Traveling in Rwanda. Visa and borders.

We went to Rwanda in March 2015, during a complete trip,
8 months, through Southern and Eastern Africa.

If you are planning a budget trip in Rwanda, here we share some information for low-cost travellers.

We visited Rwanda in March 2015 during 10 days, in public transport, doing couchsurfing and sleeping in small hotels. You can see all the useful information at the right sidebar menu.


To enter Rwanda, most of the nationalities need a visa in advance.  Check the internet for the latest news and countries list.

Price: 50 $, single visa for one month.
The good thing is that you don´t need to go to a Rwanda consulate and you can apply online, both for the Rwanda single visa or East Africa visa. We did it and it worked perfectly for us!


A few nationalities can get visa on arrival. Germany and United States, for example, they can get visa on arrival for one month, price: 30 $.Check the internet for the latest news and countries list.


Since January 2014, there´s an East Africa Visa, for Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda.
Price: 100 $, 3 months visa for 3 countries.

In Rwanda to get East Africa Visa you can apply online. Then your first country in East Africa must be Rwanda!

In Kenya and Uganda, you can get it directly on arrival (european passports).

NOTE: Tanzania signed the East Africa visa too, in November 2014 but in February 2015 was still not avalaible… but check latter, maybe it´s coming soon.

For Rwanda, we applied online, with spanish passport. Easy, nothing special needed, no bookings or letter of invitation. Just fill the form.

They will send you a pdf document, usually in 24 hours. You print it (better, just in case). Once at the border, you say you apply online (if needed show the paper), the border posts have computers and it will be in the system. They will print your visa. You pay the visa at the border, you don´t pay anything when applying online, no credit card, nothing.


Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, these 4 countries, have special border agreements. You can travel between these countries with “single” visa of each one, crossing several times. For example, from Kigali (Rwanda) you go to Kampala (Uganda) and back to Rwanda and it´s OK with a single visa of Rwanda and a single visa of Uganda. Same between Nairobi (Kenya) and Arusha (Tanzania).

You don´t need to purchase a multiple visa, only if travelling to Zambia, Malawi, Congo or other countries outside East Africa Community.

Warning: Rwanda is in the center of Africa. And even if in the last years, the situation is fine and calm, you never know. DR Congo and Burundi, 2 of its neighbors always have problems. And sometimes the situation with Rwanda gets tense and maybe unsafe. Check first, try to update about the recent situation! 


For us, the 2 Rwanda border posts that we crossed (coming from Tanzania and going to Uganda) were very easy. We didn´t have any problem, all right.Quick!

Just a fever temperature control when entering in Rwanda from Tanzania. No Yellow Fever certificate asked.

Rwanda is a plastic bag free country, and we read than they check the luggage at the borders, looking for plastic bags. But for us, no control, nothing. At the Rusumo border, the police only had a fast look, even carrying our rolled foam outside, covered with a plastic bag, no problem.

If entering by car, there´s a car tax in Rwanda, but no list of prices at the border.

Rwanda has borders with Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi, DR Congo.


Rusumo is the only border between Tanzania and Rwanda.
The border between Rwanda and Tanzania is a bridge over Rusumo falls, but you can´t see them very well, only the river. There´s a new bridge, built by the Japanese government, with the modern Rwandan immigration post (the Tanzania one is just a simple post).

You will have to walk down and up to cross the bridge, it takes around 15 minutes. Or you can take a taxi.

Rusumo Rwanda Border Post
Easy border, hassle free, quick border post control in Tanzania and a bit longer in Rwanda if you need to get your visa here.

Many trucks on both sides of the border, well parked on Rwanda side, on the sides of the road for many km in Tanzania.  
Quite organised border, don´t worry!

Money changers: many guys, both sides but more on Tanzania side.Always check the rates in advance and write down the amount. Usually no problems. Better just change a small amount!

At Rusumo village (Rwanda), a few minutes walking down from the immigration border post, there´s basic accommodation. There´s a Bank of Kigali at the border but no ATM.

At Benako (Tanzania), just 20 km from the border, a small town with many trucks, you can find basic accommodation or continue your long route, to reach other Tanzania towns (it´s a long way).

Public transport to Rusumo in Tanzania:
There are buses doing Dar Es Salaam-Kigali route, crossing Rusumo border. Long trip (more than 30h).
The buses follow the Dar-Morogoro-Dodoma- Singida-Nzega-Rusumo road, where you can catch it.
There are NO direct buses from Mwanza to Rusumo or Kigali. NO! You will need to transfer. It was a bit hard to get informed but we finally had no problem travelling! Here´s what you need to do:
Mwanza- Rusumo:

From Mwanza-Nyegezi bus station (10 km south of town), take a Ngara bus and stop before in Benako (20 km from the border, 50 km from Ngara). Bus costs 20.000, departure 5:30, around 8 h. They head to Mwanza port (don´t think in taking the bus here, it´s dark and buses are usually quite full), get on the ferry to Busisi (1.000 sh passenger) and continue to Geita- Biharamulo junction (this road is not always tarred, there are doing works) and Benako (Nyakasanza on google maps).
Benako- Rusumo border: shared taxis (3.000 Sh, 20 minutes), many potholes.

Note: Ngara is also near one of the Burundi-Tanzania borders. 
From Benako, it´s quite easy to reach Kahama and Shinyanga, towns on the main Dar road. And from there more buses/vans.

Public transport to Rusumo in Rwanda:
Easy! From Rusumo border to Kigali, it´s 160 km, good tarred road. Many minibuses on that road, it takes around 4 h and costs 3.000 F. The minibuses depart just close to the Rwanda immigration post.


Rwanda has 2 borders with Uganda:
  • Cyanika border, between Musanze (Rwanda) and Kisoro (Uganda), only 35 km away.  Public transport on both sides, yes (wrong information on many guide books!). And even big coaches coming from Goma (Congo) via Giseny and Musanze going to Kampala. We crossed this border and didn´t have any problem. Easy! Very calm border.
  • Katuna border, the main one between these 2 countries. Kigali is just 80 km south, and you will pass Kabale on the way to Kampala (buses, public transport).


The main border is on the Kigali- Bujumbura road.

Visa for Burundi is really expensive, the country is not too open to tourism.
Price: 40$ for 3 days and 90 $/month!
We didn´t go to Burundi.

Warning: just a month after our visit of Rwanda, the situation in Burundi was tough, very hard! Burundi is always up and down. So if planning any visit, check the situation first!


The 2 borders are north and south of Lake Kivu: Giseny-Goma and Cyangugu- Bukavu.

Between Giseny and Goma there are 2 possible posts, the one closer to the lake (Corniche, "Petite Barrière") was not very crowded.

We didn´t go to DR Congo, not too open to tourism, not very stable Africa country and quite expensive (specially for accommodation).

Most of the nationalities need to apply in advance for visa. And Congo consulates seem to be quite stressful. Good luck!
 If planning on visiting the gorillas area north of Goma and/or climbing the lava volcano, all in Virunga National Park, . You will need to book everything with them (it´s like a national park travel agency, compulsory). They will even get your DR Congo visa ONLINE for 105$!


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