A self-drive tour means that the traveller is ultimately responsible for their movement from one point to another around the destination but can be helped with arranging the itinerary for them including suggesting best options for accommodation. As you control the wheel, you are also your own guide to every location and you, therefore have no limit to where to go (as long as it is within agreed boundaries).
Self-driving in Rwanda can be an exciting and adventurous way to explore this beautiful East African country. However, there are some important considerations and guidelines to ensure a safe and enjoyable self-driving experience in Rwanda.
Here’s a guide to help you get started:
International Driving Permit (IDP)
To drive in Rwanda as a foreigner, you’ll need an International Driving Permit. Make sure to obtain this permit in your home country before your trip.
Rent a reliable and well-maintained vehicle from a reputable rental company. Make sure the vehicle is in good condition and has all the necessary documents. When picking your rental car from the tour operator or car hire agency, check and confirm that the car is in good mechanical condition. It should also be well serviced for it to operate perfectly during the road trip. This also saves you from inconveniences by traffic police which may stop you for blames of driving a vehicle that is in poor mechanical condition.
Do not drive while using the mobile phone
Driving while talking on phone or texting pulls most of your attention to the message you are delivering or have received. This is considered dangerous because it has a high potential of distracting driving and increases the risk of a crash. In addition, being behind the wheels and at the same time using a cell phone is a violation of traffic rules and regulations. Traffic police in Rwanda is very strict on this issue and if apprehended, the driver is fined.
Rwanda drives on the right side of the road.
Rwanda’s road infrastructure varies from well-paved roads in major cities like Kigali to rough and unpaved roads in more remote areas. It’s important to be prepared for different road conditions.
You should know your destination well, and if not, at least have a GPS or a roadmap to guide you on finding the right tracks without getting lost. A Google map is not so reliable when travelling to remote safari destinations because you may experience unstable network connection.
Traffic Rules and Regulations
Familiarize yourself with Rwandan traffic rules and regulations, including speed limits, road signs, and right of way.
Be prepared for regular traffic police checkpoints and adhere to their instructions. Make sure to have all the necessary documents like your driver’s license, car registration, and insurance on hand.
Rwanda is generally safe for travellers, but exercise caution as you would in any other foreign country. Lock your car when not in use and avoid leaving valuables in plain sight.
Fuel stations are available in major cities and towns. However, it’s a good idea to keep your tank reasonably full, especially if you plan to travel to remote areas.
English, French, and Kinyarwanda are the official languages in Rwanda. While English is commonly spoken, it’s a good idea to have a basic understanding of French or Kinyarwanda as it may be helpful in rural areas.
The Rwandan Franc (RWF) is the local currency. Credit cards are widely accepted in major cities, but it’s a good idea to carry some cash for remote areas.
Plan your accommodations in advance, especially if you’re traveling to more remote areas. In cities like Kigali, you’ll find a range of hotels and guesthouses.
Ensure you have comprehensive car insurance that covers both you and the vehicle in case of an accident or theft.
Save important numbers in your phone, including the police (112), ambulance (912), and fire (111).
Check if any vaccinations or health precautions are required before your trip to Rwanda. Malaria is present in some parts of the country, so consult a travel clinic for advice.
Respect Local Customs
Familiarize yourself with local customs and traditions to show respect to the local population.
If you plan to go on a wildlife safari in Rwanda, such as visiting Volcanoes National Park for gorilla trekking, make reservations well in advance. Follow all guidelines provided by the park authorities. Drive under the speed limit while inside national parks, apart from being a precaution for saving the animals of the park from road accidents, the speed limit also helps tourists to spot wildlife in the vegetation. High speed scares away animals and this may let you miss the chance to watch them. The maximum speed limit on all roads inside Rwanda national parks is 40km/hr.
If you plan to visit national parks or protected areas, you may need specific permits. Research and obtain them in advance.
Do not drive at night
Whether you are staying inside the park or outside, it is advisable that you get to your final destination and lodge early enough. Avoid driving past 7pm especially if you are driving in remote areas of Rwanda. It becomes challenging to easily get through the bad roads when it is dark since the roads have no lights. In addition, it can be risky when the weather is bad.