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Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet

Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet for Rwanda

Rwanda - Consular Information Sheet
April 18, 2001

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Rwanda is a landlocked country in central/east Africa. It is recovering from a civil war and genocide in which as many as one million people were killed. Hotels and guesthouses are adequate in Kigali, the capital, and in other major towns, but limited in remote areas.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A passport and evidence of yellow fever immunization are required. Visas are not required for American citizens entering Rwanda for less than 90 days. U.S. citizens planning on working in Rwanda should apply for a work permit at the Department of Immigration as soon as possible after arrival in Rwanda. Detailed entry information may be obtained from the Embassy of the Republic of Rwanda, 1714 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, Washington D.C. 20009, telephone 202-232-2882, fax 202-232-4544, Internet site: http://www.rwandaemb.org/rwanda/. Overseas inquiries may be made at the nearest Rwandan Embassy.

Travelers who wish to travel to the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and whose passports contain visas and/or entry/exit stamps from Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda or Zimbabwe may experience difficulties at the DRC airport or other ports of entry. Some travelers with those visas or entry/exit stamps have been detained for questioning in DRC.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

SAFETY AND SECURITY: In July 1999, the Government of Rwanda reopened the Parc National des Volcans (Viruga National Park). The Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) provides security in the park against attacks by rebel groups. The RPA also provides military escorts for visitors viewing the mountain gorillas. Visitors are not permitted to visit the park without permission from Rwanda's Office of Tourism and National Parks (ORTPN), and are strongly advised against visits to the park apart from the organized gorilla tours. Visitors are strongly advised to depart the park before 6:00 p.m. Visitors are encouraged to contact the Embassy regional security officer for the latest security information on the park. The e-mail address is kigalirso@state.gov.

REGIONAL TERRORISM: One of the many Hutu extremist rebel factions in the Great Lakes region has committed, and continues to threaten, violence against American citizens and interests. This faction was responsible for the March 1999 kidnapping and murder of several Western tourists, including U.S. citizens, in neighboring Uganda. A Hutu rebel faction was responsible for the kidnapping of four foreign nationals in August 1998 in a region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which borders Rwanda. Hutu rebel factions are known to operate in northeastern DROC and surrounding areas, including sections of Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania and Burundi.

CRIME: Pick-pocketing in crowded public places is common, as is petty theft from cars and hotel rooms.

The loss or theft of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to local police and to the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. The pamphlets A Safe Trip Abroad and Tip for Travelers to Sub-Saharan Africa provide useful information on personal security while traveling abroad and on travel in the region in general. Both are available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington D.C. 20402, via the Internet http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs or http://travel.state.gov.

MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical facilities are limited and some medicines are in short supply or unavailable. Travelers generally bring their own supplies of prescription drugs and preventive medicines. A missionary hospital run by Americans is located in Kibogora, in the southwest of Rwanda, and has some surgical facilities.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations.

When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties, whereas travelers who have purchased overseas medical insurance have, when a medical emergency occurs, found it life-saving. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax (202) 647-3000.

OTHER MEDICAL INFORMATION: Malaria is prevalent in Rwanda and there are periodic outbreaks of meningitis. Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's international travelers hotline at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax, 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299); or by visiting the CDC Internet home page at http://www.cdc.gov.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Rwanda is provided for general reference only and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor

Excessive speed, careless driving and the lack of basic safety equipment on many vehicles make driving in Rwanda hazardous. Nighttime driving is particularly dangerous and is discouraged. Roadways are often not marked and lack streetlights and shoulders. Day and night, cyclists, pedestrians and livestock frequently move out into the road without warning. Drivers should slow down and use the horn liberally when passing pedestrians, especially in villages and the countryside. Approach all intersections with care; stop signs are frequently ignored (especially by motorcyclists). When making left turns into driveways and small roads, be careful that the car behind you is not trying to pass you on the left at the same time. While the main roads in Rwanda are in relatively good condition, many side roads are passable only with four-wheel drive vehicles, especially during the rainy season. In the rain or dark, watch out for potholes; expect any seemingly shallow wet spot to hide a deep hole. Public transportation by mini-van taxis and buses is dangerous due to overloading, inadequate maintenance and careless drivers.

Driving in Rwanda is on the right-hand side, and cars entering traffic circles have the right-of-way. Travelers may be stopped at police roadblocks throughout the country and their vehicles and luggage searched. Third party insurance is required, and will cover any damages if you are involved in an accident resulting in injuries and you are found not to have been at fault. If you are found to have caused the accident, your driver's license can be confiscated for three months. If you cause an accident that results in a death, you can be sentenced to three to six month's imprisonment. Drunk drivers are jailed for 24 hours and fined FRw 20,000(approximately 45 USD). In the city of Kigali, you can call the following numbers for police assistance in the event of an accident: Kigali Center, 08311112; Nyamirambo, 08311113; Kacyiru, 08311114; Kicukiro, 08311115; Remera, 08311116. Ambulance assistance is non-existent. Wear your seatbelt and drive with care and patience at all times. Service stations are available along main roads.

For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html. For specific information concerning Rwanda driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the Rwandan Office of Tourism and National Parks, B.P. 905, Kigali, Rwanda, TEL: +250-76514, FAX: +250-76512.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service at present, or economic authority to operate such service, between the U.S. and Rwanda, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the Rwandan Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards.

For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618) 229-4801.

COMMUNICATIONS: Telephone communication to and from Rwanda can be unreliable. Cellular phones and Internet connections are available in Kigali and large towns and are generally reliable.

CURRENCY REGULATIONS: The Rwandan Franc (FRw) is freely exchangeable for hard currencies in banks and Bureaux de Change. Several Kigali banks can handle wire transfers from U.S. banks and Western Union. Credit cards are accepted at only a few hotels in Kigali and only to settle hotel bills. A very small number of restaurants accept credit cards. Travelers should expect to handle most expenses, including air tickets, in cash. Travelers' checks can be cashed only at commercial banks.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Rwandan law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Rwanda are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children, international parental child abduction, and international child support enforcement issues, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone 202-736-7000.

REGISTRATION/EMBASSY LOCATION: U.S. citizens who plan to travel to Rwanda are urged to register with the U.S. Embassy upon arrival and to obtain updated information on travel and security in Rwanda. The U.S. Embassy is located at Boulevard de la Revolution; the mailing address is B.P. 28, Kigali, Rwanda, telephone 250-505601/505602/505603, fax 250-72128.



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