Why Rwanda is a great destination for solo female travelers
“You’re going there… alone!?”
“Is it safe?”
“Won’t you be scared?”
Solo female travel tends to generate questions of safety, regardless of the destination. It is often believed that a woman travelling alone is inherently dangerous, prompting solo female travelers to evaluate potential risks and safety measures. However, most places around the world are relatively safe as long as you take certain precautions. Furthermore, what most consider as dangerous can be heavily conflated with misconceptions and stereotypes.
When I visited Rwanda as a solo female traveler, I was pleasantly assured by how secure I felt, and empowered by how confidently I was able to move around this beautiful country. While Europe is a viable first option for women looking to hit the road solo, East Africa, and more specifically Rwanda, should be not be overlooked. Here is why Rwanda is the next best destination for solo female travelers.
English is a common language
While Rwanda’s official languages are French, English, and Kinyarwanda, English is widely spoken and understood, easing communication on the ground. When travelling alone, and especially as a woman, it undoubtedly aids to have minimum communication barriers. You may need to ask questions or take local transport, and you’ll definitely want to have plenty of conversations with locals. It relieves some stress and pressure knowing you will be able to travel without a strong language barrier. Better yet, if you speak French as well, you may be able to use a bit of it in Rwanda!
Small and safe
There is not an overwhelming amount of ground to cover in Rwanda. Generally, it takes around four hours to get from Kigali to any end of the country. This makes it easier to travel to various parts in a short period of time. It was very easy to just show up at a station, get a ticket, then be on a bus within the hour. More importantly, Rwanda is a very safe country. Regardless of whether you are in Rwanda or any other part of the world, you should take precautions as you would anywhere travelling alone. Take little valuables with you and always let someone you trust know of your whereabouts. During my time in Rwanda, I never felt unsafe or threatened.
Rwanda has very effective local transportation options, including express and private buses. The international airport is located in the capital city, Kigali. The main bus station in Kigali links to spots all over the country with affordable buses leaving frequently to various destinations. If you want to easily get around the city of Kigali, a common method of transportation is a moto-taxi. This mode is efficient and cheap, getting you from point A to point B without a hassle. Don’t worry — the drivers should always have a second helmet for you and if they don’t, just get the next one.
Rwandans are incredibly friendly. Whether it is your barista, tour guide, or bus driver, they are quick to offer help and guidance. When I visited Rwanda, I couch-surfed with a woman in Kigali around my age and quickly befriended the neighbors in her community, sharing food and dancing under the stars. Every day was pleasant as I was constantly being greeted with smiles and curious questions.
While the 1994 Rwandan Genocide leaves a stark imprint on the country’s history and present, it is also very much in the past, leaving devastation behind to the best of its ability as the nation paves a road of growth in the economy, government, education, and women’s rights. Progress is still being made, but the country has certainly made great strides and visiting as a tourist helps contribute to one of their biggest industries.
Large expat community
There are many other foreigners in Rwanda, including expats and travelers. While you may travel there alone, you will not necessarily always be by yourself. Especially in Kigali, there are well-known social events offered at many bars and restaurants where the atmosphere is conducive to meeting like-minded individuals.
Whether you have money saved to see the famous mountain gorillas, you want to learn more about women’s social enterprises or Rwandan history, there are several amazing tours and attractions that will quickly fill your itinerary. I definitely recommend making a visit to Nyamirambo Women’s Center, which offers classes and tours entirely guided and owned by local people. If you are looking for an all-around adventure, consider taking a tour with Go Kigali where you get to visit some must-see spots and some hidden gems you wouldn’t otherwise know about with a local guide. This also presents another great opportunity to meet new friends on your tour!
Coffee shop culture
Coffee shops are a comfort for the soul, as well as for solo female travelers. Whether you need a space to recharge or want to learn more about the coffee industry in Rwanda, you can explore the coffee shop scene to your heart’s desire. Not only does Rwanda grow delicious coffee beans, but they have also grown impeccable coffee chains and cafes. There are several quirky and cozy coffee shop options to feed your love of caffeine and learning. Check out Question Coffee while you are in Kigali!
The mountainous ranges, sparkling lakes, and quaint rivers are worth a trip on their own. It becomes even more special when you are travelling alone and experiencing the present moment with heightened awareness. Your jaw will consistently drop as you zip up and around through the mountains on a bus or moto-taxi. I was quite enthralled by the breathtaking landscapes around every corner in Rwanda, especially on the shores of Lake Kivu to the west.
Something for everyone
Regardless of the travel experience you are seeking, Rwanda has something for every solo female traveler. There is a plethora of food, activities, and experiences that can fit every interest and budget. Even more, it’s a great gateway to explore more of East Africa. You’re in for an experience you will never forget!
Born and raised in Toronto, Canada, Lydia Klemensowicz can say she feels at home in many places around the world. She has lived in various countries including Ireland and Tanzania. She is usually found laughing or writing her latest travelogue with a good cup of coffee in her hand. Follow more of her story and work at lydiapaulina.ca.