The one thing that almost all tourists traveling to Rwanda want to do is track in Volcanoes National Park, when planning for gorilla trekking safaris in the Volcanoes national park Rwanda, it’s very necessary for you to first book your gorilla pass ahead of your actual tracking date as they often get finished quickly. It is no longer the case that you can just pitch up in Kigali and be almost certain of obtaining a permit for the next day, or failing that, the day after. Particularly during the peak season of June to September, and again over the Christmas and New Year holiday period, it is now often the case that all 80 gorilla permits available daily are booked up months in advance for several days running-a scenario that’s likely to become increasingly normal as greater volumes of tourists visit Rwanda.
The major challenge with tracking gorillas in Rwanda is certainly the price of the gorilla permit at US$750 compared to Uganda’s US$600 per permit. However, Rwanda’s pride is in the ability for one to do the gorilla trek even in one day and fly back home which is impossible for Uganda.
What this means is that any visitor with a tight schedule should book their permits as far in advance as possible. If a tour operator arranges your trip, they will also arrange your gorilla permit and will normally include it in the cost of the 1trip (or specify it as an extra). There are two approaches to doing this; the first is to get a reliable local tour operator to act as a go-between and buy the permit on your behalf.
The alternative is to book directly through the ORTPN, which is normally a fairly straightforward procedure, though the booking office has a reputation for ignoring email queries, so better perhaps to phone. In order to secure the booking, you will be required to transfer a deposit of at least US$ 100 per permit a month prior to your tracking date, with the outstanding balance to be paid upon your arrival in Kigali. The best way to pay this is in US dollars cash, but ORTPN accepts cash in most other hard currencies including sterling and euro calculated at the official US$ bank rate for the day. Visa cards can also be used to pay for gorilla permit at the booking office in Kigali, though a 4% levy may be added. Or you can transfer the full amount upfront, and save yourself the hassle of paying in Rwanda. It is possible to book and if you like pay for any other activities and park entrance fees associated with Volcanoes National Park at the same time.
If you are prepared to take the risk, it doesn’t remain possible to pitch up at the ORTPN office in Kigali until 17.00 on the day before you want to track, and assuming availability to buy a permit on the spot. And if you are coming from across the Uganda border and want to skip Kigali altogether, you can also buy a permit at the ORTPN office in Ruhengeri or the Volcanoes National Park at Kinigi the day before you want to track. There is of course no guarantee that a permit will be available at such short notice, particular at busy times when there may already be a waiting list, but the odds are pretty good in the main rainy season of March to May. The office in Kinigi and Ruhengeri accept cash only.