The capital of Rwanda is called Kigali. This city is so different to all other cities we have seen in Africa so far. Is Kigali a safe place to visit and should you ask the people about the Genocide in the 90ties? Will Rwanda become the Singapore of Africa? And is it really cleaner here than in other countries in Africa? With these questions we booked our flight to Kigali. In these two blog posts about Kigali you can read all about our insights and experiences.
Rwanda - land of thousand hills
It is so beautiful - Wherever you go, inside of Kigali or at the countryside, there are always hills. This gives the country a unique touch - sometimes it even looks like a fairytale, like somewhere in Italy or as if nature just wants to impress your eyes. The nicest thing about this is - there are so many places with a great view. During the day and at night you have a landscape that you actually can see - we were amazed by this and were always looking for the next nice spot to take a look over some of the ‘thousand hills’.
Landing in Kigali
When you arrive in Kigali you will experience something that you will not experience in other airports in Africa - you walk out of the airport and no crowd of people will circle you in order to persuade you to book them for the taxi drive into the city center, a safari or for something else. Just a nice, cool breeze was welcoming us outside of the airport. We were able to get money from an ATM, going to the taxis and getting a ride to our hotel for new years eve - it really was as easy as that. A fun fact that needs to be mentioned is that all taxi drivers at the airport wear black suits - super stylish and the people here so far really really friendly.
The people in Kigali
Of course you can never get the full picture but we have to say - we really liked the people in Kigali. Super friendly, good english and happy to have us. They are proud about what they accomplished in the last years and have the hope, that Kigali is become an important hub of Africa - read the interesting article about Kigali at New York Times. In our understanding it is already an important hub. With our #modernworktour_africa we had many business meetings and even workshops. People were really open to us and we see great potential in Rwandan businesses.
So how clean is Kigali really?
Yes it is clean! After being in other big and small cities we have seen a lot of garbage and really dirty areas in cities. Kigali is really clean. We were amazed by that. You can walk everywhere, you can almost sit everywhere. I don’t know if you can fully understand if you have never been to Africa yet - this is really not the case in all the other cities! The interesting thing, and we think countries around the world, also the Western world can learn from this, is that Rwanda has cleaning days - called “Umuganda” and it means coming together. During Umuganda citizens clean, build or work together for their communities the. Once a months there is even a car free day at the city center. With this approach people get a good understanding that it is up to them and their behaviour how the city and the country looks like. We are amazed by that!
The Genocide Memorial
It is a place you should go for sure. We have a full blogpost about the topic Genocide in Rwanda where you can get more insights about the place and why we think it is important to proactively face this topic. It will be published soon!
Future of Rwanda - the Singapore of Africa?
From what we heard the future of Rwanda looks promising. The idea that it will become the ‘Singapore of Africa’ sounds tempting and the government is doing a lot to achieve this. It is already easier to registrate a business here than for example in Switzerland or Austria. That is crazy. What we don’t know if how everything will continue if President Kagame will step back or die at some point. He is ruling the country since after the Genocide. So nobody really knows what happens afterwards. What we know is that people don’t want to fall back into chaos, into separation in one united country. This gives us hope that there will be a peaceful way after his ruling in the future as well.
Where to stay in the Rwandan capital Kigali
There are actually plenty of Airbnb accommodations. We prefer having our own flat, so that we can live more in a local neighbourhood and not in the middle of expats. Just look it up and take the chance to get an Airbnb with a view - in the night Kigali looks a bit like a ‘little L.A.’, looking down from the Mulholland Drive.
Hotel recommendations in Kigali
If you want it a bit more fancy we can recommend the Ubumwe Hotel, which is a local and really nice hotel in the middle of the city with a superb view from the rooftop bar. Rooftop pool inclusive. We decided to stay here for New Years Eve, so we used some Dedication Money for this. We paid around 120 Euros per night for a suite with a big balcony and nice view, including breakfast.
If you want it more luxurious and international you should go to the Marriott hotel. It is located in the city center as well and has the best breakfast we have had in Kigali. In our understanding the price is too high but sometimes you need something fancy, right? If you go here don’t forget to stand up early - the buffet needs your time to fully appreciate it.
Radisson Blu Hotel at the international Convention Center
The Radisson Blu made a bold move - they are the official hotel for the convention center in Kigali. In times of big conventions it will be hard to get a room there. If there is nothing happening in the convention center the rooms are all yours. But we have to say - even though it is fancy, we think it is highly overpriced and not worth the money - unless you want a short way over the internal bridge directly to the convention center - than it is money well spend.
Where to eat and drink in Kigali
We have to say, food it really delicious and you can eat fantastic food for higher prices than in other African countries. But it is worth to try a few places for sure!
Brunch and Coffee
Brunch: Definitely the Marriott Hotel, expensive but really really good.
Coffee: The best place we found is the Question Coffee. The coffee is delicious and Nils says he had his best chocolate croissant he ever tasted (he tries them in almost every place, so quite an experienced guy in this field over many many years).
Lunch and Dinner
Kigali's Art Café is a place that really is artsy. The food is great, the waiters even more and you will find a vibrant place in the evening.
The Repub Lounge has the best garlic fries we have had in our life. It is a nice place with a nice view. Come a bit early to get one of the tables on the balcony with the superb view.
The Heaven is a nice place with a good view and delicious food. We had local food which was tasty and the beverages are great. But ii is a bit too expensive in our experience. But decide by your own.
The Bistro: This place has a great view and the food is really really good. International and local cuisine as well as good wine for a fair price - we loved it here. The rooftop restaurant is actually the restaurant we liked the most in Kigali.
How to get around in Kigali
Sadly Uber is not working, but there are good alternatives. You have to know though, that private transportation is really expensive here - similar to European prices. Cheapest way to get around next to public transportation is with Motos. Motorbikes you can either order or just get at the street. Taxi is easily possible with an Android phone App (still not available for IOS). The MOVE app by Volkswagen is getting better, but has still room to improve. Just know - when it starts raining the prices increase dramatically - because the Motos cannot drive anymore, which explains the rest :)
Is it recommendable to go to Kigali?
Yes it is! We think it is not only super beautiful, it is also really interesting, delicious and has brave and kind people. We felt always safe, we made friends with many local people and we got in love with how clean and easy life in this city somewhere in the middle of Africa is, at least for travelers, tourists and expats. We want to go there again, for work, leisure and hopefully also with more time for the countryside.