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Countries Information & Lifestyle
 Rwanda Rwanda

Country Information & Lifestyle

 Land of a Thousand Hills

Land of a Thousand Hills

Rwanda is a small landlocked East African country surrounded by Uganda in the north, Tanzania in the east, Burundi in the south, and Zaire to the west and northwest.

Rwanda lies on the East African plateau, with the divide between the water systems of the Nile and Zaire rivers passing in a north-south direction through the western part of the country.

To the west of the divide, the land drops sharply to Lake Kivu in the Great African Rift Valley; to the east, the land falls gradually across the central plateau - its grassy highlands are the core areas of settlement of Rwanda's population - to the swamps and lakes on the country's eastern border.

In the northwest, on the border with Zaire, are the volcanic Virunga Mountains; the highest peak, Mount Karisimbi is snow capped. Lake Kivu drains into Lake Tanganyika, through the sharply descending Ruzizi River. The Kagera River, which forms much of Rwanda's eastern border, flows into Lake Victoria.

In 1994, Rwanda's civil war dominated the world's headlines. This became known as 'Rwanda's genocide'; hundreds of thousands of people where killed. It is still what most people will think about when they hear the word 'Rwanda'.

Now, 17 years later, the country is once again peaceful. Rwanda's democratic government promotes harmony, and the Rwandese are enjoying a good life again. Rwanda is a relatively stable country and easily accessible from Uganda and Kenya. It is reasonably safe to travel around.

Rwanda is not only the 'land of a thousand hills', but also a country rich in flora and fauna and stunning natural beauty in its scenic rolling and breathtaking green savanna. The country hosts some rare species of animals like the endangered silver-back mountain gorillas as well as unique birds and insects in the tropical forest of Nyungwe.

The country has banned plastic bags and it certainly has kept it cleaner, all the better to marvel at the stunning landscape of rolling hills and volcanoes. The capital Kigali is booming, with a friendly vibe, lots of new construction and a generally positive atmosphere.

It is the centre of political and commercial life and few visit the country without passing through. The city is developing fast and spreads over several hills and valleys, with many of the better restaurants and hotels at a distance from the traditional downtown area.

Kigali is clean, comfortable and ordered and very popular with long term expats and westerners from NGO volunteers to career development workers. There are numerous restaurants, coffee shops and supermarkets to cater for this demographic.

The Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre is a truly touching museum where over 250,000 people are buried. Kigali houses several memorials, museums, and centres dedicated to the Rwandan Genocide.

The Presidential Palace Museum in Kanombe, 4 km east past the airport, is the abode of the former President Habyarimana and is where you can get a glimpse of life as an African dictator in the 1970s & 80s.

In Western Rwanda Cyangugu is a city right on the tip of Lake Kivu and Kamembe is a town a few km away just up a hill overlooking the lake. Primarily this town used to be a stopover to or from Bukavu and is a pleasant place to spend a few days.

The Nyungwe rain forest is in southwestern Rwanda bordering Burundi and the Congo and one of Africa's oldest and largest protected rain forest. It is home to one of the largest concentration of chimpanzee and twelve other primate species. Nyungwe is about 4-5 hours from Kigali and is probably the best preserved rain forest in the mountains throughout Central Africa.

The National Park is situated on the north of Lake Kivu and offers many opportunities for water sports or for trips on the lake. On the northern shore of the lake is a flat plain featuring lava formations from the eruptions of nearby Nyiragongo Volcano.

Gisenyi town has a resort on the shores of the lake with the best hotels and beaches. Kibuye is located on the shore of Lake Kivu and the surrounding area offers some stunning views of the lake.

Huye in southern Rwanda was formerly known as Butare. The National University is a worthwhile trip to see an active African university. Students here are almost all on full scholarships, selected by test performance.

The National Museum (unique in Africa) is a surprisingly comprehensive and interesting museum. It is near to Nyanza where the palace of the former king (the so-called mwami)is.

About 15 minutes east of Huye in Gikongoro, is one of the most compelling genocide memorials in Rwanda. Gikongoro was the site of a large massacre at a vocational school where several hundred Tutsis were hiding.

Local guides (some of whom have firsthand knowledge of the events that transpired there) will tell you the story of what happened there. Huye has a bustling market is an excellent way to learn how Rwandans shop for their everyday needs.

Ruhengeri is a city in northern Rwanda's Musanze district. It is the port of call for tourists heading up the hills to Kinigi and Parc National des Volcans.

Akagera National Park is located in the north east of Rwanda along the border with Tanzania. Forest fringed lakes, papyrus swamps, savanna plains and rolling highlands combined in a relatively small area make Akagera among the most scenic of savanna reserves. The extensive systems of freshwater lakes and associated papyrus swamps form the largest protected wetland in central Africa.

Akagera is home to many large plains game species including the savanna elephant of which there are around 120, buffalo, topi, zebra, water-buck, roan antelope and the eland. Primates include baboons and vervet monkeys, of the large predators only leopard and hyena can still be found in the park.

Giraffe were brought in from Kenya and there are currently over 100 individuals. Black rhino and lion are to be re-introduced once the western boundary fence is completed.

Rwanda is known as the "land of a thousand hills" and Akagera has its fair share of mountainous terrain, reaching altitudes of nearly 2,000 m in the Mutumba Hills region. These highlands provide spectacular views over the expanse of lakes and swamps.

In the heart of Central Africa, "so high up that you shiver more than you sweat," wrote the eminent primatologist Dian Fossey, "are great, old volcanoes towering up almost 15,000 feet, and nearly covered with rich, green rain forest - the Virungas".

Situated in the far northwest of Rwanda, the Parc des Volcans protects the steep slopes of this magnificent mountain range - home of the rare mountain gorilla - and the rich mosaic of montane ecosystems, which embrace evergreen and bamboo forest, open grassland, swamp and heath.

Volcanoes National Park is an extraordinary park full of impressive tropical rain forest and volcanic scenery, trekking and is perhaps the best place in the world to see the rare mountain gorillas.

Climbing of Karisimbi volcano is a two day trek with overnight camping at an altitude of 3,800 m. Climbing of Bisoke volcano is 4-7 hours round trip. Visit the Lakes Burera and Ruhondo the lava caves and tunnels.

The Mountain Gorilla a "Gentle Giant"is one of 11 different primates you can visit in Rwanda, which is also a paradise for birdwatchers, there are more that 1000 bird species living in the region and on safari you can see more than 350 of them!

It is necessary to obtain a permit to view mountain gorillas and there a limited amount per day, they often sell out months in advance. Tourists spend an hour with the gorillas and the revenue generated from tourism goes towards maintaining the park and conserving the wildlife.

The cuisine of Rwanda is based on local staple foods and includes bananas, plantains, pulses, sweet potatoes, beans and cassava. For those who live near lakes fish such as tilapia is popular.

Ugali is a paste made from maize and water to form a porridge-like consistency that is eaten throughout East Africa. Isombe is made from mashed cassava leaves and served wit dried fish. Matoke is a dish made from baked or steamed plantains. Ibihaza is made from pumpkins cut into pieces mixed with beans and boiled without peeling them.

In the restaurants in the capital city of Kigali, locals and expatriates eat a variety of international cuisine, including Indian, Chinese, Italian, and African. In other cities and towns, the cuisine is simpler, often consisting of chicken, fish, goat or steak served with rice or french fries.

Rwanda, a beautiful country moving on after the terrible past. It has a lot to offer with gorgeous scenery and wildlife, specially the endangered mountain gorilla. Why come and stay an few days and go and meet the 'Gentle Giants' and the local people.

Purchasing a Property

The buyer should perform due diligence before entering into a sale agreement with the owner of the property by making sure that the property has no charges against it.

Request a certificate from the Rwanda Development Board on the title status it takes 2 days and there is no cost.

The law requires that the sale agreement be authenticated by a notary. Article 35 of the property law specifies that for the transfer of property any adult of 21 years old or above must give their consent to the transfer of the property. It is practice that parties ask the notary to draft the sale agreement himself.

In order to facilitate land transfers, the Office of the Registrar of Land Titles set up a short form of 2 pages, fulfilled by the parties to the contract. In principle, the contract shall be made of 3 mandatory copies, 2 of which are given to the parties (the buyer and the seller), the remaining (which is actually the minute) is kept by the land notary in his/her records. There shall be joined to each copy the notarised act, whose cost is fixed at flat fee of RWF 2,500. The total cost of a notary transaction shall be RWF 5,700 for one transfer.

The seller of property, in order to obtain a Tax Clearance Certificate will have an expertise of the property to show its true value and show whether there is a Capital Gains Tax, mainly for commercial and industrial properties. Experts are now regulated in Rwanda since May 2010.

Agency: Private evaluator 2 - 3 days (simultaneous with procedure 2) RWF 937,361

Tax clearance certificate will always be a prerequisite to indicate that one has no tax liabilities. Tax clearance certificate is issued for transfer of real estate. Whenever there is sale of real property, the RRA will always require the person who has acquired such property to have a tax clearance certificate.

Tax clearance certificate shall be required on such real property irrespective of whether the property was used for commercial, industrial or residential.

To obtain a Tax Clearance certificate, the applicant has to fill a form which among other things mentions the use the property before it is sold. When it is ascertained that it was used for commercial or industrial purposes, which are most likely similar, then this is likely to attract CGT, in which case if the property has been used for commercial purposes for over one year, expertise shall be required. There are professionals registered with the National Bank that performs such a function.
A copy of commercial register in case the applicant is a businessman.

Agency: Rwanda Revenue Authority 10 days RWF 5,000
5 Finalize registration at the Office of the Registrar of Land Titles and obtain new deed

The seller takes the authenticated sale agreement, the registration receipt and the certificate of good fiscal standing to the Registrar of Real Estate and files a request of the transfer of property.
The documents to be provided are the following:

(1) Completed form to request the transfer
(2) Original property title
(3) The notarised sale agreement
(4) Tax clearance certificate

The 6% of registration fees at the Rwanda Revenue Authority was abolished in January 2008 and replaced by a flat rate of RWF20,000 paid for all transactions, regardless of the price of the property.

Payment of the fees is made at the National Bank of Rwanda, to the Rwanda Revenue Authority's account, in the previous Procedure.

The fixed costs are broken down as follows:
Transfer fee: RWF 20,000
Cancellation of the old registration certificate: RWF 1,000
Fees to establish a new registration certificate: RWF 2,000

Transfer fee payment is made at the National Bank of Rwanda, to the Rwanda Revenue Authority's account.

Agency: Rwanda Natural Resources Authority/Office of the Registrar of Titles 10 days RWF 23,000 .

Fees & Taxes

Joined to each copy the notarised act, whose cost is fixed at flat fee of RWF 2,500. The total cost of a notary transaction shall be RWF 5,700 for one transfer.

Private Evaluatir RWF 937,361

Tax Certificate RWF 5,000

Transfer fee RWF 209,000


A passport is required to enter Rwanda and a certificate of vaccination for yellow fever is normally required to return back to the country of origin.

Nationals of the following countries may visit Rwanda without a visa for a period of up to 90 days: USA, Germany, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Uganda, Mauritius, South Africa, Kenya, Great Britain, Sweden, Singapore, Hong Kong and Burundi.

If arriving by air, citizens of many other European countries may get an 8 day single entry visa on arrival for USD$30, which can be extended by the immigration office in Kigali, although this process is sometimes tedious. Generally, Rwanda embassy and consulates can issue 3 month tourist visas for around the same price without much hassle.

If you are travelling overland, it is no longer possible to obtain a visa at the border. However, visa application can easily be made the Rwandan embassy or consulate. You will receive within a few days an entry visa acceptance by email. Bring this acceptance letter, the visa will be issued at the border. The US$30 visa fee is paid at the border.

However please always check with your nearest embassy for current visa requirements.

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