100 DAYS, ALMOST ONE MILLION LIVES LOST. That’s probably the saddest 7-word story in the world, and that is the history of Rwanda. A state sponsored genocide happened not very long ago, a mere 23 years. A lot of people were left dead, helpless, homeless and orphaned. Since then, the government called upon the church to lead the country in reconciliation and asked other countries to support them as it aimed for a path towards healing and peace.
Having this thought in mind, my plane landed at Kigali International Airport. I opted to pay for an East African Visa for $100 that will allow me to enter Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda rather than paying $50 for Rwanda alone. The requirements: Just pre-apply for an e-visa online with your country of entry then upon arrival at the airport, present the form, the passport, and yellow fever vaccine paper.
I went straight to the hotel called Hotel Villa Portofino Kigali. It is also called the ‘Darling of Kigali, ’ and I know the reason why: THEY HAVE THE SWEETEST AND FRIENDLIEST STAFF. It is a four-star hotel, but they have a very excellent service that is fit for a 5-star hotel. The tall guard there even gave me his top-card that I can use on the local bus, so I will only be paying the local rate of 30 cents per ride, he didn’t want the money, but I insisted. He even walked me to the bus stop! That’s thoughtful of him.
It is a 20-minute drive from the city center, but they have the best panoramic view of the hills and the city! It’s The Land Of A Thousand Hills! The hotel has a salon and spa just opposite of the building, so I decided to try and get my pedicure and foot spa for less than 9$!
Confucious once said, ‘Our greatest glory is not in falling, but in rising every time we fall.’ By far, Rwanda is the cleanest, the most peaceful, and safest country I’ve been here in Eastern Africa… It’s far from the sad reality of what happened 23 years ago. And I admire them on how they were able to stand up and pick up the pieces after the fall. Also, this so far is the only place that I’ve been to where most of the locals I spoke to highly commended their government and the President! I’ve read that President Kagame is making a Singapore-style approach that helped to improve their economy after the genocide. I don’t usually talk about politics on my blog (and personal life) but how they managed to change this country is very very impressive!
ROOMS AT VILLA PORTOFINO KIGALI
They have 51 rooms with easy access to the business class lounge which offers indoor and outdoor dining options. 10 of the rooms are suites with well lit, spacious living rooms accompanied by charming complimentary treats.
All rooms are uniquely furnished with around the clock housekeeping and room services. Every guest room is equipped with: air conditioning, telephones with direct-dial access, high-speed internet connection, TV with a host of premium channels, fully stocked mini bar, as well as extra towels, toiletries, and bedding items.
Each room is massive and offers a panoramic view of the hills and the city. It is so beautiful, day and night! They also have everything you need inside the four corners of the room. However, I suggest you avoid the room at the end of the hallway as you won’t be getting a fast internet connection as well as the one next to the elevator because of the noise.
FACILITIES AT VILLA PORTOFINO KIGALI
Coffee Bar & Lounge, Main Restaurant, and The Pool Bar– Enjoy mouth watering food from their selection of local and international cuisine. Have a cup of your favorite coffee or booze too!
Conference Halls and Events- The largest facility has a holding capacity of up to 250 people. Muhazi Hall and The Boardroom hold up to 70 and 25 people respectively. Have a worry free event with their LCD projector/screen, podium, white boards/flip charts and markers, high speed internet connectivity, modern and comfortable conference furniture, business support (secretarial services, photocopying, and a global communication facilities), registration staff and conference organization support, 24-hour generator back-up, as well as a limousine and taxi services.
Gym– The fitness center offers a variety of exercise machines and free weights to suit your cardio and strength training needs. Water and other beverages are provided along with fresh towels. It is open 24 hours a day and is free to all guests.
Pool– Swimming is never a bad idea! Taking a dip in this huge pool is a good way to spend your time in Rwanda.
I suggest you take the bus or the moto taxi. With less than 1 dollar, you’re off to anywhere in Kigali! It’s good to take the public transportation because it’s convenient and the roads are great and accessible!
Explore the City- Since going around is pretty cheap, why not spend the day out in the city? I love the people here– they are more reserved and disciplined, they don’t smile that much but are friendly, there are no beggars or locals asking money from tourists. One time, I was looking for the local bus to bring me to the border of Uganda and locals was happy to walk me until I found the bus company. While walking around, some young ladies who are very shy approached me and just asked me questions. The young kids were running towards me just smiling and playing with my hair (nope, not asking for money unlike in other countries)! Ha! Another thing I’ve noticed is that there are NO STRAY DOGS (or maybe I didn’t just see them) walking around and then I did a quick search afterward and found out that the dogs here became pack animals and are used to eat the dead bodies during and after the genocide. Bad memories! I don’t know how to explain this feeling, but this African trip so far is eye opening.
Kigali Genocide Memorial- It is a self-guided audio tour that only takes about an hour and a half to walk through. Admission is free, and the audio equipment rental is just $15.00 which all goes to the memorial fund. This is a very informative and powerful experience for me. May this never happen anywhere in the world again.
Kimironko Market- A great place to find local arts and crafts. Don’t forget to bargain!
Inema Art Center- The artworks are very beautiful with different elements of style. They arrange delivery to anywhere in the world so if you wanna take one home, don’t think of it as a hassle. Oh, there is a cafe and a bar in the area where you can meet some of the artists. 🙂
Ntrama Church– A genocide memorial where 5,000 people were brutally killed. Walk around and see the victims’ belongings, blood stains on the wall and skulls all over the place. I know it’s a sad sight, but it’s a good eye opener. I hope this will never happen again.
FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions About Hotel Villa Portofino
1. What are the room rates at Hotel Villa Portofino?
2. What are the check-in and check-out times?
Check-in time is 11 AM and check-out time is 9 AM.
3. Is there Wi-Fi?
Yes, free Wi-Fi is available.
4. Is smoking allowed?
The rooms are non-smoking, but there is a smoking area.
5. Are pets allowed?
6. Are children free of charge?
One child from 0-6 years old stay free of charge when they use existing beds. One child from 7-12 years old is charged 50% of the room stay per night when using existing beds. Yay!
Note: I stayed as a guest in Hotel Villa Portofino in Kigali, Rwanda. All opinions are based on my personal experience.
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