Unless you purchase a modem, you’ll probably end up doing your ‘interneting’ at one of the coffee shops offering free wifi. The hotels normally offer a connection for an hourly fee but since this is Africa, you just can’t rely on the connection being 100% reliable anywhere. Alas, as with so many things in life, paying a high fee does not necessarily mean getting satisfied.
To accommodate your online needs, we here present you with a list of places to go for computer hook-ups (in the boring sense of the word.)
Simba Café (Town)
Not all computers are able to pick up the signal but when you do get it, it’s fairly reliable. It’s free as long as you keep ordering food and drinks (which are better and cheaper than at Bourbon), and if you need to do grocery shopping, the Simba Supermarket is right there as well. The downsides are you’re not likely to bump into many people you know (though you sometimes do run into people who come here to hide for that very reason) and the beggars and street vendors glaring at you or reaching over the outdoor porch.
Blues Café (Town)
You pay Rwf 1,000 and get good and relatively reliable Internet access for an hour. It’s a pretty decent deal, and the food’s not half bad either. They close down the connection during their lunch buffet (usually between noon-2pm), but you can still use their computers next door for the same hourly fee. You can also use their printer for around 100 cents per sheet.
Bourbon (Union Trade Centre, Town)
The internet connection at Bourbon goes through phases – some days it’s amazingly fast and other days it’s not working at all. They tried introducing a Rwf 500 fee per half hour, and from time to time they’ll re-introduce hourly access codes but, for now, the wifi is free as long as you order something. In high muzungu season (June to August) when the coffee shop crowds up with people waiting for a table, make sure you keep the orders coming or else they’ll kick you out!
A lot less people watching opportunities than at Bourbon, but unquestionably heaps more relaxing and with better food options. Also, they never kick you out here (even if you spend the whole day napping on a couch after ordering nothing but an avocado juice…) In our experience, the connection is a lot more reliable and speedier than at places like Bourbon and Simba, but from time to time they have problems with the power going off.
For days when you feel like sitting completely on your own (for let’s be honest, there’s never anyone there), the bar at Heaven is a good choice. Order a drink and a plate of guacamole, and get your online errands out of the way on their beautiful patio.
Bourbon (MTN Centre, Nyarutarama)
With pretty much the same deal as Bourbon in town, you are sure to run into a bunch of muzungus while sitting here (though not as many newbie expats as most of them have yet to figure out where Nyarutarama is). You usually need to ask for a code when you order your food, but they’ve been experimenting with just offering a constant connection. The main problem here is that if the connection is bad (which does happen from time to time) there aren’t many other options nearby.
A Thousand Cups Coffee (Kisimenti)
Formerly known as Star Café, this cute little local coffee shop offers free wifi and really cheap (but good) food. With Ndoli’s Supermarket straight across the street you could also run some errands while you’re out here, though unless you happen to be in the Kisimenti area, there probably won’t be any reason for you to go all the way out here to get online (besides getting free connection and cheap lunch of course). If you’re there on a Monday afternoon, however, Sol e Luna (with the eager quiz teams waiting) is just a short walk down the hill.