Travel Between Tanzania and Rwanda
Neighbours Rwanda and Tanzania share a border, but feel quite distinct. Many tours begin in the vast urban sprawl of Arusha, but much of rural Kenya remains quite undeveloped, with northern Tanzania even more so.
You’ve probably heard of routes that include Rwanda and Kenya, but now, the introduction of direct flights from Kigali to the heart of the Serengeti have made Rwanda and Tanzania a dreamy pairing.
After a first night in Kigali, (which could easily be a two- or three-night stay to make time for a visit to the poignant genocide memorial – the choice is yours), you’ll be straight into gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park.
An early morning transfer will take you back to Kigali for a flight to the Serengeti, allowing for bacon and eggs in Rwanda, followed by afternoon tea and cakes in Tanzania! Spend the next few days looking for big cats, rhino and wild dog on the golden-grass plains, before jetting over to Zanzibar for a dose of sand, sea and sunset cocktails.
2 Ways to travel Between Tanzania and Rwanda
Tanzania and Rwanda is connected to the world by a network of international airports, most of which are located in or adjacent to the region’s major cities. Most major towns in different Partner States also possess smaller airports.
Finding a cheap flight anywhere around the world is not always easy. It’s about comparing platforms, selecting the right routes and booking at the right time. Fortunately, platforms like Skyscanner became known as an all-in-one tool for booking flights at the lowest cost possible.
You can get to Kigali, Rwanda from Mwanza (departing at 5:30AM), from Arusha (departing at 4:00AM; transfers in Singida) or Dar es Salaam (departing at 4:00AM)
Even though you are going to Kigali, the bus ticket is actually to a Tanzanian border town called Benaco, where you will transfer to the Rusumo border. The ticket costs 20,000 tsh and Nyehunge bus line is one of the best.
You can as well look for Private Transfer: A Toyota Coaster 33 seats costs around:$1900, or a Toyota Landcruiser: 7 seats: $2200 – One way.
Traveling Overland to Tanzania from Kenya
Taking the private shuttle bus is the most -friendly way to travel between Rwanda and Tanzania. As a result of the Rusumo immigration border stop. This is a very relaxed journey and you can be picked from any Point in Tanzania. The Bus has around 33 seats, and a good space for bags on Top.
This is another comfortable transfer between Rwanda and Tanzania. The vehicles has 7 window seats, it is good for 7 people if you do not have many bags, with many bags is more comfortable to have between 4 to 5 people. It is a very comforyableand enjoyable journey between the two Countries.
There are several connectiong buses from Tanzania and Rwanda. Most of them leave at around 5am. You can get to Kigali, Rwanda from Mwanza (departing at 5:30AM), from Arusha (departing at 4:00AM; transfers in Singida) or Dar es Salaam (departing at 4:00AM). It is good to break the journey in Mwanza.
Those opting to travel to Rwanda are required to comply with the rules and regulations laid down by the government. Some passengers may be able to obtain a visa on arrival, while others will need to apply for it at the Rwandan Diplomatic Consulates in their home country or online at https://irembo.gov.rw/rolportal/en/web/dgie/newhome. We highly recommend you apply for your visa online 6 weeks prior to arrival into Rwanda.
Below is an overview of the requirements:
Countries Exempt of Visa Requirements
If you belong to a country that has a bilateral agreement with Rwanda, you may be eligible to tour or visit the country for up to 90 days without a visa. Countries falling under this category include Singapore, Mauritius, Hong Kong, Philippines, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Citizens from the Republic of South Africa are exempt from visas for stays up to 30 days.
Countries with Visa on Arrival Agreements
Passport holders of countries like the United States of America, United Kingdom, Israel, New Zealand, Germany, Australia, and Sweden can receive a visa on arrival. This visa costs $50.00 and is valid for 30 days. Passengers need not apply in advance for it, but can if they prefer.
Applying for the Visa at the Rwandan Consulate
Those wishing to apply for a visa must contact the Rwandan Consulate in their home country and provide the necessary documents. Keep in mind that processing visa requests can take 3 to 5 business days when applying in person at the consulate or online, or two to three weeks if applying by post. Since officials may be processing a large number of visa applications, it is recommended that you apply well before your intended travel dates.
Travelling Between Tanzania and Rwanda by Bus
Getting from Tanzania to Rwanda by land is simple once you have all the information you need. You can get to Kigali, Rwanda from Mwanza (departing at 5:30AM), from Arusha (departing at 4:00AM; transfers in Singida) or Dar es Salaam (departing at 4:00AM). I would suggest that you take the bus from Mwanza and breaking up the journey here as it is a lovely lakeside town!
Even though you are going to Kigali, the bus ticket is actually to a Tanzanian border town called Benaco, where you will transfer to the Rusumo border. The ticket costs 20,000 tsh and I used the Nyehunge bus line.
You can purchase your bus ticket the day before at the ticket office (located near Buzaruga bus station) or the morning of departure at the new bus station (Nyegezi) where the bus leaves. If you do the latter, get there early to make sure you get a spot. I would recommend going early regardless to get a window seat- you will be thanking me for this later.
The bus is scheduled to depart at 5:30AM but we left closer to 6:00. I arrived around 5:00AM to claim my spot at one of the windows but to my surprise, the guy in charge was actually enforcing seat numbers (usually it’s just a free for all, but this dude ran a tight ship). In this case I was very happy I had gotten my ticket the day prior as they had automatically assigned me a window.
The first stop is the Kimanga ferry, where you will get off the bus to purchase a ticket (500tsh) and walk onto the ferry. I was again shocked at the efficiency as the bus drove straight on the ferry and we departed shortly after. I had to hustle to get on board so anyone taking their time would have been left behind. We had a while on the ferry to enjoy the sunrise but were ushered back onto the bus before we arrived so we could drive off immediately after docking.
That didn’t put a dent in our 9 hour bus journey though. Once over the lake, the bus drives continuously until Benaco. A few stops are made to pick up new passengers who stand in the aisle (hence why I wanted a window seat) but no stops are official rest breaks so prepare your bladder. Definitely pack food and water (I use the), though you can buy drinks, peanuts, bread and fruit from the bus windows during the brief stops. You may also want to pack some or as you will get really dusty by the window. is also a must!
The first building you will see is customs to enter Tanzania. I went in to get my exit stamp and was told that they will do it at the Rwanda customs across the Rusumo bridge (weird but true). You can either take a motor bike taxi across the Rusumo bridge or walk. I walked and it’s about 10 minutes downhill and then another 5 over the bridge until you see the Rwanda customs building.
You will first report to the Tanzania desk to ‘exit’, and they will send you to the Rwanda visa desk. The Rwanda desk will give you a piece of paper that says $100 USD (assuming you are getting the East African tourist visa) and then send you to the bank window. You pay cash, receive a slip and return to the Tanzania desk for your exit stamp (no idea why you have to go there twice, but I watched him give me the exit stamp the second time I was there). The guy who gave me the exit stamp was the same man to print my East African visa and put it in my passport (like I said, confusing and a lot of back and forth between desks in the same room).
100$ and 30 min later I was off again.
Pro tip: there are no ATMs at the border, so you don’t really have a choice but to exchange money. There are money changers on both sides of the border who are slightly aggressive but gave me a decent rate from Tanzanian shillings to Rwandan Francs. I only lost about 1000 tsh (50 cents) doing this so not too bad. You will need to have your bus fare to Kigali (3,500RW), taxi fare to get to your hotel from the bus station (a boda is 1,000RW) and extra for food or drink before you depart. I purchased a bottle of Coca-cola at the border for 1500 RW.
Once at the Benaco bus station you can use a toilet located at the back or grab food or drinks from the stalls. Then you need to transfer to the Rusumo border crossing, so take a shared taxi for 3000 tsh (the taxi is essentially a normal car packed to the brim with bodies). I shared one with a few mamas and their babies, so I was quickly handed a toddler to hold for the bumpy 15 min ride.
The border was a little confusing (though it could have been my sleep deprived brain) so here are all the details you need to know.
Pro tip: The Tanzanian tourist visa is not multi-entry so once you leave it is void.
Almost immediately after crossing into Rwanda, no one understood my Swahili. I don’t speak French or the national language Kinyarwanda, so I found English worked best.
The minibus ride from Rusumo to Kigali is around 5 hours or 160km and costs 3,500 RW — we arrived around 9:00pm. People get on and off often so it is very slow but much more comfortable than the Tanzanian bus. Immediately I felt the air was cooler, the bus was less cramped and hot, and the roads were better. The last stop is the Nyabugogo bus station, but I recommend checking where the bus station is in relation to your hotel in case you can get off sooner. I took the bus to Nyabugogo and ended up back tracking via boda boda to get to my hostel because my phone had died and I couldn’t get on a map.
Pro tip: I recommend maps.me, a mobile app which you can use offline after downloading the country map.
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