The current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses Rwanda at Level 1, indicating travelers should exercise normal precautions.
Overall Crime and Safety Situation
The U.S. Embassy in Kigali does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The American Citizens’ Services (ACS) cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.
Review OSAC’s Rwanda-specific page for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.
There is moderate risk from crime in Kigali. Crime in Rwanda is rarely violent. Pickpocketing in crowded public places is common, as is petty theft from cars, hotel rooms, and other public places, including churches. Thefts of portable/mobile computing devices are common.
Residential crimes tend to be crimes of opportunity, with unsecured items that are easy to transport and sell stolen from yards or unsecured homes. There has been no increase in forcible entry of homes to commit robberies; however, burglars generally target homes when residents are not present. U.S. citizens have reported a slight increase in residential theft throughout Kigali.
Although violent crimes such as assault, robbery, rape, and home invasion occur in Rwanda, they are rarely committed against foreigners. In 2018, however, the Embassy received several reports of late-night assaults and robberies involving pedestrians walking alone in poorly lighted neighborhoods.
Theft of credit card and identity information is rare, but a reasonable possibility given the level of sophistication of potential criminal elements in Rwanda. Rwandan police’s capabilities in fighting cybercrime have been increasing. Practice the same protection of personally identifiable or private information that you would in the United States.
For more information, review OSAC’s report, Security in Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.
Road Safety and Road Conditions
Traffic moves on the right side of the road; however, due to Rwanda’s proximity to several former British colonies, there are a moderate number of right-side drive vehicles on the roads that create additional traffic and spatial awareness risks. There is now a formal prohibition against registering right-side drive vehicles, so their presence is slowly decreasing.
Paved roads in Rwanda are in relatively good condition. During the rainy season, many unpaved side roads are passable only with four-wheel drive vehicles. Nighttime driving, particularly outside major cities, is hazardous and discouraged. Often, roadways have deteriorated surfaces, are not marked, and lack streetlights and/or shoulders. Due to possible language barriers and lack of roadside assistance, receiving help may be difficult. Police may stop you at roadblocks throughout the country, and may search your vehicle and luggage. Service stations are available along main roads.
Exercise caution at traffic circles; cars already in a circle have the right of way. Excessive speed, careless driving, and the lack of basic safety equipment on many vehicles are hazards. Many vehicles are not well-maintained, and headlights are either extremely dim or not used. Drivers tend to speed and pass other cars with little discretion. Some streets in Kigali do not have sidewalks or sufficient space for pedestrian traffic, forcing pedestrians to walk along the roadway. Street lighting is limited; drivers often have difficulty seeing pedestrians, cyclists, and livestock.
Drivers must carry third-party insurance that will cover any damages from involvement in an accident resulting in injuries. Police may confiscate the driver’s license of individuals determined to have caused an accident for up to three months. Causing a fatal accident could result in three to six months' imprisonment. Authorities jail drunk drivers for 24 hours and fine them 20,000 Rwandan Francs (RWF) (approximately $30). Call 112 from any mobile phone to reach local police. Ambulance assistance is very limited but reachable in Kigali by dialing 912. In the event of an emergency, U.S. citizens can contact the Embassy duty officer at 078-838-3305.
Rwandan traffic laws prohibit drivers from using mobile phones without hands-free devices; the fine is 10,000 RWF (about $14). After-market tinted window treatments are illegal on all vehicles; police will require apprehended car owners to remove them. For more information on self-driving, review OSAC’s reports, Driving Overseas: Best Practices and Road Safety in Africa.
Public Transportation Conditions
U.S. Embassy personnel may not drive outside of cities after dark, or use motorcycle-taxis or mini-bus taxis due to safety and security concerns. Regulated orange-striped (along the base of the vehicle) sedan auto taxis are safer than other options. Agree on a taxi fare before beginning your trip, and make sure the vehicle has functioning seat belts. Public transportation can be dangerous due to overloading, inadequate maintenance, and careless and inexperienced drivers.
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns
There is minimal risk from terrorism in Kigali. Exercise extreme caution when traveling near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), given the possibility of renewed fighting between the Congolese armed forces (FARDC) and armed rebel groups. The FARDC and peacekeepers of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) continue to engage in combat operations against armed rebel and militia groups in the DRC provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu, both of which border Rwanda. The security situation in these parts of eastern DRC remains unstable; sporadic but severe outbreaks targeting civilians, including rape, kidnapping, and pillaging, continue throughout North Kivu and South Kivu provinces. The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) is an armed group that includes former soldiers and supporters of the regime that orchestrated the 1994 genocide; FDLR continues to operate in eastern DRC, near the border with Rwanda.
Armed rebel groups operate in Virunga National Park, on the DRC side of Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. Exercise extreme caution and avoid crossing the border into DRC while exploring the Rwandan side of the park. Rwandan armed forces actively patrol and secure their borders along DRC; cross-border incursion by an armed group from DRC where tourists may be present is possible.
In December 2018, suspected FDLR members attacked a Rwanda Defense Force (RDF) outpost in the Rubavu District. Three RDF members died in the attack, along with ten militia members.
- In December 2018, suspected militia members attacked three passenger vans in Nyungwe Forest, killing two and injuring eight. RDF was able to repel the attackers, killing three of them; the remaining assailants fled over the border into Burundi.
- In 2017, up to four people carrying small arms attacked villagers in Rusizi district, Bugarama Sector, resulting in the death of one person and eight injuries. Reports indicate that the attackers originated from DRC and launched the attack to embarrass the Rwandan government before elections.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
There is moderate risk from political violence in Kigali. Protests are rare, but those that do occur are generally peaceful. Any protest or rally requires a permit.
Religious and ethnic violence are not significant issues in Rwanda. The law prohibits the propagation of ideas based on “ethnic, regional, racial, religious, language, or other divisive characteristics.”
Areas with potential concerns include the Mount Nyiragongo volcano, just outside the eastern DRC town of Goma near the Rwandan border. The volcano is active and last erupted in 2002, killing 47 people, destroying 15% of Goma, and leaving 120,000 people homeless.
Volcanic and seismic activity is the greatest threat to Rwanda’s critical infrastructure.
Drug abuse is not a significant problem, but marijuana is increasingly available. The Rwanda National Police (RNP) has interdicted drugs coming from the DRC and other border crossings. Those caught with even small amounts of marijuana are subject to a prison term of up to five years.
Personal Identity Concerns
Same-sex sexual activity is legal but not widely discussed.
There are no statistics on criminal kidnappings, but the number is nominal. Any such incidents did not target expatriates. For more information, review OSAC’s report, Kidnapping: The Basics.
Despite professionalization and capacity building initiatives, the RNP lacks specialized skills (e.g. investigation, counter-terrorism, bomb disposal, and forensics). The RNP’s material resources are extremely limited; police are unable to respond to an emergency call in a timely manner. A mix of defense and police elements conduct patrols in the city, but their focus is more on preventing terrorism than crime. Community watch groups patrol neighborhoods to prevent residential crime. Police will often direct a victim to the nearest police station to register a complaint in person, as they are unable to respond to the caller. RNP leadership acknowledges these challenges and is striving to improve its operations and reputation.
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment
RNP does not tolerate corruption; as a result, incidents are infrequent. Victims of harassment or attempted bribery should contact the dedicated RNP hotline at 116 to report problems. Detained or arrested U.S. citizens should comply with police instructions and contact the ACS section of the U.S. Embassy immediately.
Crime Victim Assistance
Local police telephone numbers:
Gicumbi (Byumba) Brigade: 078-831-1144
Rusizi (Cyangugu) Brigade: 078-831-1136
Nyamagabe (Gikongoro) Brigade: 078-831-1131
Rubavu (Gisenyi) Brigade: 078-831-1149
Muhanga (Gitarama) Brigade: 078-831-1129
Huye (Butare) Brigade: 078-831-1127
Ngoma (Kibungo) Brigade: 078-831-1158
MVK Brigade: 078-831-1125
Musanze (Ruhengeri) Brigade: 078-831-1146
Kigali City: 112 Emergency number
Kigali Brigade: 078-831-1124
Remera Brigade: 078-831-1121
Gikondo Brigade: 078-831-1140
Muhima Brigade: 078-831-1122
Nyamirambo Brigade: 078-831-1123
Kicukiro Brigade: 078-831-1117
All aspects of Rwandan law enforcement are centralized under the Ministry of Justice. RNP is the lead agency for local policing and traffic violations, and the Rwandan Investigative Bureau is in charge of major investigations.
Contact Information for Available Medical Services
For medical assistance, refer to the Embassy’s Medical Assistance page.
Available Air Ambulance Services
- Flying Doctor Service, Nairobi: +254-20-315-454 or 254-20-315-455.
- Sanitaire Ambulance Medical Urgence (SAMU): 912. A local, very basic ambulance service.Providers speak French and sometimes have English-speaking staff available to respond.This service does not provide paramedic-level care during transport.
- Akagera Aviation, Kigali:+250-788-308-382.Provides helicopter medical evacuation within Rwanda, and from Rwanda to Uganda and Kenya.
A patient who is stable enough to travel can evacuated outside Rwanda by plane to a medical center meeting Western standards. A physician who has evaluated and stabilized the patient must make the arrangements. Depending on the circumstances, medical evacuation (medevac) may use a commercial flight or require an air ambulance. Medevac from rural parts of Rwanda to Kigali by helicopter is available. These are extremely costly services, which patients must pay for themselves; consider medevac insurance. For more information, refer to OSAC’s report, Medical Evacuation: A Primer.
Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Rwanda.
OSAC Country Council Information
The Country Council in Kigali meets quarterly. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s Africa team with any questions.
U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information
Embassy Address and Hours of Operation
2657 Avenue de la Gendarmerie (Kacyiru), P.O. Box 28, Kigali
Embassy Contact Numbers
Phone: (+250) 252 596 400
After hours (1900-0700), contact the Duty Officer at 078-838-3305
U.S. citizens traveling to Rwanda are highly encouraged to register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) in order to receive any potential safety and security information while in-country.
Rwanda Country Information Sheet