A Way Abroad Logo
The ultimate resource for women dreaming of a life abroad

An Expat's Guide to Living in Kigali, Rwanda

write for us!

My name is Kelly and I’ve been living in Rwanda since March 2020. I used to be a military nurse in Greece, until I met my husband who is from Rwanda and I followed him first to Germany and then to Kigali.

Here I started a company called Greek Rwanda Travels where I organize trips to Rwanda and Greece. I make tailor made travel packages for individuals and groups according to their preferences and budget. I organize trips from backpacking to luxury. I am also a blogger and I post pictures from my life in Rwanda on my Instagram account.

Living in Rwanda has given me the amazing opportunity to do my dream job and I am truly grateful for that and the life I've been able to build living in Kigali.

So, whether you're moving here for love like I did, for work like other foreigners I know, or for a great adventure, let’s dive into what it's really like living in Kigali to see if it could be your home abroad, too.

Short on time? Here’s the cheat sheet:

💭Living in Kigali means a clean environment, fresh food, welcoming locals, and plenty of outdoor adventures.

🛂Most expats living here work for international companies, NGOs, or have started their own business here.

🏠Your cost of living will vary greatly based on your lifestyle but in general, living here might cost more than you first expect.

🛏️Start off by booking somewhere centrally located and easy to get around, like the Heaven Restaurant & Boutique Hotel until you find your long-term stay.

🏥Accidents happen so come prepared with nomad insurance, just in case!

☂️Living in Kigali can mean letting go of some comforts/products from back home but…

☀️If you’re willing to adapt, you’ll get to live in a beautiful atmosphere that has contagious energy.

5 Reasons I Love Living in Kigali

Happily living my life in Kigali, Rwanda

Perhaps you never thought about relocating to Rwanda. Perhaps you don’t know where exactly Rwanda is on the map, or maybe you haven’t heard much about the country – and the little information that reached your ears was negative.

Here I am to tell you how much I love living in Rwanda; how beautiful, safe, clean Rwanda is; how I consider Rwanda to be an expat’s paradise and to change your perception.

Here are the 5 reasons why I love it so much here.

1. Rwanda is the cleanest country in Africa

And maybe one of the cleanest in the world.

Rwanda is Africa's leader when it comes to cleanliness and environmental awareness. Plastic bags were banned in the country in 2008, imagine this!

You are not even allowed to fly into Rwanda with plastic bags in your suitcase.

Other than that, most cafes in Rwanda now stopped using plastic straws, and generally everyone tries to keep their country clean. You will not see litter in the streets, not even cigarette butts.

Also, you will notice a very high level of hygiene at cafés and restaurants.

2. Rwanda is the safest country in Africa & very female-friendly

As a woman, I have never felt safer than I do living in Kigali.

I walk around the city alone day and night, and people have been nothing but polite and respectful. There is no street harassment, no catcalling. Serious crimes are very rare.

Rwandan people are the warmest, kindest people I have ever met. It makes my day just to walk around and see people smiling and greeting me politely. For the first time I can enjoy taking a taxi at night without fear. I love going for a run at night with music in my ears without checking behind my back constantly.

You might be surprised to know also that Rwanda ranks every year among the top 10 countries in the world with the smallest gender gap according to the Global Gender Gap Report.

Another surprising fact: Rwanda is one of the very few countries where female pleasure in sex is very important in the culture. It is something that passes on from generation to generation. Female orgasm is considered necessary in sexual relationships and is praised in traditional songs and myths. 

3. Rwanda has the best weather ever

It’s never too hot and never too cold. The temperature never drops below 16 °C, and never rises above 28°C. We have rainy seasons and dry seasons. We have days that are hot and we need a hat and sunscreen and days that we need a jumper and a hot cup of coffee. 

The nights have that magical tropical breeze, and you might need a light blanket in bed.

4. Rwanda has a very relaxed lifestyle

The rhythm here in Rwanda is slow. People are never in a hurry. Also never on time. If this will bother you, bring a book when meeting people so waiting won't be a nuisance. Because trust me, if you're always on time, you will spend time waiting.

People here never get angry, they walk slowly, and they smile a lot. 

5. Rwanda has the most amazing fruits, vegetables, and great food in general

And it's all very, very cheap too. Everything that is locally grown is cheap and organic. Rwanda is an organic lover’s paradise!

For eating the best Rwandan food, there are so many great dishes to try.

While the food might look a little different than you're used to, you'll quickly begin to crave the smells, textures, and flavors this cuisine has to offer. For me, this country has made me a huge fan of plantains in any fashion - something I had never eaten before back in my home country.

So, as you can see by these 5 reasons I really think moving to Rwanda is a fantastic choice.

Serious about
browse all articles

Finding Work as a Foreigner in Rwanda

Delicious fruits and veggies are easily accessible

To find work as a foreigner in Rwanda is not easy.

There are only a few ways for someone to find work here:

  • Via a position at an international company or an NGO
  • Or to create your own business

For business-minded people, Rwanda is one of the easiest countries in the world to start a business. You can literally register a company within a day, without any bureaucracy standing in your way. But, I would recommend going through the process with a lawyer so you can make sure all of your paperwork is in place and you're setting up a business that'll allow you to legally reside in Rwanda.

‍I'm able to live here because I'm married to a Rwandan citizen.

Accommodation in Kigali

As almost everything else here, accommodation can be very cheap or very expensive. You can live a luxurious lifestyle in Kigali or a budget-friendly one.

Most young people here choose to share a house. A typical Rwandan house is big, with many rooms and a garden. Renting a room at a house like this would cost around $250–450 USD and this price would include electricity, internet, a housekeeper and a guard. 

If you have the budget for it, it's also possible to rent your own home. Again, the cost of rent will vary greatly based on the size, location, and amenities the house or apartment offers.

📍Before you decide which area of the city to live in, I suggest you book a hotel or vacation rental for at least a night or two to get a real feel for it at all hours. Start with somewhere central then venture out fro there. This will give you the best chance to see where in Kigali is a good choice for you.

  • Budget Stay: Murugo Rwanda Hostel: Although called a hostel, the rooms here are actually private, set in a lush garden where you can enjoy the surrounding nature from the moment you arrive.
  • Mid-Tier Stay: Heaven Restaurant & Boutique Hotel: This upscale hotel is centrally located and offers more amenities like a fitness center, spa, bar, and restaurant.
  • Luxury Stay: Ubumwe Grande Hotel: Right in the heart of downtown Kigali, this hotel offers the same amenities as the previous option but larger rooms and an outdoor swimming pool.

Transportation in Kigali

I can't get enough of these neighborhood views into nature

Most people here in Rwanda move around with the motos. These are what we call the taxi–bikes and the cheapest and fastest way to move around the city. Also, probably the most dangerous thing you will do in this country. A helmet is mandatory and the drivers always carry a spare one with them for their passengers.

Things to Do in Kigali

Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda, might be small but it is quite vibrant. There are many cafes, bars, and restaurants.

But the most amazing thing to do in this country is actually to drive around it and visit the countryside.

The scenery and the nature are amazing, there are lakes and rivers, mountains and rainforests, a game park and so many small and colorful villages and markets.

There are endless activities especially for nature lovers, even trying to spot the elusive mountain gorillas.

Cons to Living in Rwanda

We've already established that I absolutely love living in Rwanda but of course, nowhere in the world is perfect.

So, to a share the whole picture and not just a piece of it, these are some of the biggest cons I've faced while living here:

  • Rwanda can be quite expensive for an expat. If you cannot adjust to the local way of living and the local products, life is expensive. The shampoo you are used to, for example, could cost around $10 USD.
  • It is very difficult to find some things you might need and the market is not the best when it comes to western clothes and fashion.
  • Sometimes certain products might disappear from the supermarkets and it might take months until they appear again. I was looking for cocoa powder for months and then suddenly it was everywhere again.

I personally stock up with clothes, shoes, and other things I know I won’t easily find when I go home for the holidays. And for the rest of it, I've been able to adapt to life without it or have found local equivalents.

Everyday Life for Expat Families

Weekend getaways to the countryside look like this!

We are raising our two children in Rwanda and I can say that the positives are definitely more than the negatives.

It’s great that we can have sunshine all year round and my children can walk barefoot at the school yard and eat lunch outside every day of the year. I like the fact that they eat fresh and tropical fruits and vegetables and that the school gives them mango, pineapple, and passion fruits for snacks.

But, on the downside, there are almost zero playgrounds for children in the whole country and not many activities for them either. We make up for that by organizing play dates with other families and many people have swings or trampolines in their garden.

As expat families we have to enroll our children at private, international schools and while the level of education is very good, they can also be very expensive. So overall the cost for a family living in Rwanda is generally a bit high.

Will You Try Living in Kigali?

What do I love most about living here? This is a question I get asked a lot, and my answer is: the energy of this place, the vibe.

It is something that anyone who has lived in Africa can understand. You feel it when you walk around and you tune into it. 

Rwanda has come a long way from the bitter history that most of the world still associates with this beautiful and kind country.

Don't believe me? Come see for yourself. I'm telling you, it's magic here!

keep a way abroad fueled!
Consider making a donation

A lot of effort went into making this amazing piece of journalistic genius. If it helped you out, send us a quick thanks by buying us a coffee. All the money donated through Ko-Fi goes towards keeping A Way Abroad awesome. Big thanks!

Pick an image to pin it!
Go back up arrow