Which land borders are used to cross from Rwanda to Uganda for gorilla trekking?
Which land borders are used to cross from Rwanda to Uganda for gorilla trekking? Gorilla trekking is one of the top tourist activities that is carried out in only three African countries: Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Border crossings are now a common occurrence between Uganda and Rwanda and can be done along two border posts: the Kyanika/Cyanika and Katuna/Gatuna border. The Gatuna border is the most commonly used land border for Uganda and Rwanda; however, the Cyanika border is also busy. Gatuna is a 2 hours drive from Kigali and an additional hour to Bwindi, whereas Cyanika offers the fastest route to Mgahinga from Kigali.
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Border crossings are one of the easiest and shortest ways of gorilla trekking from Rwanda to Uganda because the distance is shorter than traveling from Kampala to Bwindi or Mgahinga, which takes 9 to 10 hours while driving. Driving from Kigali to Bwindi will take about 3 hours, or it might take longer due to traffic and the 40km/hr driving speed limit. In the urban Centres and, 60km/hr. On the highway. The beauty of border crossings is that you can tour two countries with a lot to offer for tourism and gorilla trekking at a low cost.
Katuna or Gatuna border is a fast-growing border pass between Uganda and Rwanda that has been used for years to export and import numerous items across the countries. It is open 24 hours a day throughout the week since it serves as Rwanda’s main export and import departure point. Gatuna border and the village where it is currently located were under Belgian rule in Rwanda and were used as the main route for people escaping from Rwanda and seeking refuge in Uganda when the British demarcated the border between Rwanda and Uganda with the Belgians in Rwanda in 1996, Katuna became the last portion of land on Ugandan soil as you head to Rwanda.
The distance from Kampala to the Katuna border is approximated to be around 500 kilometers. The residents around Katuna are of different ethnicities and you will find Rwandese, Ugandans, Burundians, and Congolese among others. All these come and stage around the border for business because it is the primary processing point for all the bulk imports and exports.
Tourists frequent the Katuna border as they cross into Uganda from Kigali for gorilla trekking in either Bwindi or Mgahinga National Park. You will be okay with exchanging money at the Katuna border because there are several terminals where currency exchange can be done. You can get US dollars, Rwandan Francs, Euros, and Ugandan shillings. You need to, however, be careful because there are so many counterfeits at the border, and you might end up with fake cash.
Tourist attractions around the Gatuna border
Katuna border has greatly boosted the tourism sector in Uganda and Rwanda, allowing tourists to explore two countries with a lot to offer besides gorilla trekking in the Virunga region. Some tourist attractions near the Gatuna border that you can check out include Mgahinga Gorilla National Park for gorilla trekking. There are several dormant mountains and hills to hike, like Mount Muhabura, and a trip to Lake Bunyonyi.
Accommodation at the Gatuna/Katuna border
Gatuna Border Post has alternative accommodation facilities that you can rent into three categories: basic, mid-range, and luxurious. The different housing alternatives that you can check out at Katuna include Lake Bunyonyi View Hotel, Hawk’s Eye Lodge, Itambire Island Seeds of Hope, Katuna Inn, Kigezi Garden Inn, Jowillis Hotel, Albertine Tourist Resort, and Heras Country Hotel among others.
The Kyanika/Cyanika border
The Cyanika border is the most frequently used border by tourists crossing from Rwanda to Uganda for gorilla trekking. It might not be as busy as the Gatuna border post, but it still is a key crossing point for individuals and tourists. The Kyanika border is a link between Rwanda and Uganda in terms of business and with tourists wishing to gorilla trek in either of the two countries and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Kyanika border is found in the Kisoro district on the Ugandan side and the Burera district in Rwanda. It is strategically located near tourist sites, making it the best border pass for tourists between Uganda and Rwanda, and these are Lake Bunyonyi, Volcanoes National Park, Mgahinga National Park, and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, among others. Kyanika has also helped in boosting tourism in both Uganda and Rwanda. It best serves tourists planning on traveling to the southern part of Bwindi.
Tourists who travel from Kigali International Airport in Rwanda can cross from Rwanda through the Kyanika border and trek gorillas in Mgahinga and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Similarly, Tourists from Uganda can cross over to Rwanda to explore Rwanda. The Kyanika border is just about an hour away from the Volcanoes National Park without traffic, especially during peak hours.
Tourist attractions near the Kyanika border
What makes the Kyanika border more interesting besides the short distance are the numerous interesting places around it, and these include:
Volcanoes National Park: Located in Musanze in the northwest part of Rwanda, Volcanoes National Park is a gorilla trekking destination that is visited by tourists all year round to see the famous endangered Mountain gorillas. The National Park is home to the five Virunga Volcano Mountains including Mount Karisimbi, Mount Bisoke, Mount Sabinyo, Mount Gahinga, and Mount Muhavura. It is also home to the endangered golden monkeys and other primates and several bird species.
Cyanika Central market: This is a one-stop center for tourists who plan on shopping a bit before proceeding with the journey. The market is filled with different merchandise; you can purchase refreshments, personal items, and souvenirs.
Mgahinga National Park: Also commonly known as the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, it is found in the Kisoro district, which is 14 kilometers from the Kyanika border. Mgahinga is part of the Virunga region and the smallest national Park in Uganda. It is home to one gorilla family, Golden monkeys, other primates, and several bird species. So many activities are carried out in Mgahinga, like enjoying the Batwa trail and visiting the local communities.
Lake Bunyonyi: Located in southwestern Uganda, Lake Bunyonyi is one of Uganda’s smallest lakes and home to numerous bird species, including migratory birds. There are about 29 small Islands that are scattered across Lake Bunyonyi, it has a green terrace at a height of 2478km, creating the most beautiful sceneries in the area, and this is why it is one of the most visited areas in Uganda.
Getting to Kyanika/Cyanika
The border post is 80 kilometers from Lake Bunyonyi and Kabale, 150 kilometers from Kigali in Rwanda, and 11 kilometers from Kisoro town. You can use private or public means to get to Kyanika, but if you book using a Ugandan tour operator and are traveling from Rwanda, they will have to book a safari car for you from the Rwandan side to take you to Uganda. Driving from Rwanda into Uganda takes a lot of time at the border due to the bureaucracies involved in registering the car, taxes, and other documentation involved.
If you are traveling from Rwanda to Uganda using public means, several public bus companies operate along the route. If you are traveling from Kigali, get to Naybugogo stage and board a bus to Musanze town. When you get to Musanze, take a Matatu/Taxi to the Kyanika border, which will take about 30 minutes. And if you are traveling between Kampala and Goma to the Kyanika border, the main bus companies that plow that route are the Trinity Bus Express and the Jaguar Coaches which all need to be booked in advance.
On the other hand, traveling from Uganda will take about 9 to 10 hours by road from Kampala to the Kyanika border. You can use public means (Gateway buses and Horizon buses). Charter flights can be chartered to Kisoro Airstrip from Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi Airstrip for those who prefer flying.
Where to stay around the Kyanika border
Accommodation around the Kyanika border is found in the Kisoro district and is divided into three categories: budget/basic, mid-range, and luxury accommodation facilities. For visitors wishing to relax along the border, below is a list of facilities you can try out.
Nkuringo Safari Lodge: This is located near Lake Mutanda and is just 14 kilometers from Kisoro town. It offers three meals a day, including both local and international dishes, and features tented camps fitted with en-suite bathrooms and toilets, amongst other facilities.
Muhabura Motel: Muhabura Motel, with four rooms, is located along the Kisoro-Kyanika road and offers facilities like a 24-hour front desk, private bathtubs, and showers, television sets with cable channels, complimentary WIFI, microwaves, free parking, and barbecue grills.
Kisoro tourist hotel: This is considered to be one of the best hotels in Kisoro, offering facilities like self-contained rooms, free parking, gardens for relaxation, both local and international meals, WIFI, and many other facilities.
Golden Monkey Guesthouse: The guesthouse is just a 22 minutes drive from Mgahinga National Park and is located in Kisoro town. There are 16 rooms with en-suite bathrooms and toilets, WIFI, free parking, and daily housekeeping, they have a well-stocked bar and serve three meals a day including local and international cuisines.
Is the Uganda-Rwanda border crossing system slow or fast?
Crossing the Kyanika border takes only a few minutes as long as you have the right documents and they are in order. It becomes easier if you have an East African Visa which goes for $100. Tourists usually cross to Bwindi from Rwanda in the early morning hours when there are fewer crowds, which means that it will take you only a few minutes to cross the border.
Visas are a must when crossing from Rwanda to Uganda, and it costs $50 per person. Only East African Citizens and residents with special working permits can cross the border without paying and only present their National Identity cards. You can decide to make payments online before arrival or you can pay at the border post because all the forms of payment are acceptable and it will not take long to get the stamp in your passport. Note that you will be returning to Rwanda that very day and therefore need to apply for the multiple Entry Visa Rwanda when you arrive at the airport because you will need it.
How long will it take to get back to Kigali after gorilla trekking in Uganda?
It takes generally the whole day but you will be back in Kigali at around 5:00 pm or a few hours later. And this includes border crossing into Uganda, trekking the gorillas, spending an hour with the gorillas, and carrying out other activities that you might want to engage in. If you don’t have a Visa and are planning on getting one at the border, then we advise that you carry cash on you (USD) because credit cards are rarely accepted at the border.
Is the border crossing between Uganda and Rwanda safe?
Yes, it is safe to border cross between Uganda and Rwanda and this is because the two countries have a cordial relationship when it comes to business and political relationships. This helps with the easy movement of both locals and tourists from Rwanda to Uganda, and the reverse is true. Uganda and Rwanda are peaceful countries and have been stable for over a decade, making them safe destinations for tourism. Let’s not forget that both countries highly depend on tourism as their top forex earner.
In conclusion, border crossing from Rwanda to Uganda for gorilla trekking is an excellent idea because you can visit and explore two countries. It is a cheap way to travel and safe. The Katuna/Gatuna and the Kyanika/Cyanika borders are crucial for tourism in both countries and can be used to cross into Rwanda and Uganda for gorilla trekking.