Kigali, Rwanda Report of what it's like to live there - 07/28/11
Personal Experiences from Kigali, Rwanda
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
3rd overseas tour. Been to Accra, Ghana and Geneva, Switzerland.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Seattle, Washington. About 16 hours.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
US government work
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
It varies. But no matter what house you get, it is a maintenance nightmare. There are no rules or regulations governing construction, so don't be surprised if things break immediately after moving in.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Food prices are increasing here. Inflation is hurting the average citizen.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
You can buy almost everything here if you are willing to pay the price. But bring olive oil (expensive here), mexican spices, paper products, air tight containers to protect food from unwanted critters, brown sugar
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
No fast food restaurants. If you get your meal within 30 minutes, that is considered fast.
5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?
I have not looked for gluten free products, but it is probably difficult to find. If your vegetarian, you can get by. There is tofu (have to look for it), beans and paneer cheese. Organic - varies. Pesticides are used, so you have to be careful.
6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Not too buggy in comparison to other Africa countries. There are mosquitoes, roaches, ants, but not soo bad that you are constantly battling them.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Send mail through the Embassy.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
You get what you pay for. If you are trying to go cheap, expect the house hold help to steal from you. On the average, one should pay at least $200 a month for a full time help or nanny. Cost of living is increasing and these people have families to provide for as well.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
The Serena and The Manor hotel have gyms. The Serena is expensive, but it includes the use of the pool.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
There is an ATM machine at the airport and one at the Nakumatt center. However, both do not take all cards. Don't bother bringing in traveler's checks. No one takes these, not even the banks.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
If you have Kinyarwanda, you will go far. But you can get by in english for most of the time.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Very few buildings are handicap friendly and very few have elevators that are operational.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
No. The drivers for the motorcycle taxis and small buses are horrible drivers and traffic accidents are increasing. The buses that drive between the cities can be dangerous as the drivers pass on curves and speed down the curvy mountain roads. However, if it is your option for transportation, it is affordable.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
You can get by with a sedan as roads are nicely paved. The only place that I have needed an SUV is for the gorilla trekking.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes. cost unknown.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Cell phones are the norm here. You can obtain a cell phone easily.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
No, but you must have the vaccination paperwork available when you first arrive.
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
No kennels. There are 2 vets in country.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
There are jobs available.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
For the embassy it is business casual.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
It is one of the safest countries in Africa. There is petty theft and electronic items are highly sought after. The grenade attacks were of concern, but the police are doing what they can to address the problem.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
If you swim in the lake water, make sure you get tested for schisto. Malaria is still around, and people tend to get complacent about taking their meds. King Faisel Hospital is the largest one in Kigali, and I think they are accredited now. There are various clinics throughout the country that are doing the best they can, but they would not be able to take care of a large problem, such as a traffic accident, heart attack, etc.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
Most of the time it is good. During the dry season it is dusty and hot.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Nice and cool during the rainy season. Dusty and hot during the dry season. However, even during the dry season, the evening hours is lovely.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Large. Between the NGOs and faith-based organizations, there are alot of expats all over the country.
2. Morale among expats:
Mostly good. It is a beautiful place. It is not hard to live here, but you are far away from home and family.
3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
There are several bars/dancing clubs, but it starts up late (around midnight). For people who have to work early the next day, it tends to be dinner at a local restaurant or entertaining at the house.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Yes. Not alot of night life for singles, but there are many things to do depending how outgoing you are.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
So-so. There are no gay clubs, and it is frowned upon by the local population. Have not heard of any gay bashing here though.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
The local women are not treated very well by the Rwandan men.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Nyungwe Forest, gorilla trekking, climbing Mt. Karisimbi
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Kigali - the memorial, exploring the various neighborhoodsOutside of Kigali - make a trip to Nyungwe Forest. Don't just see the gorillas, the golden monkeys, Dian Fossey trail, Mt Karisimbi hike are wonderful as well.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Rwanda baskets, beads made from magazine pages.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Kigali is growing rapidly and new restaurants are opening up all the time. Rwanda is a beautiful country with rolling hills, tea and coffee plantations, and mountains.
11. Can you save money?
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
canned green beans, winter clothes.
3. But don't forget your:
sense of adventure, irony, and humor.
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Shake Hands with the Devil
5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
Sometimes in April, Kinyarwanda, Shoot the Dogs.
6. Do you have any other comments?
Kigali's art scene is improving and more students in the film industry are producing films. Every year there is a film festival and Rwanda films are shown. Make sure you go to "Kwita Izina" that occurs in June. It is the annual naming of the baby gorillas ceremony and it is a big deal.