Kigali, Rwanda Report of what it's like to live there - 07/23/14
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?
This is our fourth tour: Haiti, Zambia, D.C.
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?
Washington, DC. It takes between 20-24 hours to get to the east coast. KLM/Delta: KIG-Amsterdam-DC.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Spouse of State Department employee.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Most people live in single family homes and have a 15-minute commute to work. Traffic is nonexistent in Kigali. Houses are large with big yards. We really love our home here! Kimihurura is a fabulous neighborhood to live in!
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
There are several grocery stores in the area, availability depends on the day. Items come and go. Produce is cheap and you get the best deal if your housekeeper gets the produce. Groceries cost a bit more as Rwanda is landlocked.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Toiletries, cleaning products, peanut butter, chocolate chips, canned chicken, canned fish, canned salmon, maple syrup, any specialty flours or grains.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
There are fast food and restaurants in Kigali with a wide range of food. Food is decent and relatively cheap. But there isn't a lot of truly excellent food options.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
There are some mosquitos, ants, roaches. However, we didn't take malaria meds while we were on the ground as incidents of malaria in Kigali are minimal. If you travel to the west then malaria meds are recommended. We had some roaches and ants at our place when we first arrived but facilities maintenance got on it right away and we haven't had issues since.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Pouch. Supposedly getting DPO soon.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Domestic help is readily available and very good. A bit pricer than than some African countries but pretty great.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes. There are 2 larger gyms at The Serena and Waka fitness. They are pricey!
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?
Visa can be used at most restaurants and grocery stores.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
You can get by fine with English. The population under 30 mostly speak English/Kinyarwanda. Over 30 French/Kinyarwanda.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Likely yes. There are lots of sidewalks in Kigali but the city is hilly and is difficult to get around. Most business are not handicap equipped.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Buses/Motos are not safe. There are a few trusted taxis companies that you can take here.
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 want a four-wheel drive with clearance so that you can go to Akagera. Bring parts!
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
It is. But it's expensive. We've been through 5 internet services in our first year. I run my own business from home so internet is vital. We now have 4G which is in trial but appears to be working.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
There are two cell phone companies TIGO and MTN. You can bring an unlocked phone. Phones are expensive here so better to bring one from the states.
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?
Pets don't need to be quarantined. We brought over our cat. The vet care is ok but not U.S. quality. There is an American veterinarian in country but she's been here for a long time and was originally a gorilla doctor. She can be a bit rough but she shows up in a pinch. There are also two Rwandan vets in town but I haven't used them.
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?
You can definitely work on the local market. Most of the jobs are in development. In addition, it's relatively easy to start your own business here. The front office is incredibly supportive of spouses and it's is the best supported embassy I've ever been in in terms of proactively creating jobs both inside and outside of the embassy.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
There are quite a few opportunities out there.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Slightly dressier than the U.S. Wouldn't recommend shorts or short skirts in public unless you like getting a lots of attention.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
There are very few safety concerns in Kigali. Very little petty crime. There are grenade attacks occasionally in the markets, these are generally centered around political shake-ups in country and happen a couple times a year.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Medical care is not good here. If anything happens you'll be medevac'd out.
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?
Air quality is good for the most part. In the dry season there is a lot dust so that can affect air quality.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
AMAZING! The weather is great here! There are 2 dry seasons and 2 wet season. The weather is 60-80F degrees all year round.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There are several international schools but I don't have children so I am not well versed in the schools.
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?
There are preschools/daycare but once again I'm not a good reference.
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?
Good size community and most people seem really happy here.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Lots of in home entertainment, eating out, house parties, a few bars at night.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
I think it's a great place for everyone. But it might be a bit sleepy for singles looking a nightlife scene.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
The city doesn't seem to to be pro or anti. You don't see open affection and there isn't a locally "out" population as homosexually is culturally frowned upon but we have a couple at the embassy and they've never mentioned harassment.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
There are racial undercurrents that run back to the 1990's genocide and it is a paternal society so men hold the power in most households. Expats are approached with curiosity, so it's likely that you will be stared/yelled at when you are in public. The gender prejudice doesn't seem to spill over onto expats.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Tourism includes seeing the gorillas, volcanoes, and Nyungwe forest.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Visiting Rosamond Carr's plantation and orphanage Imbabazi where Diane Fossi often stayed. Lots of beautiful crafts especially with weaving and African products---my favorite is the Nyamirambo women's center!
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Rwandan crafts-- baskets, fabric products.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Rwanda is incredibly clean and organized. It's a small country so you can see all of it in a short amount of time. The weather is perfect here, 60-80F degrees all year round as a perk of living near the equator.
10. Can you save money?
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
It's a bit sleepy. So be prepared to make your own fun! It is what you make of it!
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes! It's been a great tour!
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
4. But don't forget your:
5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
6. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Land of a Thousand Hills: My Life in Rwanda,
A Thousand Hills to Heaven: Love, Hope, and a Restaurant in Rwanda,
We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda.
7. Do you have any other comments?
Rwanda has been an amazing tour!