Travel Review: 72-Hours in stress-free Kigali, #VisitRwanda
There are two ideal ways to get to Kigali from Freetown and Accra. From Accra, there is a direct flight via Rwandair. From Freetown, you can leave on ASky to Accra for a same day connection on Rwandair with a 4-hour layover. Alternatively, you can take Kenya Airways from Freetown to Kigali with a transfer in Nairobi to #VisitRwanda.
How I did it
I was booked to take ASky Airlines’ 7:30 am flight from Lungi. It arrives in Accra at 10:00am which gives you enough time to catch Rwandair. Unfortunately, my flight never turned up. We were done with check in by 6:00 am and waiting only for the announcer to come on at about 8:30 am to say that the flight had been delayed and that a new departure time would be announced later. That announcement was made multiple times each hour until 12 midday. When the flight which was to come from Banjul hadn't arrived by 9:00 am and we were told it hadn't even left The Gambia I knew that was it.
Luckily I was able to contact my Rwandan hosts and they said they would book another flight for me. Twelve hours after I had arrived at Lungi I was able to board Kenya Airways’ 5:40 pm flight from Freetown to Nairobi via Accra.
As the gods would have it my seat was 1A! Yup! I entered business class again after 3 years. Ancestors I hail you!
I fly KQ once a month but this was my first time entering business class to sit and not just to pass through to get to back half.
Business class on KQ was correct! Food was great! Service was top notch. I said ehen! This is the only way to travel to Wakanda! Ancestors you never fail! Your wonders never cease! I hail you!
I arrived in Nairobi at 5:30 am the next day and took another KQ flight to Kigali with a stop in Bujumbura, yes still in business class if you’re wondering. Hehehehe.
We got to Kigali at 9:00 am. There is a one hour time difference with Nairobi and a two hours difference with Accra and Freetown.
Sadly for me KQ forgot to bring my luggage which caused me to miss two events that had been planned as part of my experience. I left the airport without my bags or a change of clothes and headed straight to a discussion with Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda. So when I took a selfie with President Kagame it was in my dirty Lulumon yoga suit that I put on over a day before when I left Freetown. I hadn’t showered for over a day. The gods were really testing me but I showed them that when you lead with your brain you can go anywhere in anything.
On my return leg I had the opportunity to Fly the dream of Africa - Rwandair for the first time. Even thought it was ordinary economy; service and plane was good. We flew to Accra via Abuja. Total flight time is about 5:45 mins.
So while I was under the impression that Rwanda had an open door policy to all Africans this is not the case. While you will need a visa to enter Rwanda you get it on the spot upon arrival. It costs $30 for Sierra Leoneans (waived for Ghanaians I believe) and you can pay cash or with a card. My visa fee was waived because I was a visiting dignitary. If you snickered at the use of the word dignitary banana fall on you. Please check your visa requirement status before you arrive.
Kigali International Airport
It is right in the middle of town, and not overwhelming like the first time I went to Jomo Kenyatta Airport in Kenya. Going and coming it is orderly, quick, and stress free. They get passengers through all the processes in a very efficient manner.
I was booked at the Gorillas Golf Hotel which also isn't that far from the airport. It is an older hotel so the decor and vibe are less modern. However, the service is great. The pool area is lovely but I decided against whipping out my Salone Jollof and laying out because one of the waiters threatened that he would come to Sierra Leone to propose to me and I was fully covered. I didn't want any more of that male gaze. The restaurant overlooks the pool as do the bedrooms with some lush greens overlooking one of the thousand hills of Rwanda.
I ate mostly at the hotel. While I wouldn't say the food at Gorillas is excellent, it was solid. Something for everyone. Tuna salad was the bomb! 24 Hours Room Service.
I ventured out to eat three times.
For lunch I found an amazing Korean Restaurant, Monmartsé where I ate Bimbimpab and Bulgogi. Neither Freetown nor Accra have Korean food so there was no way I was going to pass that up.
Later my cousin and I met up at The Hut where I had a delicious Vietnamese Banana Flower Salad and Spicy Rwandan Fish Tacos. Their virgin passion fruit mojito was also the truth the whole truth nothing but the truth!
I also made it to Repub Lounge and ordered Cassava leaves for the culture. The decor is correct the food was not as flavourful as I would have liked but again it did the trick.
Speaking about passion fruit, that is one thing I love about East Africa. It is especially nostalgic for me as it reminds me of the first house we lived in Addis Ababa when we moved to Ethiopia in 1994. It grew there wild in the compound and it took months before I got the courage to try it. When I did try it, I fell in love with it. We don't grow it in Sierra Leone.
Another fruit that is popular here and in Kenya that I love is the Tree Tomato. I had 4 a day while I was there. Two in the morning and two at night. Everything na double-double.
I would not do justice to Rwanda coffee aka holy water if I talked about it here so I'm doing a separate post about it. Amen!
Things to do!
Sadly because I came on a fixed program I didn't get to do all the things I wanted to which included a trip to a women’s farming cooperative that grows coffee for Question Coffee (see next post), and a trip to the National Park. That will have to be on the next trip in. #DearAncestors if you see this do bring me back. Ha! I stan Rwanda!
Rwanda’s National Museum is a consortium of 8 museums, three of which are in Kigali. I visited the Kandt Museum that captures the people and culture before the colonial era and right through to the start of German and Belgian colonisation. It made me angry at the level of hospitality our African kings gave to so-called explorers only for it to open the way for religious and mental enslavement.
There is also The Campaign Against Genocide Museum at the Parliament Building. I decided against going there. Earlier this week we were invited to a movie premiere of The 600. The 600 is a film about the soldiers of Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front and how they ended the genocide. It was triggering enough for me to not need to see anymore. But I highly recommend you visit the museum to go bear witness.
Do go to Moshions to check out local fashion; blending Rwandan symbols with silks, and chiffon textiles. It is a whole movement. I couldn't afford to purchase anything but I sure did try on an outfit. The detail on the pantsuit was exquisite.
For accessories do go to Inzuki; to see how local ingenuity, upcycling and bold colors manifest in statement earrings, necklaces, bags, and decor. Cant wait to wear my new pieces, had to hold back and not lose my mind in there. Gorgeous!
For handmade goods and traditional crafts and everything in between a la marche Africaine head over to Kimironko Market. It is a massive produce and crafts market. One of the friendliest and safest markets I’ve ever been to. As I walked by each vendor, they called out to me— “hello friend”. Vibe was really chill for an African market.
How does Kigali feel
Does Kigali feel like Nairobi, Johannesburg, Lagos, Dakar, Accra, or Freetown? Can I draw comparisons not really? It really is its own thing. Yes, similar climate to Nairobi but the vibe is much calmer. The people are genuinely warm and sincere. They also speak in low tones too. If you’re looking for fast-paced, high energy, big city feels this is the opposite of that. It is more of a bustling countryside, perfect for a retreat, for alone time, lots of coffee, writing, and relaxation. Kigali is a stress-free zone.