As Flyga Twiga has been covering, there seems to be quite a bit of change going on within the tourism regulations and procedures in the Republic of Rwanda. Earlier this year, the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) announced the doubling of Gorilla Trekking Permit Fees. This was discussed widely within the East African Tourism Industry (our reporting on this discussion). And, sparked a response from neighboring Uganda, who share the border and the few remaining Mountain Gorillas with Rwanda (Uganda Tourism Board Statement).
Now, Rwanda appears to be reinterpreting the much touted “East Africa Tourist Visa” (EATV). In a “Travel Tips Press Release” dated 2 August 2017, Coastal Aviation, one of the leading East African Safari Aviation providers, stated:
Visa Issues in Kigali
We have recently had a case where guests arrived in Kigali and were deemed to not have a valid visa. This caused us to be fined $3,000 by the Rwandan authorities. It transpired that the guests had an East African Univisa. They had applied through Uganda for this. The Rwandan authorities deemed this visa to be invalid as the guests should have applied to Rwanda, their first arrival point, rather than Uganda. Please ask you guests to double check this should it apply to them. We will no longer be responsible for any fines, should this recur. On Application for a Visa, the applicant is given a tracking number. It is important that we receive this tracking number, in order to be able to verify the visa, before flight.
This interpretation of the EATV was not a “one off” fluke, or misinterpretation by a rogue Rwanda Customs & Immigration Agent. Julian Edmunds, Managing Director of Coastal Aviation, only two days after the initial Press Release, sent out an email, subject, “Rwanda Visa Issues.” He stated in his 4 August 2017 email:
The Rwandese seem to interpret the multiple entry as that you may cross the borders between Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya...but that as soon as you leave these countries (ie to Tanzania) then the visa is deemed to have expired and a second visa is then required.
Yesterday we had another such incident. Guests had the East Africa Tourist Visa and used it to enter Kenya. They then left Kenya and then went to Tanzania; we then flew them from Tanzania to Rwanda. The immigration officers in Rwanda would not accept their East African Tourist Visa as they deemed it expired. Luckily the guests were American and therefore eligible to purchase a visa on arrival...had that not been the case, we would have been forced to repatriate them to Tanzania and fined $3000!
Nowhere in the documentation, in English and Korean, does it state that this should be the case. Rather, the document, titled, “Take advantage of the new East African Community Visa” states:
“The holder shall also be allowed to move out of the Republic of Kenya, the Republic of Rwanda, and the Republic of Uganda and return without having to pay for another visa. This will only be applicable for 90 days.”
What all this means for those traveling on the EATV is unclear. Hopefully the respective Tourism and Development Boards will issue clarifications on this matter. When they do, we will immediately provide the information here.
Until then, have a Happy Day! And, a Safe Safari!