FOREX-BUREAU ICYIZERE is a great place to change money in Kigali. They give top rates, are friendly and also quick. Just go in, sit down, hand the money over and about 1 minute later you are out the door with Rwandan Francs. There is no paperwork to do and the receipt takes seconds for them to produce. They do give a lower rate than their outside board for small notes, but you can negotiate for small notes. They are located in the 24-hour Union Trade Centre (Nakumatt) in the lower car park. They advertise they are 24 hours, but I think you have to rig their phone number late at night for them to open up. I did see them open evenings.
The Rwanda Tourism Board is known as ORTPN (Office Rwandaise du Tourisme et des Parcs Nationaux). Their offices here in Kigali and Musanze are the only way you can obtain a permit to tack the Mountain Gorillas and Golden Monkeys in Rwanda. Primarily they function as your source of information about the national parks in Rwanda. It was founded in June 1973 and its stated objectives are:
• National Parks Management and Conservation
• The promotion of Tourism and Cultural Heritage
• The development and management of Sites and Monuments
They are open from 7am-5pm Mon-Fri, 8am-2pm Sat-Sun. The staff are friendly and speak English and French. They are really not set up to provide a lot of information about the city of Kigali as their function is to operate the national parks. They do have a list of tour operators and some accommodation across Rwanda on their website.
Are you going to be here for a while? Do you just have to have a certain kind of chocolate, coffee, shampoo, or baby formula? Euro Foods (La Colombe) is the pace to find European and North American brands of packaged foods, drinks, beauty products and even baby care items with the brands you know best. They are friendly and their prices on many items are reasonable considering where they have to get them in from. They have Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, Nutella spread, Carefree women’s hygiene products, Johnson & Johnson shampoos, Dove soap, you name it.
If you can’t live without that name brand from home – you don’t have to.
I first discovered the FREE Eye Magazine in Uganda. Absolutely fantastic. Great descriptions of restaurants and reviews, current music or art events, even shopping tips. Well Kigali has the EYE, but it does not cover all that it could. It does have some good maps of Kigali and a few other major cities, some good stories, useful airport information and lots of business listings. Sadly it lacks informative restaurant and hotel descriptions and needs to have impactful reviews of restaurants.
It is still free, and it is still developing. Given time I am sure it will be more useful than it already is. There is lots of helpful information – especially if you are going to be here for a while.
It is available in all the better hotels in Kigali like the Hotel des Milles Collines.
One of the most unique experiences is seeing some of the few mountain gorillas that are left in the world. The hike through the rain forest in the Volcano National Park is an absolutley stunning experience and coming near to our closest relatives is a unique and thrilling experience.
Demand to visit the Gorillas is high - hence ensure that you book your permit well in advance.
Under the command of Canadian General Romeo Dallaire, they were deployed to guard the house of moderate Prime Minister Agatha Uwilingimana. After the violence began, Presidential Guard soldiers invaded the home, disarmed the Belgians and transported them to Camp Kigali where they killed them. The majority were killed inside the building when two grenades were thrown inside one person guarding outside was shot and killed. The shrapnel and blood stains are still visible to date.
8 Belgian soldiers became victim of the genocide on the 7th of April 1994 the first day of violence. This monument which displays one stone pillar per soldier with the age marked as a line inside the pillow remembers those 8.
From the distance the parliament would appear like any other normal parliament in the world, yet there are shell holes in the town facing side of the parliament. Rebels occupied the parliament and government troops fired rockets onto the parliament to recover the parliament. Hence today those scares from the civil war are still visible.
The Rwanda Parliament was inaugurated by General Major Habyarimana on July 28th, 1989.
It began its activities on October 10, 2003, after swearing ceremony of members of two chambers the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. The Chamber of deputies is composed of by 80 members.
The Oscar awarded cinema film Hotel Rwanda showed the bravery of a hotel manager who managed to save over 2000 people by hiding them in the grounds of the Hotel des Mille Collines. Food was sparse and the victims drank the water out of the swimming pool to survive. The Mille Collines is still a popular hotel in Kigali
In Kigali thousands of Tutsis were butchered and left at the side of the street to die. Many mass graves have been discovered in recent years, and since many of the victims had no form of identification, and in some stages the entire family had been wiped out most of the deceased still remain in mass graves. Several of those can be found on the outskirts of the Genocide Memorial – resting place for more then 250.000 people.
The brutality during the time of the genocide did not make stop at children, toddlers and even babies who were butchered, hacked, shot and mutilated. One section of the genocide memorial is dedicated to the children, those who were killed and others who survived and were able to share their experiences. This section of the memorial was the most difficult one for me to cope with.
Dealing with its turbulent history, Rwanda ensured that the atrocities of the past will never forgotten with the creation of the Genocide Memorial. This memorial that is situated close to the town centre of Kigali enables an in-depth look at the 100 days that rocked this tranquil country. It shows similarities with other genocides in other parts of the world, and details the plight of the population. The memorial is not for the faint hearted and some of the displays and video footage shown is very graphic, but to understand this country and to see the contrast to dates daily life one has to visit this memorial.
Ntarama Genocide Memorial, just 20 minutes away from the Nyamata memorial, is also worth visiting. Like the Nyamata memorial, this site was a church before the genocide, and was nationalized to serve as a memorial after thousands of people were killed within its walls. The church itself is similar to Nyamata, with victims' clothing and remains visible to offer proof of what happened there, but Ntarama also has a peaceful memorial garden and wall of names in the back of its compound. Ask the resident guide for a tour in English or French, and remember to give them a donation for the site afterwards; it gets almost no support from the government
Nyamata Genocide Memorial is a worthwhile complement to the Gisozi Memorial Centre in Kigali. Located in the town of Nyamata, the memorial is located in a church where over 5000 people were killed during the 1994 genocide. Visitors take a short tour and see the evidence of the genocide that remains there today - victims' clothing piled on benches, the roof pockmarked with bullet holes, and the open crypts behind the church that hold the remains of over 40,000 people from the area. An extremely moving look into one of the places where the genocide was carried out.