Visiting Kigali, Rwanda

Latest visit: December 2021

Tips for visting  Kigali, Rwanda

 

  • Where to stay: We stayed at the Kigali Marriott Hotel. I got a huge suite which was very tranquil and comfortable. The gym and pool were also excellent, and the concierge lounge was enormous, with a good selection of evening snacks and drinks. The breakfast spread was stunning, and their cappuccino game was strong! I’d definitely recommend staying here again, my only complaint being that there were not many lovely places and things to do within walking distance.
  • How to get around: I walked around the hotel and noticed some streets felt safer and less busy than others. I saw that there seemed to be a local uber-type service on scooters where you wave them down, tell them where you’re going, and they give you a helmet and bring you to your destination. Everyone carries around a scarf to put over their heads, so they’re not stuck in someone else’s sweat… it seemed chaotic and unsafe to me, so we kept to taxis.
  • Driving skills: I wouldn’t recommend renting a car even if it seemed much more organized and less chaotic than Nairobi. You have to pay special attention to scooters as they seem to come from every possible direction and out of nowhere!
  • This city seems very spread out with little centers in every neighborhood. I also noticed how very hilly it was. No wonder Rwanda is called “the land of a thousand hills”!
  • Weather: Kigali is at about 5080ft. It felt very comfortable when the sun was hiding, but it got hot and stinky very quickly as soon as it came out!
  • Restaurants worth mentioning:
    • La Galette*: good cappuccino
    • La Nyurah: Delicious food in a stylish setting. I’d go back in a heartbeat. More details in the impressions section below.
    • Baso Pâtissier: I want to try it out next time as it was closed when we tried to go.
  • Tipping: we were told that we did not need to tip, but we still did sometimes. 
  • Grocery shopping: the hotel recommended 2 places, and we found another by ourselves (La Galette) that was supposed to be more westernized. The three were WAY BELOW North American standards.
  • Other things to do on the next trip:

Impressions of Kigali, Rwanda:

My first impression of Kigali was: wow, this place is so much cleaner, greener, and more organized than Nairobi. There are sidewalks, and they are nicely manicured in most areas! Some even have a bike lane! It seemed like the city went on forever as we drove up and down steep hills to get to our hotel. The buildings on our street and surrounding area were heavily guarded, which again made me wonder how safe this city really is.

As I went on a walk to explore and check out grocery stores for my return flight home, I quickly realized that, very quickly, within one or 2 streets, you could end up in a much more crowded and chaotic environment. The malls here were also much different than Nairobi’s: they were less organized, smaller, and full of random things. 

My colleague and I also walked to Baso Pâtissier, which was sadly closed for an unknown reason, so we walked towards La Galette*, a westernized supermarket. This walk was fascinating since it looked like we were crossing through a significant food supply & merchandising area. There were hundreds of trucks full of sodas, vegetables, rice, etc., and people just wandering around with goods on their heads, on trailers, and in their arms. I felt like we were in a major ant nest. People were coming from every angle! 

We finally made it to La Galette, and it was a tiny little store with a few European snacks and goodies. Still, the selection of fresh produce was meager (better quality than the 200 and Simba supermarkets I’d been to the day before, though!). However, their pastries did look awesome. We sat down at their restaurant for a delicious cappuccino and an okay-tasting Croque-Monsieur. The walk back was hot and full of hills: it was brutal!

On our last night in Rwanda (the second night here), we went to Nyurah. I got the seasonal vegetable salad as an appetizer and the tilapia: it was AMAZING. My colleague had the beef fillet and a Hendricks gin & tonic, and the presentation and preparation were terrific. We talked with the waiters and sommelier, who told us that they are in hospitality school and training at this restaurant. I thought it was an incredible experience, and I would definitely go back!

My trip here was shortened due to the covid19 & omicron spread, and I was saddened that I didn’t make it to the Kigali Genocide Memorial, the Kimironko Market, and the Gorilla Safari. I guess I’ll just have to come back!

 

 

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