Rwanda uses the Rwandan franc, represented by the ISO code RWF. It is the only country in the world to use this particular version of the franc.
What coins and notes are available for this currency?
As you might expect if you remember the French franc, the Rwandan version is divided into 100 centimes. However this is now largely a moot point since the only coins available are denominated in francs. Inflation is relatively high in this country compared with many others in the world, and this has led to the demise of the centime.
The coins you can get are the 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 franc coins. Meanwhile there are also four banknotes, which are the 500, 1,000, 2,000 and 5,000 franc notes.
From past to present – the history of the Rwandan franc
Rwanda has used the franc since 1916, but it would be a while until it brought in its own version of the franc. Originally the area used the German East African rupie but that met its demise in 1916 and the Belgian Congo franc was brought into use instead. This actually lasted some time – all the way up until 1960 in fact. At this point the Rwanda and Burundi franc came into being. It would be another four years before the Rwanda franc as we know it today became the recognised currency.
How to get hold of the Rwandan franc
As you might expect of this country, Rwanda is not exactly keeping up with the developed world in terms of banks and cash machines. Indeed you may find it difficult to get hold of money wherever you go. Some areas will have cash machines so when you do find one it is a good idea to make the most of it. You will stand the best chance of getting cash from a machine in Kigali, which is the capital of the country.
You should avoid getting traveller’s cheques before you go as you may run into problems cashing them in. Furthermore you probably won’t be able to get hold of any Rwandan francs prior to arriving in Rwanda anyway. Most bureaux de change don’t sell them as there is not much call for them. The alternative is to get a money card loaded with the currency that can be used abroad, but even then there is no guarantee you can find anywhere that will accept card payments.
As such you need to go prepared with enough cash to tide you over while you are in the country. While you could use cash machines in the capital and you might be able to pay with a credit card, you shouldn’t assume either of these will be a definite thing. They are more like definite maybes!
How to find out the latest exchange rate between your home currency and the Rwandan franc
You probably already know the answer to this one. It is very easy to find a free currency converter online that you can trust to provide you with the latest conversion rates. Look at how often your chosen converter updates to ensure you get a relatively accurate figure. You should bear in mind that a conversion will be at the basic rate; it won’t take into account any fees you are charged by a bureau de change or bank for converting one currency into the other.
It’s always a good idea to look at the UK embassy for a particular country when you want to learn some more official information about it. Rwanda is no exception. You can go to the website for their embassy by visiting http://www.uk.embassy.gov.rw/.
Travelling safely with the Rwandan franc
You will learn more of Rwanda’s position in the world shortly, but for this section the main concern is the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. In this case there is the risk that the safety of that area in that country is in danger. While this does not directly affect Rwanda, the country’s proximity to any problems means that there could be issues.
It is very important to check the latest security information regarding any travel to Rwanda prior to booking a trip there for any reason. There have been attacks in some areas – including the capital – so make sure you know what is going on there before you travel. Furthermore you should keep a close eye on any developments that may occur while you are in the country.
As for crime there isn’t too much of it to worry about, although there is a chance of petty crime taking place now and again. Pickpocketing and bag snatching are the most frequently occurring incidents and muggings have also occurred. Reduce the odds of being involved in such incidents by keeping a low profile in terms of the valuables you are wearing or carrying with you. Divide your cash between pockets if you can and keep it out of sight as much as possible. Sling your bag over your neck on the opposite shoulder to make it much harder to steal. Most thieves are opportunists and will look for easier targets.
Where to spend your francs in Rwanda – and what to spend them on
Rwanda is located in the central and eastern part of the African continent. It has borders with several other countries. The northern border is shared with Uganda, while Tanzania lies to the east. Burundi is on the southern end of the country and the Democratic Republic of the Congo is to the west.
Its capital, as we have already found out, is Kigali. This is almost dead-centre in the country as a whole. The capital was chosen as such when the country gained independence back in 1960, although it was founded much earlier than this in 1907.
There are some lovely museums in the city including the Ethnographic Museum. This is the national museum of the country and was called as such before the name was changed. If you want to find out more about the history of the country this is as good a place as any to begin. Elsewhere in the city you can visit the Kandt House Museum of Natural History. This is a charming place to visit and focuses purely on natural history.
Elsewhere in the country a popular spot to visit is the Volcanoes National Park. This has become famous as a natural habitat for the mountain gorilla. It is possible to go on a gorilla visit to the park but you must book this in advance. Only a specific number of permits are granted for the activity each day but it is well worth booking onto it if you can. As the name of the park may suggest, there are volcanoes here too. If you are willing you can climb the Bisoke volcano in a day or spend twice that amount of time reaching the summit of the Karisimbi volcano.
Another natural sight you may wish to take a closer look at is Nyungwe Forest. This is actually a rainforest of some considerable size. It is close to the border with Burundi and it is home to many different species. There are in particular many different kinds of monkeys and chimps here including the common chimp and the Golden Monkey among others.
If you would like to see another national park the Akagera National Park could well make it onto your list of places to go. This is in the north-eastern part of the country and takes its name from the river that passes alongside the eastern limits of the park. Akagera National Park has hills and peaks as well as large areas of flatter ground. There is a good mix of ground here, from lakes to swamps and plains to hillier areas. Giraffes and rhino are here alongside elephants, the latter of which have been reintroduced into the park after disappearing from it completely in the early Sixties. Elsewhere you can see antelope, monkeys and leopards. As you can see this is a real opportunity to see many types of wildlife closer than perhaps you have done before.
Finally if you have a thing for bats why not head to the Musanze Cave? This is known for its extensive bat colony and you can take a tour into the cave system to find out more about what is inside. There are dozens of caves here but the Musanze Cave is the easiest one for tourists to see and is the longest one present as well.
Rwanda perhaps does not instantly come to mind when you are thinking about going to a foreign country for a trip. However as you can see from some of the examples given above, there are many places you can visit and lots to see and do while you are there. Once you get to know how far your francs will go when spending money you will start to really enjoy your surroundings, no matter where in Rwanda you end up.