Rwanda - keeping transportation costs down?
Replies: 6 - Last Post: Jan 17, 2013 9:07 AM Last Post By: Rich4travel
Dec 13, 2012 8:26 AM
Rwanda - keeping transportation costs down?Dear Folks:
Next February 2013, I am looking at spending about 1 week in Rwanda with no specific plans. I would be coming from Tanzania flying into Kigali and out again same way. It certainly has been noted that the transportation costs for various options seem excessive in Rwanda (especially it being such a small country with short distances). But when I went to make some initial inquires this week with tour groups first, wow! And they are not bashful about it. There is clearly a seller’s market when it comes to tours with what appears to be very limited competition. It almost feels like trying to book a week in Bhutan at $200 per day regardless of where or what you are doing!
Since I am now committed to going to Rwanda for the week, and can’t be bothered to try to rearrange airline tickets to go to Uganda instead, I thought I would try the Thorn Tree to see if anyone has had a good experience with a personal driver/English-speaking guide recently. I have contacted some of the listed operators in the older Bradt publication and the East Africa Lonely Planet, but they all seem to come up in the same $$$ ballpark. Some travellers have expressed in the past that many personal drivers out of Kigali were unreliable, a few were clearly drunk on tour, and some leaving you for better paying gigs with other groups.
Does any other backpackers on the TT have recent good reliable experience with a driver/English-speaking guide with a car/taxi or 4x4, but who also doesn’t charge daily transport prices at the level of an operator back here at home!
My interest at this point in Rwanda has been significantly trimmed to limit my transportation costs, but now planning to see two areas:
to going for a few nights to the Nyungwe Forest from Kigali where the road appears to be well sealed and then back, [permits to see the Chimps is about $75, though one operator told me $90.
then a few nights to the Volcanoes National Park - perhaps Bisoke day hike where I am not sure if a taxi can get to the gates of the park for the hike. I am going to forget seeing the habituated Gorillas for the permit price of $750 for about 1 hour of viewing – obviously a distorted market on these primates, was thinking of climbing Mt. Karisimbi for the two days but then learned of the $400 permit excluding all other costs – more expensive per day then climbing Kilimanjaro last year – hello!.
At this point, there is little interest in spending more money on transportation than I need to, so perhaps spend the other three hanging around Kigali on foot.
Any thoughts from those recently travelled into Rwanda - more "on the cheap" - if that is even possible in this country?
Dec 13, 2012 8:46 AM
1You really chose the two destinations in Rwanda (Volcanoes NP and Nyungwe) that are the most expensive for travellers without a car.
There are pretty cheap buses and minibuses all over the country. You can use them to go to Butare (national museum, old cathedral), to Gikongoro (genocide memorial in Murambi), to Gisenyi and to Kibuye (enjoy lake Kivu). Climbing Bisoke might cost 100 USD plus 100 USD for transport.
I admit gorillas and chimps and Karisimbi are expensive.
Dec 13, 2012 9:11 AM
2You can also take public transport to Ruhengeri (Musanze) and Kinigi, spending a night at Kinigi Guest House or so, walk ten minutes to the park headquarters at 7 am, to see if other tourists are willing to offer you a hike by car to the trailhead (for Bisoke or other activities, like hiking to Dian Fosseys graveyard). If you wont find anyone, you can still admire the views of the volcanoes and the fresh air.
Dec 14, 2012 5:19 AM
3We took public transit - a bus- out to Lake Kivu and it was very reasonable and safe and the scenery on the way was great. Beautiful mountains. After we got off the bus we took motorcycle taxis the last 10k, also very reasonable and safe. I loved Rwanda.
We stayed at:
Palm Garden Resort in Gisenyi, Rwanda
beautiful, quiet, relaxing -
Dec 18, 2012 9:57 AM
4I did a DIY tour of Rwanda for a week in August. I took mini-buses from Kigali - Kinigi (about $5 US, probably less I can't remember exactly how much), and then from Kinigi - Gisenyi for maybe $3. About the same back to Kigali.
In the cities/towns - I used moto-taxis. 300-500 RWF is usually about what I paid, but you can haggle down. Great way to see the cities as well!
For my golden moneky and gorilla treks, I hired a driver for $80US a day. I did notice at the headquarters that most people had their own drivers, and I would think most people would be willing to share.
Dec 18, 2012 10:22 AM
5All drivers/tour operators will be somewhat expensive. As others said, public transportation is quick, cheap, easy and safe in Rwanda, so if you really want to have a driver to get to the parks, instead of hiring one from Kigali, you could arrange a meeting in a nearby town (Butare for Nyungwe, for example). Most of the tour operators, wherever they are based, will agree on this.
I had a good experience going to Nyungwe with Innocent from Green Hills Ecotours (firstname.lastname@example.org). Very professional and reliable. He has a network of drivers around the country.
Kibuye and Gisenyi, by Lake Kivu, are great spots to hang around and very easily reachable by bus. I'd recommend Kibuye (Karongi) over Gisenyi (Rubavu), but most choose Gisenyi. Musanze is also a great place, and is the base for Amahoro Tours , who specialises in community and cultural activities.
Whatever you decide, don't limit yourself to Kigali. With the quality and reliability of the bus service, there is no reason not to go about exploring a bit more.
Jan 17, 2013 9:07 AM
We are just back from a DIY trip to Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya and spent the first week in Rwanda before crossing over into Uganda. Like others have said, public transit (minibuses) are excellent and cheap in Rwanda (they even leave on a set schedule!) and the roads we were on were very good. Definitely the way to go to keep costs down. We spent a few nice days in and around Gisenyi on Lake Kivu and rented mountain bikes via the tourist office. There is a fairly new Congo-Nile Trail running parallel to the lake through the hills which was a lot of fun and great scenery off the beaten path. As others said, there is not yet any organised transport into the Virunga national park so most end up hiring their own jeep transport to be on the safe side (great for the local economy but very expensive). The chances are good I would think to get a ride in from Kinigi at the park entrance but unfortunately no guarantees.
We went back and forth on the gorilla tracking idea due to the costs as well but decided to go for it after reading many other TT posts and were really glad we did. It was a fantastic experience and no doubt one of our highlights after about 8 trips in Africa with lots of different wildlife viewing. After all the money we spent otherwise on the trip, it was worth it and we are glad we did it. We never met anyone who didn't share this view after their gorilla trekking. As the permit reservations were a challenge through the official channels, we booked our permits via Amahoro Tours in Musanze who take an acceptable booking charge and were otherwise very helpful. Their office is quite close to the main minibus station. We also persuaded some locals in Musanze to rent us their mountain bikes for a day (no official place to rent otherwise) and did a fun day of biking in the area. Lots of hiking in the national park (although transport and park fees add up) and a few nice lakes in the area that we would have explored if we had more time.
Kigali town centre has a nice provincial town feeling to it but not worth spending much time there. A day is enough there plus a visit to the Genocide memorial is a must.
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