Who would have thought Africa was expensive? Luanda, the capital city of Angola was recently named as the most expensive city in the world. In the world! Angola! Who knew? While Kigali doesn’t come close to the Angolas (!), Tokyos or Londons of the world, it will surprise you will how pricey it is, especially if you want to live to Western standards.
Housing prices differ drastically depending on what sort of living standards you have. You can live with a local person for very cheap, take a room in a sharehouse for anywhere from $250 to $600, or rent an entire house to yourself for a lot more. The nicer the house (and there are plenty of mansions), the higher the rent, obviously. A modern apartment to yourself could cost as much as $1,000 or more.
Often houses will have guards and cleaners which may or may not be included in the price of the rent, so check in advance. The cheapest local places aren’t likely to have stoves (cooking is usually done outside over coals) or refrigeration. If you like to cook you’ll have to pay more for a full kitchen but you save on food costs by cooking for yourself.
Groceries can be very cheap or very expensive depending on your tastes. If you eat veggies bought at the markets (Kimironko is one of the biggest) you’ll eat very cheaply and have a good range of choice. If you want Western goodies like ice cream, wine or jarred curry and spaghetti sauces, you’ll pay dearly. A box of cereal costs over $10!
The main Western supermarket is Nakumatt and it has plenty to tempt you. Beef is reasonably affordable and you can buy a nice steak for less than $1.50 but chicken is pretty expensive. Simba, another supermarket across the road, has a better fresh produce than Nakumatt. Both have delis and bakeries at comparable prices. BCK is a smaller supermarket that has very nice bread and other goodies. There are a bunch of smaller supermarkets scattered around town and you’ll eventually learn where to get what you need for the best prices.
There are lots of restaurants in Kigali to tempt you. Everything from Ethiopian to Indian to Italian. At mid-range restaurants mains can be had for under Rwf 6,000 ($10) and a glass of wine will cost about 3,000 and a beer around 1,000. Even at a cafe you could find yourself spending over $10 for a drink and a meal. The two most popular expat-oriented cafes in town are Shokola and Bourbon which are both pricey but they throw in free wifi to sweeten the deal. There are lots of local bars where you can get a brochette (goat, beef or fish on a stick) for about Rwf 500, samosas for 100 and cheap (and possibly warm) beer.
Drinking and Clubbing
Due to the lack of bowling alleys, cinemas and various other form of entertainment in Kigali, one can easily get bored or restless when living here for a long time. A possible alternative to sitting home watching entire seasons of Dexter or How I Met Your Mother, is to venture out into the Kigali night scene.
Drinking and clubbing in Kigali can quickly become an expensive affairs, especially is you hang out at the expatty places like Heaven, Republika, The Manor or Papyrus. Usually a local beer goes for around Rwf 1,000, and a glass of wine around Rwf 2,500 or more. Cocktails are difficult to get any place (unless you ask for a small bottle of Waragi gin and a Sprite on the side), but where you do get them, they will cost you between Rwf 6,000 – 10,000. Many places have Happy Hours, though, which is well worth taking advantage of. Heaven, for instance, does a happy hour on local beers and wine every day between 5-7 pm, and Republika does huge Rwf 5,000 half carafes of wine every Friday.
When it comes to clubs, there aren’t really that many places to choose from. Dance clubs like Cadillac and KBC charges a fee (usually between Rwf 2,000- 3,000), but the more lounge places like One Love, Papyrus and Shooters are free. What’s gonna cost you most are what you spend on drinks, and what pick pockets steal of you.
This is one area that won’t break the bank. A 15 minute ride across town on the back of a motorcycle (licensed and they even have a helmet for you) will cost about Rwf 1,000 Rwandan francs, or about $1.75. Kigali is a small place so you won’t find yourself paying much more than this. If you want to take a regular taxi and are splitting the cost with friends, it could work out cheaper but if you’re on your own it’ll probably be around triple the cost of a moto. Motos and taxis are cheap but will add up fast but luckily public transport in the city is extensive and bus rides usually cost less than Rwf 200. Intercity bus trips aren’t too bad either with a 6 hour journey being about as far as you can go costing about Rwf 4,000 (about $6.50) each way.
Internet here is pretty expensive and somewhat unreliable. Some houses have wifi but most people opt to buy a USB modem and either pay for a monthly data plan or pay per KB used. Rwandatel offer an unlimited monthly plan for an expensive Rwf 42,000 per month. MTN is a more reliable connection but they’ve stopped their monthly plan and you need to pay-as-you-go. This could work out to be really cheap if you’re not online much or hugely expensive. If you have a computer of your own you could head to any of the wifi spots in Kigali but the cost of coffees and food to be able to use the wifi will add up quickly.