Admittedly, the Rwandan tourism powers that be don’t seem all that interested in the ol’ budget traveller. A mistake, in my opinion, having been a backpacker type for many years. I know how much money so called ‘budget travellers’ will drop. True, they might skimp on food and accommodation but they more than make up for that in what they spend on booze and activities. Or… maybe that was just me.
Anyway, Rwanda’s refusal to embrace the backpacker crowd is a missed opportunity for them, but it doesn’t mean that the country can’t be visited on a budget. Kigali has had a bit of a flurry of budget accommodation openings recently so finding a cheap bed in the city no longer means paying $50+ for some crappy, soulless hotel. As well as offering a cheap place to rest your head, many of the newer places try hard to create a fun, friendly place for independent travellers. It’s great to see these new spots rising to the task! Now if only the rest of the country would catch up…
Discover Rwanda Hostel
Dorm: $15 to $19 (depending on the number of beds)
Camping: $9 (your own tent) or $11 (their tent)
Discover Rwanda Hostel is the first hostel-style accommodation in Kigali. Sure, budget places have existed here for awhile, but that has usually meant that you’ll be staying with nuns or living without hot water. Creepy and unpleasant, all rolled into one. Budget accommodation can be done well and Discover Rwanda is the first place in Kigali to have figured this out. It’s a high quality backpacker’s hostel that can hold its own with others around the world and if you’re an independent traveller and are hoping to meet other folks like yourself then this is your best bet.
The hostel is well-located just behind Great Wall Chinese Restaurant in Kacyiru. There are always taxis and motos right out front of the place and it’s not far from the main road. There are cafes with wifi (Magda, Shokola Lite, Cafe Neo) within a two minute walk and Meze Fresh, Kigali’s burrito place, is five minutes away.
Breakfast and wifi are included in the price, you can rent towels or lockers, there’s a restaurant with well-priced meals and cold drinks, and there’s a kitchen for guests to use, if they want. There are some great outdoor balcony spaces kitted out with comfy couches and nice views and it’s generally just a nice place to be. They’ll do discounts for long stays.
Phone: 0782 265 679
Single/Double: Rwf 28,000
The world’s most frustrating phone conversation ended without me being able to clarify the price difference for a single room versus a double room, so perhaps they’re all one in the same. Give them a call to see if you can make better sense of things than I could. I have visited the place before and it’s quite a nice little place with a leafy garden and lots of secluded tables. The rooms are set a bit back from the restaurant area in a motel-style concrete building that’s much less charming than the rest of the grounds but does the trick. The location isn’t convenient for most parts of town but if you have anything to do in the Nyamirambo area or even in Town and Kiyovu, then this could be a good option.
It’s near to Panorama Ten to Two if you want some beers and fish with a great view. Or I’ve heard a lot of good things about their restaurant so you might even want to stick around and give their menu a try.
Phone: 0252 575 633
This hotel’s main draw is its location close to town. It’s on a busy street and the road-side rooms can be noisy so request a room on the opposite side, if you can. The multistory hotel is basic but rooms have a balcony, a modern bathroom with hot water (although the water has been known to stop working altogether), and it’s a good value compared with other places in the area. They have an in-site restaurant and there are lots of cheap local restaurants nearby for budget eats or some of the more expensive restaurant of Kiyovu are about a 20 minute walk away.
Single: $20 – $30
Double: $36 – $40
I’ve heard about this place for years and I see it every time I zip down the road from the UTC roundabout towards Nyabugogo bus station. I’m not sure how long La Caverne has been opened but it finds itself listed in the Lovely Planet’s East Africa book which leads me to believe that it was one of the first budget options in town. It’s not a bad place, it’s just not necessarily one of the finer establishments in town that would be deserving of a mention in a guidebook that doesn’t have much space dedicated to Kigali accommodation.
But La Caverne is cheap and somewhat cheerful. It has rooms that have a sort of a porch area with a valley view and with the plant pots they have scattered around on the concrete, it makes things seem somewhat cozy. Sort of. The rooms are basic but totally fine and I’m told they have reliable hot water. They don’t serve food but Town is a short walk up the hill and there are a few options outside on the busy road. And the road is a busy one… it’s hard to tell if it would be noisy in the rooms or not but they’re sort of tucked away down the hill a bit, so I’d guess they’d be quiet.
The main attraction of this place would be the cheap price and the proximity to the Nyabgogo bus station. If you’re arriving late or have an early bus to catch and just want a cheap bed near the station, this makes a decent choice.
Phone: 0788 210 000
Single: Rwf 10,000
Double: Rwf 15,000
Dorm: Rwf 8,000
Much to the despair of Kigali’s yogis, Mamba scrapped their hot yoga room in favour of adding a dorm room for budget travellers. Their hostel isn’t really more than a collection of beds divided over several rooms on the top of their restaurant area. There’s not a lot of hostel-like charm and it was empty when I was there but it’s one of the cheapest and best-located places in the city. Plus if you don’t mind throngs of small children, they have a small pool on the grounds along with a volleyball court, bowling, table tennis, and even a trampoline. It’s popular on weekends with families and if you like volleyball, you’ll get a pickup game on Saturdays and Sundays. All up, a decent place to stay on a budget but the rooms are very basic so if you manage your expectations then it’s a good spot.
Phone: ? Coming soon!
Murugo Rwanda Hostel
This new hostel on the library side of Kacyiru was opened last year and is slowly finding its feet with continuous improvements planned. The hostel itself is already quite nice with capacity for 18 people. Each room has its own bathroom and there’s a division with one side of the hostel being set aside for longer-term guests and private rooms and the other side aimed more at the backpackers with dorm and twin rooms. The place is clean, well-located, and the price is very competitive. There are several common areas through the building with one set aside for breakfast which is included in the price. There’s a great space at the front of the hostel where he plans to put a bar and there are plans for a restaurant to serve the guests. It’s a work in progress but what’s there already is very nice and the improvements will do a lot towards giving the place a really homey and hostel0like feel. The hostel’s owner, David, worked for many years at the Serena Hotel in customer service and he’s a great guy who knows how to provide excellent service.
Phone: 0788 456 953
Single: Rwf 15,000
Double: Rwf 20,000
Twin: Rwf 20,000
This place was very popular with the group of friends I hung around with when I first arrived in Kigali. As cash-strapped volunteers, they were after the cheapest of the cheap but in a good location and that’s exactly what St. Paul’s offer. But an added bonus… nuns! The accommodation is on the sprawling grounds behind the church, just below the UTC roundabout. There are lots of other buildings including a small supermarket and there are nuns aplenty wandering around, going about their day.
The 35 rooms are set out in a motel style, built around a grassy courtyard with a gazebo. They’re very basic with a bed and an en-suite bathroom that, I’m told, has hot water. But if you’re looking for affordable, central accommodation then it’s a great choice. Sure… the place doesn’t have any frills, but who needs frills when you have wandering nuns, I ask? Not me, I say!
Phone: 0785 285 341
Camping: $15 (your own tent) or $20 (their tent)
This campsite is run by a Belgian couple and they’re doing a great job, so far! It’s a nice setup with plenty of tent space on the grounds around a main house. The house has two rooms for people who aren’t keen on camping. But camping is the ultimate in budget accommodation and they can even provide you with a tent if you’re not carting your own around with you. TR Companion is in a quiet neighbourood at the bottom of Kacyiru on the lake side. It’s not the most convenient spot but they have plenty of taxi and moto phone numbers on hand to come by and pick you up just in case you don’t have your own car. Though it’s quite a ways away from a main road, it is fairly centrally located in Kacyiru which is nice.
There’s a camp fire pit, a splash pool, and plenty of seating with a view across the valley. Like any good budget accommodation, they have a kitchen for guests to use along with plenty of fridge and storage space. There are good quality mountain bikes for rent and they’ll give you the lowdown on trails in the area. The place has a nice, friendly atmosphere and the photos of previous guests adorning the walls give an indication of fun times gone by. Highly recommended, especially if you plan on camping. Prices include breakfast and wifi.