FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
PLANNING YOUR SAFARI: STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE
One thing you can always count on when being on an African safari, is the unexpected. There is no guarantee which animals, birds and plant life you will encounter – and that’s exactly what makes a trip on this vast, special continent so magical.
At African Aerial Safaris, we can, however, give you some pointers on what you can expect when booking your dream safari. With specialization – and extensive experience – in five of Africa’s safari “heavy hitters”, African Aerial Safaris certainly has the best insights into making your journey unforgettable.
Taking the following into consideration will go a long way towards ensuring your safari is one for the ages.
Africa is a vast continent, and the possibilities are truly endless when it comes to which safari company to choose from and where to go on safari. South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia are undoubtedly among the best safari destinations in Africa. Unfortunately, with so many incredible bucket-list holiday options around the world, most people plan to visit Africa only once. And we say plan, because once you’ve acquired a taste for dust, heard the distinctive lion’s roar late at night, or experienced the magic of an African sunset on the Zambezi River, you will be hard pressed to stick to that one visit.
The difficult question then is where do I start? From the Winelands of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, to the vast landscapes of the Namib desert, the utter remoteness of the Skeleton Coast, the clear blue waterways of the Okavango Delta, the roaring thunder of the Victoria Falls, the incredible walking safaris of the Lower Zambezi valley, or the white beaches and turquoise waters of the Mozambique coast, the possibilities are endless. Luckily for you, we know Southern Africa intimately. We will select the best destinations taking into consideration a wide range of factors such as what you liked and didn’t like about previous holidays, things you are passionate about, or unique experiences you are after. We accept a limited number of safaris per year because the owners, Riaan and Willem, personally plan each of our safaris, ensuring personal, dedicated service from day one.
With a maximum temperature of 91°F (33°C) in January and a minimum temperature of 38°F (4°C) in June, Botswana has a pleasant climate with relatively low humidity. The best time to experience its exceptional game viewing is during the dry months of June to October, referred to as “peak season.” The days are mild to warm, but temperatures drop sharply at night and early in the morning, particularly around June and July. Rain that falls on the Angolan highlands reaches the delta during this period to create what is referred to as the “flood.” Waterways and channels swell with crystal clear water, lilies bloom, countless aquatic creatures frolic in the water, and a vast diversity of game from the surrounding dry areas moves into the delta. This creates the spectacular scenery Botswana is famed for.
In April and May, the transition period between summer and winter brings pleasant, drier winter days, referred to as the “shoulder season.” Drier, sunny days become more prevalent, and from the beginning of May, the dry season slowly starts to take hold. Average daytime temperatures are now about 30°C and nights hover around 15°C. Mid-April marks the start of antelope mating season, setting the stage for a bumper birth rate.
November to March brings warmer temperatures, broken by heavy afternoon thundershowers, with January and February being the wettest months. These short sharp showers typically don’t last all day and are often followed by bright sunshine. This makes game drives possible, and guests can enjoy the abundant new life seen during this season. This period is referred to as the “low season” or green season. As a result of the warm, wet conditions, these are not the most popular months to visit the delta, making it the ideal time for more budget-conscious travelers.
Mozambique is where you’ll enjoy warm tropical water on pristine beaches – yet it’s important to note that its dry and wet seasons differ vastly. The dry season, June to October, offers clear skies, warm sun and no rain, and perfect tropical beach holiday weather. The rainy season offers its charms, with December to February being the wettest months. The rain subsides, humidity drops in April or May, and better weather gradually moves in from the south to north.
As with most safari destinations, the best time to visit Namibia and experience its abundant wildlife is during its winter months (the dry season) from June to October. The evenings are pretty cold, with temperatures dipping below freezing regularly (daytime temperatures vary from 20-28°C/68-82°F). November brings the rainy season and all the drama of a late afternoon thunderstorm. The rain transforms the landscape from brown to green and breathes a new lease of life into the animals. If you’re a keen birdwatcher, January and February are when the migrant birds return. These are also the months you can experience new beginnings, with births reaching a peak. Temperatures average between 30-35°C/86-95°F and sometimes climb to 40°C/104°F or more in the desert. March brings a decrease in rainfall and cooler evenings. The rains that fall early in the year make much of the country verdant in April.
May marks the start of winter when the rainfall has all but disappeared. Animals start congregating around waterholes as other water sources begin to dry up.
4. South Africa
5. Zambia & Zimbabwe
Magic can be found in Africa truly on a year-round basis. Any visitor to this most special of continents is sure to return with lifelong memories, and at African Aerial Safaris, creating these is our speciality.
The best month to travel to Africa depends on the experiences you are after and their associated season. It is important to remember that Africa is a year-round destination. Its varying climate provides ideal conditions throughout the year, depending on which countries and areas you plan to visit. Generally, the weather is warm and sunny, with marked differences between the wet and dry seasons.
African Aerial Safaris specializes in African Safari trips throughout Southern Africa. Let’s look at the best months to visit, depending on the trip you plan to take.
- Safari In Southern Africa: May To October
- Beach Holiday In Cape Town & Garden Route: November To March
- Beach Holiday Mozambique – June To November
- Namibian Safari Holiday – July To October
- Victoria Falls Full Flood – March To July
- Whale Watching – July To November
- Zambezi Queen Boat Safari – May To October
1. Safari: May-October
The best time to enjoy a safari with African Aerial Safaris is during the so-called “dry season.” The reason is that sparse vegetation means easier wildlife spotting, and animals tend to congregate at watering holes – making for richer, more diverse sightings.
Then again, the so-called “green season” from December to March, featuring a burst of rain and impressive cloud formations, holds some charm too. Game spotting is more challenging due to the lush, green landscapes, but the reward is that most animals give birth at the beginning of this season. Flowers burst into bloom, spectacularly coloring the landscape; migratory birds make their return (twitchers take note), and there are fewer travelers. This season is an excellent option for return travelers to Southern Africa. Most destinations look entirely different when comparing the seasons, and it’s pretty amazing to see both ends of the spectrum. An added bonus is the incredible savings many properties offer for traveling at this time of year.
2. Beach holiday: November-March
With some of the most beautiful coastlines in the world, there is something quite special about a South African beach holiday. African Aerial Safaris can introduce you to the gorgeous sandy beaches of Cape Town and the Garden Route, where beautiful people meet to sunbathe, swim, people-watch, and enjoy the sunshine. From the photographers’ dream, Cape Town beaches of Camps Bay and Llandudno (and many more) to the golden sands of Robberg Beach in Plettenberg Bay and the charms of Knysna, November to March is the best time of year. Should you venture further for your beach holiday, Mozambique, off the east coast of Southern Africa, is best from June to November. Enjoy the slow pace of an island holiday during the Mozambican winter, with cooler temperatures and less rain. Kick off your shoes, grab a cocktail, and relax.
3. Victoria Falls: March-July
Victoria Falls, known locally as Mosi-oa-Tunya (meaning “the Smoke that Thunders”), is the world’s largest sheet of water, accessible from both Zambia and Zimbabwe. If you want to experience this magnificent waterfall in its full cry, the best time to visit is directly after the summer rains. The roar beneath your feet, the mist against your skin, and the magnificent rainbows thrown up by the water all make for a showstopping experience. Should you wish to do some white-water rafting, the ideal month to visit is January, but to experience the full might of the Smoke that Thunders, March to July are the months to visit.
4. Zambezi Queen boat safari: May-October
What can be more luxurious, more lush than a cruise down one of Africa’s mighty waterways in a beautifully appointed riverboat made possible by African Aerial Safaris? The Chobe River region experiences winter from May to October, when the drier weather means the riverbanks come alive with animals ambling down to graze.
5. Whale watching: July to November
Watching a 49ft (15m) Southern Right Whale break the ocean’s surface to fling itself playfully into the air is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. These massive migratory mammals make their way to the Southern African coast between July and November, where the lucky few who used African Aerial Safaris to visit the coast will see them breach and lobtail (slapping their fins and tails on the water). The annual Hermanus Whale Festival, held at the end of September in this sleepy, picturesque town 76 miles (122km) from Cape Town, is the ideal time to visit.
When it comes to researching your safari experience, it’s vital to consider the size of your touring group. At African Aerial Safaris, we believe a smaller group makes for a more memorable experience. Just imagine the memories to be shared by your family or tight-knit group of friends for years to come. Also, keep in mind that group size determines how far in advance the booking should be made (to ensure exclusivity and availability of course).
Our unique private flying safaris are ideal for small groups of family, friends, or colleagues and can accommodate up to nine passengers. These epitomize exclusivity. If your group size is bigger than this, there are still many incredible options available. Chat to us to find the best possible holiday experience for your group.
A trip with African Aerial Safaris has something for every age. With that said, it’s important to keep in mind that different suppliers have various policies regarding children – so once again research is vital.
At African Aerial Safaris we create customized itineraries uniquely designed around your family’s ages and requirements. For elderly tourists, mobility and medical conditions should be kept in mind in order to ensure comfort. Once again, we match your unique situation with the best possible options available out there.
Now we get to the nitty-gritty: determining your budget. What does luxury mean to you? A night in a plush bed, or a night under the stars? A full-service breakfast or coffee and rusks at dawn? All of this can easily be arranged for you by African Aerial Safaris, but as always, determining your needs and expectations and deciding how much you are willing to budget are important steps to take. Whatever you choose, Africa is sure to deliver. During the planning phase, we discuss your budget and match this with the most suitable locations and experiences.
There are so many different experiences at your fingertips! When we say Africa has it all, we definitely mean it. Here’s what’s on offer: game viewing; game walks; spa experiences; culinary delights; beach adventures; watersports; adventure trips; photography; cultural experiences; guided or self-drive game viewing; hot air ballooning; special experiences such as horse riding, fishing, diving, rail trips, boating, and sightseeing.
There is also the opportunity to get involved in some incredible philanthropic ventures making a big impact on preserving Africa’s remarkable wildernesses for future generations. Whatever you decide to take part in, we will be there to guide you in making the best possible decisions to ensure the experience of a lifetime.
All safari lodges are the same, right? As we’ve mentioned before, Africa offers more than expected, and the same goes for your safari accommodation. A classic lodge offers all the expected amenities in breath-taking settings, most of them offering all-inclusive packages. If you’re inclined towards the history of adventure, explorer-type lodges are light in their footprint and offer accommodation reminiscent of the Stanley era, with beautiful chests, ball-and-claw baths, and historic maps. For the discerning traveler, the exclusivity of a luxury African safari lodge is unmatched. Every whim, every need, every wish is met in a discreetly opulent manner – travel in style personified. For the ultimate in exclusivity, private villas provide the comfort, space, and amenities of a private residence while located in pristine wilderness locations.
Further considerations include types of rooms (family suite, double rooms, twin rooms, etc) and whether you require exclusive use of the entire lodge. What do you dream of? Include your accommodation specifics in your considerations.
Sometimes staying connected to your day-to-day life is required – whether that be for work-related or personal reasons. It needs to be kept in mind that the charming remote nature of many lodges translates to limited connectivity, and online meetings and document downloads may not be possible. Should this be an important consideration, African Aerial Safaris can/will assist in choosing the best suitable lodges and destinations.
The intimacy of a private vehicle is a memorable experience that will be hard to replicate. Viewing Africa’s majestic wildlife, surrounded only by your nearest and dearest, is an option, should you choose a private vehicle. If you are after exclusivity, this option is for you. Of course, your experience will be none the poorer if you decide to forego this option.
One of the most frequently asked questions is the amount of time needed to enjoy a full safari experience. This is a highly individual consideration, and what works for one might not work for the other. Here it’s wise to take your priorities into consideration: how intensive do you want your game viewing to be (i.e. do you have a list you wish to tick off?); do you want to include different activities (such as those mentioned above?); how wide you would like to travel (coastlines and bush, or only one of the two).
As a rule of thumb though, African Aerial Safaris suggests at least a week for a purely game viewing safari. Start from there and expand, should you wish.
Yes, you do! For most third-party service providers, it is a condition of travel to take out travel insurance. Therefore, it is your sole responsibility to ensure that you have the correct, comprehensive travel and medical insurance to cover yourself, any dependants and/or travel companions.
This insurance should include cover, but may not be limited to the following:
- Medical Coverage and Evacuation: Ensure the insurance provides comprehensive medical coverage, including emergency medical evacuation. Medical facilities might be limited in remote safari locations, so having coverage that includes evacuation to a proper medical facility is crucial.
- Coverage for Adventure Activities: Safaris often involve adventurous activities like game drives, walking safaris, and more. Ensure that your insurance covers these activities and any other specific activities you plan to engage in. You must tell your insurance provider about the type of safari you are heading for and ensure the policy covers major activities such as game drives, canoeing, boating, hot air balloon and nature walks/walking safaris with armed guides.
- Trip Cancellation and Interruption: Look for coverage that protects you if you need to cancel or interrupt your trip due to unforeseen events like illness, family emergencies, or travel advisories. This can help you recoup non-refundable expenses.
- Baggage and Personal Belongings: Check if your insurance covers loss, theft, or damage to your baggage and personal belongings. Given the nature of safari travel, where you might carry valuable camera equipment and other gear, this coverage can be essential.
- Emergency Assistance: Make sure the insurance offers 24/7 emergency assistance. This can be incredibly useful if you encounter any issues while on your safari, such as lost documentation or a medical emergency.
- Pre-Existing Medical Conditions: If you have any pre-existing medical conditions, inquire about how the insurance will cover these. Some policies might exclude coverage for pre-existing conditions, while others might offer coverage with certain conditions.
- Destination-Specific Coverage: Check if the insurance covers the specific countries you’ll visit in Africa. Some insurers might have limitations or exclusions for specific regions or countries.
- Duration of Coverage: Ensure that the insurance coverage matches the entire duration of your trip, including any pre-safari activities or post-safari stays.
- Policy Exclusions: Carefully review the policy’s fine print to understand what is excluded from coverage. Standard exclusions might include participating in illegal activities, self-inflicted injuries, or certain extreme sports.
Be aware that you will be charged directly by the relevant service provider for any emergency services you may require. If you do not have the applicable insurance cover, you may be in a situation where you cannot procure these services.
Please visit our “Useful Links” section for more information.
CUSTOMS AND IMMIGRATION
Also, visit the Useful Links section for guidance.
You are solely responsible for ensuring compliance with all passport, visa and other immigration requirements for your entire itinerary (including all transit and stopover destinations applicable to your itinerary). We strongly advise you to confirm the aforementioned requirements with the relevant high commissions, embassies and/or consulates. We do not accept any liability for any loss, damage, costs or expenses incurred by you or any third party as a result of you being unable to travel due to non-compliance with any passport, visa or other immigration requirements.
The guidelines below are helpful in this regard, and are current at the time of writing. You are required to have a passport valid for 6 months beyond your return date to your home country. Your passport must also have sufficient blank pages (excluding the front and back cover) to enable entry visas to be issued. The general rule is two blank pages per country you visit in Africa. If there is insufficient space in the passport, entry will be denied and you may be detained pending return to your home country. It is recorded that a visa does not guarantee entry to any given country at the point of entry, and boarding of an aircraft or other carriage may be denied at any point, even if you have a valid visa.
It is possible find a raft of valuable information online but be aware that this is not always reliable and should be used as a reference only. A diplomatic mission or embassy will always be the most reliable source of information. We strongly advise that you contact them before visiting.
The duration of your trip is not set in stone, since your journey is personalised according to your preferences, needs and budget. However, to optimise your vacation, we recommend a minimum of ten days. As a general rule – due to travel distances and logistics – we do not offer trips comprising less than seven days.
Unfortunately, we do not accept any form of credit or debit cards for payments. This type of payment converts to South African Rand, which will expose you to exchange rate fluctuations and markups in price, owing to credit card interchange fees. We use a Customer Foreign Currency (CFC) account, which only accepts USD payments.
Yes! The maximum number of people who can go on an African Aerial Safari is 8. As far as the minimum goes, if you are keen to be the sole explorer, you are more than welcome!
Dietary requirements are readily accommodated by most safari lodges and camps. However, due to the often remote locales, advance notice is necessary to acquire the proper ingredients before you arrive. Therefore, please make us aware of all your dietary requirements in your booking request and we will do the groundwork with our third-party providers.
Please note: Not all of the properties can provide Halaal and Kosher meals. These meals will incur additional costs when they are specially flown in to the some of the properties.
A single supplement is a charge paid by an individual who occupies a room, to compensate a lodge for revenue foregone by virtue of only one person occupying a room with a two-person capacity. We will give you further information in this regard on request; terms and conditions will apply.
We appreciate that you may want your children to join you on this extraordinary journey. However, due to rules and regulations at various lodges, we prefer to uphold a minimum age restriction of 13 years or older. We will consider requests from families with children younger than 13 years on a case by case basis. The minimum age restriction is for reasons that are of utmost importance, such as possible health issues, safety issues, limited accommodation and activity options. Please do not hesitate to talk to us about your expectations and concerns, as we understand that your children’s well-being and experiences are among your highest priorities. You can rely on open and honest advice and we will always err on the side of caution.
PLEASE NOTE: When you travel with children under the age of 18, you are required to show additional documentation in African countries in order to combat child trafficking. In addition to their passport, you must produce an unabridged birth certificate (showing the particulars of both parents) when entering or exiting South African ports of entry (this applies to any applicable law of a port of entry other than South Africa). When you travel with a minor and only one of the parents is present, you are required to show an affidavit confirming dual parental consent to travel. The aforesaid policies change from time to time, so be sure to have the correct documents for travel in this regard.
Yes, there are. Smaller safari aeroplanes are restricted in their capabilities, referring to both space and weight limitations, and our service provider has to comply with strict controls and legislation.
With regard to space, only soft-shell duffel/tog-type bags are allowed. The maximum dimensions for these are: 30cm (11.8 inches) wide x 35cm (13.8 inches) high x 70cm (27.5 inches) long. Under no circumstances are frames or rigid structures accepted, as these physically do not fit in the aircraft. Download more information here.
The weight and balance of an aircraft are crucial to ensure safe and efficient operation throughout the flight. Therefore, the baggage allowance is dictated by the size of the group, the flight route, fuel requirements, landing strips used and the bodyweight of each passenger. The baggage weight restriction for a group of 8 people is 15kg (33 lbs) per person (note that this includes camera equipment and carry-on baggage). Generally we can accommodate more luggage for smaller groups, but we advise you to read the terms and conditions relevant to your specific flight.
African Aerial Safaris endeavours to notify you of any additional travel restrictions which may be imposed by the third party service providers and/or the destination countries. These restrictions may include height, weight and/or baggage limitations.
Please note that, with either walking sticks and/or crutches, these need to be lightweight and adjustable in length for ease of transport and storage.
With regards to either a walker, walking frame or wheelchair, these need to be collapsible. It is important that the dimensions and weight details are provided, in advance, in order for the necessary pre-planning to be made. A solid frame is not permissible, due to limited storage capacity on light aircraft transfers.
No, unfortunately we cannot accommodate excess baggage. As mentioned above, the weight and balance of an aircraft are crucial to its safe and efficient operation, and the safety and comfort of our passengers are our first and most important priorities. Freight forwarding of excess baggage to final destinations and the expense thereof will be your sole responsibility.
Temperatures can vary significantly in the course of a single day, thus dressing in layers is vital.
Bearing in mind the baggage weight restrictions on your safari aircraft, opt for lightweight clothing. Simple cotton works best for shirts and trousers.
It is unnecessary to pack a set of clothes for every day of your safari. In truth, you only need to pack clothing for a maximum of three to four days, as the lodges provide a daily laundry service. Easily washable fabrics are advisable.
- We highly recommend a lightweight long-sleeved jacket for protection against the elements (sun, rain, wind) and mosquitoes.
- During the winter months, warm clothes and jacket are necessary for early morning and evening game viewing activities.
- Should you plan to do any bush walks, you will need comfortable walking or hiking shoes.
- Neutral colours such as khaki, olive or light browns that blend into the environment are encouraged. This is, however, not mandatory.
- We advise against camouflage or military-inspired clothing, as this is prohibited in many parts of southern Africa.
- A hat or cap will offer you protection from the sun and shield your eyes from the glare.
- A gaiter or some sort of face covering and sunglasses for windier game drives is also recommended.
While this isn’t important to everyone, noise canceling headphones are great for airplanes. You can block out the engine noise even if you aren’t playing any music. Keep in mind that they require batteries or their own charge and must be turned off at take off and landing.
We highly recommend the following equipment:
- ample memory and storage devices
- memory card capable of high transfer speeds
- spare batteries are vital, since there are no charging facilities onboard the aeroplane
- professional multimedia DSLR camera with robust capabilities
- 400mm zoom lens with UV filter is essential for wildlife photography
- 70-200mm zoom lens is recommended for aerial photography
- wide-angle lens for landscape photography
- a versatile anti-reflective collapsing silicone lens hood is preferred for taking photos through the aircraft window to eliminate reflections
Due to remote locations, some lodges and camps do not have 220V electricity originating from the national power supply. However, they do have silent generators and solar power that is backed up by batteries. If necessary, you can charge camera batteries in the camp during the day, but note that the use of hairdryers is often not possible as the drain on the electrical system is too high.
Yes, well in advance of your departure you can request a list of the lodges with contact details relevant to your specific route from African Aerial Safaris. Bear in mind that some of the lodges are only reachable via radio from their main offices.
Absolutely! We are proud to say that African Aerial Safaris only uses third-party providers who are committed to conserving and expanding natural habitats, practice sustainable eco-tourism and who benefit local communities. All the lodges document the initiatives and projects in detail on their websites. Thus, by booking a trip with African Aerial Safaris, you will be making a significant contribution to protecting Africa’s wildlife and building a future for its communities.
Unfortunately, drones are not permitted in any of the locations. These regulations are conservation measures, designed to inhibit poaching. Remember though that, on your journey with us, you have the unique added advantage of a bird’s-eye view from your private aeroplane bringing breathtaking landscapes and magnificent wildlife right into your viewfinder.
Although there is no internet connectivity on your private aeroplane, most of the lodges offer free WiFi to their guests in designated areas. Due to the remoteness of the lodges, speed and reliability will vary. In truth, because it cannot be guaranteed, the short answer to this question is: maybe.
Botswana, Namibia, Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique are considered safe travel destinations and are financially and politically stable. However, we recommend leaving your valuables such as expensive watches and jewellery at home, thus eliminating the possibility of theft. Wrapping your bags and padlocks for your luggage is also advisable on your transit through South Africa.
Based on pleasant moderate temperatures, smooth flying conditions and magnificent wildlife congregating around waterholes and rivers, we highly recommend the southern hemisphere winter months, spanning the period May to October.
You may travel to areas where there is a high risk of malaria and other tropical diseases, which require precautionary medication. It is your sole responsibility to ensure that you arrange for all necessary vaccinations, inoculations or prophylactics relevant to all your destinations. We urge you to do this well in advance of your departure, and not to rely solely on the information on the internet. Consult your local doctor, travel clinic or the CDC (or equivalent national health authority) for accurate information in this regard.
Please visit our “useful links” section for more information.
Though we urge you to visit your doctor or local travel clinic to obtain advice well in advance of your departure, we can offer the following guidelines:
- sufficient supplies of chronic medication
- anti-malaria tablets
- anti-nausea tablets
- rehydration sachets
- headache tablets
- basic medical supplies (plasters/band-aids, blister pads, antiseptic cream, antihistamine cream, alcohol swabs, gauze pads)
- auto-injector for the emergency treatment of anaphylaxis (acute severe allergic reactions) if you suffer from any life-threatening allergy
- moisturizer (namibia is a desert; don’t underestimate how dry it can be) and sunscreen
VERY IMPORTANT: Keep all prescription medication and valuables (documents, camera, wallet) in your hand luggage or on your person in case your baggage is lost or delayed due to connecting international flights.
THE FLYING JOURNEY
Haven’t you always wanted the perspective of a bird in flight? Usually with aeroplane travel between destinations, it is often done as high and fast as possible. At AAS, we do the opposite, flying at much lower altitudes and off the beaten path – thereby expanding your safari experience and giving you a unique new point of view: the bird’s-eye view. The result? Magnificent photographic opportunities.
Not at all. Our professional pilots are highly experienced and have travelled extensively across this magnificent continent. Apart from that, they also comply with all the Civil Aviation Authority regulations regarding minimum flying altitudes. It is of the utmost importance to us that you are comfortable at all times, for you to enjoy and fully appreciate the unique bird’s-eye view of breathtaking scenery.
Yes, Rwanda is considered a malaria-endemic country, especially during the rainy season.
Travelers should consult a healthcare professional before their journey to determine the appropriate anti-malarial medication and gain insight into distinctive indications and manifestations of malaria. Additionally, it is advisable to protect oneself by wearing long-sleeved clothing, socks, and trousers during twilight hours and applying insect repellent to minimize the chances of contracting malaria.
Rwanda’s high altitude can be a concern for some travelers, but it largely depends on your individual health and how well your body adapts to higher elevations. Rwanda is known as the “Land of a Thousand Hills.” It has varying altitudes throughout the country, with the capital, Kigali, situated at an elevation of around 1,567 meters (5,141 feet) above sea level.
Acclimatization: If you are traveling to higher-altitude areas in Rwanda, such as the Virunga Mountains, where the famous mountain gorillas are found, it’s essential to allow your body time to acclimatize. Altitude sickness can affect individuals differently. Some may experience symptoms like headaches, nausea, and shortness of breath. To mitigate these effects, consider spending a day or two at a lower altitude in Kigali before venturing into higher regions.
Travel documentation requirements can change, so verifying the most up-to-date information is important before your trip to Rwanda. As of our last knowledge, here are the general travel documentation requirements for Rwanda:
Passport: You will need a valid passport with at least six months of validity beyond your intended departure date from Rwanda and have at least two consecutive blank pages.
Visa: Whether you need a visa to enter Rwanda depends on your nationality. Some countries are exempt from visa requirements for short stays. For others, you may need to apply for a visa in advance or obtain one upon arrival. It’s essential to check the specific visa requirements for your country on the official website of the Rwanda Directorate General of Immigration and Emigration or contact the nearest Rwandan embassy or consulate.
Yellow Fever Vaccination: Travelers arriving from countries with a risk of yellow fever transmission must present a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate upon entry into Rwanda.
Proof of Accommodation: You may be asked to provide proof of accommodation for your stay in Rwanda, such as a hotel reservation.
Return or Onward Ticket: Some travelers may be required to show proof of a return or onward ticket.
Travel Insurance: While not mandatory, it’s advisable to have travel insurance that covers medical emergencies, trip cancellations, and other unforeseen events.
Gorilla Trekking Permit: If you plan to participate in gorilla trekking in the Volcanoes National Park, you will need to obtain a gorilla trekking permit in advance. These permits are limited and should be secured well in advance of your travel dates.
Please note that immigration and visa requirements can change, so it’s essential to check with the official authorities or the nearest Rwandan embassy or consulate to verify the most current entry requirements for your specific situation. Additionally, it’s wise to make copies of all your essential travel documents and keep them in a separate and secure location while traveling.
Yes, travel insurance is always a good idea when travelling to remote locations. Rwanda requires all travellers to have health insurance and it is highly recommended that you also get travel insurance on your trip.
the official currency of Rwanda is the Rwandan Franc, abbreviated as RWF. The symbol for the Rwandan Franc is “Fr” or “RF.” The currency is denominated in both coins and banknotes. Banknotes come in various denominations, including 500, 1,000, 2,000, and 5,000 Rwandan Francs, among others.
It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the currency and exchange rates before traveling to Rwanda. You can exchange foreign currencies at banks, exchange bureaus, and some hotels and airports in major cities like Kigali. Additionally, credit cards are widely accepted in many establishments, especially in urban areas.
Keep in mind that currency-related information may change over time, so I recommend checking with official sources or a local bank for the most up-to-date information on currency and exchange rates before your trip to Rwanda.
Rwanda is a multilingual country, and several languages are spoken there. Kinyarwanda, French, and English are the primary languages you are likely to encounter in urban and official settings, and you can get by with English in many parts of the country. However, learning a few basic phrases in Kinyarwanda can be helpful and appreciated by the locals when traveling in Rwanda. The most widely spoken languages in Rwanda are:
Kinyarwanda: This is the national and most widely spoken language in Rwanda. It is used in everyday communication, and most Rwandans are fluent in Kinyarwanda.
French: French was historically the language of education and government in Rwanda, and it is still an official language. Many Rwandans, particularly in urban areas and among the educated population, can speak and understand French to varying degrees.
English: English is also an official language of Rwanda and has been gaining prominence, especially in recent years. It is used in government, education, and business. The younger generation is more likely to be fluent in English.
Swahili: Swahili is not an official language but is spoken in some areas, particularly in border regions and among communities with ties to East African countries.
Other Local Languages: Rwanda is home to several other local languages and dialects, although they are spoken by smaller populations. These languages include Luganda, Bantu languages, and more.
Connecting your cell phone to a local network in Rwanda is relatively straightforward. Here are the general steps to follow:
Check Phone Compatibility: First, ensure that your cell phone is unlocked and compatible with the local networks in Rwanda. Most modern smartphones are unlocked, but it’s best to confirm with your mobile carrier. You should also ensure your phone supports the network frequencies used in Rwanda, typically GSM and 3G/4G.
Purchase a SIM Card: Once you arrive in Rwanda, head to a local mobile network provider’s store or kiosk. The major mobile network operators in Rwanda include MTN Rwanda, Airtel Rwanda, and TIGO Rwanda (now part of Airtel). You can purchase a prepaid SIM card from any of these providers. It’s a good idea to bring your passport or a copy of it, as you may need it for the SIM card registration process.
SIM Card Registration: In Rwanda, it’s a legal requirement to register your SIM card. You’ll need to provide some personal information and a copy of your identification (usually your passport). The store staff will assist you with this process.
Choose a Prepaid Plan: Mobile providers in Rwanda offer various prepaid plans, including voice and data packages. Choose the plan that suits your needs and budget. You can usually top up your phone’s balance at various locations, including mobile provider stores, local shops, and via mobile money services.
Dialing Codes: Be aware that dialing codes in Rwanda may differ from what you’re used to. You’ll typically dial the local number without the international dialing code (+250 for Rwanda) to make calls within Rwanda.
Credit and debit cards are generally accepted in urban areas and larger towns in Rwanda, especially in hotels, restaurants, and larger businesses. However, having some cash on hand is a good idea, especially if you plan to visit more rural areas or smaller villages where card acceptance may be limited.
Here are some tips for managing your finances while traveling in Rwanda:
Credit and Debit Cards: Visa and MasterCard are the most widely accepted credit cards in Rwanda. While card acceptance is improving, carrying some cash as a backup is still a good practice. Notify your bank or card issuer of your travel plans to ensure your card is not blocked for security reasons when used in Rwanda.
ATMs: You can find ATMs in major cities like Kigali, and they usually dispense Rwandan Francs (RWF). ATMs are a convenient way to withdraw cash, but be aware that some rural areas may have limited access to ATMs.
Currency Exchange: You can exchange foreign currency for Rwandan Francs at banks and exchange bureaus in major cities. However, it’s often more convenient to withdraw local currency from ATMs.
Cash for Small Purchases: For small purchases, street vendors, local markets, and smaller businesses may prefer cash. Having some small denominations of Rwandan Francs can be helpful for these transactions.
Mobile Money: Mobile money services like MTN Mobile Money and Airtel Money are widely used in Rwanda and can be convenient for various transactions, including payments and sending money. You can link your mobile number to these services and load funds onto your mobile wallet.
Traveler’s Checks: Traveler’s checks are generally not accepted in Rwanda, and finding places to cash them can be challenging. It’s better to rely on credit/debit cards and cash.
Currency Exchange Rates: Be aware of the current exchange rates and compare them to the rates offered by local banks and exchange bureaus to get the best deal when exchanging currency.
While Rwanda is becoming more card-friendly in urban areas, it’s always a good idea to have a mix of payment methods when traveling, including some local currency for emergencies or situations where cards may not be accepted. Additionally, inform your bank of travel plans to avoid unexpected card issues while abroad.
No. Rwanda has no such requirement. However, one of the Rwanda entry requirements states that if you also travel to Kenya and Uganda, you need the inoculation for yellow fever. Of course, you also need an East Africa Visa to visit all three countries. That is, if you do not want to apply for three different visas.
Please note that some countries, such as South Africa, require a yellow fever vaccination if traveling directly from Uganda/Rwanda. Please check with the Center for Disease Control for information on your onward travel from Uganda/Rwanda.
Tipping is a relatively recent practice in Rwanda, much like in other East African countries. However, there are exceptions to this norm, particularly in upscale tourist establishments such as high-end restaurants, lodges, and safari services, where it’s customary for visitors to offer gratuities. In line with travel industry recommendations, safari guides and drivers typically receive tips ranging from $5 to $10 US per day. While hotel and restaurant staff are becoming more accustomed to receiving tips, it’s important to exercise discretion when determining the appropriate amount. It’s worth noting that exchanging foreign currency, particularly in lower denominations, can be challenging at favorable rates. Therefore, we recommend tipping in Rwandan francs if it is feasible for you to do so.
Traveling to Rwanda with young children may present some challenges, particularly considering that one of the primary attractions, gorilla trekking, is restricted to those aged 15 and above. Additionally, it’s essential to be aware of the ongoing risk of malaria across the country.