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An Expat Guide to Living in Kigali, Rwanda

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Kelly Irakli
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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.

Why is living in Rwanda so great?

Perhaps you never thought about relocating in 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.

So 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.

Happily living my life in Kigali, Rwanda

And here are the reasons why:

1. Rwanda is the cleanest country in Africa

And maybe one of the cleanest in the world.

Rwanda is the 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 allowed to fly in Rwanda with plastic bags in your suitcase either.

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 good hygiene level at cafés and restaurants.

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

As a woman, I have never felt safer.

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. I 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 Global Gender Gap Report.

Another surprising fact: Rwanda is one of the very few countries that 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.

Delicious fruits and veggies are easily accessible


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.

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


5. Rwanda has the most amazing fruits and vegetables

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


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Finding work as a foreigner in Rwanda

To find work 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 create your own business. For business 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. 

Accommodation in Kigali

As almost everything else here, accommodation can be very cheap or very expensive.

Most young people here 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 $250–450USD and this price would include electricity, internet, a housekeeper and a guard. 

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


Transportation in Kigali

Most people here in Rwanda move around with the motos. They are 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, 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 rain forests, one game park and so many small and colorful villages and markets.

There are endless activities especially for nature lovers.

Cons to living in Rwanda

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 $10USD.

Also 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.  Covid also didn’t help since this past year has been a logistical nightmare for most businesses.

I personally stock up with clothes, shoes and other things I know I won’t easily find, when I go home for the holidays.

Weekend getaways to the countryside look like this!


Everyday life for expat families

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, or 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 there are almost zero playgrounds for children in the whole country and not many activities for them either (again, Covid didn’t help). We make up for that by organizing play dates with other families, and many people have swings or trampolines in their garden.

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

What I love most about living in this country

This is a question I get asked a lot, and my answer is: the energy of this place, the vibe.

It is something that people who have lived in Africa can understand.

You feel it when you walk around and you tune into it. 

xx,
Kelly

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