Kigali Airport

Kigali Airport

Rwanda isn’t exactly a major world transport hub and, as a result, it can be an (expensive) pain in the ass to get to. Rwanda International Airport (KGL) doesn’t have a website which can turn finding out even simple bits of information into a really frustrating experience.

But that’s where we come in! I have just spent a soul-destroying afternoon of my life finding out all kinds of boring details about Kigali Airport so that you don’t have to. Yes, right now I want to shoot myself in the face… but I know this info will come in handy later, so I’m going to hold off on that.

Kigali Airport Information

Unlike normal airports the world over, Kigali International Airport doesn’t seem to think it needs a website.

Flight Status Updates

Kigali’s airport doesn’t have a website. It’s a small place… I’m not really sure what a website would say. But one useful thing would be flight arrival and departure details (plus other wonderful little bits of info). Well don’t worry because you can get all that wonderful information from the Kigali section of Skyscanner. Click on the ‘Departures/Arrivals’ tab. A useful little find.

Airlines

There are only a handful of airlines flying into and out of Kigali.

Airlines Destinations
Air Burundi Bujumbura
Air Uganda Entebbe (Kampala)
Brussels Airlines Brussels
Ethiopian Airlines Addis Ababa, Bujumbura, Entebbe
Kenya Airways Bujumbura, Nairobi
KLM Amsterdam
Rwandair* Brazzaville, Bujumbura, Cyangugu, Dar es Salaam, Dubai, Entebbe, Gisenyi, Johannesburg, Kilimanjaro, Libreville, Mombasa, Nairobi
South African Airways Johannesburg

* Bizarrely, Rwandair flights have been known to leave early. So beware.

Arrivals

Kigali airport is possibly the least intimidating airport I’ve ever been to. It’s small, compact, and arriving and finding your way out of the airport is easy. Plus people speak English and are friendly so there’s always someone around to ask your questions to should you start to freak out for some reason.

Getting Money

Kigali Airport, while small, it does have a few practical things at the new arrival’s disposal. There’s an Ecobank ATM machine just as you exit the baggage claim area. This works with international Visa and Visa Debit cards but you’ll be out of luck if you don’t have a Visa-affiliated card.

But there’s a money exchange desk nearby so you can sort out your cash that way. Just arrive with some US (make sure the year is 2006 or later) fifty or hundred dollar bills. The rate decreases as the denomination gets smaller. I didn’t check the rate at the airport but the usual rate is around Rwf 600 to the dollar.

I didn’t check to see what other currencies are accepted so if anyone can fill us in, it’d be appreciated! But US$ are a safe bet.

Communication

Everyone will have a mobile phone and people in Rwanda are nice (how’s that for two huge generalizations? Thought you’d like those…) so if there’s someone you need to get a hold of and you don’t have a phone, ask someone and they’re bound to help you out and let you use theirs. Better yet, if you have an unlocked, SIM-ready phone then stop being a freeloader and buy a local SIM card. These can be bought at the airport for about Rwf 1,000 and will give you a number instantly. Buy a top up and you’re ready to roll.

Transportation to Town

Kigali’s airport is actually just on the edge of town so getting to other parts of the city really isn’t a big deal. Right as you walk out of the airport there used to be a road with taxis waiting. This has been barricaded recently but the driver’s are still hanging around offering taxis. If you get a cab here you can expect to pay around Rwf 10,000 to town. If you bargain a bit it could go lower, but not by much.

If you want a better deal, walk for two minutes (provided you you don’t have a crazy amount of luggage) to the road in front of the airport an flag a car down there. True, it might be a cab or it might just be some dude with a car, but Kigali’s safe anyways and you’ll be able to get to town for about Rwf 4,000 with a bit of bartering.

If you’ve got a backpack that’s smallish and lightish and like the wind in your hair then grab a moto taxi. You can also get these on the road in front of the airport, a short walk from the main gates. The bikes are small and I nearly killed my back this morning riding with a pretty heavy and awkward backpack from the airport to the cusp of Nyamirambo on the complete other side of town. But it only cost me Rwf 1,000… so back be damned!

Departures

Leaving Kigali? Really? People do that?

Parking

Rates for parking at the airport are pretty expensive. Do I know what they are? Well… no. But I know it’s pricey. If anyone wants to chime in with the prices, we’d appreciate it!

Food & Drink

For anyone departing Kigali, know that the coffee shop upstairs pretty much blows, so if you’re looking for some cake, ice cream, a burger or a chilled cafe mocha or some other fancy coffee drink, make sure you get it at Bourbon before you find yourself trapped behind the security people. It is possible to go through security, check it for your flight, and then come back out to relax with a coffee and wifi… but you have to make sure you ask one of the guard people. I’ve asked once and it was no problem to get back out, and I didn’t ask another time and I was stuck inside and had to continue upstairs to a sun-soaked room with uncomfortable chairs and nothing to eat.

Duty Free

If you do get forced to go upstairs prematurely you can always buy a bottle of some strong stuff and drown your sorrows because duty free here is actually a good deal. I bought a 1 litre bottle of Amarula for Rwf 6,000. It’s usually more than double that price elsewhere. I didn’t shop around too much though so I’m not sure how other boozy, cigarettey and chocolatey items rate.

Be warned that if you’re flying on Brussels Air and have a connecting flight, your bottle could be thieved off of you by the security people as you pass through the x-ray machines again in Brussels. They told me that booze from other European destinations was fine, but not from Africa, for some reason. I didn’t have any problems getting duty free alcohol bought in Rwanda onto my connecting flight on Kenya Air.

About Kirsty

A Canadian who left in 2001 to wander around the world in search of sun, beautiful views and goat brochettes. Found Kigali in July 2010 and it seems like the perfect fit. I expect to be here until I get kicked out for defiantly walking on the grass while wearing flip flops.