Why You Should Visit Kigali, Rwanda

Kigali was my first stop on this great big adventure. I decided to visit after having done enough research to know that it was safe and that it had enough to keep me entertained for the 9 days I’d be there. Little did I know just how much I’d end up falling for this beautiful city. While I could go on and on about the things I did and everything that I enjoyed, I decided to sum it up into the key reasons why I believe more people should be visiting Kigali, Rwanda’s capital city.

The views: Rwanda, known as “the land of a thousand hills,” has beautiful views across the country. The neighborhoods of Kigali are situated on rolling hills, which lead to breathtaking views everywhere you go and one heck of a workout!

It’s SAFE: Kigali is often praised as the safest city in Africa. Rwandans prioritize and take pride in their safety. It was great to walk around the city and feel secure. It wasn’t a false sense of security, either. Believe me, as a petite girl all alone, I worry about my safety plenty. But in the areas I explored in Kigali, I enjoyed a feeling of security I have experienced few other places.

To give an example of one of the noticeable safety measures… You know when you go to a concert and they “check your bag” but really they just move stuff around a little bit and let you pass through? It was nothing like that in Kigali! There are security checks going into high traffic places like malls and let me tell you, I have never had a bag more thoroughly checked.

It’s clean: Known as one of the cleanest capitals (and also known as “the Singapore of Africa”), you are greeted by pristine roads everywhere you turn. The ban on non-biodegradable plastic bags has helped get it there, but even more so, it’s “Umuganda” that helps to keep the city so clean.

“Umuganda” happens on the last Saturday of every month and it’s about coming together for a common purpose. It is Rwanda’s mandatory community service day, where citizens come together to clean up their neighborhood.

The dollar goes a long way: With 1 USD = 953 Rwandan Francs (at the time of writing) and the GDP per capita at $824, a dollar can get you a lot more here than it can stateside. I was averaging only $3-$4 per meal, and that was in the upscale neighborhoods.

There is so much good food: Kigali had just about every kind of food I could have ever wanted, including gluten-free baked goods!! There were a lot of buffet-style meals, which I always love because I get to try a little bit of everything and go back for more of whatever was my favorite!

It’s fun!: While there are many fun things to do in the city, I particularly found the nightlife to be worth noting. There are countless places you can go out for a drink. Papyrus provided great views, Blackstone Lounge gave a more upscale drinking experience, bars in Remera provided what seemed like a more average night out for a local, and Cocobean provided dancing to the wee hours of the night.Β 

There is a vibrant art scene: There are many places around the city to view and purchase art. Inema Arts Center is one of the most well known art galleries in the city, hosting events during the week ranging from happy hours to dance performances.

On the side of Inema Arts Center, you can find President Paul Kagame’s quote, “We want to make the kind of progress that will make Rwanda unrecognizable to those who define us by our tragic history. The future we are building is the future Rwandans deserve.” I think the art scene is just one of the many things Rwandans have to show how far they’ve progressed in a short time.

It’s easy to get around: The city is very walkable, and some neighborhoods are even quite accessible, having curb cuts at the end of the sidewalks. The motorbikes (motos) are another great way to get around. You can get to just about anywhere you want to go in the city for a dollar or less.

Plus, they’re fun! See!!

It’s a hidden gem: Falling low on the list of number of tourists visiting annually, with only around one million per year, Rwanda isn’t at the top of many people’s destination lists. While I think this is a shame, as the country has so much to offer, it was quite nice to visit a country and a city that isn’t overloaded with tourists. There were no lines or crowds at any of the popular sites, which made for a peaceful and reflective visit.

It’s a case study for progress and healing: Only 26 years ago, the country experienced a terrible genocide, killing nearly one million people in 100 days. Since then, the country has made incredible social and economic progress, and still offers many ways to learn about the tragic history and remember those who died.

The Kigali Genocide Memorial was absolutely heartbreaking. It was beautifully done, but so much to process in one visit. I learned about the genocide in school, but the brief history lesson in the comforts of an American classroom did not tell us much about the horrors people experienced, nor convey the weight of the sadness and pain caused by the genocide. By the end, there wasn’t a dry eye from anyone in the group I was with.

I also visited the Campaign Against Genocide Museum, which explained how the genocidal forces were defeated.

Overall, I would highly recommend visiting this city for at least a few days. It is somewhere I can only hope to make it back to soon!

As for the downsides? I personally didn’t experience any during my visit.

Is there disorder behind all of the order? There very well could be. As this NPR article says, “President Paul Kagame’s repressive administration is controversial. Yet it has maintained stability in this poor country and spurred development in a region dogged by turmoil and corruption.” There are plenty of articles out there questioning the current administration to read if you’re interested, but for this post, I wanted to focus on the positives, as Kigali sure had a lot of em πŸ™‚

One thought on “Why You Should Visit Kigali, Rwanda

  1. Thank you for sharing! I love, love, love this! I’m learning so much and experiencing such hidden treasures! πŸ™πŸΌπŸ’•


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