Budget travel in Rwanda. Lake Kivu.

We went to Rwanda in March 2015, during a complete trip,
8 months, through Southern and Eastern Africa.


If you are planning a budget trip in Rwanda, here we share some information for low-cost travellers.


Lake Kivu is surrounded by hills and mountains, shared by Rwanda and Congo.The lanscape is really beautiful.

There are 3 main towns on the lake, Rwanda side:
Cyangugu (south), Kibuye (middle), Gisenyi (north). We didn´t go to the first one.
Roads between these towns following the lake are still bad but they are being renew. 

The good thing is that there´s a ferry service on lake Kivu. Yes, it´s working!

For adventurers, there´s the Congo Nile Trail. We saw some signs around Kibuye and a few foreigners with bicycles (it was week-end).
It´s more than 200 km, very popular with bicycle (you need around 5 days to complete it... there are simple places between towns where you can sleep). It follows the lake roads that are being renew. So maybe in the future, some more traffic...


   KIBUYE (KARONGI)   

A small town, surrounded by hilly peninsulas around Lake Kivu. Great views around.

Note: traffic in Kibuye is one way. Yes, weird, as traffic is limited.


PUBLIC TRANSPORT IN KIBUYE:

Kibuye´s center
- Minibus Kigali (Nyabigogo station) to Kibuye:
   2.450 F (4 €), 3 h (150 km). 

Different companies, all day long, every hour at least, from 6:00 til 18:00. Good (even if some potholes) and beautiful road!
Kigali is the main destination.

In Kibuye, the minibuses stop in town, around petrol stations (company offices). No bus station.

We saw a minibus waiting for passengers near the pier when the ferry arrived too.

Mototaxis are the way to move around Kibuye.
Price around 400 F from town to the beach/ferry area.
There are no local vans, just a few going to villages. 


Roads around Lake Kivu:
Bad roads, both roads north to Gisenyi (via Rubengera, the crossroads is 17 km east on the Kigali road) and south to Cyangugu are not tarred yet
Works have started from the south (Cyangugu) and are heading north
So right now it´s better to use the ferry to move around the lake.


We asked about public transport on these lake roads, but even at the minibuses offices the information was confused, so double checked if travelling on that route. 
It seems that there are 2 buses a day going from Kibuye to Cyangugu (departure 7:00-8:00 and 10:00, around 5 h). 
From Rubengera vans are supposed to leave to Gisenyi early morning, taking around 6h.
The roads follow the “Congo-Nile Trail”.


Ferry on Lake Kivu:

Yes, it´s working, since march 2014! Good news! But not working everyday.

Routes by Ferry on Lake Kivu:

1. Cyangugu - Kibuye - Gisenyi
    Schedule: Tuesday & Friday.  
    Departure time from Cyangugu: 7:00 
    Departure time from Kibuye: 12:30/13:00
    Departure time from Gisenyi: 16:00

2. Gisenyi - Kibuye - Cyangugu
    Schedule: Wednesday & Sunday.
    Departure time from Gisenyi:  7:00

    Departure time from Kibuye: 10:00/10:30
    Departure time from Cyangugu:  16:00

Prices
-  Cyangugu - Kibuye:  3.500 F
-  Kibuye - Gisenyi:  2.500 F
-  Gisenyi - Cyangugu: 6.000 F.


The boat is not new, it´s a wooden boat, but fine, big enough and even with new life jackets for everyone. Not overcrowded. It´s covered sodon´t worry if it´s raining.
No booking. Just go to the departure place a bit in advance. 
In Kibuye, there no pier, no jetty, no ticket post, nothing. At least in march 2015. The departure place is just north of the Kibuye "beach" and Gold Eden Hotel and Museum.


CHEAP ACCOMMODATION IN KIBUYE

In town, there are a few lodges in the main commercial street, just near the shops. Quite noisy, on the weekends with football TV and nightclubs. 
Price  at first is around 15.000 F for a double room, with WC, but they do discounts and you can get a room for 10.000 F.
Also super basic and cheaper lodges in the lower area of Kibuye (down the shops,  around the hospital area) for 5.000 F but too wet and basic and with bars. 
Then there´s accommadation outside the center, also cheap, a few km away, so better to take a mototaxi... or walk.

We stayed in the center.
Lighthouse Lodge/ Credo NUH (New UmunYinya House... too many names):
Price: 9.000 F double room (usually 10.000 F but small discount), with WC and TV, balcony. Clean, correct room, but noisy cause there´s a TV room dowstairs.

Also in town, Romantic Lodge just out of the shops street, so maybe less noisy. Clean place. Try here better.

Outside the center of Kibuye:
Home Saint Jean (just around 2 km from the center, near the catholic church, you can see it from the center). Old building. Very nice views, clean, peaceful. Free wifi.
 The only problem for us, was the location, a bit far from the local restaurants and the center... and it was raining... Otherwise, probably the best place to stay in Kibuye... and it´s cheap.
Prices
- Rooms, shared WC: single 5.000 F, double 8.000.
- Rooms with WC: Twin 10.000 F, double 20.000 .
- Girls dorms 3.000 F. Basic but clean. 
Food is quite expensive.

Sainte Marie (a few kms down after Saint Jean): a bit more expensive, 15.000 F for a twin room, 6.000 F for a single.

Hotel Golf Eden is just in front of a small “beach” on the lake, noisy on the weekends (loud music). It´s around 4 km from the center.
The cheapest room is 15.000 F but there´s no maintenance, maybe renewing soon?
The other lodges on the lake shores are more expensive.

SERVICES, FOOD & DRINKS IN KIBUYE:

There are at least 2 banks with international ATM (Ecobank is near the petrol station down the market). Pharmacies. Internet avalaible (shops and some hotels have wifi).

A few local restaurants (buffet style) in the main commercial street. 
Small shops and market. 
Water is safe to drink. 
Near the lake ("beach"), just a few little and very basic shops.

THINGS TO DO IN KIBUYE FOR FREE

Rocky and hilly peninsulas, no real beaches in the area. 


  • Walk around the lake. Beautiful views, nice walk. You can do a loop, it will take around 2 hours walk or more...There are different peninsulas heading north. There´s a small fishing area (boats and cooperative).

  • Swim on the lake, the water is clear, but we didn´t. The best area is around the lake resorts, near Hotel Golf Eden, there´s a kind of "beach".

  • Visit the Genocide Memorial Church Saint Jean (just up the accommodation, a couple of km from the center).  “Never again”.
  • Walk up around the rural area, just up the hills from the center, heading south. Nice views of the fields and lake. See everyday´s life in rural Rwanda. You can also do loops, there are many paths. People are firendly around.

The boat trip on the lake is quite expensive, around 15.000 F for one hour (20 €/h). There are small islands around.
If you need to charter a boat to get to Gisenyi or Cyangugu it´s really expensive, around 100.000 F or more! And now there´s a public ferry.

   THINGS TO DO AROUND KIBUYE   

The Congo-Nile Trail
230 km following Lake Kivu, from Cyangugu to Gisenyi passing Kibuye.
Walking (10 days), biking (5 days) or by 4x4 (3 days).

Nyungwe Forest National Park:
The only original rainforest in Rwanda. 
We didn´t go cause some rainy days and not too much to do on your own for cheap.
The park is between Cyangugu and Butare (150 km between these towns), minibuses on the main road. 
To explore around you need a car, no public transport. 
Prices for activities are expensive:
- Chimpanzees tracking 90$/pp
- Monkeys tracking 60 $/pp
- Walks (guide is compulsory) 40-60 $/pp
- Cultural villages. Fees.
Price for camping is 30$/site inside NP, outside not many cheap options (Gisakura Guesthouse has a campsite, 10.000 F/pp, around 15$/pp).


   GISENYI (RUBAVU)   

Gisenyi is a big commercial town, northern town on Lake Kivu and border the huge Goma in DR Congo. 
Great views over the big volcanoe Nyamuragira (Congo).

There´s a sandy beach on the lake and it´s not so far from the center (juts less than 2 km down). It´s the "beach of Rwanda", but don´t expect an amazing tropical beach... it´s just a lake...and the water is more or less clean...

The good tarred road to Gisenyi is via Musanze 50 km east. Lake roads are still bad... but they are doing works... so maybe soon there will be a good tarred road going to Kibuye. And there´s also a ferry on lake Kivu heading to Kibuye and Cyangugu.


Public Transport in Gisenyi:

There´s no bus station in Gisenyi´s center (there´s one outside, not convenient for travellers). The buses and minibuses stop on the main street (the agencies and stops are in front of the mosque).
Many mototaxis and taxis
Walking from town to the lake is not too far (around 20 minutes, less than 2 km).

Minibuses and vans connect Gisenyi and Rubona (ferry port and brewery).
Price: 200 F, 20 min. All day long.

Minibuses Gisenyi - Musanze:
Price:  1.100 F; 1h15.  All day long, different companies. 
Most of them continue to Kigali.

There are also international buses (big coaches) doing Goma (DR Congo)-Gisenyi- Musanze- Kisoro- Kabale- Kampala. 
Different companies, all passing Gisenyi around 16:00.  A very long way (600 km, more than 12 hours to Kampala).



CHEAP ACCOMMODATION IN GISENYI

A few basic guesthouses around the center, not too many options, some with a bar, so checked well before.

Prices for affordable accommodation start from 8.000 - 15.000 F, double room, with WC.

Many expensive hotels near the lake shores.

We stayed at Africano Guesthouse
Price: 8.000 F double room (with WC). Basic but clean, quiet. 
Just off the main street, a few meters up the mosque.

We also saw Bethanys Invest (AKA Presbyterian Centre d´Accueil). Cheap big dorms (they looked a bit dirty) and rooms but the cheapest are usually full (only 10.000 F/pp dorms  were avalaible).


SERVICES, FOOD & DRINKS IN GISENYI

Gisenyi it´s a big commercial town, you will find everything needed, ATMs, internet, etc. 
Many shops on the main street and a crowded market.

Very limited offer to eat, not many local restaurants even if the town is big and commercial. Weird! Boulangerie Fawaz, a big and fresh bakery that also has a restaurant is one of the only places to find food in town (just next to the mosque on the main street). Really recommended!
Shops and market.
Water is safe to drink in Gisenyi.

THINGS TO DO IN GISENY:



Not too many things to do in fact in Gisenyi.

  • Walk around La Corniche, the lake´s front. There´s a public beach, just starting west of Serena Hotel (private beach there) and a nice avenue with hotels and expensive houses heading til the Congo´s border post. Around 3.5 km from the center to reach the southern border post, "Petite Barrière". This lake´s border post is not very crowded; there´s also another Congo-Rwanda border post a few km north, "Grande Barrière", busy, trucks and buses use it. Just 20 minutes walk down from the center to the lake shores, beach and Serena Hotel.
  • Swim in the lake. It´s safe, there´s a board explaining it. We didn´t swim, the water looks more or less clean.
  • Rubona, 6 km south of Gisenyi center: it´s the main harbour (where the public ferry arrives). Not a very beautiful place, the water is dirty as the Bralirwa Brewery is just there (even bubbles in the lake). The Nyamyumba hot springs are near, but we didn´t go.
  • Enjoy the views of Nyiaragongo (3.470 m), over Goma (Congo), a beautiful, active and impressive  volcano.

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