Staying Safe in Rwanda

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Rwanda is a fantastic destination for female travelers.

It is an easy introduction to Africa because it is very clean, accessible and safe. Like anywhere there are certain precautions and cultural notes that need to be acknowledged when traveling through Rwanda.

Here are a few tips to keep you safe:

  • Travel Safely

Transportation is unsurpassed in Rwanda. Motorcycle taxis are a common mode of transportation for locals because they are easy and inexpensive. For longer distances buses are used by everyone and even timely for the most part. They even post prices for all tickets so there is no burden in bargaining for a fair ticket price.

It is completely safe for women to travel on motorcycle taxis, buses and on foot. However, it is not safe to travel at night. Choose safe routes to travel on which may mean paying extra for a taxi instead of walking to your destination.

Wear a money belt! There are many thieves waiting for opportune moments in busy areas, such as on buses and in markets, when your attention is not on your bag. They love taking phones and wallets so don’t leave anything in your pockets and keep your bag closed to discourage wandering hands.

  • Sleeping Safely

There are several safe and affordable hotel options for female travelers in Rwanda. The important part of deciding whether to stay at a budget hotel is making sure that the place is fairly fenced in and has a night guard.

Many budget places have simple rooms with communal bathrooms. I have never had a problem with these types of rooms, but if you are not comfortable then pay a little more to get an en-suite room. It is sometimes worth a good night’s sleep and piece of mind.

Culture Note: Culture is a huge factor in Rwanda and should be respected. Try not to attract unwanted attention by following some standard cultural norms: women do not usually drink in bars; public displays of affection such as kissing or crying are frowned upon; eating or drinking in public is not permitted unless it is at a restaurant; and it is not appropriate to discuss or ask people about the genocide.

  • Personal Safety

The main obstacle women face is blatant gender inequality. This is usually very challenging for Western women who are used to having many personal freedoms.

Day 07.03 community acceptance

It is possible to travel freely around Rwanda with minimal hassle but Rwandans are not used to seeing Western women, let alone Western women traveling, eating and drinking alone.

It is best to avoid traveling alone but do not feel that there are travel restrictions for women. As a general rule, if you do not see many Rwandan women where you are at then it is probably not where you should be or want to be.

If you do find yourself attracting a lot of attention, especially from Rwandan men, then you need to figure out how to control the situation. The quicker you tell them you are not interested and wish to be left alone, the quicker you can get out of the spotlight.

It is also wise to wear a ring on your finger and always have an exit strategy.

Also check out these helpful posts by Claire on How to Avoid the Creepers When Traveling Solo and Rease on Single Travelers: Should You Invent a Boyfriend?

In any situation, safety comes first. Do not be concerned with potentially disrespecting the culture when your safety is at stake. Use your best judgment and simple common sense goes a long way.

Urugendo rwiza! (Safe Travels!)

What are some safety tips you can share from your own travel experiences? Anything you wish you knew before you set out on your journey?

 

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About Author

Kara Rogers is a freelance writer and global health consultant. When she is not reading about global health policy and programs, she spends most of her time dealing with a permanent case of wanderlust. Most recently, she has returned from Rwanda where she worked in rural villages as a health and community development Peace Corps Volunteer. Follow her @kararogers

8 Comments

  1. You have some great tips to stay safe. Like you mentioned I think it is very important to respect the local culture to be a safe traveler in any country.

  2. I’m glad to see that this post is helpful! For clarification, it isn’t the worst thing to be seen in a bar, however, women who frequent bars are also commonly known as prostitutes. Don’t be surprised or offended if you are propositioned at a bar. Western travelers tend to be accepted anywhere in Rwanda but just be aware of the cultural implications.

  3. I was really surprised when I started reading this, because I had no idea that Rwanda would be an “easy introduction to Africa” or a “fantastic destination for female travelers”. I’ve just had preconceived ideas that were totally different. Thanks for this. It opened my eyes.

  4. Kara is exaggerating! No need to wear fake ring! Girls drinks in pub…but if u feel drunk, go and sleep because if u get drunk in public places, u will loose credibility & pple will juge you as irresponsible! Smoking in public area is also prohibited.

    PS: Bear in mind that plastic bags are banned in Rwanda for environmental reason

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