10 Affordable things to do in Kigali
By Pauline Burkey
I’ve lived in Kigali for just about 6 months now and have had an incredible journey so far. Fortunately, what brought me to this lovely city and even more lovely country is the NGO work I’m involved with and the type of photography my husband does. In our lines of work, we’ve been able to travel all over Rwanda and see some of the country’s most beautiful spots.
But, for those of you who may only have a bit of time to spend in the city, or can’t travel outside of Kigali for whatever reason, DON’T WORRY! There are TONS of things to do that are either cost-friendly, really fun and many times both!
1. Grab a towel and hangout by the pool: Kigali’s climate stays pretty much the same all year round with the exception of the rainy seasons. Though it doesn’t get as hot as other parts of Africa, the hot days can really get to you. So, what I love to do is grab a towel and head to one of the many hotels that offer poolside lounges, preferably with a cold Fanta or glass of white wine to accompany me.
My favorite poolside lounge is at The Manor Hotel in Nyarutarama because the pool offers incredible views of the city, the pool itself is quite large and the service is usually good. On the plus side, the entry fee is 3,500 Rwf which comes out to about 4.30 USD. Can’t beat that deal.
2. Buffet culture is serious in Kigali: At lunch time when I don’t feel like going home to make something, or spending a ton of money on food, I usually hop on a moto and head to one of the many buffets around the city. At lunchtime business folk swarm these spots like crazy. For the best value for your money, I’d head to Sundowner in Kimihurura. Their buffet features traditional Rwandan food with a nice balance of fresh veggies and different plates for a lunchtime variety. The restaurant itself is pretty cool too as it features indoor and outdoor seating.
3. Coffee Shops: Kigali has too many cute coffee shops to choose from. For that perfect Instagram pic head to Shokola just above the Kigali Public Library where the views of the city and the outdoor seating make for the best selfies. If you’re looking for a bit more intimate of a setting, head to Cafe Neo; their fruit smoothies are to die for and since it’s tucked away no one will see you.
4. Booze and Art: Inema Arts center features a happy hour night onThursday nights where you can enjoy art pieces from local artists and students. Thursday nights feature a great bar and fun music to enjoy in the company of impressive works of art. This is an easy activity which doesn’t require much money or effort in planning.
5. Bowling: for 3,000 Rwf per game, you can head to Kigali’s only bowling alley and have an amazing night with friends; either the ones you bring or the ones you make there. Mamba bowl is such a fun activity in a cool area of town. The funniest part of bowling is that there are guys who are behind the lanes who pick up the pins when they fall, so from your lane, you’ll see hands reaching down, but they always move just in time to get out of the way. Makes for a great laugh!
6. Moto Tour: feeling adventurous? Hop on the back of a moto and explore what the city has to offer. From the MTN Center to Amahoro Stadium, Motos are a reliable way to get around and extremely cheap. Just plan for this when it’s not rainy season.
7. Kigali Public Library: head over to the library to read up about the culture of Rwanda, catch some events or sit up top and get a great view of the city at Shokola coffee shop. The library is an easy and free activity and you’re likely to make some friends while you’re there.
8. Amahoro Stadium: I feel funny suggesting this because it’s something I actually haven’t done yet, but it comes highly suggested as something that is fun and very low-cost. Soccer, or if you call it football like most of the country, is taken seriously here, and fans alike love to join together to root for their favorite team. I will post a review of my time at a game when I head there in a couple of weeks.
9. Shopping: the open air markets or the artisan villages have a lot of cool trinkets and items you can buy for a low price (depending on your negotiating skills) the best thing to do is find a great vendor who gives you fair deals and get their number and buy from them. They’re more likely to fend off the other vendors trying to pull a fast one and they will go out of their way to find you all the items you’re looking for.
10. Take a walk, meet a friend: Rwandans are a friendly bunch once you open a line of communication. One thing I’ve noticed in living here is that people will stare, but they won’t speak and coming from the States, that’s weird at first. Once I say hello, or “Amakuru” I am usually met with a warm welcome that has led to amazing conversations.
I LOVE living in Rwanda and Kigali has been amazing. Since we don’t make much money in our lines of work, we’ve had to be creative with how we have fun, but there are a ton of options.
If you find yourself passing through Kigali, be sure to try some of the things on this list. And if you’re living here, www.livinginkigali.com is a great resource to get your bearings around this incredible city!
Follow Pauline on https://www.instagram.com/apieceofpauline/ to see more of her incredible journey in Kigali, Rwanda.