially in towns
- Keep your valuables - like jewellery at home or at the hotel you are staying at.
- Keep a copy of your travel documents
- Follow the instructions and guidance of your tour guide
All things considered, Rwanda is a very safe place and if you can, visit this beautiful country for your own experiences. The sight of the gorillas, the landscapes and the wildlife will captivate you, and the culture will totally make you wish you could stay longer.
As with any place, security is about the current situation and we advise that you try getting the latest info - especially as your trip draws closer. We hope you get to visit Rwanda and have experiences of your own to share about the country.
If you have any further, or more specific questions about Rwanda, feel free to ask us. And if you would love to visit and see it all for yourself, we are here to help you plan your very own adventure.