A Quick Trip With Stops In Kigali, Lusaka, And Windhoek?

Filed Under: Travel

I’ve been on a travel planning kick the past week, and have something to run past you guys. 😉

Ford and I are headed to the Seychelles soon, and we’re starting our trip in Paris. I figured I’d get to Europe a bit before Ford, and then do some African airline reviews, which are long overdue. I’m talking Air Mauritius, Air Madagascar, RwandAir, Air Namibia, etc.

As I’ve been looking at options, there’s one option I’m especially interested in stating with, and I’m curious if you guys have any feedback on this.

As many of you know, RwandAir has been on my radar for a long time, and I want to book them on their flight from London to Kigali, which stops in Brussels. They have a great new staggered business class product with Wi-Fi. Kigali is a fairly small airport, so my plan was to fly them to Johannesburg after a stopover of a couple of days, and use that as the “turnaround point” for my journey.

RwandAir’s Kigali to Johannesburg nonstop flight is poorly timed (it lands after 2AM), though they operate a flight via Lusaka, Zambia, which gets in at a much more reasonable 2:40PM. Africa is the continent I’ve explored least (I’ve only visited South Africa and then parts of northern Africa), so I figure if I’m flying through Lusaka, I might as well stop there for a couple of days and explore.

I’ve heard great things about Kigali (though I realize the real wonders of Rwanda are outside the city), but I can’t say I’ve heard all that much about Lusaka. Has anyone been, and is it interesting/safe enough to visit?

Then for the return portion of this trip I was looking at flying from Johannesburg to Frankfurt on Air Namibia (or Nambia, if you prefer), with a stop in Windhoek. I know Namibia is a beautiful country outside of the city, and I’d like to visit with Ford sometime for an extended period, but is Windhoek worth visiting for a couple of days?

I’m super excited about planning travel on some more African airlines, so now I just have to figure out how I can squeeze Kenya Airways, TAAG Angola, Air Madagascar, Air Mauritius, etc., into the same trip. Either way, being able to visit three new African cities and countries on a quick review trip seems like a good opportunity.

I’d love to hear what you guys think!

  1. Kigali was one of my highlights of 2017, one of the few African capitals where you can wander around outside in the dark with no worries at all. The Marriott was surprisingly awesome with a great lounge, excellent breakfast buffet and nice pool. Have a Peace Corps pal who just completed an assignment in Lusaka and loved it but I can’t comment on safety. Windhoek is also an awesome city to kick back for a few days, there are plenty of legendary places to eat and drink and if you have time drive to Swakopmund on the coast and go see the sand dunes, it’s unforgettable.

  2. This will be very interesting, both the airlines as the places. This is still unknown territory for me.
    Esp Namibia looks extremely interesting as ex-German colony.


  3. Spend more money in the local economy not the freaking American conglomerates. Book an airbnb. Go watch the gorillas. Taste the beer in Namibia.

  4. None of those cities have much to offer. It’s all about visiting the parks and getting out to the country.

  5. I was last in Namibia as a teenager in 2003, but I’d still highly recommend it, even if you only stay in Windhoek. There’s some great food, art, and other culture in the capitol, and as someone else mentioned above, the beer scene is reputed to be great.

  6. When you visit Walvis Bay book full day trip (Boat trip plus Dunnes 4×4 tour) with Mola Mola Company – great people, food and perfect organisation. Then visit Swakopmund for chill out. WISH is for one day – nothing interesting in my opinion.

  7. Lucky – I have passed through Lusaka in October 2015 while on a multi-stage wildlife photo safari in different parts of Zambia. A few notes:

    – there is a $50 tourist visa for Zambia. You can get the visa once you land and takes very little time.

    – there is a new glass/concrete terminal under construction by a big Chinese construction firm that’s not finished, so you will be using an airport terminal that’s, uh, quite quaint. Don’t expect much in terms of food or bathroom cleanliness.

    – I would suggest you NOT stay in Lusaka, and instead take the opportunity to do a quick wildlife safari to somewhere in Zambia. Proflight Zambia is the local operator that goes to the different safari destinations, mostly using the Cessna Caravans. You can easily get to the Lower Zambezi National Park (I loved the Chongwe River House) and check out wildlife, river fishing, and beautiful vistas. Think seeing elephants on small islands in a river with mountains in the background. A little further is South Luangwa National Park, which has amazing wildlife viewing in general. Kafue National Park is potentially another option.

    – should your schedule not allow for a wildlife safari, here is my take on Lusaka…..I only spent one night in town, primarily due to my arrival time from South Africa did not allow for me to connect to one of the safari connectors on the same day. I stayed at the Taj Pamozdi hotel, which is part of a bigger Indian-based chain. We were so exhausted that we experienced very little of the hotel, but I think it was supposed to be one of the nicer ones in town. There seemed to be lots of Americans milling about, leaving the hotel on foot, presumably to restaurants nearby. The Intercontinental is nearby and is probably the only game in town for brand-name hotels familiar to Americans. My feeling is that the neighborhood around those hotels is the “expat” neighborhood and has restaurants and services that cater to foreigners. It’s probably fine.

    As a little context, the big hard currency money-maker in Zambia, outside tourism, is copper mining. There is also a noticeable Chinese influence, so you will see lots of billboards in Chinese, advertising earth movers and the like. I didn’t find the city of Lusaka itself to be terribly interesting, and is definitely a lot smaller than places like Cape Town or Nairobi.

    The only other tourist activity I could suggest (as I support this organization) is the Lilayi Elephant Nursery, which I think is 30 mins outside of town and specializes in the rehabilitation of orphaned elephants until they can survive on their own. It might be a neat side trip.

    Good luck and write me if you want more specific info. I found Zambia to be a much less developed country than South Africa or Kenya, but their national parks were truly outstanding, and I think it’s a country with a lot of potential!

  8. My wife is from Namibia but has now lived in NYC for the last 12ish years. We go back every year and will be back for a week in Feb. I would highly suggest it, especially at the coast and of course up North in the Caprivi to Etosha and into Botswana to Chobe. The shipwreck coast is beautiful and it is much safer than in SA. Her parents still live in Swakopmund and have a guest house….check it out….Royal Benguela Guesthouse….Mac and Adie. You should go! Let me know if you have any other questions.

  9. Air Namibia does not have the best reputation….they cancel flights all the time and we usually prefer British or SAA for any connections to Nam….I think it has gotten better and especially if you have no choice, but I wouldn’t want to get stuck if you are making other connections.

  10. Windhoek – take a trip down to the great sand dunes of the Namib desert. The colors are spectacular during sunrise.
    Kigali – within the city, there’s the genocide museum to check out. The city itself is one of the most developed cities in Africa and you can meander around like someone else mentioned and take in the local traditions. You need at least 3 days total in Rwanda if you’re going to do the gorilla trekking, logistically speaking to drive to Volcanoes National Park and then starting off the hike day early.
    Lusaka – not much to do in the city itself. Could be a jumping off point to a safari or like any other African city, check out the local villages where they sell handmade arts and crafts to support the local economy. You could fly (1 hr ish) or drive (7 hrs) from Lusaka to Victoria Falls, which is the main highlight of Zambia/Zimbabwe.

  11. Lusaka is safe. The intercity bus terminal can be a bit hectic for Westerners as there are a horde of touts trying to carry your bag and point you toward the buses for Livingstone. I stayed at a friend’s apartment when I visited so I don’t have much input on hotels.

    Windhoek itself isn’t worth spending a couple days in, but visiting the Skeleton Coast is worthwhile. If you’re transiting Windhoek, I recommend the Hilton, it’s nearly brand new.

    Kigali is great. It feels exotic and Africa, but is very safe and easy to walk through. I was surprised how many nice sidewalks they have. Also, if you’re in the mood for a taste of home, there are plenty of Western restaurants thanks to the bustling NGO industry there.

  12. Lusaka is safe, bit relatively uninteresting. Have stayed a few times at the Radissson, which is quite decent.

    I would follow the suggestions made above and either go do a wildlife safari or better yet visit Victoria Falls.

  13. Windhoek is easily worth a day. I was there earlier this year positioning for a QR flight in J. Some interesting little museums and a colonial church were worth a few hours of walking around downtown. Joe’s Beerhouse has a great selection of German-style beer from Namibia and German food made out of African animals. (Oryx jagerschnitzel was amazing.) I stayed at the Hilton as a Diamond and enjoyed it. Nice rooftop bar, and the rooms are up to brand standard.

  14. Also, I flew Air Namibia in J from CPT to WDH. Comfortable and interesting hard product that would be worth a review. (Disinterested soft product—nothing memorable.) Also, just remembered that you don’t drink beer—Joe’s has Namibian wine, too.

  15. I went gorilla trekking in Rwanda in 2016 and it was one of the best experiences of my life, but I also greatly enjoyed Kigali. As someone mentioned above, the genocide museum is a must-see. There are also some actual massacre sites outside of the city (one is a Catholic Church, I believe) that are worth visiting to gain greater understanding of this tragedy, but be forewarned: visiting these places will break your heart. On a brighter note, I had a couple of good meals at a nice guesthouse/restaurant whose name I can’t recall unfortunately and found some nice shopping by walking around town, which you can do without much worry as well.

  16. I have an interesting and doable routing for you;
    LGW – Kigali on Rwandair (you’ve been dying to review this) A330
    Kigali – Lusaka on Rwandair
    Lusaka – WDH on Air Namibia
    WDH – JNB on Air Namibia
    JNB – Nairobi on Kenya Airways 737 or 787
    NBO – CDG on Kenya Airways 787

    That would obviously mean that you don’t get to review Air Namibia’s longhaul product but you’d get to visit 4 new african countries. You can earn and redeem Delta miles on Kenya Airways (KQ also codeshares with Air Namibia on some african routes).

  17. Among the three large cities we visited on a recent trip (Dar es Salaam, Lusaka and Johannesburg), Lusaka was by far the least interesting. I would not do a 24 hour layover in Lusaka if I did to have a reason to do so (but would recommend a layover in Dar es Salaam or Johannesburg). The only safety issue we had was in Johannesburg (hold on to your phone).

    In Lusaka, we stayed at the StayEasy which had the advantage of being walking distance to the bus station and to the “Levy Mall” which has a nice selection of restaurants. Victoria Falls is definitely worth the trip, and the bus ride from Lusaka was comfortable and interesting, so that would be a reason to go to Lusaka and spend the night (early morning bus recommended).

    Interesting note about the Caprivi strip (named after a German chancellor): it is part of an imperialist exchange of territories between Britain and Germany involving Zanzibar and Helgoland!

  18. You are not spending enough time in Kigali. Rwanda is an amazing country with volcanoes and gorillas in the north and Nyungwe forest and Colobus monkeys in the south. Rwanda is very safe, clean and fascinating. I recommend you spend at least 3 days in Rwanda.

  19. I’m weird in that I like large African cities. I’d say tha Lusaka. A bit less hectic than many other African capitals, though if you’re in the neighborhood, you really should make your way down to Victoria Falls.

  20. If you’re looking for chain hotels, Windhoek has a new(ish) Hilton; they’re pretty good about upgrading top-tier status-holders. Petty crime is a problem, so just use your noggin, don’t show bling, etc.

    One full day in Windhoek should do it, however as others mentioned, there are zillions of other parts of Namibia you should visit, should you be so inclined to make a destination trip there. Namibia is my favorite country in the world. Check out Wilderness Safaris should you want to dig deeper.

  21. I totally agree with Greg (and a few others) upthread about spending time in Zambia. It’s a remarkable country with a totally different feel than South Africa. Flatdogs Camp in the South Luangwa was unmatched in game viewing (this was our third camp on this particular trip), with those memories permanently etched in our travel bank. In addition, Victoria Falls was a sight to behold and a very easy, inexpensive flight from Lusaka.

    I’m not sure if it’s still the case, but a Yellow Fever vaccine was strongly recommended when we visited in 2014.

  22. I actually fly through windhoek about once a year. I will warn you air Namibia is known for notoriously canceling flights without any warning. Because of this I never use them on my way in or out of windhoek. But we are purposes I get why you have to. I wouldn’t say there’s a ton to do in town but giving it a day or two is definitely worth it. It’s like most large African cities but there are some really interesting things to do if you do a little research. The country is beautiful. If you can spend two or three days I would highly suggest that I hook you up with my friends at The Cheetah Conservation Fund. This is why I go there every year to volunteer and work with the organization. I’m actually also on their board. But even if you could just go there for one night it would be a life-changing experience. They have several different types of overnight housing as well. It’s about a 3-4 hour drive from windhoek to the center but they can arrange transportation for you. The drive is quite beautiful. Going to the center is like nothing you’ve ever seen. Getting up-close-and-personal with wild cheetah. If you want the connection just send me an email:-)

  23. There is nothing really in Lusaka, however it is a gateway to the Victoria Falls, which is a MUST. If you need a contact in VFA let me know as I have friends there who would make your stay very worthwhile.
    From Lusaka you could also fly to Kafue National Park, in Eastern Zambia. Very good game viewing and close to Lake Malawi. Another hidden gem.
    Windhoek is good but I would only stay there for a day. It is a springboard to Etosha National Park and also SWakopmund on the coast. Long distances, but good friendly people. A strong German influence.
    Have fun. Both places I love.

  24. Windhoek is amazing! Be sure to visit a game farm to see things, giraffes, etc up close

    Can get you the hookup if you need it (just email me; close friends in country)

    Immigration is sketchy so be prepared for that.

  25. Windhoek would be great in summertime its on the water even though the water will be freezing u can take a quad around the huge sand dunes and do some dune surfing it’s a fun little town with a big German influence from the time Germans ran Namibia. There is a nice market there with things to buy. 2 to 3 days max

  26. Spent 3 weeks in Namibia in november.

    Hilton Windhoek is great, nut the city hasn’t lucht to offer.

    I loved Wolwedans in hou want to deconnect from the world (throughout Theo have reasonable WiFi (which i know matters to you).

    Depending on the tmiframe you have , i would either head south to Fish River canyon, combining with Sossusvlei. Or head north to Etosha.

    Nog a lot on the pointe and Miles front in namibia, but lost of amazing Lodes!

  27. Autocorrect screwed up my message:

    Spent 3 weeks in Namibia in november.

    Hilton Windhoek is great, but the city hasn’t much to offer.

    I loved Wolwedans in you want to deconnect from the world (though they have reasonable WiFi (which i know matters to you).

    Depending on the timeframe you have , i would either head south to Fish River canyon, combining with Sossusvlei. Or head north to Etosha.

    Not a lot on the points and Miles front in namibia, but lost of amazing Lodes!

  28. Lucky you could fly your original itinerary though when your in JNB fly from JNB-TNR-MRU on Air Madagascar and then from MRU to any of their longhaul destinations i personally think PER would be your best bet as Air Mauritius flys both there A340 and A330 (you could try one on inbound and the other on outbound) to PER and its a good amount of time on the flight and then on the way back once your in MRU fly MRU-NBO-JNB on Kenya Airways and then just fly your original itinerary form JNB to FRA.

  29. We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families – probably the best book written about the Rwandan genocide. Read it on the flight over.

  30. (from my previous comment) Or you could fly TAAG to MRU or TNR or Air Namibia and fly Kenya Airways back to Frankfurt.

  31. If you only have one day, then Kigali is a nice place to stop at and visit. If you have three days or even more, then I would say choose Namibia and that will be one heck of an experience.

  32. There’s that which is brilliant in itself, but you can also make brilliant flights on Caravans, Airvan GA8s etc. around South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and places. Definitely recommended.

  33. Windhoek might be worth a day but the gem is the Etosha Pan (couple hundred miles north of the city) if you are into safari’s – some nice resorts there and depending on the time of year you should see some great wildlife.

  34. 1) There is an excellent new-ish Marriott in Kigali, if I recall correctly.

    2) You should check with your doctor about shots and vaccinations.

    It goes without saying, but bring DEET.

  35. Lucky, I live in Lusaka, and the Lusaka airport is also a very small and disorganised one, though a new terminal is under construction. However, Johannesburg is really not a good place to visit compared to cape town or Durban, which is more fun and more activities to do. However, if you are traveling in April, why not consider a short trip to South luangwa national park as they have some really good hotels and wildlife there, and also a short hop to Livingstone for the Victoria falls which is also a good time to visit there, since you are flying to Zambia anyways. For places to stay I really recommend hotels under sanctuary retreat where they have locations in both places. If you have any questions you can always email me, as I am happy to help.

  36. If you’re looking to review all of the African Indian Ocean airlines, you could try:
    CDG-MRU Air Mauritius
    MRU-TNR Air Mauritius
    TNR-CDG Air Madagascar
    CDG-RUN/DZA Air Austral
    RUN-NBO/DZA-RUN-NBO Air Austral/Kenya Airways
    NBO-CDG Kenya Airways
    Hope you like Charles de Gaulle Airport!

    Failing that, please try Air Namibia Long haul.

  37. @lucky

    I am currently In Namibia , I just drove from Windhoek to Swakopund. Windhoek is beautiful but I prefer Swakopund. It’s like a bavarian town at the seaside. Just beautiful.

  38. Do not forget you cannot enter Seychelles the first six days after leaving Madagascar due to the plague at Madagascar (the plague is under controll and there is hardly any risk going there). Madagascar and Seychelles are wonderful places, but you need a lot time to explore Madagascar due to long distances, bad infrastructure and an unstable airline.

  39. –Oyvind is spot on with his remarks about the travel logistics/poor roads in Mada(gascar)…plan on bringing a seat cushion =:-0
    –Many people who have experienced Air Madagascar will forever refer to it as “Air Mad”…delays, cancellations and “tatty” aircraft are their themes…the finances of the airline often lead to work stoppages from time to time…and I try not to think of the deferred maintenance issues. (In 2011, Air Madagascar was put on the list of air carriers banned in the European Union for safety concerns with their ageing fleet.)

    All that said, the wildlife there is spectacular—70-80% of the species of plants and animals are only seen in Mada. Great lemurs & amazing chameleons! And as a former French colony, the local cuisine is quite an interesting “mashup” of French & African cooking. Make certain to bring a camera—lots to photograph too.

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