Carnegie Mellon University

Living in Kigali

Where to Live

Kigali is a small city, and generally getting from Point A to Point B in off-peak hours will take a maximum of 30 minutes by car. During rush hour, your commute time can increase by 1.5-2-fold. Most neighborhoods in Kigali are calm, and quiet unless you live near a main road or in an entertainment district. Homes located on the main road or paved roads, in general, tend to be costlier compared to those located on unpaved roads.

Refer to the Welcome to Rwanda Guide [pdf] for a detailed list of neighborhoods and considerations when buying a home.

Real Estate Contacts


Take a couple weeks to take in your new surroundings, observe the road habits in Kigali and determine the accessibility and safety level for your preferred mode of transport. There are advantages to all types of transportation, and you can mix and match according to your personal preference. View the Welcome to Rwanda Guide [pdf] for additional considerations, taxi contacts and car rental services. Options include:

  • Foot
  • Bicycle
  • Taxi-moto
  • Bus (public transport)
  • Car (personal or taxi)

Renting a Car

Car rental rates range from 30,000-50,000rwf/day, depending on the car size, duration and owner’s rates. If you rent for a period above one month you may be able to negotiate a better rate.

  • Kigali Car rentals: +250 783008990
  • Vava Tours: +250 788557701
  • Guest Pro Tours: +250 788505353
  • Access Car Rental Kigali: +256 772057087

Buying Food and Home Goods

Refer to the Welcome to Rwanda Guide [pdf] for a list of stores, locations and local brands.

  • Food is available in abundance in many places city-wide.
    • Fresh fruit and vegetables are best obtained straight from the market. Kimironko Market is the most popular open-air market.
    • Most residential areas have at least one supermarket that is well stocked in terms of fresh produce, meats, bread, condiments and other dry goods.
    • Groceries and restaurant meals can also be ordered online.
  • For home goods, you’ll have to move around and get to know what’s available in the city. Kigali is constantly evolving and it’s not uncommon to find something one day and not the next. Browse local shopping centers, and ask peers for recommendations.

Setting up Personal Accounts

A standard practice with service providers when it comes to opening new accounts is for an individual to provide a copy of their passport along with proof of residence and 2 passport photos. Though the country is hard at work with the digital agenda, many institutions are still paper heavy in their administrative processes.

  • Banking: The local currency is the Rwandan Franc (RWF) and all transactions are done in RWF unless stated otherwise.
    • ATMs across the country dispense RWF only, though you can withdraw cash using a bank card from a foreign account, subject to fees. Most major banks offer foreign currency accounts, but the fees (maintenance and transaction based) are relatively high.
    • Cashless transactions are highly encouraged so whenever you open a bank account, request that they sign you up for online banking and mobile banking. There may be more paper forms involved in the process.
    • A bank may require you to present a valid work permit prior to opening a bank account. The type of documentation commonly requested for opening a bank account is a proof of local address like your lease, an employment contract or proof of employment letter, a work permit and your passport. Each bank has its unique requirements so it’s best to visit a branch where you can get the most current information in person.
  • Telephone: There are two cellular service providers: MTN and Airtel. Both providers offer packages to call any number at a reduced rate. Still, some individuals enjoy the freedom of having a subscription with both providers as a backup for when the network is patchy or down in some areas. To purchase a SIM card, visit the MTN or Airtel storefront closest to you; you will be required to present your passport. While you’re there, you can set up mobile banking which will allow you to make cashless transactions. Airtime is purchased on a pay-as-you-go basis and can easily be topped up using mobile banking or by paying cash to an MTN or Airtel agent stand. A mobile device purchased outside Rwanda should work in the country if it is unlocked.
  • Internet: Rwanda is among the top three African countries in terms of internet connectivity. There is high speed 4G LTE wireless broadband in major cities. Both MTN and Airtel allow you to load internet on your phone on a pay-as-you-go basis, and offer daily, weekly or monthly bundles. There are several home internet providers available so some quick research would help you establish the best option for you. Look into Liquid Home Rwanda, Canal Box, MTN Home Internet, Popconn and others.
  • Utilities: If you are renting a home, the electricity meter and water account will be under the homeowner’s name, but as a tenant you’ll be responsible for making payments. All payments can easily be made through online or mobile banking by following a few prompts.

Healthcare and Safety

There are many health clinics in the city with a range of non-emergency services, including obstetrics, dentistry, internal medicine, and laboratory testing. Some specialized fields have a small number of practitioners therefore their services would be limited to fewer health establishments, notably King Faisal Hospital and Rwanda Military Hospital. Take the time to ask questions until you feel suitably informed and comfortable with different hospitals as the level of service varies greatly from one place to another.

Things to Do

Read the Welcome to Rwanda Guide [pdf] for a list of activities and local groups, or check out Visit Rwanda for a comprehensive listing of tourist attractions.