About Rwanda International Airport & More for Travellers

About Rwanda International Airport

The landlocked nation of Rwanda lies south of the equator in the region known as East-Central Africa. Whilst a little-known country, it has breath-taking scenery and intriguing animal and plant life to be experienced.

As French is spoken here, the republic is also known as ‘Le Pays des Mille Collines’, or ‘Land of a Thousand Hills’, due to the ranges of mountains and hills that form part of the Congo-Nile divide.

This fascinating country has a bit of everything, from volcanoes to pretty lakes and rivers and lush green landscapes. The main city is Kigali, which is also the capital.

The surrounding countries are equally as fascinating in their own way too – Uganda in the north, Tanzania to the east, Burundi to the south, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west.

Here’s everything you need to know about Rwanda’s international airport to visit this country, plus more handy information. Also, you can apply for your Rwanda eVisa on our dedicated page!

At-A-Glance Guide to the Airports in Rwanda

There are 5 flight hubs in the country, but the main air travel entry and exit is via Kigali International Airport (IATA code: KME). Here’s the list of flight hubs:

Airport Name & City
IATA
ICAO
Butare, Butare BTQ HRYI
Gisenyi, Gisenyi GYI HRYG
Kigali International KGL HRYR
Kamembe, Kamembe KME HRZA
Ruhengeri, Ruhengeri RHG HRYU

Key Information About Rwanda International Airport (Kigali)

Whilst we have listed the above 5 airports, the only one you currently really need to remember is Rwanda International, formerly known as Grégoire Kayibanda International, and sometimes referred to as Kanombe International. It is the only main hub and is totally owned by the Rwandan government.

The main airline carrier in and out of Kigali is RwandaAir. There are flights here from the USA, UK and elsewhere worldwide using a combination of airline carriers. Flights from the US usually have a stop down, and in some cases 2. In addition, whilst the British Airways flight from London Gatwick may be listed as direct, there is a stop down in Brussels, but no need to disembark.

When you fly here, it is very advisable that you use an accredited IATA carrier, as many others are small local carriers with no reputation as such.

What Do I Need to Know About Rwanda Airport for My Trip?

Requirements Prior to Travel

Firstly, your passport needs to have a minimum of 6 months validity with 1 blank page, and you must obtain your travel authorisation prior to arriving here.

You will also need to check the up-to-date information on health, and what certificates you may require. Quite often, yellow fever will crop up in the country and you need to check for this. Otherwise, recommended vaccinations are: hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, cholera, yellow fever, rabies, meningitis and tetanus.

Useful Facts About Kigali Rwanda Airport

At the airport, there are 3 terminals located, the main one being 1500m above sea level, which makes it one of the highest in the world. This handles all normal passenger traffic, whereas the second terminal handles only VIP traffic. The third is for cargo only.

There is only 1 runway, but as this is 3500m long, it can handle aircraft of most sizes. Ease of movement within the main terminal is not a problem, due to the fact that not many flights arrive or depart close together.

Kigali Rwanda Airport also serves other flights within Africa with a reasonable diversity of destinations.

About Kigali International’s Facilities

Kigali International is known as one of the friendliest and most hospitable airports in East Africa. With adequate washroom facilities and air-conditioned halls, passengers can wait for their flight in the best conditions. With flight punctuality greater than 90%, Kigali International Airport will all but guarantee a seamless travelling experience.

Free wireless internet facilities are available in most areas of the airport. ATMs and currency exchanges are located in the main terminal, as are fully functional banks. Passengers can also avail themselves of several restaurants, cafés and bars. Comfortable seating provides an overall pleasant experience.

Please note, however, that left luggage facilities are small and in the form of lockers for which you pay a fee. If you have a long layover, sleeping at the airport is not possible, as it closes once the last flight in has arrived, while the first flight out has an open check-in.

Whilst there is an adequate shuttle service into Kigali (about 20 minutes), this also does not operate after the airport is closed, and neither does the taxi service, so bear this in mind. Fortunately, during opening hours there is always plenty of availability on the taxi rank, located outside the main entrance.

What Is the Rwanda Airport Code?

As previously mentioned, the Kigali (Grégoire Kayibanda) code is KGL. This may be printed on your ticket and most signage will show KGL as the designated abbreviation. Please note that this may possibly change, once the new Kigali Airport has finally been opened (see below for more details on this).

What Are the Requirements to Enter Rwanda Through the Airport?

Over and above the documents referred to above (valid passport, tourist visa etc), it is further recommended that you have comprehensive travel insurance, including monies needed should hospitalisation occur. These fees will not be paid by the government, so you’ll need the funds to ensure you receive treatment and can later exit the country!

How Much Money Is Allowed at the Airport in Rwanda?

You are allowed to import an unlimited amount of foreign currency into the country. However, there is a limit of the amount of RWF (Rwandan francs) of up to 5,000 RWF, as long as you declare it on arrival.

When departing, you can take out again as much of your own currency as you wish, as long as the amount does not exceed that which you declared and imported. In terms of RWF, you can take out up to 5,000 RWF.

Which Airport in Rwanda Is Best for Mountain Gorillas?

Mountain gorillas’ habitat is the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, even though you can visit them in both Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) too. This park is famous, probably largely due to the wonderful film based on Diane Fossey’s study of these amazing creatures.

The nearest flight hub to visit the mountain gorillas is Goma (GOM), a small one in the DRC. That said, according to both locals and travel experts, you are far better to take the bus from Kigali, which will take about 4½ hours to reach the main entrance.

Alternatively, and probably the best and most convenient way, is to book a guided trip through a reputable agent. This is also recommended for safety and security reasons. Local guides, who maintain the upkeep and the gorillas in the mountains, know everything there is to know. This includes where the gorillas were yesterday, where they are likely to be tomorrow, and even in several weeks’ time – such is their knowledge!

Also, taking a car is an option, as the drive is only about 2½ hours to the entry point. That said, you still need to locate where the gorillas are in the mountains – take a guide because, as big as these great apes are, they can still be elusive!

How Safe Is the Rwanda Airport?

Generally, the bulk of the country is safe, including the flight hub, and it actually has the reputation of being one of the safest nations in the whole of Africa.

That said, like in any other country, there is petty crime such as handbag snatching, while In crowded places, such as markets, there will also be an element of pickpocketing and other small thefts. Just keep your valuables and money close to your body at all times.

When asked how safe Rwanda airport in particular is, the answer is pretty safe indeed. There is a police presence, who are trained staff in all senses of security and safety. In fact, courses are run on a regular basis for police to be active in all types of safety issues, including health and welfare.

Can You Stay in Rwanda Airport at Night?

No, it is not possible to stay in here overnight, as it is locked up. However, in terms of overnight accommodation, there are plenty of hotels in the vicinity.

What Hotels in Kigali, Rwanda Are Located Near to the Airport?

In order of distance from Kigali, Rwanda Airport, these are the following that have reviews:

Hotel Name
Class
Distance From Airport (Miles)
Avisha Budget 0.5
Airport Inn (motel) Basic 1.5
Grand Legacy Medium 1.9
The Lebanon Budget 2.2
Chez Lando Budget 2.2
Gorilla Golf Medium 2.9
Lemigo Budget/medium 3.0
Pil Pil Higher-end/medium 3.3
Radisson Blue High end 3.4
The Mano Basic 3.8
Great Seasons Medium 4.4
Perle Boutique Medium 4.8

What Car Rental Services at Rwanda Airport Are There?

Firstly, you would need a valid EU photo licence, which you can use for up to 3 months. Alternatively, or if you plan on staying longer, you will need an International Driving Permit (IDP). It is quite wise to have an IDP anyway, to enable you to drive anywhere in the world. If you plan to stay longer than a year, you will need to apply for a Rwandan driving licence.

Car rental services at Rwanda airport tend to be more expensive than those rented offsite, which are up to 20% cheaper. However, on the plus side, rental companies based at the flight hub are established companies, so for safety reasons you are better to rent here than downtown, unless you rent from a known name.

Main roads around Kigali are well surfaced, but if you plan to travel around, the outer roads can be difficult to navigate, particularly after a heavy rainstorm! 4WD rentals are the most popular to negotiate any road there.

Please note that you have to be 18 or over to be allowed to drive in Rwanda.

What Should I Know About Rwanda Bugesera Airport?

Located around 50 km by road from Kigali, Bugesera Airport is still under construction. That said, it will be the main air hub here once all infrastructure is in place and completely finished.

If all goes to plan, it is hoped that everything at Bugesera will be fully functional in the foreseeable future, although no opening date has yet been established. Meanwhile, the current Kigali facility will still operate, but it is not clear which flights will operate to/from here. Stay tuned for updates!

We hope you’ve found our article helpful. You can easily spend several weeks in the country, particularly if you love nature and wildlife, although there are also several sites of historic interest.

Most people visit the area to enjoy animal tracking, and not just gorillas, as there are so many species to see, along with stunning national parks, lakes, mountains and, of course, volcanoes! Have a wonderful trip.