Carnegie Mellon University

Before Coming to Rwanda


Before committing to a long-term rental or purchase, consider booking short-term accommodation prior to arriving in the country. This could be an Airbnb, a guest house or a short-term rental advertised through online platforms. Areas closer to campus are Zindiro, Kimironko, Kibagabaga and Kanombe.

Preparing to Travel

  • Familiarize yourself with your home country’s health advice to travel to Rwanda, including immunizations.
  • To enter Rwanda, you must request an entry visa in person at the Kigali International Airport. Rwanda grants visas on arrival to all international travelers, regardless of nationality. Applicable fees must be paid in person at the immigration desk at the Kigali International Airport. Visa fee exemptions are granted to citizens of select countries. Further information is available on the website of the Directorate General of Immigration & Emigration.
  • For information on a work permit, contact the CMU-Africa HR officer. Applications for work permits can only be done once in-country.

What to Bring

  • Most essential goods (food, water, medicine and clothing) can be found in Kigali.
  • Some goods considered essentials in your home country could fall under a luxury good category in Rwanda, i.e., costly, or in low supply. Take stock of the type of products you consume regularly (clothing, food, cosmetics, appliances, etc.) and determine which to bring along with you and which to look for alternatives in Kigali or live without.
  • Prescription medicine should be brought in extra quantities in case it is not available locally.

Learn About Rwanda

Rwanda is a sunshine year-round, beautiful hilly country with matching high-level altitude throughout the land. Kigali, the capital city, has been ranked the 2nd safest city in Africa and 15 of 20 greenest travel destinations in the world. This makes it a lovely place to live, with a good environment for people who love to walk or jog and enjoy fresh air. Read the Welcome to Rwanda Guide [pdf] to learn more about Rwanda’s history, social norms and the monthly practice of Umuganda, the nation-wide community work that takes place in one’s respective neighborhood.

Of particular note to new residents:

  • Language: Kinyarwanda is the most widely spoken language in the country and the only native one. You will be able to get by using English or French but there will be limitations. Consider pursuing some basic Kinyarwanda lessons for ease of navigation in the country, relationship building with Rwandans and to gain a better understanding of the culture in your new home. Refer to the Welcome to Rwanda Guide [pdf] for a list of places to learn Kinyarwanda.
  • Weather and Climate: Temperatures range consistently from 18–30⁰C (65–85⁰F) with moderate humidity. The sun rises every day at approximately 6 a.m. and sets every day at approximately 6 p.m. There are two rainy seasons: the long rainy season lasts from about March to May, when the rain is heavy and more persistent; September to November is a shorter rainy season.
  • Time Zone: Rwanda’s time zone is Central Africa Time, which is two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+2). There is no daylight saving time in Rwanda.
  • Electricity: 220/230 volts and 50 hertz, with both continental European and UK plug types being common. North American appliances require a plug adapter and, depending on the type, a transformer that switches your power from 220v to 110v. Both can be purchased locally.