Photograph by Roland Pargeter, Alamy Stock Photo
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Kigali, Rwanda, is the starting point for many safari-goers hoping to see animals like these giraffes, pictured in Akagera National Park.

Photograph by Roland Pargeter, Alamy Stock Photo

Everything to Know About Kigali

Here's how to plan the best possible trip to Rwanda's capital.

Kigali is a vibrant, modern, clean, and exciting city. Unlike some African cities, Kigali feels very safe to walk around, even at night, which makes it a perfect introduction to visiting Africa and is why it’s sometimes referred to as “Africa for beginners.”

When to Go

Like many parts of Africa, Rwanda has wet and dry seasons, so if you want to avoid the rains, the best time to visit is in the long dry season that runs from June to mid-September. This is especially a great time for those looking to go trekking to avoid the treacherous and muddy terrain.

Celebrate

Festival lovers may want to plan their trip so that it coincides with the KigaliUP music festival which usually takes place in July. The festival attracts both locals and tourists and hosts artists from all over Africa, such as Pantoranking from Nigeria and Alpha Blondy from the Ivory Coast. The Rwanda Film Festival, or Hillywood as it’s also known, is also a popular and exciting time to visit the city.

What to Eat

The most famous local food in Kigali is the brochette, which is a shish kebab with either meat or fish. Many restaurants serve them in the city, however, if you want yours as authentic as possible, head to one of the many local bars and wash them down with a cold Primus beer. Other popular local dishes include ugali, a maize porridge that is the staple in many African countries, along with nyama choma, which is barbecued meat often served with kachumbari, a salad made with tomato, onion, and chilli. Finally, don't leave Kigali without trying akabenz, a tasty barbecued pork dish.

Souvenir to Take Home

Why not take home some of Kigali’s locally made coffee, crafts, clothing, or artwork? Heaven Boutique and Restaurant showcases some fantastic pieces from local artists who you’ll often find sitting at the bar. Or if you want to support a local social enterprise, pick up a piece from the Umutima Cooperative at the Nyamirambo Women’s Center or the Inema Arts Center.

Sustainable Travel Tip

Rwanda is an incredibly forward thinking country and it’s illegal to bring plastic bags into Rwanda, which is one of the reasons Kigali is such a clean and well-presented city. Save the planet (and yourself from getting a fine) by using canvas shopping bags instead of plastic bags.

Instagram-Worthy View

Rwanda is known as the “land of a thousand hills,” so it’s no surprise that there are plenty of excellent viewpoints around the city, and pretty much everywhere you go has an Instagram-worthy backdrop. However, if you’re looking for that special shot, head to Le Panorama at sunset. This rooftop bar is part of the famous Hôtel des Mille Collines, the hotel featured in the film Hotel Rwanda.