Rwanda's economy and tourist industry is on the rise but as far as travel destinations go, it's not as easy to withdraw money as its neighbours. ATMs are yet to establish themselves and there are few banks which will deal with international withdrawals or travellers' cheques so it is advisable not to rely on your card but to deal in cash exchange.
International Withdrawals: VISA and MasterCard
There are one or two ATMs in Rwanda which display the "VISA Horizon" sign, these are for local use only and will not accept international VISA transactions.
Your best bet is to withdraw money in the capital, Kigali, as few places in rural areas deal in international transfers either.
In Kigali there are two main banks to go to: BCR for MasterCard and Bancor for VISA.
BCR (Banque Commerciale du Rwanda) is also called BCD by locals. You will need to go to the main branch:
- From UTC (main shopping centre in town, with Nakumat and Bourbon coffee) turn up the hill.
- Stay left at ORTPN (Rwandan Office of Tourism)
- Keep going until you reach the roundabout – BCR is on the left.
Bancor is located upstairs in UTC shopping centre. It is Belgium-run and deals in Euros but you can also withdraw in American Dollars or Rwandan Franks.
Forex bureaux are prevalent in Rwanda, both in Kigali and larger towns. You will usually see a sign above a shop. They are just as good for exchanging cash and usually deal in GBP, American Dollars and Euros.
Always double-check the exchange rate before leaving the desk as it is common for less discerning establishments to try and shave a bit off the top, however they tend to be less hassle than banks such as Bancor who will make you fill out a lengthy form just to exchange £20.
If you are planning to cross borders such as Uganda and Tanzania it is advisable to change money at Forex rather than use the numerous touts who will approach you on the crossing itself – they have a reputation for being less honest.
If you get stuck for money in Rwanda and cannot get to a bank to make an international withdrawal then asking friends and family to Western Union is a useful option.
Western Union is a means of sending money internationally usually within 24 hours. You can collect the money from Western Union points which are prevalent throughout Rwanda and you can claim it in either American Dollars or Rwandan Franks.
Important Note on American Dollars
Almost nowhere in Rwanda will accept American Dollars issued pre-2000. When withdrawing money for your trip be sure to check the issue date of each note before leaving the bank.
When withdrawing money in Rwanda it is better to withdraw in Rwandan Francs rather than Dollars – few places accept Dollars so local currency is often more useful.
Basic Guide to Exchange Rates
Current in September 2008:
- FRW 100 is roughly equivalent to £0.10 or £0.20
- FRW 1,000 is roughly equivalent to £1 or $2.
- FRW 10,000 is roughly equivalent to £10 or $20
To convert into GBP remove three zeros then to convert into American Dollars times by two.
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