Kigali, Rwanda Report of what it's like to live there - 08/30/23

Personal Experiences from Kigali, Rwanda

Kigali, Rwanda 08/30/23


1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, we've lived in several other African and Asian countries before.

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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?

Our home is near the Washington DC area. We usually travel from DC to Amsterdam or Brussels, then connect down to Kigali. It's about a 20 hour trip.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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4. What years did you live here?


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5. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

US Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing for most embassy personnel are spacious stand alone houses. Housing is one of the best aspects of this post. Homes are generally very large and have some nice outdoor garden space. Many expat homes are in the Kagugu neighborhood, which is very upscale for Kigali, and has nice residential streets and sidewalks. It's a nice friendly neighborhood and kids are able to play outside a lot, walk to each others homes, it's possible to jog and use strollers, etc.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Produce is inexpensive and of high quality. Anything imported is very expensive and likely poorer quality.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

We sent a lot of cooking oils and cleaning supplies as they are very expensive here (oh and alcohol ; )

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

There are some nice restaurants in Kigali, and a good food delivery service through Vuba Vuba and Rush Foods. Recently, several really good pizza places have opened up, and things seem to be recovering from many closures during the pandemic.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

It's central Africa, so yes, there are definitely bugs. Some houses have issues with ants. We have problems with cockroaches (super gross). And everyone needs to be careful with mosquitoes.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

We use the mail service through the embassy.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Household help is very affordable. We have a full time housekeeper who does all our cleaning, shopping, laundry, etc. and pay her 325 USD per month. We also have a part-time gardener, although our yard is small enough that we could really do it ourselves.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There are some gyms, but I've not used them. The embassy has a small gym, and also organizes some exercise classes such as zumba, yoga, and cross-fit with the Marines. Many folks also jog / walk around the neighborhood.

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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?

At stores and most restaurants, yes, but at the local markets cash or mobile money (Momo) is most widely accepted.

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5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

It is easy to get by with English, but of course some phrases in kinyarwanda are also very appreciated.

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6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Kigali is far more accessible than most other African cities and actually has sidewalks in many places.

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1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

There are many reliable taxis around down. Most locals use moto taxis, but embassy personnel are not allowed to use them. Most expats do have personal vehicles.

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2. What kind of vehicle(s) including electric ones do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, infrastructure, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car or vehicles do you advise not to bring?

Rwanda has a great road system as it is paved and has few potholes. However, most families like to visit Akagera and do game drives, so SUVs are the most preferred vehicles. Rwanda has hills everywhere, so cars that can accelerate and handle hills are best.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Internet is available, although I wouldn't always call it "high-speed". There are outages and frustrations, but for the most part, it's okay.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Kigali and Rwanda in general area extremely safe. Of course there is occasional petty crime, but I've never heard of any violent crime during our time here.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

This is a malaria post.

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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 bad, and extremely bad during certain parts of the year. This came as a big shock to us, particularly given that Rwanda is otherwise impeccably clean. The air quality has become a major issue and concern for us, particularly since homes are very porous and there is really no way to escape it. Kigali is a great post, except for the air quality. Had we known how bad it was, we probably would not have bid on it.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Air quality has caused respiratory issues for some people here.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

The climate is temperate and wonderful all year round.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There are several schools that cater to international families, including ISK, KICKs, The Earth School. I have heard good things about all of them. We have been very happy with The Earth School, which is a Montessori school.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Pretty large, with good morale.

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2. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

This is a very family-friendly post, although there isn't a ton to do here with kids, it's easy to make your own fun. It's geared more toward younger kids; high school-aged kids are fewer and far between and some families with older kids have sent them to boarding school. There also seems to be a good scene for singles.

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3. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?

Rwandans are quite reserved. I have found it difficult to make friends here or get beyond a professional relationship.

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4. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Akagera for weekends to get out of Kigali, and of course seeing gorillas

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5. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?


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6. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Kigali is a super clean, safe and organized city. It's quite green compared to other capitals and has sidewalks and other nice amenities. The weather is lovely all year round.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

That the air quality was so bad.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Unsure. There are many great things about Kigali (housing, weather, organization, safety) and we've had a very positive experience here overall, but the poor air quality has really been a problem for us. Especially with young kids, I'm concerned about the long term consequences.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

winter clothes.

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4. But don't forget your:

mosquito repellant and camping equipment (if you're into that kind of thing).

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

There are lots of books about Rwanda's turbulent history that shed light onto the current situation. I found "We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With our Families" very insightful. Also check out "Do Not Disturb" for more commentary about current politics.

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