A Guide to Airports in Rwanda

Kigali International Airport building, Rwanda

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Although the Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority lists eight airports that are open to the public for civilian flights, only two of these offer a scheduled commercial service. These are Kigali International Airport (KGL) and Kamembe International Airport (KME), with the former serving as Rwanda’s primary gateway for international travelers. Most visitors will only fly in or out of Kigali International Airport. However, Kamembe is a valuable domestic option for those who want to visit attractions in the country's far west, have limited time, and have a budget big enough to justify saving just a few hours on the road. Both airports are well-maintained, with renovations within the last decade in both locations.

Kigali International Airport

  • Location: On the outskirts of the Rwandan capital, Kigali
  • Best If: You are flying internationally or booking a domestic flight to Kamembe International Airport. 
  • Avoid If: You are planning an overland trip through East Africa and intend on entering Rwanda via one of its 16 land borders
  • Distance to Volcanoes National Park: 73 miles, or just under three hours by car. The best way to reach this world-famous gorilla-trekking destination is by private rental car (most visitors choose to hire a driver as well) or on a transfer that has been pre-arranged with your tour operator. 

Kigali International Airport is located on the eastern edge of the capital of Rwanda, Kigali, and is approximately 7 miles from the city center. Travel time between the two typically takes around half an hour by rental car or airport taxi. 

Historically, the airport has seen considerable strife—first as a strategic base during the Rwandan Civil War and later as the location where President Habyarimana’s plane was shot down in April 1994, triggering the start of the Rwandan genocide. Since then, it has seen renovations valued at more than $30 million carried out in recent years and has garnered a reputation for cleanliness and safety. Kigali International Airport has been ranked multiple times as one of the top airports in Africa.

As the main port of entry for overseas visitors (and the only airport to offer scheduled international flights), it has three terminals, three runways, and non-stop flights to 31 destinations in 21 countries. Many of these are operated by Rwanda’s national carrier, RwandAir, which also carries out scheduled flights to the country’s only domestic airport, Kamembe. Other major airlines that fly in and out of Kigali include Ethiopian Airlines, Egyptair, Turkish Airlines, and KLM. The latter operates the longest flight out of Kigali, an 8 hour, 15-minute route to Amsterdam. Currently, there are no direct flights between Kigali and the United States. 

Kigali International Airport may be small by international standards, but it does have most of the facilities visitors may need. These include ATMs, a foreign exchange bureau, access to free Wi-Fi, shops selling duty-free goods, souvenirs, and electronics (including Rwandan SIM cards), a post office, and two Bourbon Coffee outlets. You can also have your luggage plastic-wrapped for greater security, and there are three private lounges—two in departures and one in arrivals. Entry to these facilities is generally reserved for business and first-class travelers flying with certain airlines or VIP cardholders. 

Kamembe International Airport 

  • Location: Just north of Cyangugu, in the Western Province. 
  • Best If: You want to reduce travel time from Kigali to western attractions, including Lake Kivu and Nyungwe Forest National Park. 
  • Avoid If: You wish to fly internationally to anywhere other than a handful of East and Central African destinations. 
  • Distance to Volcanoes National Park: 161 miles, or just under six hours by car. Again, public transport is not recommended, and the best way to get there is via private transfer or rental car. 

Kamembe International Airport is located roughly 3 miles north of downtown Cyangugu, the capital of the Rusizi District in Rwanda’s Western Province. It is the country’s only domestic airport and a natural jumping-off point for western tourist attractions, including nearby Lake Kivu and the chimpanzee-trekking capital, Nyungwe Forest National Park. For example, flying into Kamembe cuts the travel time to Nyungwe from almost five hours (from Kigali) to less than 1.5 hours. 

The airport consists of a single terminal and runway but is well-maintained after undergoing renovations in 2014. RwandAir is the only airline to offer scheduled flights to and from Kamembe, with seven connections to Kigali per week. However, the airport can also accommodate charter flights from neighboring countries, including Tanzania, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is therefore frequented by wealthy travelers and business people. According to the airport’s Facebook page, it offers free 3G Wi-Fi.  

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