You can’t visit Europe or Asia, but how about Rwanda?
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As the travel industry reopens following COVID-19 shutdowns, TPG suggests that you talk to your doctor, follow health officials’ guidance and research local travel restrictions before booking that next trip. We will be here to help you prepare, whether it is next month or next year.
Rwanda is one of the few countries in the world that is now open to American visitors again. As we’ve reported, there aren’t that many nations accepting American tourists right now as COVID-19 outbreak continues to spread in the U.S. Most of Africa, Europe, Oceania and South America is off-limits. Now might be the perfect time to plan that safari adventure you’ve always wanted to take if you are able to swing it. Rwanda has done a good job controlling the coronavirus outbreak with only 1,172 cases and three deaths according to Johns Hopkins University.
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Rwanda is home to three major national parks. You can even book a trip to see the endangered mountain gorillas of Volcanoes National Park.
Rwanda reopened June 17
The land-locked country reopened to all nationalities back on June 17, 2020, although the international airport will not reopen to commercial flights until Aug. 1. All arriving passengers will be required to present a negative COVID-19 RT-PCR (Real Time Polymerase Chain Reaction) test taken within 72 hours before arriving in Rwanda.
VisitRwanda says, “For passengers entering Rwanda, a second PCR test will be conducted upon arrival, with results delivered within 24 hours, during which time they will remain in designated hotels at their own cost.”
Rwanda is offering visa on arrival as well for all nationalities. There are a number of additional planning resources available at VisitRawanda.com.
The Rwanda Development Board says:
- Tourists can take the first COVID-19 RT-PCR test in the country of origin at an ISO-certified laboratory, 72 hours before departure, and the second test will be taken upon arrival at Kigali International Airport. Travelers are required to submit the results of the first test to the following address (firstname.lastname@example.org) before departure, and also upon arrival at Kigali International Airport. They will be expected to wait eight hours for results of the second test at designated hotels in Rwanda. This is applicable to direct flights only.
- Tourists who are not able to test in their country of origin have the option to be tested twice in Rwanda: The first test will be taken upon arrival at Kigali International Airport, while the second test will be taken 48 hours after arrival. Tourists will only be allowed to visit tourist sites after two consecutive negative tests, and must wait for their results at designated hotels.
What you need to visit Rwanda
- Obtain a certified negative PCR COVID-19 test within 72 hours of departure
- Book approved tours
- Wear face masks when traveling to the departure airport
- Wear face masks and practice physical distancing at the departure airport
- Email negative test results to Rwanda government
On the plane
- Wear a face mask while on the plane
- Practice social distancing to the extent possible
- Continue to wear face masks and practice physical distancing
- Get a health screening
- Get a second COVID-19 test and await results
- Wait between eight to 24 hours at designated hotel for second test results
Do note that you will be subject to random health checks in and around Kigali, so don’t be surprised by that. The U.S. embassy reports, “The Rwanda Biomedical Centre will begin a COVID-19 street testing survey in Kigali and at the entry points to Kigali. In this testing, people will be randomly selected for testing, and escorted to a drive-through testing facility.”
Related: A look inside RwandAir’s A330-200
What is open?
All of Rwanda’s important sites are now open. There are some very unusual caveats, though: All tourists will need to take a COVID-19 test before they visit many of the country’s most important attractions.
Here’s how Visit Rwanda put it: “Rwanda’s national parks are now open for guests. To ensure the safety of all people visiting Rwanda’s national parks and wildlife… tourists are required to test negative for COVID-19 48 hours prior to visiting all national parks, including Akagera National Park.”
And the government lays out how much you’ll need to spend for some of the most popular activities, according to the chart below. Note that international tourists pay a much higher fee for activities such as trekking with gorillas. Apparently, the costs of testing for coronavirus are being included in tour group fees.
You’ll also need to get a COVID-19 test within 48 hours of visiting the country’s national parks and you are required to complete a guest registration and indemnity form in advance and submit the form electronically to the park. (More information here.)
How do I get to Rwanda?
I looked for flights for between September 18 to 25, and came up with several options, even with the cuts in capacity we’ve seen thanks to COVID-19. From New York, you could fly Qatar with one stop in Doha for $776 round trip in coach. The same flight can be booked using American Airlines miles for 80,000 AA miles and $93 in main cabin, or 150,000 AA miles and the same $93 in business class, all on Qatar Airways.
You could also fly KLM booked via Delta, connecting in Amsterdam, for $958 in main cabin, or in Delta One to Amsterdam (the airline’s business class) and on to Kigali on KLM for $3,273. The same flights would be 280,000 Delta SkyMiles for business class, plus $104 in taxes and fees.
You can fly United Airlines from Houston to Kigali, with two connections in Chicago and Brussels, and partially on Brussels Airlines metal, for just over $1,220.
Related: RwandAir flight review from Kigali
You could also fly Turkish Airlines from New York (JFK) transiting Istanbul for just over $900 for economy, or business class for just over $5,000.
Where to stay?
There are lots of places to stay in Rwanda, with everything from a guest house for $14 a night in Huye to the 3-star Gorilla Village hotel near Volcanoes National Park to the 5-star Kigali Serena Hotel for $146 a night.
I could only find one points hotels in Rwanda: The Marriott Kigali, which TPG reviewed back in 2019.
I priced a trip in September. Rates start at $151 per night, which is a decent deal. The one thing I would note is there are exorbitant taxes and fees which really explode the bill. The same room would be 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points.
Be sure to consider if you want to travel in these strange times, and book refundable airfare and hotels just in case. It takes a lot of planning and patience to travel, and you need to make sure you follow all these rules and guidelines.
And if you missed it, here’s our country-by-country guide to reopenings.
Additional resources for traveling during the coronavirus outbreak:
- How coronavirus is impacting airline award availability
- How coronavirus has left the travel industry reeling
- Airlines scale back inflight offerings due to coronavirus
- How to ward off coronavirus in your hotel room
- Guide to traveling during the coronavirus outbreak
- Extreme measures cruise lines are taking during coronavirus
Featured image of the Virunga Mountains and Volcanoes in Rwanda. (Photo by stellalevi / Getty Images)
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