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Map showing principal routes in Rwanda

The transport system in Rwanda centres primarily around the road network, with paved roads between the capital, Kigali and most other major cities and towns in the country. Rwanda is also linked by road with other countries in East Africa, via which the majority of the country's imports and exports are made. The country has an international airport at Kigali, serving one domestic and several international destinations, and also has limited transport between the port cities on Lake Kivu. A large amount of investment in the transport infrastructure has been made by the government since the 1994 genocide, with aid from the European Union, China, Japan and others.



There are currently no railways in Rwanda.[1] In 2006, China promised to fund a study to build a rail link from Bujumbura in Burundi via Kigali in Rwanda to Tanzania, which would be 1,000 mm (3 ft 3+38 in) gauge. Alternately, the Northern Corridor Transit Coordination Authority has proposed railway connection from Rwanda and Burundi via Congo to connect to the southern Africa 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in) (Cape gauge) railway network.



Rail links with adjacent countries

(Links to adjacent Transport pages)

Railway stations



  • Work on 691 km line to Rwanda could start in 2009.[2] This would be east Africa's first 1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) (standard gauge) line.[3]
  • Line from Tanzania Isaka expected to be completed by 2013.[4][5]


  • Isaka-Kigali railway shaping Daily News August 24, 2007 - CONSTRUCTION of the 450-km Isaka-Kigali railway will start soon after completion of the line’s survey, President Jakaya Kikwete said yesterday. The president, who is on an eight-day official tour of Shinyanga region, told a large rally in Bukombe district that the line’s survey was currently at an advanced stage.[6]
  • September 2007 [7]

TANZANIA and Rwanda will cooperate in constructing and expanding railway from Kigali to Isaka and from Isaka to Dar es Salaam.

After the construction of the railway line it would then be easy to connect it from Isaka to Mwanza and later Morogoro-Mikumi to Mrimba. Upon completion will turn Tanzania into a business hub of the Great Lakes region. The African Development Bank is conducting a feasibility study on the Kigali-Isaka railway and the two governments are seeking financers of the construction of the Isaka-Dar railway.

Uganda to get 4 new railway lines ZEPHANIA UBWANI ARUSHA

A vast network of additional railway lines within East Africa and others linking the region to neighbouring Ethiopia, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo is on the cards.

Under the master plan, Uganda would have four new lines connecting to South Sudan, DRC and Tanzania. These are Kasese-Kisangani, Gulu-Nimule- Juba, Masaka-Biharamulo and Pakwach-Juba-Wau.

Consultants have been commissioned by the East African Community Secretariat to study the possibility of constructing 15 new lines under the EAC Railways Development Master Plan.

Mr Magaga Alot, the spokesperson for the EAC, said the additional railway sections were approved by the recent EAC Council of Ministers meeting for consideration by the consultants. The ministers, he added, directed the Secretariat to expedite the procurement process for the consultants to enable the Railways Development Master Plan to be finalised within the contracted timeframe.

Burundi and Rwanda, which joined the regional bloc on July 1, have been urged to provide relevant information to the Master Plan Study consultants to speed up the work. Already, the Tanzania and Rwandan governments have confirmed that a railway line would be built to link the Isaka Inland Port in Shinyanga region and the Rwandese capital, Kigali. The proposed line is included in the master plan.

Tanzania would be the main beneficiary of the new railway lines should the ambitious project materialise. Besides the Isaka-Kigali line, eight other new railway lines have been proposed within the country, linking Tanzania with other states. These are Liganga-Mchuchuma, Mchuchuma-Mbamba Bay, Liganga-Mlimba, Dar es Salaam- Mtwara, Biharamulo-Masaka (via Bukoba), Tunduma-Kigoma (through Sumbawanga and Mpanda), Uvinza-Bujumbura and Bagamoyo-Kidomole.

Kenya would have two railway branches connecting it to its closest Horn of Africa neighbours—Ethiopia and Sudan—according to Mr Alot. The three countries, together with others, are members of Igad (Intergovernmental Authority on Development), formed in the 1980s mainly to fight the impacts of droughts and other natural disasters often afflicting the area. One of the proposed railway lines will connect Garissa town with the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, while another will be constructed from Lamu to Juba in south Sudan via Garissa.


  • Burundi has been added to a planned railway project to connect Tanzania and Rwanda. Pre-qualified international firms, that have bid to carry out a feasibility study and implementation of the multimillion dollar project, which will connect Tanzania with Rwanda by rail through Isaka Dry Port, are in the process of presenting their final proposals. Now, Burundi has been added to the feasibility study to link Bujumbura to Isaka-Kigali. The ADB has promised $2.6 million for the feasibility study. One route would be from Rusumo in Rwanda to Kabanga in Tanzania and Kabanga to Gitega and Bujumbura in Burundi - a distance of approximately 200 km. The other route would link Rusumo in Rwanda to Kabanga in Tanzania and Kabanga to Muyinga to Ngozi to Bujumbura in Burundi - a distance of approximately 220 km. The lines would be linked to the 1,000 mm (3 ft 3+38 in) (metre gauge) Tanzanian Railways.

The road network

Rwanda has a total of 12,000 km of roads, of which 1,000 km are paved.[8] The remainder are dirt roads with quality varying from smooth hard surfaces with drainage to rutted, extremely uneven tracks passable only with a four-wheel drive vehicle.

Paved roads

Most of the main towns in the country are now connected by paved road. The condition of these roads was until recently very poor, with numerous pot-holes and vehicles often driving on the dirt verges since these were deemed smoother than the road itself. A recent government programme of upgrading and resurfacing means that most major routes are now in good condition. The major urban arteries of Kigali, as well as the high streets in Ruhengeri, Kibuye and Gisenyi are dual carriageways, but all national long distance roads are single carriageway. There are no motorways in Rwanda.

The principal routes are (refer to map for number references):

# Start End Via Description
1 Kigali Gatuna (Uganda border) Byumba The main road through the north of the country, this is the main route to Kabale and Kampala in Uganda
2 Kigali Kayonza Rwamagana Leads east from the capital. Resurfacing of this road was recently completed, and it features Rwanda's first proper bypass around the town of Rwamagana
2a Kayonza Kagitumba (Uganda border) Nyagatare A continuation of road 2, running to the far northeast of the country. Prior to 1994 most of this road was within the Akagera National Park but the area has now been settled, largely by refugees who returned from Uganda after the war.
2b Kayonza Rusumo (Tanzania border) Kibungo The main route into Tanzania, running down to the far southeast of the country. The border is a high bridge over the Kagera River (which is also part of the most distant headwater of the Nile)
3 Kigali Fugi (Burundi border) Gitarama, Butare The road linking the main two cities of Rwanda as well as being the main link to Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi. The section south of Gitarama was resurfaced in 2004.
3a Gitarama Kibuye This road was surfaced for the first time by Chinese engineers within the last decade, running through very hilly terrain and crossing the Nile/Congo watershed.
3b Butare Cyangugu (DRC border) Gikongoro A very beautiful stretch of road, running through the heart of Nyungwe Forest and ending on the shores of Lake Kivu. It also links to the Congolese city of Bukavu.
4 Kigali Gisenyi (DRC border) Ruhengeri Possibly Rwanda's most beautiful highway, passing first through the hilly areas around Mount Kabuye and then turning west to head along the southern edge of the Virunga volcano chain, before ending up at Gisenyi, on the shores of Lake Kivu. The road continues into Goma in the DRC.
4a Ruhengeri Cyanika (Uganda border) A road linking to Ruhengeri to Kisoro in Uganda. Passes very close to Mount Muhabura, and has an amazing vista right along the Virunga chain.

There are also two roads which are currently quite poor quality dirt roads, but may soon be upgraded to paved status:

  • The road running along Lake Kivu between Cyangugu, Kibuye and Gisenyi, since these towns are now linked politically in by the newly formed West Province.
  • The road running south-east from Kigali through Bugesera district to the Burundi border - the government is considering building a new international airport in this region, near the town of Nyamata, which would necessitate the upgrading of this road.

Roads in Kigali

Public transport


There are several daily coach services from Rwanda to destinations in East Africa:

  • Jaguar Executive Coaches, which connects Kigali to Kampala, the Ugandan capital, via Gatuna (road 1 on the map above) or via Kayonza and Kagitumba (roads 2 and 2a).
  • Regional Coach Services, which runs services to Kampala (8 hours), Nairobi, Kenya (20 hours) and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (36 hours), all via the Gatuna border crossing. These buses are usually air-conditioned.
  • Onatracom Express - a Rwandan government service using quite basic buses, running between Kigali and Kampala.
  • Yahoo Car Express - A minibus service running between Kigali and Bujumbura, Burundi. This service has been subject to ambush in the past by rebels in Burundi, although the new government claim to have sorted out this problem now.

In addition the national express share taxi services (see below) to Gisenyi and Cyangugu often cross the DRC border to carry passengers to Goma and Bukavu respectively.


A row of minibus share taxis waiting to depart in Kigali

The main form of public transport within Rwanda is the Share taxi, known locally simply as taxi or, colloquially, twegerane, which means 'let's sit together' in the Kinyarwanda language (a conventional private taxi is referred to as a special hire or taxi voiture). These share taxis come in two forms:

  • Stopping taxis, which run between two termini (known as taxi parks), but stop frequently en route to pick up and set down passengers. They almost always wait until full before departing, and can also wait for long periods in locations along the route if not enough people are on board. The vehicles are usually Toyota minibuses owned by a private individual who employs a driver (Fr: chauffeur) and a conductor (Fr: convoyeur) to operate and maintain the vehicle on a day-to-day basis. Most have four rows of seats, each of which seats four adults (babies and children not being counted as they are expected to sit on the lap of an adult). Additionally there are two front passenger seats, so the vehicle can carry a total of up to eighteen passengers, in addition to the driver and the conductor. The conductor is responsible for opening and closing the main sliding door and collecting money from passengers, and will stand in the space by the door if all seats are occupied. No tickets are issued on this form of taxi.
  • Express taxis. These run to a set timetable (usually hourly) between major towns, generally Kigali and a major regional centre. The taxis are run by a company (Sotra Tours, Atraco, Stella, Volcanoes Express, Virunga, Trans2000, Omega Car and Muhabura Travel) and issue tickets in advance with a set price. Like stopping taxis, these are minibuses and seat 18 passengers, but they depart on time and do not stop until they reach their destination, except to set people down. Express taxis are quite a recent phenomenon, but are gaining rapidly in popularity as they provide people the security of arriving at a known time. More destinations are being added over time, and most routes sell out considerably in advance of the departure time. Passengers wishing to alight before the end terminus can do so, but have to pay the full ticket price anyway. The price of tickets on Express taxis is similar to the price of a stopping taxi over the same distance.

In addition to these two forms of share taxi, there is a limited national bus service run by a company called Onatracom, which is affiliated with the Rwandan government. These run between Kigali and the major towns two or three times per day, and have the advantage of greater leg room and luggage space but generally take longer to reach their destinations. Onatracom buses also serve some remote areas along dirt roads not otherwise accessible by public transport.


Public transport in Kigali takes the form of the stopping share taxis mentioned above, but running much more frequently due to greater demand. While the national ones are typically unmarked, Kigali taxis have a yellow stripe running round the vehicle, on which is imprinted the start and end points of its route. Most services start or finish either in the city centre or at Nyabugogo, the city's main national bus station.

A recent survey carried out by the Transport Companies Association in Kigali gives us the following statistics: There are 19 bus companies operating a total of 1633 buses of various makes, models and sizes in various parts of Rwanda. In Kigali City itself there are 622 buses operating. Of these 622, 90.6% of them are small Toyota Hiace vehicles, mostly more than 10 years old, and many much older. Of the larger type vehicles carrying up to 30 passengers or so there are 58 units of which 34.4% are new vehicles owned and operated by Kigali Bus Services Ltd. For more information on Kigali Bus Services and the routes covered, please go to

Air transport

Kigali International Airport

The country's main air gateway is Kigali International Airport, which is located at Kanombe, a suburb approximately 10 km from Kigali city centre. The airport has international flights to Nairobi, Entebbe, Addis Ababa, Bujumbura, Johannesburg and Brussels and is the main airport for the national carrier Rwandair Express.

There are plans being discussed to build a new airport at Nyamata in Bugesera district, approximately 40 km from Kigali which would be much bigger and could act as a hub for the entire region. This would be done in conjunction with an upgrade to the road in that area as mentioned above.

The only other airport in the country with passenger service is Kamembe Airport, which is in the city of Cyangugu. Rwandair Express operate a service between Kigali and Kamembe, which serves southwestern Rwanda and the Congolese city of Bukavu.

Water transport

Lake Kivu

This is by far the largest of Rwanda's lakes, forming the border with the DRC. There are occasional boat services between the major ports of Cyangugu, Kibuye and Gisenyi but these do not run to a regular timetable and often have to be chartered. There are also boats used to ferry people to some of the islands in the lake, but these also do not run regularly. Local fishermen operate along the entirety of the lakeshore, usually in dug-out canoes or other hand-crafted boats. The Rwandan navy operates a few boats on the lake to protect the country against infiltrators from the Congolese side.

Other lakes

Transport on Rwanda's other major lakes is mostly limited to ferries, usually local boats similar to those used to fishing, which transport people from one side to the other. Some lakes have resort bars and hotels, such as Jambo Beach on Lake Muhazi, which can offer a pleasure cruise to their customers in their own speed boat. Local fishermen operate on most lakes.

See also



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