Learn to Save Money and Travel to Rwanda on a Budget
Where is Rwanda?
Yes you can Travel to Rwanda on a budget, but first where is Rwanda. This is a landlocked republic lying south of the Equator and found in east-central Africa. This East African country is known for its breathtaking scenery. Rwanda is often referred to as le pays des mille collines (French: “land of a thousand hills”). The capital is Kigali, located in the centre of the country on the Ruganwa River.
Rwanda is a small nation nestled between Tanzania, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). It is in the center of the African continent and is filled to the brim with rainforests, wildlife, lakes, and volcanoes. It is aptly nicknamed “the land of a thousand hills.”
Rwanda happens to be among the safest countries to visit in Africa. It is important to note that this nation may have a bit of a reputation that proceeds itself. However, the genocide that ravaged the country ended more than 25 years ago.
Over the past two decades Rwanda’s rapid development has been based on innovation, environmental sustainability, and women’s rights.
Can You Travel to Rwanda on Budget?
As a traveler or would be one, you may have asked the question is Rwanda budget-friendly? Generally speaking it can be a tricky to travel to Africa cheaply and especially sub- Sahara region. This area has been perceived as a high-end safari destination and Rwanda is no exception.
With the government policy, much of the recent tourism development in Rwanda has been geared toward high-end luxury lodges. His combined with trekking gorillas in Rwanda, with the permit costs at a lofty $1,500, does not help eliminate the perception.
In the contrary, one should not let the hefty price tags associated with gorillas and luxury lodges deter them from experiencing the quiet magic that Rwanda exudes. We have been running Rwanda safaris from 2008 to date. We have found a number of tricks for saving money and exploring lesser-known destinations that are very cheap with some not charging entry fee!
We can therefore say without doubt that travel to Rwanda on a budget is absolutely possible. However, the cost of your budget travel to Rwanda will be forgoing some of the higher-end tourist options.
How to Save Money and Visit Rwanda on a Budget:
Save Money on Transportation
Within the city and other towns public transport and especially motorcycles are not only the fastest but also cheapest way to get around within cities. Within Kigali, motorbike trips between 300-1,000 RWF ($0.40–1.10 USD).
When exploring out of town destinations, public buses are cheap, safe, and relatively reliable throughout the country. You will get most buses at th major bus station in Kigali in Nyabugogo. Countrywide buses cost 2,000-6,000 RWF ($2.20–6.60 USD).
You can also opt for taxis though they are more expensive and harder to find. They are a better option when it rains and you are not able to get a bus, or just want your privacy and convenience. Motorbikes do not ride when it rains and in which case taxis are the best alternative. An average ride within Kigali costs 2,500-5,000 RWF ($2.70–5.40 USD).
You can also opt to self drive. There are quite a number of car rental companies in Rwanda. There are a handful of destinations, such as the national parks, that are better explored by car. Renting a car starts at $50 USD per day without fuel, depending on type of vehicle.
Save Money on Accommodation
It is common knowledge that there are many high-end safari lodges in Rwanda not to mention hotels. In the contrary, there are also a handful of hostels, reasonably priced guesthouses, and even some Airbnbs.
You will not also miss finding camping sites and grounds in almost all the tourist destinations in Rwanda. We have not only used these options for ourselves but also for our Rwanda safari clients starting their stay in Kigali and heading to other destinations across the country.
There are many budget accommodation options that are simple but clean. Your worry and what we often bring to your notice is that water and electricity reliability fluctuates though not as much as the neighboring countries.
There are hostels which is a relatively new accommodation concept to Rwanda. There are a few to choose from. A dorm room in a hostel such as Mijo, Discover Rwanda Kigali or Mamba Guesthouse is at the range of between $10–15 USD per person per night. They often come with a simple breakfast.
Hostels in Rwanda
Hotels and safari lodges in Rwanda tend to cost well over $70 USD per person per night. However, it is also possible to get a number of hotels and guest housed that offer private rooms for about $20-45 USD per person per night. A place like the Nest in Kigali is a great bed-and-breakfast option. Here you wil get a private room costing about $50 USD/night.
Of late Airbnbs are increasingly becoming popular both in Kigali, Lake Kivu, and Musanze. The prices for a private room start at $20 USD/night.
Camping in Rwanda
Camping is the other cheaper alternative if you want to travel to Rwanda on a budget. It is widespread in national parks such as Nyungwe Forest and Akagera. This is often available on the sites of many guesthouses.
What you need to note is that the evenings can get quite chilly. It is also good to know that during th rainy seasons, camping is a bit of a. Costs of camping normally is between $8–15 USD per person per night and often does not include breakfast.
While on safari to Akagera National Park you can camp within the park, there are several place to camp at Musanze and in Nyungwe with some offering tents for rent.
Saving Money on Food
Kigali is blessed when it comes to food and you will find both local and international food. Eating out can get expensive especially in upscale restaurants and hotels. Expect costs to be on par with European or American restaurants.
Unfortunately in Rwanda, street food is near nonexistent because it is seen as dirty. Instead, seek out hole-in-the-wall local restaurants serving rice and beans or ugali (corn cake), brochettes (grilled meat), and potatoes.
Wine and cocktails are extremely expensive and are average quality at best, so local beers are your best bet to quench your thirst.
Some average food and drink costs include lunch buffet of local food: all you can eat for 2,000 RWF ($2.20 USD). Dinner at local restaurant: 3,000–8,000 RWF ($3.25–10 USD). In Kigali, head to Car Wash for brochettes and Panorama Ten to Two for grilled lake fish.
Produce at local market: 100-1,000 RWF ($0.11–1.10 USD), depending on the product. Fruits such as mangoes, passion fruit, and tree tomatoes are cheap and delicious. Always bargain!
Lunch or dinner at an average-priced Western restaurant: 4,000-6,000 RWF ($4.50–6.50 USD). Dinner at an international restaurant: 12,000-18,000 RWF ($13–20 USD). If you’re going to splurge, Kigali has some phenomenal Indian food and French food. Local beer: 1,000 RWF ($1.10) for Mutzig or other local beer and Wine/cocktail: 5,000-10,000 RWF ($5.50–11 USD)
Our Suggested Budgets for Rwanda
One can save quit some money by traveling slowly and independently and going a bit off the beaten track. A number of activities and extras aren’t excruciatingly expensive, however, they can definitely throw one off a daily budget.
O ensure that you stick to the budget, on a day when you’re camping or staying in a dorm, try eating at markets or local restaurants and doing free activities using public transportation. With this, you can get by with $25 USD per day.
When you decide on renting a car in Rwanda for a few days, have the occasional night out. You will also need to factor in a couple excursions. This may include a Rwanda safari to Akagera with game viewing or head to Volcanoes to hike Mt. Bisoke with camping options. With this your daily costs, averaged out over two weeks or so, will increase to around $50–75 USD/day.
In Conclusion, there has never been a better time to visit this tiny and proud nation in east Africa. Rwanda has received immense attention on the travel radar over the past couple of years, but it is not yet overrun with tourism. If you take time to acquaint yourself with its culture, people, and natural riches, travel to Rwanda on a budget is more than doable.
Hike and bike through the hills and banana plantations, swim in the refreshing volcanic lakes, camp in the bush alongside the Big 5 wildlife, explore an emerging and innovative art scene, and allow Rwanda’s charm to seep under your skin.