Work and Travel in Rwanda
VOLUNTEER AND PAID WORK OPPORTUNITIES IN RWANDA FOR TRAVELLERS
Rwanda is a country known for its forested volcanoes, its incredible wildlife, and because it’s part of the burgeoning East Africa tourist trail. With a dark history of genocide behind it, Rwanda is fast shaking off this image to become an amazing yet safe backpacking destination in Africa.
But travellers should remember that this is still a third-world country, which is why there are lots of volunteering opportunities in Rwanda for travellers. If you want to work and travel in Rwanda you shouldn’t read the travel guides for Rwanda you should read the Working Traveller guide instead.
Here are some of the options available to you in this part of East Africa.
1. Conserve Endangered Mountain Gorillas
Rwanda is known as the Land of a Thousand Hills. That’s why it has mountain gorillas. Unfortunately, these are critically endangered and efforts have been set up to protect these gorillas.
Get up close and personal with one of the rarest animals in the world. You’ll be placed in the forest areas and you’ll be supporting teams as they go about their work protecting the environment of the gorillas. You may also find a programme where you help care for mountain gorillas in captivity.
2. Give Children an Education in Kigali
A huge proportion of the population don’t get the chance to go to school in Rwanda. There are programmes located in Kigali that help the poorest and most vulnerable children go to school. They have regular staff members, but they rely on the aid of volunteers.
Volunteers will provide help with basic education and also offer support and run fun games with the kids. You’ll make great friends and you’re making a real difference in the lives of these children.
3. Pass On Crafts in Musanze
Musanze is another desperately poor area of Rwanda. One of the things that people need here is practical skills. Charities here are always looking for people who know a craft of some kind to help young men and women support their families. There are no qualifications required as long as you know the skills.
Examples of skills that are needed include carpenters and seamstresses. You don’t need to be an expert in your field in order to teach as part of these programmes.
VOLUNTEER WORK VISA / PERMIT REQUIREMENTS FOR RWANDA
Rwanda generally restricts visa-free access to certain African countries and Asian nations like Malaysia. For citizens of the UK and citizens of Germany they can get a visa-on-arrival. This also applies to the US, Sweden, Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand.
For the rest of the EU, Canada, Russia, Japan, and South Korea they must apply for an eVisa. Like the visa-on-arrival, the standard length of stay is 30 days.
Take note that Rwanda is part of East Africa so the East Africa Tourist Visa applies (as well as to Kenya and Uganda). This will entitle you to stay within the three countries for a total of 90 days.
It’s a highly recommended visa because it takes much of the administrative problems out of getting visas for other countries and allows you to stay for longer in Rwanda.
Update: In January 2018 Rwanda is expected to introduce a global visa-free regime for 30 days. Only certain countries will still have to pay a fee. Details are still to be announced.
SEASONAL BACKPACKER SKILLS NEEDED IN RWANDA
Springtime in Rwanda and the rest of East Africa suffers from the rainy season at this time of year. That can make most rural roads impassable and outdoor projects nearly impossible to find. The best place to find seasonal work in spring is Kigali.
Opt to teach a language like English or French at this time of year. Care programmes are another option if you want to help support communities in the impoverished areas of the capital.
Part of the summer is still technically the rainy season, but the rains aren’t as intense as they are in the spring. The south and east of Rwanda typically sees less rain. The further you get from the mountains the less chance of rain.
At the end of the rainy season this is when the majority of outdoor conservation projects open their doors to volunteers. It’s the perfect time of year to start with conservation programmes involving the mountain gorillas and the few rhinos still left in the region.
Autumn brings a complete end to the rainy season. It’s the start of the dry season and the majority of rural roads will be back in operation again. This is the time to leave the urbanised areas to go to the rural areas. Many backpackers who want to work and travel in Rwanda decide to get involved with rural teaching and community support projects at this time of year.
Winter is when the majority of tourists decide to travel in Rwanda. If you want to work in Rwanda, you should look into the NGOs as this is when they take most of their volunteers for the year. High numbers of Australians and Kiwis head to travel in Rwanda at this time of year because it coincides with their holiday time.
Medical centres, construction projects, and more are all possible options throughout the winter. Some of the safari lodges may even decide to employ volunteers in exchange for accommodation.
ATTITUDE TO FOREIGNERS WORKING OR VOLUNTEERING IN RWANDA
Work and travel in Rwanda is becoming increasingly popular and is now part of the main backpacking route down East Africa. But this is a third-world country and it brings together the best and the worst of local African people. Expect to have to deal with the annoying touts in the area who’re constantly trying to make you buy this and that.
But if you’re working as part of a volunteering programme in Rwanda you’ll be far away from the tourist areas and you’ll be dealing with kind, friendly locals who don’t want anything from you.
The local culture prioritises welcoming guests above all else, so you’re in for a great time in Rwanda.
Just bear in mind that this is still a third-world country, though, and there is an inherent danger at night. Are you able to cope with what Rwanda has to offer?
- Edited on Jan 17 2018 by Yara