Kigali, Rwanda Report of what it's like to live there - 09/16/08
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?
Yes, though half of my family lives in Mexico, so I have spent a lot of time there.
2. How long have you lived here?
3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Worked at clinical research site.
4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:
SN Through Brussels.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
From small dumpy, but very cheap (10,000 Rwf/month) locals apartments to hugh homes for several thousand dollars a month.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Imported items extremely expensive, maybe they will come down a bit when Nuki Mat (Kenyan grocery chain) opens. Local meats and produce was cheap. Don't bother buying the overpriced seafood that was always freezer burned.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
No fast food, cheap Rwandan resturants and quite a few over priced expat resturants. The pizza at Sole Luna was the best and they also had a very reasonably priced lunch buffet. Bourbon coffee offers excellent coffee in a Starbucks style atmosphere.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Local is actually pretty good. Though don't expect them to deliver your packages. You need to go to the post office and look through their log book to find your package. Also there are several different logbooks depending on the size and weight of your package.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
No ATMs, though it looks like it, they are actually prepaid card for access to money. I think they are working on it though. I used my credit card for cash advances though the exchange was poor. Better to bring 2003 and newer US$100 bills for exchange.
4. What English-language religious services are available locally?
5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
People really like it and you gain a lot of respect if you use even just the slightest bit of kinyarwanda. Rwanda is also now becoming somewhat anglophone.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
It would be very difficult not many elevator in building, curbs are quite high, no automated doors, people rush and cut lines. They are installing a lot of sidewalks, but no ramp to get on or off sidewalks.
1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?
2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
No trains. Bus service is cheap. Mutatus (mini bus even cheaper. Non metered taxis negotiate on the price before getting in. Motor bikes were always available and cheap.
3. 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?
4-wheel drive, Toyota. No car jackings that I ever heard of. No driving on the last saturday of each month from 8am-12 because of Umaganda (national work day).
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Expect landline quality with the high speed internet that is available in country.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Get prepaid phone if your work does not provide you on. Billed service can be expensive and getting the deposit back at the end of your stay can take a while.
3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?
1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
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 depending on your skillset.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Casual to formal. In general Rwandan dress up in there nicest clothes for work, I was always under dressed compared to them, though if I had meeting I would dress up out of respect.
Health & Safety:
1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?
Not so good because no emission control on vehicle, burning rubbish and cooking with wood.
2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Pretty safe in general, need to be concerned about thefts and home burgulary.
3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Poor services available, best to have soem sort of evac insurance if you can afford it.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Long rain, long dry, short rain, short dry and always quite plesant.
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?
A lot of them around town our daughter went to L' ptit bout, whcih she seemed to like.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Quite large, I was always surprised going and meeting people who had been there as long as I had that I never saw while I was there.
2. Morale among expats:
There is a few whiners out there, but most people seemed to enjoy themselves and made the best of it.
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?
Dinner parties, bars, nightclub, movies.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Yes, yes and yes. I enjoyed myself there and many people I knew enjoyed themselves as well, though there are limited activities available though it is improving.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
I knew a few people who were gay/lesbian, though the community I guessing is quite small.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Yes among Hutus and Tutsis though you never hear anybody opening talk about it. Though it is nothing like it used to be, now it is mainly espressed through jelousy and accusing people of crimes. Then there is the whole racial thing being an expat or bettwer known as Muzungu. It was not threatening in any way, but it really wore on me. I probably heard people call me Muzungu on avarage of 100 times a day, somewhat tiring.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
I really enjoyed exploring the Rwanda's 1000 hills. I mountain biked regularly, ran, hike and climbed through out the country. There is the gorillas, mountain climbs, forest hike, primate treks, small safari game park and camped. Uganda has many options which are less than a days drive. Non-U.S. mission folks can climb an active volcano in Congo. There are reasonable priced flight to Kenya and Tanzania for safaris and beaches. I wasn't bored.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
There is a lot of nice Congolese crafts, but the local crafts were not so nice, with the exception of the drums.
9. Can you save money?
Yes there is not much to spend your money on, unless you take a lot of trips out of country.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes, the mountain biking was the good.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Bring your bike, unlike what someone else said earlier, I found the country to have some of the best riding I have ever done. I had three bikes there and rode them about 3-4 times a week.
3. But don't forget your: