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.

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78 thoughts on “Kigali Airport”

  1. There is also a new business class lounge in Kigali International Airport. It has comfortable seating, free wi-fi, snacks and drinks available, and even a bar where you can enjoy some drinks before a flight.

    1. Thanks Sara! I’d actually meant to add that to the article and forgot. I think it costs US$25 to enter or if you’re flying business class then it’s free.

  2. Hello I am going to Kigali in the first week of January. My flight is to arrive in Kigali at 1:50 PM. So I am thinking of worst case scenario here. What if my flight is delayed or cancelled and I end up getting a later flight that gets me to Kigali in the wee hours of the morning? And what if the ATM is not working or won’t read my card? Will the exchange desk be open late into the night so I get some currency to get a taxi to my hotel? I know this is a lot of assumptions but I always like to think worst case before I travel overseas. What is your opinion?

    1. Hey Vincent,

      I’m pretty sure there’d be some money changer open, no matter what the hour but I’m not 100% sure. Anyone else know?

      If you’re stuck for money you can always ask your taxi driver to take you to Eco Bank or the Bank of Kigali in town. They both have 24 hour international ATMs. Or just bring US$ with you (not before 2006, I think, and anything smaller than a $20 note will get a lower exchange rate) and change them at your hotel when you arrive.

      I wouldn’t worry too much but these are a couple of ideas if you do find you can’t get money at the airport. 🙂

    2. Vincent,

      I met a colleague at 12.30am the other week. The forex at the airport appeared to be open but there was no staff – strange. Anyway the rates they give compared to the centre of town is daylight (or 12.30am) robbery. There is no need to get a taxi driver to take you to the Ecobank ATM in town as the one at the airport accepts international Visa cards (only visa, not mastercard or amex or whatever).

  3. What if you would like to leave Kigali international airport to Butare and you arrive like Vincent asked 1:30am. How do you proceed when you get outside-take a taxi to downtown and then take another BUS for Butare? Please help out as this will be my case when I arrive there in January from US and no clues about getting around after so many years!!!

    1. I’m pretty sure that buses to Rwandan destinations don’t run during the night. I know that the last buses to places like Kibuye and Gisenyi are at around 6pm. So I’d guess that Butare would be the same. So I guess your options would be to spend the night at a hotel and take one of the early buses (I think they get going again at around 5am) or to hire a private car to take you from the airport… no idea what that might cost, though.

  4. If u arrive at 1:30 am u will be obliged to take a taxi and go to a hotel. Bus for Butare are available in Nyabugogo Taxi Park and they commence to travel at 05:30 am.

    1. Thanks, Dany and Kristy-really appreciate it. Yeah, I asked around and everyone said express buses run from Nyabugogo-don’t remember that location-but should remember as soon as I land! Can’t wait. Have been watching Y Tube videos about the sites and the surroundings. It is fascinating to experience the changes there are! Great feeback…appreciate again.

      1. Kirsty Henderson

        A friend of mine stayed at a place called ‘Okapi Hotel’ which she liked. It’s located just up the road from Nyabugogo. Actually, there are a few hotels and a hostel called ‘La Caverne’ (I think) on the street running between the main roundabout in town and the bus area.

        Enjoy Rwanda!

        1. Hi,
          I have a 3 hours stop over at the kigali airport.. I need to know how much will i need just to buy a burger, drink or a small snack? How much in rwanda currency do i need? For one person meal? And is there wifi around the airport?
          Thanks

          1. The only option at the airport is Bourbon Coffee who do light meals and I think burgers. I think they’re more expensive than the ones in town but a main is around $7 or $8 in town. Though they’ll have lighter things like pastries and samosas. So I’d say $10 should do it, depending what you want to drink. Yep there’s free wifi. There’s also an airport lounge for $30, I think with snacks, drinks, and wifi and comfy chairs.

  5. Thanks! will keep in touch. Okapi and La Caverne would be ideal to get up in the morning and easily catching the express bus to Butare. Hope these two accept credit cards as I am not sure if exchange stores are opened late at the airport or if I can’t ge Francs from ATM machine! How much a night by the way? Would their accept dollas by any chance if no Visa used there and I have no Francs?
    Thanks!!!

    1. In OKAPI prices vary accordingly with categories. OKAPI is ideal to get up and reach the taxi park where u will take bus to Butare. Here after are the current prices of OKAPI (breakfast is included)
      1st Category:

      Single Room: $60 USD
      Double Room: $70 USD
      VIP Room single: $70 USD
      VIP Room double: $90 USD

      2nd Category:

      Single Room: $45 USD
      Double Room: $55 USD
      3rd Category:

      Single Room: $35 USD
      Double Room: $45 USD

  6. Thanks, Dan1, I like your price breakdown! not very expensive!!!! It won’t bother me at all as i will be expected to get up and catch early express bus anyway-seems like i won’t sleep-need a place for a coffee and TV to watch till time to get my bus. They will take US dollars-I guess, right! I might not have enough Francs on me or did not get a chance to find open foreign exchange site at the airport that late night. From the Airport, I will take a taxi to Okapi. Should I make reservation online, ahead of time or the room will be available for walk ins? I prefer to book it in advance so that all can be on the same page upon arrival-knowing the room, the price, and payment method acceptable there. Easy and smooth for everyone!

      1. Will come for many reasons including traveling around the country when I get a chance. You can email me in future at bexas@yahoo.com whenever you ge an opportunity. Will follow up with you upon my arrival there. Again, thanks for the helpful info provided. I do appreciate it very much!!!

      2. Dear Dani,

        I will be coming to Kigali by next week and want to have some information. can you give me the budgeted hotels found in a walking distance from many Rwanda banks Head quarters specially bank of kigali and BCR and can you also let me know the good restaurants and their average price.

        Thank you very much in advance

  7. I wanted to find out about the YFV requirement. I really do not want to get vaccinated. What will happen if I get to Rwanda and don’t have the proof YFV? Will they kick me out? Can I get it at the airport? What’s the likelihood of them checking for the vaccination certificate? If it matters I will be flying from JRO (Tanzania). Thank you.

  8. Hello,
    My flight arrives in Kigali on 3rd of July at 1930, but I forgot when buying the ticket that my visa is authorised for 4th July. Can I find a restaurant or bar to hang in until midnight so that I can cross the immigration after midnight?

    1. Hello,
      I am faced with this exact scenario. I arrive 7:15pm Jan9 but my visa is “from” jan10.
      How did your situation play out?
      I am concerned about waiting to go through immigration incase the luggage carousel is on the other side and i am forced to leave my luggage on the carousel for 5 hours unattended.

  9. Hello,
    My flight arrives in Kigali on 3rd of July at 1930, but I forgot when buying the ticket that my visa is authorised for 4th July. Can I find a restaurant or bar to hang in until midnight so that I can cross the immigration after midnight?

    1. I’m not sure if you got my email or not, but you can hang out at the Pearl Lounge for $25, I think. Wifi, food, drinks, TV, comfy chairs… probably worth it after a long flight and it beats the hard chairs in front of the immigration desks!

  10. No you can’t, not before passing Immigration. But if you ask politely enough if they could let you in a bit earlier it is likely that they’ll let you in. And they won’t even ask for a bribe.

  11. No you can’t, not before passing Immigration. But if you ask politely enough if they could let you in a bit earlier it is likely that they’ll do it And they won’t even ask for a bribe.

  12. Thanks for your advise, but is there a bar or a restaurant at the arrival area where I can hanger up until midnight?

  13. No there isn’t. The only bar is in the public area, beyond Immigration. I suppose you can curle up in a corner of the arrival area…just ask the officials at Immigration, they will let you in.

    1. Kigali is definitely a safe place for foreigners from everything I have heard and every experience I have had since I have been here.

      Not sure what you mean exactly by “better” than India, but it’s definitely safer. As a woman I don’t feel nearly as concerned here. In fact, I find that I use the same level of caution as I would at home in Vancouver in most instances.

      The traffic isn’t as bad or as crazy as India and there have been no detours due to cows since I’ve been here. Plus it is far cleaner. That being said I found it easier to make friends in India and the views outside of Dharamsala are hard to beat.

  14. hi there,

    I am looking at flying from Nairobi to Kilimanjaro via Kigali with a connection time of 1hr 5 mins in Kigali (with the same airline) is this enough time?
    thank you

    1. Yep that’s loads of time! The Kigali airport is tiny. Really tiny. I just make a 50 minute connection in Amsterdam, to give you an idea… and that place is huge.

  15. Hi sorry for last minute question but if I take a flight thats’ arriving 1:30am at Kigali airport, can I sleep in the airport til 4:30am when I’m being picked up by a tour?

    1. Hey Peter,

      The airport has recently been renovated and is sort of a weird place. You kind of go straight from customs down to baggage collection and the straight out the front door. There’s a Bourbon coffee that I would assume is open 24 hours but I’m no sure. You could hang out in there, I suppose. Not so great for sleeping, though.

      You might also contact the people from the Pearl Lounge – https://www.pearlassist.com/en/ It’s an airport lounge that I think is only for people leaving but I feel like it might also be open to arrivals. Or it used to be before the renovations. Anyway, it’s worth asking!

      So in short… nobody will chase you off the premises but, as far as I remember, there’s nowhere good to sleep. If you don’t mind sitting and waiting though, Bourbon is there.

      Best of luck!

  16. Hello,
    I arrive 7:15pm Jan9 but my visa is “from” jan10.
    I see Louis had the same situation.
    I am concerned about waiting to go through immigration incase the luggage carousel is on the other side and I am forced to leave my luggage on the carousel for 5 hours unattended.
    Can anyone tell me the lay out of the baggage claim immigration and customs?
    Here in Vancouver you disembark, go through immigration, then claim luggage, then through customs, then exit airport.

    HEEELLLPPPP!

    1. Hey! Ya… this is a weird one. Customs is a small area and wouldn’t be somewhere I’d want to hang around in for 5 hours. Try getting in touch with the Pearl Lounge. It’s the airport lounge and costs $30 and maybe they’d adopt you until midnight. Either way, if you do end up stuck in customs until midnight (I wouldn’t be surprised if they just let you through, though) then tell someone your situation and ask if they’ll look out for your bags. It’s not a busy airport and between flights they’ll wonder what you’re doing there and I’m sure someone will come to offer you solutions.

      Worst case is you’re in customs for five hours and your bag goes around on the carrousel for a looong time. It’ll be claimed by someone and likely taken to lost luggage. There’s a little office in that same area.

      I’m curious to see what happens, please keep us posted!

      1. Hi Kristy! I’m arriving in Kigali next week (coming from the US) & locals had told us that we would be able to buy our visas for Rwanda at the airport upon arrival. Would we do that at immigration or customs? Also, will we be able to access the duty free store upon arrival of we want to pick up a gift? Thanks!

        1. Hey! There’s a visa desk in the room you’ll arrive into, towards the left. Then you go through immigration after, I guess. I’m not sure as I have a work visa. You can’t access the duty free area on arrival anymore as the arport layout has changed a bit.

  17. Is there anywhere I can store some baggage at the airport whilst I wonder around Rwanda for a week in my flip flops

  18. Hey, love your site.
    We are looking to add on a week in Rwanda and do some gorilla trekking

    Our flight gets in at 2330 and I am wondering your thoughts on getting a cab that night to a hotel

    we don’t have hotel (any recommendations) planned yet and didn’t know if any offered airport pick up

    we would head out in the morning up to PNV

    any thoughts?

    1. Getting a taxi is easy, just walk out the airport doors and you’ll start to hear people saying ‘taxi’. Just grab one of those guys who will help with your bags and usually speak English. There are always plenty there to meet the incoming planes. Flights get it as late as 2am and it’s never an issue finding a taxi. They’re official airport cabs and professional. You won’t pay more than Rwf 10,000 anywhere in the city.

        1. Just go to an ATM at the airport and get out Rwandan francs. They’re used for everything… US$ is only really handy for renting a house or maybe car rental.

  19. Is there any kind of little store at the kigali airport, or does anyone know where i can get a magnet and a little collector spoon from the country

    1. There is a little store with lots of souvenirs but I’m not sure magnets and spoons have caught on here yet. Maybe I’ve just never looked for them. Anyway, if there’s anywhere you’ll find them, it’ll be there.

  20. Hello, I will be hanging around Rwanda in June for four days, before moving on. Do you know if the airport has lockers for baggage? You have a great site! Very helpful.

  21. How much time in advance of departing flights should we get to the airport?
    One trip we fly Rwandair, another trip we fly KLM. Thank you!

    1. Yep! There’s definitely one after you go through customs and immigration but I’m not sure if there’s anything in the outside areas of the airport.

  22. Hi
    I have been asked to do some training in Rwanda for a few days – I am female, 57, white – would you think I would have any problems – is it safe? Have not really been in Africa before.
    thanks

  23. Hi!! I arrived in the morning to Kigali and I would like to visit the city before going to Musanze.

    Where can I take the bus to Musanze?

  24. Hi!! I arrive in the morning to Kigali and I would like to visit the city before going to Musanze.

    Where can I take the bus to Musanze?

  25. Wamaitha Gichuki

    Hi, I unfortunately left my laptop battery at the airport – the search area. How would i get a hold of it? I leave in Nairobi. Please assist

  26. hello, sorry if its been asked before
    we have an 16 hour wait between flights
    can you leave the airport , do you need a visa, can you get it on arrival. and how much
    thanks matt

    1. Ah man… that’s brutal! I’d guess you can leave the airport if you get a visa but I don’t know a lot about visas since I’m on a business visa. I think it’s $50 and has to be arranged in advance online and then they send you a code or something to present to immigration. If you do get stuck there, spring for the Pearl Lounge for $35. It’s nothing special but you’ll be able to find a place to sleep and they have snacks and drinks.

  27. Do you know if the Kigali airport currency exchange shop sells Ugandan Shillings and Congolese Francs? Would be great to be able to change for all I need at once even if the rate is a little worse. Thanks much.

  28. I lost my wallet at the airport as I waited for a transit flight to Kilimanjaro. What’s the procedure for finding items lost at the airport?

  29. Do you know if the Kigali airport currency exchange shop sells Ugandan Shillings and Congolese Francs? Would be great to be able to change for all I need at once even if the rate is a little worse. Thanks much.

    1. Only Rwandan Francs. (I can answer my own question now that I’ve been.) No trouble changing for Ugandan or Congolese at respective land borders.

  30. Hi Kirsty! I have a question for you too ! I am landing in Kigali at 1am, and my connecting flight is at 7am. That sounds like a pain, and it may not be worth getting out of the airport and looking for a hotel…. :-/
    Is the airport open 24h ? Is it easy to find a comfortable and calm spot to sleep, maybe in the lounge…? thanks so much in advance for your help 🙂

  31. I’m planning on arriving from Entebbe to Kigali on a Rwandair flight that gets in at 9:10p and then getting on a Brussels Airline flight to NYC at 11:10pm. These are separate flights, not officially “connecting”, so is 2 hours between these flights enough time to get on the 11:10p departure to JFK? Thank you very much

  32. Good day
    I am travelling from Johannesburg to Lagos and my stopover is at Kigali airport, I’m planning to buy alcohol from Johannesburg duty free. Will I be able to pass the security at Kigali airport with alcohol or will it be confiscated?

  33. Can anyone give extra info about walking to get the cheaper taxi option from the airport? Do you just walk straight ahead? Any idea of the name of the road you should aim to get a taxi on? Thanks!

    1. If you look at a map you should see the main road, not sure of the name but nobody talks in names, really. There’s more security for coming in, but going out is easy, just ask someone to point you to the exit. There should be motos around. Taxies are cheap and trustworthy if you have bags, but about 8 times the price of a moto… but they’r eonly goo with a small bag.

  34. Laura WILLIAMSON

    Hello- many thanks for taking the time to hunt out what is at Kigali airport. The advice for getting your coffee before heading to the gate was great and very welcome! Would also add to the site that people prepare for the check in process and time their travel accordingly.

    1st check point – outside of airport: get out of car with luggage for it and car to be searched
    2nd check point – outside terminal – passport/ticket checked – go through screened security with requires removal of computers etc. People can only approach one at a time so its a VERY slow process
    3rd check point – at boarding area – another thorough screened security check also very slow

    Advice: wear shoes that can be easily removed as ALL shoes (regardless of style) have to come off. Limit belts, jewelry etc. Everyone is very friendly but give yourself enough time so you are not stressing – things move slowly here!

    1. Thanks for this info! I’ve been meaning to update the article for ages but just haven’t gotten around to it. I know… it can be a super slow process. I’ll never understand why the dude at the entrance is such a stickler for not letting the next person start to get their stuff ready to go on the belt. Thanks again!

  35. Hi. I have a connecting flight landing at 23:00, my next flight is at 7am. Given that it is such a small airport, does it close? Will there be a place where I can wait for my next flight? Do I need a transit Visa?

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