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Moving to Rwanda

Rwanda is a tiny Central African state that has endured a violent history of civil war. Despite its troubled past, expats moving to Rwanda will find a population that is generally friendly and welcoming.

The population is made up of three main ethnic groups; the Hutu, Tutsi and Twa. Ethnic tensions and competition have been high between these groups for decades and culminated in the Rwanda genocide in 1994, where thousands of Tutsis were killed by Hutus in an orchestrated campaign. Although peace has been restored since then, the legacy of Rwanda’s violent history remains. The genocide is a sensitive topic and each year in April it is commemorated with memorial walks and other official events.

The cost of living is high, especially in the capital, Kigali, although expats will likely have higher salaries to offset this. Rwanda’s economy is predominantly based on subsistence agriculture, with coffee and tea being the main cash crops for export. Tourism is growing rapidly and is now the country’s leading foreign exchange earner. Expats moving to Rwanda mostly work in these fields.

Safety remains a concern and there have been a number of grenade attacks in Kigali in recent years, although it's still unclear who is behind these attacks. Rwanda has also been affected by insecurity in its neighbours in the wider Great Lakes region, particularly the ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Violence between rebels and Congolese troops periodically spills over into Rwanda and the border between the two countries is subject to close at short notice. Accordingly, a number of governments advise their nationals against travelling to Rwanda’s border with the DRC.

The Rwandan government provides free education in state-run schools for primary and middle school. However, school attendance numbers are still low in some regions. There are a number of private schools across Rwanda, mostly run by churches, which follow the national curriculum. There are very few international schools, and these are located in the capital.

The quality of healthcare in Rwanda remains poor and expats will most likely need to be evacuated by air to another country, most likely South Africa or somewhere in Europe, in the case of a serious emergency. The country suffers from a shortage of qualified medical professionals and some medicines are not available at all. Expats should ensure that they have a comprehensive medical insurance plan in place in the event of having to be airlifted to another country.

Often referred to as the Land of a Thousand Hills, Rwanda’s landscape is dominated by rainforests, mountains, volcanoes and lakes. These attractions ensure steady growth in the country’s tourism industry. Most notably, Rwanda is home to a third of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas and is only one of the few countries where one can visit them safely.

Essential info for Rwanda

Population: About 13 million

Capital city: Kigali 

Neighbouring countries: Rwanda is bordered by Uganda to the north, Tanzania to the east, Burundi to the south and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west.

Geography: Rwanda is a landlocked country in central Africa. The western part of the country is dominated by mountains, with forest and plains to the east. Lake Kivu makes up a significant part of Rwanda's western border.

Political system: Unitary presidential republic

Main languages: Kinyarwanda, French

Major religions: Catholicism, Christianity, Islam

Time: GMT+2

Electricity: 230 volts, 50 Hz. Plugs with two or three round pins are used.

Currency: Rwandan franc (RWF), divided into 100 centimes. ATMs and card facilities are available in major urban centres, but cash is needed for rural areas. 

International dialling code: +250

Internet domain: .rw

Transport and driving: Vehicles in Rwanda drive on the right-hand side of the road. The public transport system is largely unreliable and expats are advised to purchase their own vehicles for the duration of their stay in the country.

Emergency numbers: 112 or 999. Emergency services in Rwanda may not be of the standard expected by many expats. 

Public Holidays in Rwanda




New Year's Day

1 January

1 January

Day After New Year's Day

2 January

2 January

National Heroes' Day

1 February

1 February

Tutsi Genocide Memorial Day

7 April

7 April

Good Friday

10 April

2 April

Easter Monday

13 April

5 April

Labour Day

1 May

1 May

Eid Al-Fitr

24 May

13 May

Independence Day

1 July

1 July

Liberation Day

4 July

4 July

Umuganura Day

7 August

6 August

Eid Al-Adha

30-31 August

19-20 July

Assumption Day

15 August

15 August

Christmas Day

25 December

25 December

Boxing Day

26 December

26 December

*Islamic holidays are subject to change based on sightings of the moon