Local traditions and culture in Rwanda

  • Local Customs
    by CatherineReichardt
  • Local Customs
    by CatherineReichardt
  • Local Customs
    by CatherineReichardt

Most Viewed Local Customs in Rwanda

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    Chimp remedies to tame a man who strays ...

    by CatherineReichardt Updated Jul 7, 2013

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    Chimps build 'night nests' high in the canopy so that they are safe from predators.

    Each day the troop moves on, meaning that the chimps have to build a new nest every afternoon.
    This forms the basis for local folklore that claims if you place a twig under the bed of a woman with whom you suspect your man is playing 'away fixtures', you'll kill the affair stone dead ... after all, a chimp never sleeps in the same bed twice ...

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    A country that's big into bikes

    by CatherineReichardt Updated Jul 7, 2013

    As in neighbouring Burundi, bikes are popular in Rwanda. Given the rugged topography, it's tempting to feel sorry for people slogging up the steep hills, until you realise that the only other practical alternative to cycling is to walk!

    A lot of the bikes have been customised to maximise what they can carry: in this case, three churns to bring milk to market.

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    Seemingly serious about combating corruption

    by CatherineReichardt Updated Jul 7, 2013

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    Unfortunately Africa is too considered synonymous with endemic corrupution, and Central African nations are considered to be among the worst offenders.

    Many African nations pay lip service to rooting out corruption, while taking few practical steps to clean up their act. However, it does seem as though Rwanda may be more serious than most. Undoubtedly this is due - at least in part - to intense pressure put on the Rwandan government by foreign donors, who insist on certain minimum standards of good governance as a condition of aid.

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    A country as neat as a new pin!

    by CatherineReichardt Updated Jul 7, 2013

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    A phrase that often pops up in tourist literature about Rwanda is reference to it being 'The Switzerland of Africa'. Which I interpreted as meaning that it was mountainous.

    In fact, it's not mountainous in a Swiss, glacial peak sense - more on the extremely hilly side. but is does share another totally unexpected characteristic with Switzerland. It is astonishingly clean, neat and tidy, and I struggle to recall a single piece of litter.

    Now, 'clean, neat and tidy' are not adjectives that you'd usually associate with the developing world in general, and Africa in particular. However, Rwandans seem to have a predisposition towards good housekeeping, and wherever you venture - be it in towns or rural areas - there is a prevailing sense of orderliness and a tangible pride in their surroundings. By contrast, as soon as you set foot over the border into Uganda or Burundi, the difference is immediately apparent: although these countries are by no means bad by African standards, when held up against Rwanda's shining example, they appear scruffy and unkempt.

    In an act of leadership that most other places could benefit from, this laudable cultural trait is being reinforced by the President, who has decreed that one day a month will be spent on a community clean up. Nobody - himself included - is exempt from this requirement - and in between times, elderly women have been made responsible for overseeing the cleanliness of their immediate neighbourhood.

    In a country trying to rebuild its pride,sense of community and reputation in the aftermath of the genocide, it is a simple and masterfully effective strategy. In my business, it's called "visible felt leadership", and seldom have I been so impressed.

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    Welcome to 'Chi- gali'

    by CatherineReichardt Updated Jul 7, 2013

    Happily for the tourist, most of the place names that we encountered in Rwanda were pretty phonetic, and pronounced the way that they were spelled.

    However, we came across two anomalies, one of which is apparent in the capital Kigali - in Kinyarwanda, 'ki' is pronounced 'chi', hence 'Chi-gali'. So, if you don't want to sound as though you've just fallen off the plane, take note ...

    Similarly, the rather odd 'Cyan' prefix (which I've never seen anywhere else in Africa) is pronounced 'Shan' ... hence 'Shan-gugu' for 'Cyangugu'. For someone with a cyanide auditing competence (I jest not), this comes as somewhat of a relief ... :)

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    THE FLAG OF RWANDA

    by DAO Updated Oct 9, 2012

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    The current flag of Rwanda was officially adopted on October 25, 2001. It was designed an artist and engineer named Alphonse Kirimbenecyo. It is comprised of a double blue stripe with a sun on the right hand side, a yellow stripe and a green one at the bottom. The blue stripe represents happiness and peace. The sun has 24 rays and they symbolise unity, transparency and enlightenment. The yellow stripe represents Rwanda’s mineral wealth and economic development. Finally the green stripe is for the natural resources of the country and overall prosperity.

    The previous Rwanda flag made up of vertical stripes and a black ‘R’ in the middle. The colour red and the black are were removed because they represented blood and mourning respectively.

    Its design can look like it is being displayed in reverse, but the photos below depict the correct way it is flown.

    On a wall in kigali
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    BEER REVIEW: Mützig beer

    by DAO Updated Oct 8, 2012

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    You can find Mützig all over Rwanda and it seems very popular. I have no idea why. I found the one bottle of Mützig I drank tasted like pure pig’s swill. Yes, it was cold. Mützig is a pale lager from eastern France. Originally the area was German; hence the Beck’s like bitter taste. This beer has a good reputation in France so I am not sure why it tasted so vile here in Rwanda. Either it’s brewed different or it completely over-rated. I found it left a lingering acidic after-taste. I had to drink a watery Amstel to clear out my palate. It’s brewed here, DRC and Cameroon.

    My suggestion? Stick with Primus. It tastes better, has bigger bottles AND is cheaper!

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    Mzungu!!!

    by MikeAtSea Written Dec 11, 2011

    Driving around Rwanda you will come across one word all the time - Mzungu!!! Shouted by thousands of children who come running out of their huts, along the road, waving at you. Mzungu means translated "White Person" and is not shouted as an insult; but as a friendly gesture welcoming you!

    Mzungu! Mzungu! Children in Rwanda Children in Rwanda Children in Rwanda
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    ENGLISH SPOKEN – MORE OFTEN

    by DAO Updated Sep 29, 2010

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    Rwanda was originally a German Colony during the great Euro scramble for Africa in the late 1800’s. Later it became a Belgian colony French and the French language was imposed. In 1994 the Genocide was unleashed and French troops withdrew taking their own nationals with them. The rebuilding of Rwanda was actively supported by The USA and UK and the nation has embraced English as a second language. A taxi driver told me kids now learn English in school. The general view is that English is the language of business and the internet.

    It’s not hard to see that Rwanda’s more prosperous neighbours, Uganda and Tanzania speak English. Their much less successful French speaking neighbours are DRC and Burundi. No wonder Rwanda has applied to join the group of Commonwealth countries.

    In rural areas and text-book French will still get you around, but English is widely understood. Don’t be surprised if children come up to you in order to practice their English.

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    WASH YOUR CLOTHES WITH OMO !

    by DAO Updated Sep 29, 2010

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    Dirt is good! OK, that’s the slogan the makers of OMO, Unilever, like to use. OMO is the best clothes washing powder on the planet. Especially the version sold here in Rwanda and across Africa. At some point in your travels across Rwanda, probably tracking Gorillas or visiting villages your clothes will get dirty. Possibly filthy. There are not many laundries across Rwanda and in Kigali they love to dry clean everything. Not sure why and it costs you money. For a cheap, superclean of your clothes – you need OMO.

    Doing it yourself means by hand and you really do not want to spend endless hours over your bathtub or plastic bucket. You want your mud and grime zapped instantly and wring them out so the everyday hot temperatures can get you back out. To get dirty.

    OMO obliterates dirt on contact. It makes whites whiter than when you bought them. I am sure it has some dangerous chemical, but who cares. It makes the job quick and easy.

    Available at even the smallest shops. It’s made in nearby Kenya.

    FORGET THE OTHERS ! alternatives. not as good!
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    THE LARGE WATER CONTAINER

    by DAO Updated Jan 2, 2010

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    Do you have a large plastic container like the one pictured in your room? You better make sure it’s full of water!

    To be fair Rwanda is blessed with more than enough rainfall. It is also a growing country where construction is taking place, especially in Kigali. That means from time to time water supplies are cut off. So if you have a container like this – FILL IT! The hotel has given you fair warning. And if there is a lid, put it on so the water doe not evaporate. So if your bath or shower is interrupted you can quickly finish bathing with no problem and get that soap out of your eyes.

    Large luxury hotels probably have large storage tanks, so no issue. If you are staying in budget accommodation I would suggest you take some bottled water in with you just in case the water goes off.

    ** PLEASE NOTE: These photos were taken in 2 different hotels in Kigali

    FULL !

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    BEER REVIEW: PRIMUS

    by DAO Updated Dec 28, 2009

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    Hail the King ! King Primus!

    Primus is the undisputed heavyweight champion of Rwandan beers. It is a great tasting pale beer originally from DRC (Kinshasa). It has a light refreshing taste and comes in awesome 600 ml (20.3 oz) bottles. You can usually get a Primus of a 330 ml import! The ever-present Primus is a 5% abv lager that is brewed in 4 different countries: Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Burundi and here in Rwanda. Their brewery in Rwanda is located right on the beautiful shores of Lake Kivu. You can even go for a free tour is you ask.

    History:

    Primus has a very interesting history. The Bralima Brewery was set up on 23 October 1923 as the “Brasserie de Leopoldville” (Kinshasa today). The Belgian colonial authorities were concerned that the local ‘brew’ made too many people sick and a modern brewery was needed to produce a quality adult beverage for the masses. The first beer was produced on 27 December 1926 – Primus was born!

    1959 saw the brewing of Primus come to Rwanda. In 1960 DRC obtained independence and Bralima’ shareholders decided to stay. 1973 saw the first mass-modernization of its original brewery. Bralima continued to thrive during the years of economic destruction during the Mobutu years. In 1987 the Heineken Group become the major shareholder of Bralima.

    PRIMUS ! A PRIMUS BAR ! PRIMUS BREWERY - GISENYI PRIMUS BREWERY - GISENYI
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    Gacaca

    by nsbm Written Jun 28, 2005

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    Pronounced Gachacha, these are the local courts that were set up nationally to deal with the trial of genocide perpertraitors, (and there are thousands) at the village level. Judicial, elders and government representatives make up the tribunal with the defense self represented and judged by the locals. It has been without incident to date but those fearing persecution have sought refuge in neighbouring Burundi and Congo to avoid trial. Foreigners are not allowed to attend for obvious reasons but the billboards are self explanatory

    Gacaca
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    Water woes

    by nsbm Written Jun 28, 2005

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    Open water mains are provided every 4 to 5km thruout
    rwanda as there is no former sewer or pipeline networks. After school around 4pm everyday in every place the kids go in groups with their yellow plastic containers and line up to purchase for FRw20 (4cents) per vessel WATER. They then proceed to balance one on thier heads and two more carried in hand and someitmes have a baby in tow!!!!!!
    The bearers are often no bigger than the containers but the kids of Rwanda (most born after the genocide)
    are happy and look forward to this as an outing and social affair..it really is like going to the mall!!

    Water,water
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    Children as carers

    by nsbm Written Jun 28, 2005

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    In a country where their are over 300000 orphans some households are headed by elder sibling peers. All are involved in caring and nurturing from an early age and learn from adult example. A common sight is to see infants as old as 2years swaddled with a large colorful cloth on the backs of mothers and older sisters. As in most developing realms young females bear more burdens of society...literally in rwanda

    walking with big sister
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Rwanda Hotels

See all 13 Hotels in Rwanda
  • Kigali Serena Hotel

    Boulevard de la Revolution, Central Kigali, P.O. Box 7469, Kigali, Rwanda

    Satisfaction: Excellent

    Good for: Solo

    Hotel Class 4.5 out of 5 stars

  • Mountain Gorilla View Lodge

    The hotel has beautiful views of the park, and is close to the start point for the mountain gorilla...

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  • Hotel Chez Lando

    B.P. 1519, Remera, Kigali, Rwanda

    Satisfaction: Very Good

    Good for: Families

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