Heading to Rwanda and want to know what to pack and wear in the country?
Then you’ve come to the right place!
An often overlooked country in East Africa – in favour of its more famous neighbours Kenya and Tanzania – Rwanda nevertheless has a huge amount to offer visitors.
I mean for starters, it’s one of the only countries in the world to have families of gorillas living within its borders!
And if that wasn’t enough to convince you, then Rwanda is also home to a significant chimpanzee population, some incredible national parks and beautiful lakes too.
The country’s difficult history, in particular in its horrific genocide in the nineties, also feeds into its unique story and makes it a truly memorable and poignant place to visit.
So if you’re heading off to Rwanda, here’s my ultimate packing list, to help you prep everything you need for a fab time in this country.
Oh and if you want some great tour options for Rwanda, including to see the gorillas, check out this list…
- 15 Safest Countries to Travel in Africa
- Top 7 Things to Do in Rwanda
- The Perfect East Africa Itinerary
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How to Pack Light for Rwanda?
Before I get into the actual checklist of what you should pack for your trip to Rwanda, I wanted to write a quick few tips to cover some specific questions you might have.
First up, this packing list is designed to be lightweight i.e. it’s ideal for backpackers, but also for anyone else heading to this country who doesn’t want to haul a massive suitcase around.
If you’re moving around Rwanda, which you definitely should, then lugging big bags on and off safari vehicles or local buses is simply no fun, so this packing list is designed to make sure you have everything you need for every inch of this country, without being too weighed down!
And if you manage to condense your stuff down well, then this whole Rwanda packing list below should fit into a 40-50l backpack.
I never take anything bigger, even when I’m travelling for 6 months at a time, so you’ve got no excuse!
This 50l Atmos backpack from Osprey makes a great option and would be brilliantly accompanied by some good packing cubes!
Yes these guys are the answer to all your packing problems my friends, and if you want to compress your gear to take up less space, as well as have it nicely organised, I highly suggest you get some!
I absolutely love these packing cubes and personally would never consider heading off to East Africa, or indeed anywhere, without them.
What to Wear on a Rwandan Safari?
So while we’re on the subject of keeping the luggage weight down, it’s worth pointing out that the main checklist below does detail everything you need if you plan to safari in Rwanda too, which I highly suggest you do!
The main overall advice here is to bring layers that are thin, but that still protect you from the humidity, harsh UV rays and insects you’ll encounter here.
A thin, light waterproof / windproof jacket will be very handy when enjoying a safari at dawn or dusk and, as always, I recommend garments with lots of pockets so you have easy access to things like tissues, camera, sanitiser, snacks etc.
Long trousers and long-sleeved tops are advised, as well long socks and covered-toe shoes. And don’t forget a good hat to protect your head from the sun too.
A silk sleeping bag liner and headlamp will also be useful, especially if you plan to enjoy any multi-day excursions on a budget, many of which involve camping.
And no matter whether you’re tackling a big adventure safari in a remote park, or just a day activity close to Kigali, an active camera like the Go Pro will be ideal with its waterproof, compact and durable attributes.
What to Wear For Gorilla Trekking?
The first thing to know is that gorilla trekking is a muddy affair, so you’ll definitely need ankle boots that are waterproof and have enough grip to support you in wet and rough terrain.
Long trousers and long-sleeved tops are also a good idea to avoid scratches from the vegetation and to protect you from insects, including fire ants.
Long hiking socks that you can tuck your trousers into are also a good plan, as are gardening gloves to protect your hands.
A thin waterproof will be needed in case of sudden downpours, and a day pack to house your binoculars and camera, as well as water, is also a must.
Learn more in this ultimate guide I wrote to gorilla trekking.
What to Wear on a Flight to Rwanda?
It’s also worth taking some time to think about what to wear on a flight over to Rwanda.
Making sure these items tie in as much as possible with the checklist below will help you keep your packing light, as you won’t be doubling up or carrying any unnecessary pieces you won’t wear again until the flight home.
Quite simply, layers are key.
You never know how hot or cold a plane might be and if you want to get some sleep, comfy clothing is king.
This is especially true given flights to Rwanda from Europe, Australia, New Zealand or North America are usually long haul (around 7hours+), so I’d certainly advise wearing things you feel at ease in.
Ladies, I always wear leggings on long-haul flights and love these natural bamboo fibre ones from Boody, which I now never travel without!
I generally pair them with either a thin cotton top or dress (depending how much coverage you want), and then also take a sweater and a scarf on the plane for extra cosy layers.
The travel wraps from Sholdit, which have hidden security pockets, are perfect for travel adventures and I love mine!
A travel pillow will also help you here and I love this one, which I just bought and I’m already in love with thanks to its memory foam, high-sided design.
Alternatively, if leggings aren’t your thing, then loose-fitting jeans or comfy cargo pants might be a good option, with a t-shirt and thin sweater on top.Compression flight socks are also a must in my book when it comes to long haul flying as they help you avoid the possibility of DVT and I tend to pair these with a lovely eye mask and ear plugs to ensure I get some good zzz.
What Electricals to Bring?
Taking a smartphone with you anywhere these days is a must and I highly suggest you accompany this with some good quality Bluetooth headphones.
In addition, you may want to bring a DSLR, or better, mirrorless camera with you to collect some great wildlife snaps. Don’t forget a power zoom lens!
Learn more about my pick for the top safari cameras here.
I also highly recommend investing in a power pack for your trip to Rwanda, so that you can charge your phone, camera, iPad or headphones when you’re out and about (or when there’s a power cut).
My go-to brand here is Anker and I actually have 2 of their portable chargers – one that comes out with me during the day and the other that is charging wherever I’m staying, so it’s ready to swap over.
For my big camera, I also have a spare battery, so that I can swap batteries around and keep snapping happily away all day.
And finally, don’t forget a headlamp – also key for when there’s a power cut!
1 Week Rwanda Packing List: Item Checklist
And so finally here it is, my item by item checklist for exactly what to pack and wear in Rwanda…
1x Thin Waterproof / Windproof Jacket
Set in the tropics, Rwanda can be wet and humid (even when it’s warm), which means thin layers are crucial when it comes to staying dry without overheating.
Taking a thinner jacket that you can layer on or off when being active also makes a lot of sense.
I love the North Face Venture 2.
2x Thick Hoodie / Sweater
Uganda rarely gets cold, but after a rainstorm, if you’re up for a dawn hike or safari, you might want to feel a bit snug.
As such, a couple of thicker jumpers are nice to take with you – I suggest wearing one on the plane anyway.
A good activewear one, like this Columbia fleece is well suited to the job, as it is designed for outdoor travel and perfect for safari and camping adventures.
2x Thin Long-Sleeved Tops
Also good for cooler days or when taking safari trips at dawn, dusk or night, thin long-sleeved tops are also good when you need to layer up, as they can be worn under thicker jumpers.
Choosing natural fibre options, like cotton, is a good choice for budget vs comfort.
It will also reduce the amount you sweat.
Thin tops also make for an excellent hiking base layer if you do want to head to see the gorillas or chimps.
7x Singlets / T-Shirts
Choose tops that match the trousers / leggings / shorts you pack and consider quick-dry options.
T-shirts are good for covering shoulders and offering sun protection in the tropical climate of this country.
2x Long Pants / Trousers
Great for going out in the evening or wandering around towns when it’s raining, a pair of versatile trousers are a must when it comes to what to pack for any travels in East African countries like Rwanda.
I think 2 is enough, if you ensure it will cover a wide range of activities from strolling to going out in the evening to nature time.
Rwanda is quite conservative in certain areas and all locals tend to wear longer items of clothing that at least stretch to the knee.
As such, you may feel more comfortable doing the same – especially in cities or towns.
Just make sure any trousers you bring are thin, as this country is rarely cold!
2x Leggings / Hiking Pants
One of my travel essentials, leggings are so helpful for putting on under trousers if cold, for hiking or exercising, for being comfortable, for extra nightwear or for under a casual dress in the evening.
My advice is always to take 2 pairs and make them bamboo fibre ones if possible, as these guys are soft, light, comfortable, breathable, quick-dry and hypoallergenic… what’s not to love?!
If you don’t like leggings, hiking trousers or loose-fitting pants will do fine instead, as they are also good for travel days or if you plan to undertake any volunteer work.
You’re going to need something to wear during those warm lakeside days in Rwanda, especially if you’re in the country for a while!
1x Light Dress
Again, a good item for down days.
Or if you want to dress up a bit during the evening, you can wear this over a pair of leggings.
You see, so versatile!
Small and compact, 8 pairs will save you a lot of handwashing!
2x Bras + 2x Sports Bra
Great for those bumpy safari rides, I really love this black, supportive sports bra from Nike.
Make sure you take socks of various lengths / thickness, including ankle socks for city days and good, non-blister over the ankle socks for hiking and nature activities like gorilla trekking.
I always recommend a couple of sarongs whenever I travel because they are so versatile.
Great for hiking, lying by the water, using as a thin sheet at night or trying to keep your neck protected from the sun, the list of uses for the humble sarong goes on and on!
Check out my article about all the ways you can use a sarong when you travel here.
Cap / Sun Hat
Having something to shield your face, neck and ears from the strong UV rays that are very prevalent in Rwanda is a must, especially when you might be exposed to them for long periods of time if you’re hitting some national parks / hiking / volunteering / on safari etc.
Many accommodation options in Rwanda have swimming pools, so it pays to come prepared.
Make sure your sunglasses are UV-protected and consider prescription ones if you wear glasses usually.
You can always double up on your daywear here to save room!
Otherwise, thin and light cotton shorts and a top will do the job for nightwear.
If you’re heading off to see the gorillas, then hiking boots are a must on your Rwanda packing list.
Boots might also come in handy for safari activities.
Check out this post I wrote to learn more about choosing the best footwear depending on what type of safari activities you want to enjoy.
Trainers / Runners
Good sturdy sneakers for exploring cities and towns on foot are crucial in Rwanda.
These New Balance black cross-trainers are great all-rounders and won’t show up a lot of dirt.
Flip Flops / Sandals
Personally I’d never travel anywhere without my Arizona Birkenstocks and neither should you!
The support they provide is awesome and that’s definitely something you’ll need for the uneven terrain and streets in Rwanda!
Toiletries / Medical
Thin Toiletries Bag with Hook
A light, thin wash bag is essential for keeping the weight in your backpack / luggage down.
And one with a hook makes it easy to hang up in small bathrooms or when out in nature.
This one is a great, cheap option for your Rwanda packing list.
Shampoo & Conditioner Bars
I always go for shampoo and conditioner bars when I travel to save the plastic and keep the space down.
Although they are a bit pricey, they last for ages.
Say goodbye to mid-travel spillages and bulky bottles people, this is the eco-friendly future!
Keep your soap in ziplock bag to stop soap slime ooozing onto everything you own!
I suggest an anti-bacterial bar as they are great for keeping you clean in tropical climates where you’re likely to be sweating a bit!
I always pack a natural crystal deodorant as they last forever (great if you’re travelling for a few months) and are free from many nasty chemicals.
They are also the only thing that stops me sweating in the tropical heat… lovely!
Face Cleanser, Serum, Toner & Moisturiser
Great for bringing your skin back to life after days in the strong sun.
SPF Sunscreen & Lip Salve
Choose a 30 SPF or higher for those super strong rays in Rwanda and go natural if you can, to keep the chemicals out of your skin.
Very important for those strong UV conditions, a good SPF will keep your lips healthy and happy.Burt Bees are always my go-to as they never dry out my lips and offer excellent protection.
I recommend a strong product for your Rwanda packing list to keep yourself protected against malaria and dengue fever.
Medical professionals advise at least a 40% DEET product.
This doubles as a great moisturiser, soother and aftersun – much needed in East Africa.
Buy organic Aloe Vera here.
Tea-Tree Essential Oil
A powerful antiseptic, antimould and antifungal treatment, tea-tree essential oil is also great to throw with your clothes washing (just a few drops) and ideal for freshening up smelly bags / laundry etc.
Get an organic tea-tree oil if you can.
An ideal remedy for headaches, sore muscles and insect bites, tiger balm is super versatile and a must on any Rwanda packing list, especially if the mosquitoes love you as much as me!
Paracetamol, Antiseptic Cream, Rehydration Salts, Imodium, Anti-Inflammatories, Anti-Histamines & Band-Aids
The best way to deal with your time of the month when travelling ladies.
Saves the planet from more waste too.
Check out the best prices for them here.
Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Floss
Razor & Spare Blades
Nail Scissors, Nail File & Tweezers
Cotton Buds / Pads
Hair Bands & Hair Brush
Glasses / Contact Lenses if you wear them
Smartphone & Bluetooth Headphones
Taking your smartphone to stay in touch with those at home, check maps, book accommodation and upload some pics while you’re in Rwanda is a great idea.
You can easily buy a cheap SIM when you get to the country and it’s good to know that data packages and network coverage here are generally excellent and very affordable too.
I’d also download some audiobooks and music onto your phone before you leave home – a great idea for journey days.
I recommend Amazon Audible and Spotify Premium for these purposes and wouldn’t travel without either these days.
Portable phone chargers are great when travelling, especially if you’re out sightseeing and snapping all day and worried your phone or camera battery won’t last.
I recommend the Anker Powercore – it’s light, compact and charges devices super quickly.
I love my Sony A600 mirrorless camera, which I used throughout my travels in East Africa and beyond.
Compact and sturdy, it’s perfect for travelling.
A GoPro is also a great idea to help capture the more active adventures you might have in this country such as hiking, safari-ing or diving.
It’s also great for video!
Lens, Spare Battery, Memory Cards, Chargers & Cables
All essential for the camera and / or the GoPro.
Rwanda uses European style outlets, so get a Skross World Adapter that won’t fail you.
Headlamp & Spare Batteries
I never travel anywhere without a headlamp and recommend you choose a product that uses commonly found batteries and has a red night light function to avoid the bugs.
I love my Black Diamond number, which has served me very well across East Africa, especially during those occasional power cuts!
You can easily get an affordable pair like these Binoteck ones, which are ideal for safari.
Eye Mask & Earplugs
Key for sleeping in hostels and / or when camping on safari.
This eye mask from Alaska Bear is super comfy… go on treat yourself!
I recommend Latrek when it comes to the best travel towel because they are cheap, compact, soft and don’t smell.
Love, love, love mine. Read my full review here.
Definitely needed for hiking, sightseeing and active safari days, this Kompressor from Marmot is perfect for the job as it’s super featherweight and packs down to nothing – an ideal item for your Rwanda packing list.
Very useful for locking up bags and valuables when staying in hostels or on bus rides, these don’t have to be expensive, just reliable!
Best to get a TSA-approved one in case of any hassle at the airport.
Filter Water Bottle
Try not to add to the world’s plastic problem and consider travelling with a filter water bottle like this one from LifeStraw.
Not only does this mean you can safely and easily drink the tap water in Rwanda, but it will also save you the money and hassle of having to continuously buy bottled water.
Much cheaper and more environmentally friendly, the LifeStraw Go Water Filter Bottles have an amazing technology solution that filters out 99.9% of harmful bacteria and the filter lasts for 4000 litres, which means you’ll likely only have to replace it once a year!
Travel Handwash & Washing Line
Great for doing emergency washing, such as underwear in a sink, travel handwash is always a must when I backpack anywhere.
So useful in Rwanda if you’re travelling during the rainy season!
These small and compact guys are great for keeping your electrical equipment safe and dry.
Check out this top-rated one for ideas.
Silk Sleeping Bag Liner
Personally, I wouldn’t bother with a full sleeping bag if you’re travelling in Rwanda, it’s just too hot to warrant it most of the year!
That said, a silk liner, which will keep you snug at night and actually stop you sweating, is the perfect alternative… plus it’s lighter and less bulky to carry too.
Check out this one to learn more.
Lots of people say you don’t need this item, but I find it very useful.
Choose a light, inexpensive one and make sure it has a bottle opener, corkscrew and knife – like this.
When you’re out in nature in Rwanda, a multi-tool can come in very helpful.
Great to have for those times when the one provided is less than adequate, or when you want to sleep under the stars but still not get bitten!
A travel mosquito net is a must on your Rwanda packing list.
Multiple packs of biodegradable ones… I’ve never used so many in my life as I did in East Africa!
Documents & Paperwork
Passport & Photocopies
Definitely take a colour copy of your passport and keep it on your person at all times.
Taking a photo of your passport and storing it safely on your smartphone / cloud storage is also a good idea.
Depending on the passport you carry, you may or may not need this for Rwanda.
Most European, Aussie, Kiwi and North American passport holders get a visa on entry via a stamp obtained at both land and air border points.
Always good to have with you wherever you travel, it’s a smart idea to check whether you need your Yellow Fever jab for Rwanda.
Travel Insurance Policy
World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while travelling and claim online from anywhere in the world.
Alternatively, if you’re a long-term traveller, digital nomad or frequent remote worker seeking travel health cover, check out Safetywing’s Nomad Insurance policies.
Credit Cards and Debit Cards
When it comes to paying for things in Rwanda, you want to ensure you’re not being charged overseas transaction fees or getting poor exchange rates when using your card abroad, which is why I always take my Wise card away with me wherever I travel.
The easy way to spend abroad with real exchange rates, no markups and no sneaky transaction fees, you can use your Wise card just like a debit card… and it links easily with Google and Apple pay – sold!
Get yours here.
Hidden Cash in Small Thin Purse
Take some USD cash with you that can be exchanged into Rwandan Francs in case of an emergency.
Sadly, at some point, it’s going to be time to go home *sob sob *
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And there it is, my ultimate guide of what to wear in Rwanda and how to pack for your travels in this country.
Designed to be practical, while keeping things light, I hope I’ve covered everything you might need with my tips and item by item checklist.
Did I miss anything out?
Please drop any comments into the box below and let me know…