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Kigali basics: money, sim cards, transport, and other essentials

Kigali, which goes by the many nicknames which are about cleanliness, green neighborhoods and fast and promising economic growth, etc,  is the capital city of Rwanda. Kigali is the heart of Rwanda in economic, geographic and politic aspects as it houses most government bodies, most booming businesses, and it is located right in the middle of the country.


When you get to Kigali, outside the airport, you may have quite a few questions about this city, (where you should by no means step on the grass) how to move around, what currency to use for transactions, how you will communicate, access to Internet, which mode of transportation is best for your context, etc


Read on to get a full guide to exploring Kigali like you've lived here for years.





First things first, know about money even before you book your plane ticket. 


Kigali's money is like the rest of the country, the official currency is Rwandan Francs (Rwf), where $1 is equivalent to 958,04 Rwf, as of March 2020. There are multiple FOREX Bureaus are the airport (check our Kigali international airport guider) and in the city, you can find the list of licenced ones here, as many local businesses do not accept foreign currency.


Rwanda is moving to a cashless economy, which means that you will find  a lot of ATM Machines which accept visa Debit cards, and can withdraw up to a RWF equivalent of almost $240. You can withdraw from your bank overseas at some of these Machines too. You also have options to pay with your card and mobile money in most hotels,restaurants, supermarkets and other businesses. Make sure you check in with the place to be on the safe side.


Telecommunication and Internet 


There are 2 major telecommunication companies with coverage in most parts of the country: MTN and Airtel-Tigo, whose simcards cost up to 500 Rwf, and you need to be registered to one's ID  or passport to function.

You can top up airtime from agents, your mobile money/Airtel money account, or buy scratchcards which you can then use to purchase call packs and internet bundles.

Speaking of Internet, there are multiple internet service providers, in addition to the two telecommunication companies.

Find more information here: mango, ispa, truconnect, or more



Another important thing you need to know while in Kigali, is how to move around



If you are not going far, Kigali is very safe to walk. On main roads, there are pavements meant to be walked on. You can put in your earplugs, listen to some music or your favorite podcast, but remember to take them off before you cross the street as it may be dangerous.

You are in the country of a thousand hills, so expect it to get hilly at some point of your journey. If you are in neighborhoods you do not recognize, and you feel lost, check out our Kigali for travelers:Know the neighborhood names and how close you are to your destination.


The bus:

There are buses that go around the city, regularly.

These usually pack up a lot of people, and some or the passengers travel standing. If you don't mind this, try the bus out. It is the least expensive mode of transportation as an average ride costs 250Rwf, and an easy way to meet the locals.


Go to the Tap and Go stand at any bus stop, to purchase a travel card, or top up the bus fare. You tap the card upon entry in the bus, to pay. You are able to top up fare from your mobile money account, using the number at the back (or front, depending) of your card. Dial *182# and follow instructions.


Moto taxi:

Moto rides are slightly more expensive than buses. Taxi motobikes cyclists wear uniform helmets and each bike has a number plate. A bike can only carry one passenger at a time, and it's compulsory to wear a helmet. You can bring your own helmet to be sure of hygiene, but otherwise, you will be given one before you board. While buses have a common stop, a Moto will take you to your door. There are no set prices for motos, you will find some with a tools that measure distance, which they base on to price you at the end of your journey. Other than that, Price is upon negotiation with the motocyclist.

You will notice that most of these cyclists speak Kinyarwanda… if you are not with someone who can translate for you, read through our Kinyarwanda basic words to get you through the day. A printable version can be found there as well.

Both buses and motorcycles don't carry luggages.



Move by Volkswagen and YEGOCabs are the major taxi cabs in the city. Move has a downloadable app and can be called at 1010, while YEGOCabs can be reached by calling the toll free number: 9191.


Prices are higher than the moto and the bus, and the is usually between 800 Rwf and 900 Rwf per kilometer. A plus here is that, the call centers respond in English, French and Kinyarwanda.

  1. As you go shopping in small shops and boutiques, it's advisable to have cash on you, just in case.
  2. If you are traveling with kids, get a cab.
  3. The weather monitor in your device is not 100% accurate.


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