Rwanda like most African states is cash based country with the Rwandan Franc being its dominant currency. Rwanda’s unit of currency is the Rwandan franc (Rwf). It is best to arrive in Rwanda with US dollars or Euros in cash, which can be exchanged either at the airport or at any FOREX bureau or bank. The most useful bank branch would be the Banque de Kigali, which offers cash advances on credit cards and also accepts travelers cheques, which is not possible in the provinces.
- There are ATMs throughout Kigali that are accessible to visitors.
- Credit cards are accepted in some upmarket restaurants and hotels, but it is best to confirm prior to ordering.
- Bureaux de change (FOREX Bureaus) are mostly located in Kigali and can offer a slightly better exchange rates than most banks.
- All banks and most bureaux de change are closed on Sundays, and on the last Saturday of every month until 11:00 am for the national day of community work, “UMUGANDA”.
On Rwanda safari to destinations such as Nyungwe Forest National Park, Gishwati-Mukura National Park, Akagera National Park, Volcanoes National Park, Kigali or Kibuye, visitors should expect to pay for transport fares in cash even when you are shopping in small shops in the city.
Other than the Rwandan Franc, the US Dollar is commonly used, especially by those in the tourism sector. While cash is a dominant form of transaction, there is also an option of clearing bills using credit or master cards and American Express is accepted but in few areas. Note, transacting electronically attracts 5% charge on each transaction. Credit/Master Cards are usually used in hotels, airlines, safari companies and payments are made in US Dollars.
The Rwandan Franc should not be left out as it is essential in some areas. This is why you must find forex bureau to exchange your foreign currency into Rwandan Franc to ease transactions, especially while in the remotest destinations where most of your safari activities will be conducted.
There are few banks that take travelers checks, the fact that it extra fee is normally required in the banks. Take note that forex bureau doesn’t accept use of checks. To avoid carrying bulky cash while on Rwanda tour, you can make the best use of credit and master cards. Even in big bars, classic restaurants and most supermarkets, credit cards are acceptable. It is also important take note that ATMs are concentrated around Kigali and not all of them accept use of foreign cards.
How you can get money in Rwanda
The easiest options of getting money in Rwanda include withdrawing in ATMs –available in Kigali & most major cities or go direct to the bank counter.
What is a preferred currency to use in Rwanda?
The US Dollar is without doubt the preferred currency most tour operators in Rwanda when costing a safari for tourists on gorilla safaris to Volcanoes National Park, game viewing tour to Akagera National Park or chimpanzee tracking safari in Nyungwe Forest National Park/Gishwati-Mukura National Park.
Aside from the US Dollars, other currencies can also be used including the UK Pound, Euro, and these can be exchanged into the Rwandan currency to make it easy for you to purchase products such as souvenirs or if you want to tip staff, drivers, communities, etc.
If you plan to exchange your foreign currency into Rwandan Franc, make sure that you carry a bit higher bills starting from 50, 100 etc as they attract better exchange rate than small denominations. Also, consider carrying dollar bills that are of current years with no tears/marks on them. Most bureaus accept new and clean money. The process at the forex bureaus is also faster than if you went to the banks.
Banks in Kigali city
There are many banks in Kigali where tourists can withdraw their money. Most banks in Kigali Rwanda accept use of credit card and this can save you from the long lines to make a transaction.
Credit card usage in Rwanda may not be as popular as it is back in your home country and usually, travelers are advised to make use of their visas and master cards. When making payment for your safaris, it is also advisable to consult the tour operator on their acceptable mode of payment. Most tour operators accept Pesapal and other modes.
Kigali and most cities in Rwanda have large number of forex bureaus. When choosing a forex bureau to exchange your money, first you must check different places and make comparison so as to deal with one whose exchanges are higher. Different forex bureaus set their own rates and you rush to deal with the first person before checking the next.
Carrying huge sums of money is risky not only in Rwanda but also while you are in other destinations. Yes, there are many ATMs to walk in and you get some money in your account. Take note that at times, there are challenges transacting with a card and before you travel, better you let your bank know of your plans to travel to destinations such as Rwanda. If you make payments or withdraw cash and you find challenges, you can reach out to bank official or rectify it via online.
How keep safe your money in Rwanda
When traveling to Rwanda, it is not about trekking gorillas and you get back. There is a lot to do and in the course of various engagements, be aware of petty causes such pick pockets, robbers, and others. This is why you require money belt which you can wear around the waist and the cloth can hide it. While in public places, avoid flashing money, especially in bars, restaurants, markets and others. Always carry the amount you feel is enough for you to spend for a day and keep the rest in the hotel room.
In case you want to purchase some items, often cash is required and Rwanda Franc is needed. This means, you have some of your US Dollars exchanged to Rwanda Franc to make it easier for you to carryout transactions.
It is customary to tip for service in restaurants and bars. A tip of 5% is very acceptable and a tip of 20% is very generous. It is also customary to tip your driver/guide at the end of a safari or hike, as well as the cook and/or porter that may accompany to you.
Tipping is not at any fixed amount and may depend on personal wish.