How to prepare for travel to Rwanda during the COVID-19 pandemic

This article is for everyone who is planning to travel to Rwanda in 2021, whether ‘arriving, transferring, transiting or departing.’ I am updating this post regularly with traveller feedback, answers to Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 (Coronavirus), information from tour operators and guides in Rwanda and the Rwanda Development Board. Travel restrictions and protocols are subject to constant change so please post any questions in the comments or message the Muzungu directly for the latest Rwanda travel advice.

Rwanda recorded its first confirmed case of COVID-19 on March 14, 2020. The City of Kigali has been in lockdown in 2021 but has reopened with numerous Standard Operating Procedures in place. Scroll down to the comments for links to latest lockdown news for Rwanda

Planning a trip to Uganda? For travel advice on similar topics, read Entebbe International Airport Uganda: travel in the new normal. Planning a trip to Kenya? Read Kenya still open to international tourists.

Kigali International Airport, Rwanda’s main airport, is open

With the world set to continue life in the ‘new normal,’ the Rwandan capital’s airport at Kanombe is operating again. Once you arrive at Kigali International Airport, you’ll go through a new set of procedures as you enter ‘the land of a thousand hills.’ I have tried to list the new requirements in chronological order.

With so many changes, it is good to know that visa on arrival remains available for all visitors to Rwanda.

Kigali city view from Marriott Hotel. Rwanda
Kigali city view from Marriott Hotel. Rwanda

How to prepare for travel to Rwanda during the pandemic

  • Do you need a negative COVID-19 test to fly to Rwanda?
  • What are the SOPs (protocols) at Kigali International Airport?
  • Is it true that I need a second COVID-19 test on arrival in Rwanda?
  • Can I get visa on arrival in Rwanda?
  • What if I am unable to get a test before I fly?

FAQs about quarantine in Rwanda

  • Will I need to quarantine when I arrive in Kigali?
  • How can I reach my quarantine hotel if I land during curfew?
  • Can friends or family pick people from Kigali Airport?
  • How do I book one of Rwanda’s official quarantine hotels?
  • How long is the quarantine period in Rwanda?
  • What are the protocols for passengers transiting Rwanda in 2021?

FAQs about COVID-19 tests in Rwanda

  • How much does a COVID-19 test cost in Rwanda?
  • Which COVID-19 test is required by the Rwandan government?
  • Which COVID-19 test is required to track the gorillas in Rwanda?
  • Who pays for my treatment if I test positive for COVID-19 in Rwanda?


Have a COVID-19 test. The only accepted test is a SARS-CoV 2 Real Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) performed within 72 hours of departure time. (NOTE April 2021: not 120 hours as it was initially).

Click here to complete the Passenger Locator Form before boarding the plane to Rwanda. Include passport details and full travel info (including hotel bookings) and upload the COVID-19 test certificate The only exemptions are: travellers under 16 years old who are traveling with a parent or guardian, provided that their details are included on the parent or guardian’s form; they arrive and leave together; and stay at the same address in Rwanda. The information on the form will be used if you (or someone you’ve been in contact with while traveling to Rwanda) develops symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). The form must be submitted before departure. Look out for the email confirmation which will give your Unique Health Code (UHC) that you’ll be asked to show upon arrival in Rwanda.

Book one of Rwanda’s designated quarantine hotels. This list is dated December 2020. 


All COVID-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs) are strictly observed at Kigali International Airport; screening procedures include body temperature check.

Postage stamp. aeroport de kigali 1986. Rwanda
Postage stamp. Aeroport de Kigali 1986. Rwanda

Inbound travellers (arriving or transiting) in Kigali Airport are required to present a certificate of a negative COVID-19 test. All arrivals must check in at one of the designated ‘quarantine hotels’ where you will be tested again, at your own expense. The RT-PCR COVID-19 test currently costs $50 USD (47,200 RWF) in Rwanda and payment can be made on the test appointment website. Test results will be sent by SMS or email. The turnaround time for results is 24 hours from the time a sample is collected.

The Government of Rwanda has negotiated special rates at a long list of designated hotels in in Kigali and Rusizi in different price categories for the 24-hour waiting period. The special hotel rate includes airport pick-up and is full board (three meals).

The hotel quarantine period is 24 hours while you wait for your test results. The test result is valid for five days (120 hours).

If a traveller tests positive for COVID-19 while in Rwanda, they will be isolated in a government-run treatment centre or a hotel at your own cost. You will not be permitted to leave Rwanda until you receive a negative PCR test result, which could take several weeks from the first detection of your infection. This applies even if asymptomatic.

FAQs about transit through Kigali, Rwanda

  • I am passing through Kigali in transit. Do I need a COVID-19 test?
  • There is no facility for me to get a COVID-19 test before I fly to Rwanda. What can I do?

Yes. Like other passengers, transit travellers will be screened upon arrival in Rwanda. However, beyond that it’s not clear – protocol for further tests depend on whether you are leaving the airport and for how long.

Visitors who are not able to test in their country of origin have the option of being tested twice in Rwanda. The first test will be done upon arrival at Kigali International Airport and the second test will be taken 48 hours post-arrival. Visitors will wait for their results at designated hotels and will only be allowed to visit tourist sites after two consecutive negative tests.

FAQs about flying out of Kigali

  • Do you need a negative PCR test to fly from Rwanda?
  • How many hours do you need to arrive at the airport before your flight?
  • Where can you get COVID-19 tests done in Kigali?
  • What if my flight from Kigali takes off during curfew?

The Government of Rwanda has a zero-tolerance policy for exporting positive cases of COVID-19.

Travellers departing from Rwanda must also have a negative RT-PCR COVID-19 test within 120 hours (and not less than 48 hours) before departure.

These tests are available at Rwandan Biomedical Centre (RBC) located in Kigali city centre. Rwandan Biomedical Centre has recently opened a testing facility in Musanze, the perfect location for gorilla tracking tourists who need to get the PCR test before heading to the airport. Booking and payment can be made on the test scheduling website. PCR test results are normally sent by SMS within 48 hours and available on RBC’s COVID-19 Test Results Portal. You will need to print out this travel certificate and have it ready to show at the entry to Kigali Airport.

The virus prevention measures and additional health screenings at the airport mean you’ll need to allow extra time. Four hours is recommended.

Government regulations during COVID-19 that tourists need to know

  • Do you have to wear a mask in public in Rwanda?
  • Is public transport working in Rwanda during the pandemic?
  • Can I take a moto (motorbike ride) in Kigali?
  • What are the curfew hours in Rwanda?
  • How can I find a reputable tour company in Rwanda?

Face masks must be worn at all times in public. Major public facilities have temperature checks in place and most government buildings ask you to provide locator (contact tracing) information before they’ll let you in.

Rwanda COVID-19 update March 2021:

  • The Kigali lockdown has been lifted. Private vehicles and taxis are allowed to take tourists across the country, to have COVID-19 test appointments or to go to Kigali airport to exit the country. If you’re looking for a reputable tour company in Rwanda, visit my Travel Directory.
  • A curfew is in force from between 9 pm and 4 am.
  • Ministry of Health directives include “mandatory wearing of masks by patrons before and after consumption of food, as well as physical distance of two metres between tables at all establishments.”
  • Tourists should use cashless transactions such as bank transfer, mobile money, and debit / credit cards. Mobile money can be accessed using a local Sim card. It’s easy to set up, is widely accepted and has lower transaction these than any other method.
  • All tourist vehicles and boats should have an unoccupied seat between each passenger.
  • Meetings and events should have maximum 30% occupancy per room / space. COVID-19 tests are mandatory for meetings of more than 20 people.
  • Restaurants are now allowed to operate with a maximum 30 per cent of their occupancy.

Are private cars allowed to cross the Rwanda border?

At present am I able to cross into Uganda from Rwanda at a land border in south east Uganda? I would be going to Kisoro. I would be travelling as an individual visitor, not with a tour group. Can I walk across a border into Uganda from Rwanda to get to Kisoro?

Enquiry from a traveler.

Rwanda’s major land borders with Burundi, Tanzania and Uganda still remain closed except for returning Rwandan citizens or residents. The exception to this rule are cargo trucks, whose drivers must undergo quarantine before heading into Rwanda.

The Muzungu adds: I do know of individuals (with work permits and/or residency) who have crossed the land borders in 2021. Tourist vans are not crossing; however I have a verbatim report of this being possible if your tour company gets special permission, in advance, from Kigali. However, the process is bureaucratic and not recommended, according to a source in tourism.

Rwanda tourist map. Rwanda Development Board
Rwanda tourist map. Rwanda Development Board

Are you gorilla trekking in Rwanda?

  • What are the SOPs for tracking gorillas and chimps?
  • Does Rwanda have promotional prices to track gorillas in 2021?
  • What do domestic tourists need to know about tourism in Rwanda?
  • Do I need a COVID-19 test if I’m going on safari in Akagera National Park?
  • Are Rwanda’s National Parks open?

If you’re planning to visit Rwanda’s National Parks or track the gorillas, you will need to show your negative test certificate before you are allowed to enter. The only accepted test for Volcanoes, Nyungwe and Gishwati-Mukura National Parks is RT-PCR. A negative Rapid Antigen Test RDT is acceptable for Akagera National Park. All other tourism destinations and hotels will accept either a RDT or RT – PCR test.

Virunga Lodge Rwanda. luxury gorilla tracking. Volcanoes Safaris
Virunga Lodge Rwanda. luxury gorilla tracking. Volcanoes Safaris

** I am publishing a separate blog about gorilla tracking in Rwanda during the pandemic. If you have scrolled this far and don’t see it, please contact me. New rules apply for tracking gorillas and other primates.

Have you heard of Red Rocks? Make time for authentic cultural tourism.

After the gorilla tracking experience – or as an engaging day trip from Kigali – taste authentic cultural tourism at Red Rocks Cultural Centre and Campsite in Musanze, just a few kilometres away from the gorillas. The Northern Province is best known for the gorillas but also a hub for community tourism.

Explore and discover a wide range of cultural activities: be entertained by a traditional local dancer, watch how local banana beer is made, participate in cooking Rwandese cuisine or simply enjoy storytelling by the bonfire with locals. Learn about the history of Rwanda while tasting freshly-roasted corn (maize) or potatoes.

Traditional Dancers, Musanze. Red Rocks Rwanda
Traditional Dancers, Musanze. Red Rocks Rwanda

Red Rocks also offers lessons in basket-weaving: women artisans show you how to make the traditional Agaseke basket. Visit the Red Rocks Initiatives art gallery in Kinigi, create art to take home as a souvenir and witness how arts contribute to conservation of the gorillas, and the wider environment. Visitors can buy quality basketry, craft and art souvenirs directly from the artisans at very affordable prices. This support is particularly valued now.

Red Rocks Cultural Centre was established by Greg Bakunzi to support sustainable community development. He is optimistic that local tourism will remain resilient during travel’s trying times of COVID-19. “We have been encouraging Rwandans to become domestic travellers and bridge the gap caused by the big drop in international arrivals. These local visitors have given our host families and communities confidence that gradually we shall resume full-scale tourism, despite the long haul this global pandemic has created.”

I’ve visited Red Rocks a number of times and love the buzz at their community centre.

Have a question about travel to Rwanda? Feel free to ask a question in the comments (this will help other travellers) or contact me directly.