Planning to Visit Rwanda? Packing Tips for Traveling to Rwanda

Are you planning a trip to the beautiful country of Rwanda? Known as the “Land of a Thousand Hills,” Rwanda offers incredible scenery, wildlife experiences, and cultural encounters. However, packing for a trip to Rwanda does require some special considerations. 

In this blog post, I’ll share my top tips for what to pack for a trip to Rwanda. With the right items in your bag, you’ll be prepared for an adventure in this amazing country!


Let’s start with clothing, one of the most important categories for packing. Rwanda sits close to the equator, so temperatures stay relatively warm and consistent year-round. You’ll want lightweight, breathable clothing. 

However, temperatures can drop in the evenings and at higher elevations, so bringing some layers is advised. Here are my clothing recommendations:

  • Pack lightweight, long sleeve shirts and pants. This will provide protection from the strong African sun as well as mosquitos. Light linen or cotton is ideal.
  • Modest clothing is recommended, especially for women. Avoid anything too tight, short, or revealing. Rwandans tend to dress much more modestly than Western travelers. Respecting cultural norms with conservative clothing is appreciated.
  • Bring lightweight outdoor and hiking clothes for any trekking or national park visits. Neutral colors like olive green, khaki, or beige help you blend into nature.
  • A lightweight jacket or fleece is great for cool mornings and evenings in higher-elevation areas. Evenings can get quite chilly.
  • Quick dry underwear and socks are very useful. The humidity can make items take longer to dry. Merino wool or synthetic fabrics work well.


Let’s move on to footwear. Having the right shoes can make all the difference in comfort and safety:

  • Sturdy, waterproof hiking boots are essential if you plan to trek to see mountain gorillas or chimpanzees. The terrain is quite muddy and slippery in the national parks. High-quality hiking shoes will support your ankles and keep your feet dry.
  • Pack a spare pair of comfortable, lightweight shoes or sandals for wearing around cities and villages. Flip-flops work well for showers. Avoid heavy boots when not trekking.

Bug Protection

Mosquitos and other insects are prevalent across much of Africa. Packing effective bug protection is vital. Here are some tips:

  • Bring high-quality bug sprays, lotions, or bug bands. Ask your doctor about using DEET. Treat clothes ahead of time with permethrin.
  • Always have after-bite treatment on hand. Bites can get itchy and swollen. Creams help reduce irritation.
  • Sleep under a mosquito net at night. Many hotels and lodges provide them, but bringing your own small travel net can be useful too.
  • Consider starting malaria prevention medication before your trip. Talk to your doctor about antimalarials.

Sun Protection

The equatorial sun is extremely strong. Make sure to pack plenty of sun protection:

  • Bring high-SPF sunscreen (30+ SPF recommended). Reapply frequently.
  • Pack a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses for added protection. Cheap sunglasses work fine since they’re prone to damage.
  • Lip balm with SPF will prevent chapped and sunburnt lips. Reapply it often.


Cameras are a must to capture incredible wildlife and scenery. Here are some electronic tips:

  • Bring a DSLR or high-quality camera with a telephoto zoom lens. Storage cards and extra batteries are essential too.
  • For gorilla and chimp trekking, waterproof/shockproof cameras handle tough conditions well.
  • Pack a power bank and adapters to charge devices. Electricity supply can be intermittent.
  • Binoculars allow you to spot wildlife from a distance. A small, portable pair works wonderfully on safari.

Medicines & Toiletries

Taking precautions with food, water, and medications is crucial in Rwanda:

  • Obtain needed vaccinations like hepatitis A, typhoid, and yellow fever. Anti-malarials are recommended. Ask your doctor for prescriptions and advice.
  • Pack Imodium, Cipro/antibiotics, rehydration salts, etc. in case of stomach issues. Digestive problems are common when traveling.
  • Only drink bottled, filtered, boiled, or treated water. Use it for brushing your teeth too. Avoid ice in drinks.
  • Bring toilet paper or tissues. Carry a reusable bag for disposing of used paper.
  • Pack basic first aid items like bandaids, antiseptic cream, painkillers, etc. Extra meds for kids if traveling as a family.

Money Matters

Rwanda’s currency is the Rwandan franc. Here are some money tips:

  • Have some U.S. dollars on hand for visas, tipping guides/drivers, and souvenirs. Bring small bills ($5, $10) for tips.
  • Exchange money upon arrival at the airport if needed. U.S. dollars are widely accepted in Rwanda.
  • Payment by credit card may not be widely available outside big cities. Cash is king, especially in rural areas.
  • Bring a money belt, neck pouch, or underclothes pocket for carrying cash securely. Petty theft exists in crowded areas.

Bonus Tips

And a few final miscellaneous tips:

  • Plastic bags are illegal in Rwanda – BYOB (Bring Your Own Bag) or purchase one locally. Reusable grocery bags work.
  • Shop local artisan markets for unique souvenirs like baskets, fabrics, wood carvings, etc. Supporting local businesses boosts Rwanda’s economy.
  • For reliable bug/sun protection, check out Sawyer brand products. Many of their lotions and sprays can be combined safely.
  • Pack a collapsible walking stick for hilly trekking terrain. Trekking poles provide stability and aid endurance.
  • Bring copies of your passport/ID and email them to yourself in case they are lost/stolen. Also pack an extra debit/credit card.
  • Pre-load phone with offline maps, music playlists and e-books for long drives. Wifi may be intermittent outside populated areas.

With the proper preparation, you’re sure to have an incredible trip to Rwanda. Travelers must respect Rwanda’s culture, conserve its natural beauty, and enjoy its warm hospitality. 

I hope these packing tips help you make the most of your time exploring Rwanda – the land of a thousand hills!

Key Takeaways

  • Lightweight, quick-dry clothing provides comfort and flexibility
  • Sturdy, waterproof hiking boots are essential for trekking
  • Effective bug protection includes sprays, nets, and preventative medicine
  • Pack plenty of high-SPF sunscreens and lip balm
  • Carry U.S. dollars for tipping and markets/souvenirs
  • Only drink bottled water and use it for brushing your teeth
  • Buy a reusable bag since plastic bags are illegal
  • Support local artisans and businesses when shopping
  • Come prepared so you can fully immerse yourself in Rwanda’s incredible culture and nature

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What should I wear during gorilla/chimp trekking?

A. For gorilla and chimp tracking, wear lightweight, muted colors like olive, khaki, or gray. Long sleeves and pants help protect against bites/stings. Waterproof hiking boots with ankle support are critical for muddy, slippery terrain. Avoid loud prints or colors that could disturb the primates. Bring rain gear too.

Q. What vaccines are recommended for Rwanda?

A. The CDC recommends typhoid, hepatitis A, yellow fever, and rabies vaccines for Rwanda. Malaria prevention medication is highly suggested. Ask your doctor about other routine vaccines and any prescription medication you may need like antibiotics. Be sure to get vaccines/medicine 4-6 weeks before departure.

Q. How much spending money should I take to Rwanda?

A. It depends on your trip length and if you plan to splurge on any activities. Budget $60-100 per day outside of lodging, with extra for souvenirs, tours, crafts, etc. Have at least $200 in U.S. cash for arrival expenses like tipping. Carry more cash for remote areas where ATMs are sparse. Plus funds for visas.

Q. Is Rwanda safe for tourists?

A. Yes, Rwanda is very safe, especially in recent years. Serious crimes are uncommon. Take usual precautions like avoiding deserted areas at night, concealing valuables, using hotel safes, and avoiding confrontations. Hiring a guide provides additional security. Inform your family of your itinerary. Rwanda is safer than many African nations.

Q. What should I do about plastic bag regulations?

A. Since 2008, the production and import of plastic bags is illegal in Rwanda. Travelers cannot bring plastic bags into the country. Bring reusable canvas/cloth bags or purchase local handmade ones. Some lodges provide laundry bags for dirty items. Be prepared to go bagless on arrival.

Q. How do I avoid malaria?

A. Prevent malaria by taking prescription medication before, during, and after your trip. Use insect repellent and sleep under a treated mosquito net. Wear long clothing at dawn/dusk when mosquitos are active. Limit exposed skin that’s susceptible to bites. If you develop flu-like symptoms after returning home, get medical help to test for malaria.

Q. What type of clothing is acceptable for women?

A. Opt for conservative clothing – pants/skirts well below the knee, loose tops with capped or long sleeves. Avoid tank tops and anything tight or revealing. Bring a scarf to cover your neck and shoulders for sacred sites. A relaxed style respects cultural and religious norms. Laundry services allow you to pack lightly.

Q. Should I tip in Rwanda? Who and how much?

A. Yes, tipping is customary in Rwanda. For hotel staff, $5-10 per day. Tour guides get $10-15 per traveler per day. Tip drivers $5-10 daily. For restaurants, 10-15% is appropriate unless already added. Give porters/rangers $10-20 per client after tracking. Have small U.S. bills ready for tipping convenience.

Q. Can I drink tap water in Rwanda?

A. No, avoid drinking tap water in Rwanda to prevent illness. Only drink bottled, filtered, or boiled water. Let the boiled water cool before drinking it. Use tap water for brushing your teeth at your own risk – bottled water is safer. Most lodges provide purified bottled water. Drink beverages without ice cubes to reduce risk.

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