Kigali International Airport

Kigali International Airport in Kigali, Rwanda is one of the five airports in Rwanda currently and it’s the country’s main airport; formerly known as Gregoire Kayibanda international airport it was renamed Kigali International Airport in 1999; though in some communities it’s known as Kanombe international airport. 

Kigali International Airport

The airport is located south east of Kigali city on the outskirts of Kanombe, about 10 km from the Rwandan central business district. It covers an area of 730 sq. km and it is elevated at 1491 metres above sea level making it one of the highest international airports in the world.

According to 2018 reports the airport serves over 135,189 passengers from Rwanda as the primary consumer and neighboring cities in Uganda, Burundi and DRC. 

Kigali international airport is considered Rwanda’s gateway to most of the country’s locations and a transit point for locations in Burundi, Uganda, and DRC mostly for Bukavu and Goma.

After major renovations and modifications were done on the airport between 2012 and 2017 the airport’s facilities were improved greatly making the facilities up to date with the modern fire and safety measures and top-notch standards that highly compile with ICAO standards. 

The airports boast of three terminals and two heliports with a 3500-meter runway that permits the safe landing of all kinds of aircraft, and it is able to handle a reasonable number of passengers coming in and out at the time.

Kigali international airport’s main terminal has the capacity to accommodate a Boeing 747 jet at a time and up to 6 medium aircrafts at a time. The helipad at the end of the southern runway enables passengers to easily access the main runway two.

The modern serene look of the airport with improved services gives passengers smooth, satisfying and relaxing experiences as they go through the airport whether they are departing or arriving; the travelers’ experience at Kigali International airport is currently the best in East Africa and highly ranked in Africa and the world at large. 

The facilities at the airport are clean and classy with always accessible sanitary points, shops, ample parking space, bars, restaurants and well-furnished air-conditioned halls offering passengers waiting for flights a great ambiance as they wait.  

At a glance you will see larger, spacious and ambient departure and arrival terminal lounges separated by unique architectural designs on either side; this exquisite architectural designs spreading all through to the exterior of the airport with distinctive landscaping designs that enable you to see and appreciate the beautiful natural vegetation.

The interior is boosted with a variety of things to meet passenger needs like: –  

  • Duty-free shops 
  • Luggage wrapping points
  • ATMs/Cash Machines (of course with relevant fees)
  • Free WIFI within the airport waiting area 
  • Well-furnished café for coffee, drinks, and snacks 
  • Mobile charging ports 
  • Airport lounges accessed at a cost
  • Fully equipped health care centre 
  • Nearby hotels for lay overnights

Other services that make your experience smooth include three modern conveyor belts that facilitate efficient baggage management, two escalators and two lifts for the vulnerable and those who just wish not to walk; more than 14 check-in desks that reduce your waiting time significantly and the customer friendly services make your time at the airport really memorable.

With over 100,000 passengers going through the airport daily, over 20 flights daily from both local and international airlines the airport takes pride in its great flight disciplines and punctualities that offer travelers a worthwhile experience as they transit to their different locations. 

Airlines that go through Kigali international airport include but are not limited to RwandAir, Uganda Airlines, Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, South African Airways, KLM, Air Canada, Brussels Airlines, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airways, Emirates among other aircraft.

The Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority has its offices within the airport as well as the national aircraft RwandAir which has its head offices on the top floor of the airport’s main building.

Like any other international airport, Kigali international airport operates under several guidelines to ensure traveler’s safety and efficient and effective services; so a traveler is cautioned to have all the documentation needed for travel and asked to compile with the security, customs, and safety measures directed by the airport management.

All the above qualities make Kigali international airport a leading airport in the region hence the ever-increasing passenger traffic at the airport creating need for expansion; however the topography of the area doesn’t make it suitable for expansion works on the airport, so plans are underway to create an annex of the airport bigger and better in Bugesera, 40km south of Kigali City.

You can access Kigali international airport from the city centre by car (private or taxis). Taxis and Moto-taxis are always available at the airport for hire to transport you from the airport to your desired location but you can also arrange for private means with several operators if you feel like.

Kigali international airport is the most favorable gateway for some of East and Central Africa’s safari locations especially Virunga National Park and Kahuzi-Beiga in DRC and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga National Park in Uganda. Because these parks are located a few Kilometres from the Rwandan border, it makes it very easy to access them through Rwanda from Kigali international airport compared to Entebbe international airport in Uganda and several airports in Kinshasa in DRC. Entebbe international airport in Uganda is 8-9 hours to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga National Park compared to 4-5 hours from Kigali international airport. Goma airport and Kigali international airport have a similar distance from Virunga National Park, however, because of the on-going political instabilities in DRC, it is safe to use Kigali International airport and access Virunga through Western Uganda.

Kigali International Airport
Kigali International Airport

So as you plan your Safari in any of these locations it would be wise to use Kigali International airport as your gateway so that you don’t spend a long time on the road. Liaise with the tour operator about this possibility and you will be glad you considered this option.

All that and much more make Kigali International airport not just one of the best airports in the region but a very essential airport in air transport in East Africa, Africa and the world at large.

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