A few tips for life or a visit to Rwanda
Rwanda - a beautiful country with beautiful people
Having lived in Rwandan for a few years now, I thought it was about time I passed on some of the things I have learnt. I do not claim to be an expert, in fact far from it, but I have picked up a few tips that you might find useful if you are visiting this wonderful country.
If I can help you avoid some of the mistakes I have made, find a good restaurant or an enjoyable activity then my work here has been complete.
So read on and enjoy some personal insights into the 'Real Rwanda'
Muhanga - my home - The best place in Rwanda
Muhanga (or Gitarama as it used to be called) is my home. This is where I live and work. It has changed quite a lot over the last five years, but it is still the best place in the World.
Do come and visit.
Love Doughnuts & Bagels
Check out African Bagel Compnay
Although open most of the week the big day at ABC is Saturday morning (excluding the last in the month when the whole of Rwanda stops to do Umuganda - community work). If there is an American living in Kigali then it is likely you will find them here.
But its not just American there are loads of expats spend the morning here, just hanging out, exchanging stories, eating doughnuts & bagels and drinking coffee. Everyone is so friendly and welcoming, it one of my favourite places to go.
1.) Go to the sonatube circle in kicukiro. Take road heading towards the market and Nymata
2.) from the circle we are 2.3 km on the main road on the left.
3.)After you pass the market on your right, then you'll see the kicukiro district offices on your left...
4.) Take your 2nd left after the distrct offices. (Amarembo Rd) Look for our new ABC sign.
5.) After you take that left we are the 1st house on the right. You park on the dirt road and walk throught the ABC gate.
Awesome Source of Info for Rwanda
Living In Kigali
I recently found this web site which I think is a must read for anyone coming to Rwanda - particularly if you are in Kigali.
It has reviews and information on all kinds of things and even a Calendar that shows the different events that are happening. It also has a bit of information about other parts of Rwanda and is continuing to grow.
If you do one thing today - check out this site!
Experience rural Rwanda - Azizi Life Experiences
As I work o this project myself I am a little bias. However, I truly believe this is the greatest day you will ever spend!
The day starts at 8am when yo head of to a village in the Muhanga district. On arrival you are met by a group of wonderful Rwandan artisan women. They take you to their home and, if you are a lady, provide you with a wrap and headscarf to wear for the day. You then get a little taster of what life is like in a rural community. You try your hand at some agriculture, you collect water and generally help out with the usual daily chores. You then share a traditional meal with the family and in the afternoon learn to weave your on piece of jewellery using sisal fibres.
The women of the communities are so friendly and so much fun to be with that they make you feel part of the family for the whole day.
A truly wonderful experience.
Living in another culture - A very helpful book
If you do get the chance to come out to Rwanda, or any African country for that matter, it is helpful to get an understanding of the culture before you arrive.
In my experience one of the things that people from Europe or North America really struggle to comes to terms with is the local populations requests for financial help. One book I found very helpful in understanding some of the culture behind these request, is called 'African Friends & Money Matters'
This book talks about the different economic systems in Africa and compares them to those used in Europe or North America (but in a very easy to understand way). It does not say one system is better than the other, or try to encourage people to change their own views, but it does help you to see finances from a different perspective, which I found amazingly helpful.
Rwanda Exchange Rates & Currency Info
I will try and update this information regularly but, just in case I forget, this information is true, as at the 16th August 2012.
The currency in Rwanda is the Rwandan Franc (frw). The largest note you can get is 5,000frw and the smallest coin, I believe, is 1frw however, it is unlikely you will ever see one of these (I do not think I have).
Coins you will come across if you visit, are - 10, 20, 50 and 100
Notes you will come across if you visit, are - 500, 1,000, 2,000 & 5,000
It is easy to change up US Dollars, Euros & British pounds. However, the money changers do not like the small bills and will give you a much worse exchange rate. Also the notes can not be too old, ripped or written on, otherwise they will not accept them at all, for example US Dollars older than 2006 are generally rejected. My advice is to bring with you US$100 that are newer than 2006 and make sure they are clean and crisp. Their demand for clean and crisp notes is a little ironic as the ones they will give you in exchange can often be very old and raggedy indeed.
The exchange rate at the bank tends to be worse than from the Forex. For example at on 15th August 2012, at the Forex you could exchange US$1 for 615frw however, at the bank you could only get 605frw.
Touristy things or anything that has been imported tends to be about the same price or a bit more expensive than the US or Europe but, if you are looking to buy fresh, local food then you can still find some good deals at the markets, as long as you are willing to negotiate. I come from Muhanga, where things are a bit cheaper than in Kigali but to give you an idea of what you can get for your money, I have listed a few of my latest purchases:
A standard plate of food (outside of Kigali this is referred to as the 'melange' and can be found in most restaurants) - 1,000frw
1kg of potatoes - 200frw
1kg of dry beans - 350frw
5 x tomatoes - 200frw
1 x avocado - 50frw
1 x large bottle of local beer - 800frw
1 x 50ml Bottled water - 300frw
Most guidebooks will tell you that you can not use international visa in Rwanda to withdraw money, however, this is no longer true. At least two of the main banks let you with draw cash with an International visa card from their ATMs but, it is only from certain machines. The other visa signs you see around are just for the local visa cards. The other problem is they do not work every time and so it is dangerous to rely on them at the last minute. If you are struggling to find a machine that works (and you are in Kigali) then you can go inside the Bank of Kigali, ECO Bank or Access bank and they can usually do a cash withdrawal for you there.
I am not sure what the deal is with Travellers checks as I have never used them.
10 Pin Bowling in Kigali
The Mamba Club is tricky to find but worth the search
Rwanda's first ever bowling alley opened in Kigali at the beginning of 2012. They have all the proper equipment and the the scores are calculated automatically. In fact it is just like a bowling ally in the US - except when I was there they did not have a machine that reset the pins so you get the joy of seeing a guys hands reach out to sort things out.
They have about 5 or 6 lanes. The shoes are kept clean and you can get snack while you bowl. When I was there the Bowling cost 2,500frw a game and 500frw for the shoe hire. But prices can change so do not blame me if I am a bit out.
To find the Mamaba Club head to Kimihurua in Kigali and then ask around.
The Best Fish
Discover the best place to get Tilapia in the whole of Rwanda
One of the best food options if you are visiting Rwanda is to eat a Tilapia. Usually you can get a big one of these to share and you eat it with your hands Its are fun and tasty eating experience.
I usually chose to have the fish with potatoes. They, like the fish are also grilled, often with some kind of spicy coating.
The picture is of a tilapia from the second best place to get fish in Rwanda, but I hope to get a picture of the best soon.
The best place I have found to buy tilapia (and I have eaten it a lot) is in a small bar on the way down the hill from town to Nyamagogo taxi park. Just after the Tigo main office (which will be on your right) you cross straight over a tarmac road (its a junction with traffic lights) and carry on down the hill towards the taxi park, then just past this on the right hand-side there is a mud road. Down this mud road a few hundred yards is a bar painted with the Primus logo all over it. This bar may not look like much but it is a legendary place for this fish I guess they do other food but I have only ever seen people eating the fish here.
If you are able to find this bar I highly recommend going.
A few photos from my time in RwandaClick thumbnail to view full-size
Some book Ideas - a few suggestions for some books to consider reading before coming to Rwanda
Doing some background reading before going to a country is always worth while. It gives you some context to put your travels in. Rwanda has a painful history that has had a massive impact on the people & culture of the country. In my opinion no matter how much you read you can never really understand a country and its people until you have walked with them for many year - certainly longer than I have been here. But I have listed a few books you could have a look at that might prepare you for a visit.
Not in Rwanda
But something you can do in North America to help out here!
Being an Azizi Life Advocate is a way for you to invest in Rwandan artisans, while making new connections and earning a bit of money for yourself.
We are sure you have heard of home parties, or even been to one. They are great fun (especially if the food is good!) We thought that our friends would like to introduce Rwandan artisans and Azizi Life to their family, friends, and social networks using a home party structure. So this is what we came up with...check it out!
We would be honored to have you as part of our team!
As an Azizi Life Advocate, you are eligible for the following:
Over $300 worth of Rwandan treasures for only $125 through our Advocate Home Party Starter Pack!
15% earnings from all sales at your home parties.
100% reimbursement on your Starter Pack if your sales reach $500 within the first 90 days of your receiving it.
$50 Azizi Life gift certificate for every Advocate you recruit.
Up to a 30% Advocate discount on all web purchases and 10% off all personal catalog purchases.
Free shipping for all of your personal purchases.
Insider Azizi Life updates and product launches.
A fun way to educate friends and family about Rwanda, how our products are made, and the artisans who make them.
I am interested to here your ideas on other good places to go or things to do whilst in Rwanda - I am keen to learn and experience new things.
Plus if you are now living or visitng Rwanda and you have any questions about life out here, feel free to ask, I am always happy to share my experiences and if i can help you avoid some of the mistakes I have made then that is great too.