Life in Rwanda


Getting to Rwanda

There are a number of international airlines with service to Kigali, but there are no direct flights from the US. Flights from the US to Kigali are available with connections in Brussels (Brussels Airlines), Amsterdam (KLM), Nairobi (Kenya Airways), or Addis Ababa (Ethiopian Airways), among others. RwandAir offers service between Kigali and several African hubs, as well as Brussels.

Visa & Medical License/ Health Professions Council Paperwork

Please note that the Ministry of Health will support all faculty members and their spouses and children as appropriate in processing paperwork for visas and medical licenses/ health profession council registration.

More information on the required paperwork is available in the ‘Accepted Applicants’ section of the website.


Kigali is a fairly safe city and Rwanda is a relatively safe country. However, even in Kigali, it is important to keep in mind basic safety measures. These include:

  • Don’t walk alone at night.
  • Don’t walk with an IPod or while talking on a cell phone.
  • Don’t display money or wear flashy jewelry in public.
  • Be aware at all times of petty thievery particularly pick pockets.
  • If in a rural area, avoid traveling at night as roads are poor.

For official and updated travel safety information, visit

Establishing a Household

Finding a House
Housing varies significantly and selecting accommodations will depend on needs and willingness to pay. Generally, single family homes are less expensive and more readily available than apartments. Real estate agents are available to help search for options that suit both needs and budget. It may be financially and socially beneficial to share a house or apartment with other faculty members.

Home goods and furniture
Most home goods, from furniture to appliances, can be purchased in Rwanda, though the selection is not as wide as in the U.S. and some appliances may be more expensive. Many furnished rental properties are also available. If you do wish to bring your own home goods, there are assorted shipping companies that provide service to Rwanda.

The Kigali Life Yahoo Group is a good place to look for various second-hand household effects. You can join the group and peruse the listings at

New furniture can be purchased at several stores in Kigali and shipped to areas outside the city or can be made to order in the rural areas.

While there is one mall in Kigali, as well as clothing shops and markets, the selection is not comparable to that in the U.S. In choosing clothing to bring with you, note that Rwandans are relatively formal and conservative in their dress. In addition, few buildings in Rwanda are climate controlled. During the day, conditions can be warm and cool off substantially in the evening, especially outside of Kigali in the mountains. Sufficient outerwear and rain gear is recommended.

Most toiletries are available in Rwanda, although the brands may be different.

You can purchase electronics such as laptops and digital cameras in Rwanda, but they are likely to be much more expensive than in the U.S. and the selection is much smaller. Bring your own electronics for personal use. Small electronics, such as cell phones, chargers, outlet adapters, etc. are all readily available for purchase in Rwanda. Smart phones that can be unlocked for international use should be purchased in the US.

Voltage: 230 volts, 50Hz. Plugs have two round pins.

Supply: Both power surges and power cuts are major problems in Rwanda. Visitors are advised to keep appliances charged and to use surge protectors.

Cell Phones
US phones will not work in Rwanda unless it is a GSM phone with an international plan (which will be very expensive to use). The best option is to purchase a basic cell phone at one of the many market stands and stores in downtown Kigali that sell them. These same vendors can sell you a SIM card from one of several Rwandan cell phone providers, including MTN, Airtel and Tigo. Air time can be purchased on scratch cards from just about any stand or shop. Alternatively, some providers offer post-pay contract plans.

If you require it, mobile data service is available, but expensive. The selection of smart phones in Rwanda is limited and pricey. You can purchase an unlocked GSM smart phone in the US prior to arriving in Rwanda if you wish. GSM phones from the U.S. that are not “unlocked” for use internationally will not accept Rwandan SIM cards.

Internet Service
There are two ways to access the internet at home in Rwanda: through a mobile modem flash drive and through home installation. Mobile modems are available through the cellular companies and the procedure for obtaining one is similar to a contract cell phone. Cost is $68 to $85 per month, and home internet is available for $185 -$370 per month.

Food & Water
Tap water is not safe to drink. It is advisable to drink bottled water. Kigali has dozens of international-standard restaurants with world-class cuisine and hygienically prepared food. All hotels have good restaurants situated in their premises with well prepared food. Most food served in large hotels or restaurants should be safe. For home consumption, fruits and vegetables should be peeled or washed well with bottled or previously boiled water. Eggs, meat and fish should be purchased from markets with proper refrigeration, and they should be cooked well. Kigali has several large supermarkets that have a wide selection and high quality foods. Larger towns, such as Butare and Rwamagana have daily markets and good supermarkets, but for smaller towns, there are fewer options. You will probably want to shop in Kigali regularly.

There are no US banks with branches or ATMs in Rwanda. Some ATMs dispense both US dollars and Rwandan francs. Call your US bank before leaving and advise them of the dates of your relocation to Rwanda, to avoid freezing of your account. If you travel outside of Rwanda during that period, also make sure to let your bank know ahead of time.

If you plan to primarily or solely use your US bank, check with them to see what fees you will be charged for use of ATMs and transactions in foreign currencies. Some banks, such as PNC, charge no fees for international ATM withdrawals if you have the correct type of account and maintain a minimum balance.

US dollars can be exchanged at the airport or at one of the many currency exchange offices. Most hotels will also exchange Rwandan francs for dollars, although the exchange rate may be lower. Bills must have a date of issue after 2006 and be in very good condition.

Credit cards are not widely accepted in Rwanda at this time. For those merchants who do accept credit cards (hotels, some newer restaurants), VISA is usually what they will accept.

If you wish to open an account in Rwanda, there are several banks from which you can choose. To open an account, you must present your work visa and/or residency permit, contract, birth and marriage certificates, and a notarized copy of your passport. It may take a few days to process these documents before you will be able to use your account.

Public buses are available throughout Kigali but are slow and do not serve some residential areas. Taxis are readily available, but can get expensive—a standard fare within Kigali is 3-5,000 RWF or more, depending on the distance. Motorcycle taxis are a cheaper option, but are not recommended due to safety concerns. By law, these moto taxis must provide helmets to their passengers.

Many expats choose to buy their own vehicles. Most buy used vehicles. While cars are suitable for use in most of Kigali, anyone planning to venture outside of Kigali in their vehicle should look for a 4WD. Vehicles are often sold through the Kigali Life Yahoo Group and through word of mouth from departing expats. Alternatively, there are car dealers in Kigali, but you should ask a local colleague or MoH staff for advice when negotiating with these dealers. While vehicles are somewhat expensive, they tend to maintain their value and can be easily resold upon leaving Rwanda.

Car Insurance
Car insurance is mandatory in Rwanda. Insurance providers include: SONARWA, SORAS, CORAR, COGEAR and others. Insurance follows the car, so it may be possible to purchase a car that is already insured.

There are no emergency municipal response services. Ambulances are available in Kigali through SAMU by calling 912 from any mobile phone, or through King Faisal Hospital ER. Ambulance service is basic and works solely as transportation, usually with no medical treatment involved. Outside of Kigali, ambulances are extremely scarce, and private transport is typically required

Health Concerns

All travelers to Rwanda should visit an established travel clinic or infectious disease practice in the US to review their need for vaccination and/or prophylaxis, and to review any specific health conditions that might be impacted by living in Rwanda. Some general information is below:

Malaria: Malaria is present throughout Rwanda. Use of prophylaxis is recommended for short- and long-term visitors. Consult a travel clinician to discuss appropriate prophylaxis options, as well as their potential side-effects and contra-indications.

Malaria symptoms range from fever, chills and sweating, headache, diarrhea and abdominal pains to a vague feeling of ill-health. Seek medical help as soon as possible.

Other major diseases: For detailed information about country-specific diseases, including symptoms and recommended treatments, go to the US CDC page for Rwanda:

Medical facilities in Rwanda are limited and generally of a poor standard, and some medicines are in short supply or unavailable altogether. Certain private clinics can provide good basic care and stabilization, but medical evacuation may be required for complicated cases. King Faisal Hospital is a private hospital and is recommended for emergency and routine hospital care in-country.

Schooling for children

Top educational options for children:

  • Schools with international curricula are located only in Kigali
  • US faculty with school-aged children should be assigned to teaching facilities in Kigali or within commuting distance of the city

Recommended schools are:

1. International School of Kigali

Curriculum Offered International, placement based on American school system
Grade Level Kindergarten to Grade 12
Founded 2009
Governance Parent-owned, nonprofit – School is governed by a 5-member Board of Trustees with a headmaster
Hours Day starts at 8:00 and dismissal is at 3:15pm, 5 days a week, for 180 school days per academic year.
Student Body Diverse student body:
25% are Americans
20% are Dutch
12% Rwandans
43% other international students
Facilities 15 classrooms, as well as library, science lab, art room, cafeteria, open green space, and a partial basketball court.
Tuition Full year tuition:
Pre-K1: $4,725
Pre-K2: $7,875
KG-4th grade: $9,975
5th-8th grade: $11,025
9th-12th grade: $12,338Additional Fees:
$50 Application Fee
$200 Registration Fee (to be paid after successful admission)*
$1000 Tuition Deposit (to be paid immediately after successful admission)
Other optional fees: sports equipment, lunch, bus service Price reduction for multiple children 2nd child receives a 10% discount on tuition, 3rd and subsequent children receive a 15% discount on tuition

2. Kigali International Community School/KICS

Christian School Prioritizing placement for children of missionaries and Christian cross-cultural workers
Curriculum Offered Based on American system
Grade Level Kindergarten to Grade 12 (201 students total)
Founded 2006
Student Body Rwandan and international students
Tuition Full year tuition: 11,060 USD
Additional Fees:
Grades 7-8 -150 USD
Grades 9-12 – 300 USD
New student Fees: 300 USD

3. Green Hills Academy School

Curriculum Offered Singapore math, Cambridge-IGCSE, & Baccalaureate.
Grade Level Kindergarten to Grade 12
Staff International staff, with advanced degrees in subject areas
Student Body Primarily international students
Facilities Specialist classrooms: science laboratories, library, computer, art, music, PE & reading rooms
Tuition Tuition:
Nursery : Full Day: 2,100 USD
Half day: 1,300 USD
Primary School: 2,400 USD
7th & 8th Grades: 2,700 USD
9th Grade: 4,000 USD
10th Grade: 4,100 USD
11th Grade: 4,500 USD
12th Grade: 4,600 USDAdditional Fees:
Registration fee: 200 USD
$200 Registration Fee (to be paid after successful admission)*
70- 100 USD text book rentals
There is no price reduction for multiple children
Headmaster: Gaspard Kagenza

4. Riviera High School

Curriculum Offered Rwanda National Curriculum & Cambridge IGCSE
Grade Level Grade 7 – 12
Founded 2007
Governance Board of Directors with 7 board members & Headmaster
Staff Teachers from Kenya, US,Uganda,Malawi and Rwanda
Student Body 500 students. Mainly Rwandans, 2nd largest student population is from Burundi, also students from other parts of East Africa and some from Europe and the US
Facilities Boarding option, IT Center, 2 computer labs, Science lab, swimming pool, sports halls, basket ball, tennis court
Tuition Tuition:
Ranges from 800 USD to 1,200 USD per yearAdditional Fees: Price reduction for multiple children: For 2 children enrolled receive a 5% discount, for 3 children it is 10%, and for 4 children it is 15%

5. Ecole Belge

Curriculum Offered Belgian
Grade Level Kindergarten to Grade 12
Tuition Tuition:
Kindergarten =2,820 USD
Primary = 3,052 USD
Grade 7 & 8 = 4,230 USD
Grade 9 & 10 = 4600 USD
Grade 11 & 12 = 5000 USDOther Fees: Registration fees = 165 USD