Kigali, Rwanda Report of what it's like to live there - 06/07/18
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?
No, I've also lived in Bamako.
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 can take 24 -29 hours to get from there to here.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
We have a large open layout house on a double lot. Our house is not common, as most are very sectioned off and are on small parcels of land. Most houses are very large, and the ones in the housing pool tend to be newer construction. It is hard to drive 30 minutes and still be in Kigali; most commute times are 15 minutes.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
If you buy locally food is less expensive, though meat is still close to American prices. Chicken is more expensive than beef, and beef tends to be the least expensive of the meats. This is likely cultural, as historically Rwandans used to only eat beef.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Pouches for kids, but most things you can get here. We often freeze meat (e.g., bacon and specialty meats) and cheese when we are traveling back to Rwanda. Wine is very expensive, and the local beer options, though plentiful, leave a bit to be desired.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Repub, L'Epicurien, Kiseki, Poivre Noire, Pili Pili, RZ Mana, Zen, The Great Wall, The Hut, Sol Le Luna, and Habesha. Most food options are available for delivery on Jumia Food.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Roaches and millipedes. There are also lots of termites during dry season.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Yes, through the diplomatic pouch, though sending is much more restricted. I have never tried to use the local postal facilities.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
A gardener's salary is about US$170/month, a housekeeper's is US$170/month, and a nanny is US$250/month.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Waka fitness in Kimihurura.
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?
Credit cards are widely accepted in Kigali, and are generally safe to use. I have used them a few times, but often use accommodation exchange and pay in cash.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Catholic and Christian Life Assembly.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
None, but you should learn the greetings.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes. OSHA does not exist here.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
I have never used them. They are reliable, but in my opinion, the drivers are not great.
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?
The cars that you can find, and fix relatively cheaply, are Toyota Rav 4 and Suzuki Grand Vitara. In general bring a Toyota, as many other vehicles cannot be serviced, or will be very expensive to fix. Kigali is paved, but if you want to go to Akagera, or hiking Mt. Bisoke, you will need something with higher clearance. No issues of burglary/carjacking, but small pieces of your car may go missing (e.g., lights and mirrors).
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
We have not had good customer service with Liquid, but the actual product is great (fiber). The installation happened within a week. There is also Axiom, which has great customer service and the product is great, but it is super expensive.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
MTN is the largest provider. There is also TIGO, and some other options.
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?
This is really spotty. There is a vet named Jode who is good. No quarantine. In general, Rwandans do not seem fond of dogs due to the role that they played during the genocide.
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?
Many USG expats are employed by the embassy, though there was a recent hiring freeze. Getting a job on the local market is harder as Rwanda is promoting the hiring of Rwandans.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
The embassy requires business dress, and business casual on Friday. In general, Rwandans in professional settings are well-dressed. Women shouldn't wear short shorts or spaghetti straps.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
There are police on nearly every street corner in Kigali. With that being said there are still seem to be issues of pickpocketing and theft. I have heard that one thing that thieves like to do is troll conferences, and pretend to be participants in order to steal things on breaks.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
King Faisal Hospital is the premier hospital in Kigali, and they have many issues. Most everything requires a med evac.
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?
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
You can find some gluten free in the German Butcher and other specialty grocery stores. Expats seem to be able to live here with peanut allergies.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Mild year round; the perfect weather.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
ISK, KICS, and Green Hills. I haven't had any experience with them, though many expats send their kids there. There are not many good senior high options.
2. 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?
Lots of preschools and daycares are available for moderate cost (e.g., US$500 per term). There are many Montessori options, and we love Happy Hearts.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Medium, as it depends which organization they work for. We love it 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?
There are many play dates for kids, there is a local trivia night at a pizza place, HASH, etc., though we have only taken advantage of play dates.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
It is great for families! There are so many school options, and activities for kids to do.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Yes. We haven't had any issues.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
I have not heard of any.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Fish Farm, Hiking Mt. Bisoke, Kings Palace, National Art Gallery, trip to Lake Kivu, easy access trip to Uganda to see the gorillas, Nyungwe forest, Nyamirambo Women's Center and Walking Tour, Genocide Memorial and many up country memorials.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?