“Cozy, Clean, and Friendly at a Great Price” by Bob Wood
Please go here to access Mr. Woods’ and Angelina’s Uganda / Rwanda 2015 Summer Travel series.
I think where people who don’t travel the third world regularly are most mistaken, is that in their minds eye view of the hotels available to normal folks like you and me, they see nothing but squalor. That is absolutely not the case. Hotels in an East African state like Rwanda run the gamut, from overpriced, overdone “just like in the USA” Marriotts, to budget hostels at ten bucks a night. Sometimes I believe people think that I’m sleeping in a dumpster by the side of the road, when in fact a lot of these cheap budget hotels are lovely little places.
By the time we had reached Kigali (the capital city of Rwanda) we were coming off of ten days in Uganda; Uganda is at times pretty chaotic. A place to slow down and take it easy was in order. We found it at the Iris Guest House. And we found it online at an Internet cafe…if you take your phone, or in my case a mini laptop you are able to go through sites like Trip Advisor – and reserve a hotel, like we did for that very night. It’s one way that being connected to wi-fi on the road has really helped smooth out travel in the developing world.
What I’ll try to do in this post is to shake a few stereotypes for you. I’ll post photos of the Iris. Go here for a video walk through (video taped by me) of the hotel grounds…I think you’ll find a place that you would want to visit.
On our first night at the Iris we met a German guy by the name of Jens. Jens was working on a water project through his Frankfurt based engineering firm with the Rwandan government. Germans in Rwanda and Uganda were always doing important things it seemed. This was his fifth stay in the past three years at the Iris; each lasted two weeks. We went to dinner twice with Jens. We visited over breakfast with Jens. Breakfast on the Iris porch, usually involved a morning coffee and discussion with Jens. It is these kind of two and three day relationships over coffee or eggs or Indian food, that you have with people on the road that make travel something special.
Besides being a nice little guesthouse in its own right, the Iris was located near the French Embassy…in a sweet section of Kigali. The area reminded me a bit of the quieter parts of Dupont Circle in DC. Whenever you are around embassies you are in the best the city has to
offer. The Iris was a couple of blocks from the Des Mille Collines (the hotel in the movie Hotel Rwanda). The hotel itself costs $300 to $400 a night – it is way overpriced – and is stuffed with wealthy Europeans and Chinese businessmen. I would never ever stay there, even if it was free…but the bar. The bar was a completely different story…it was swanky, it was cool, it was outside in the dark and near the pool. So we lounged a bit with all the high rollers – paid way too much for a couple of gin and tonics, and hung out on a Tuesday night at Hotel Rwanda.
Anyhow – the Iris Guesthouse was so nice, that after a three night stay and off out to Lake Kivu, we came home and spent our last night in Kigali back at the Iris. I hope you get the chance to stay there some day.
Trip Advisor review of the Iris Guest House in Kigali…by Bob Wood
I love the Iris. Situated near the French Embassy, in a quiet, comfortable, and safe neighborhood – the Iris Guesthouse was for us a little oasis of good feel, after traipsing through Uganda for ten days. We were tired and needed something soft. A stone’s throw from city centre, and some pleasant places to eat (Heaven Restaurant and Khana Khazana Indian) it was a great locale to re-charge the batteries, and a wonderful place for evening strolls. Plus the cost was reasonable, particularly considering that lodging in Kigali can get a bit expensive.
The grounds are green and leafy. Clean pillar lined, tile covered, walkways meander about smartly landscaped gardens. Trees extend softly up and out and over to shade the premises. The rooms are clean and bright – the water is hot – the beds are comfortable. And the help…the help is the very best part of the Iris. Martin and Christopher and Ignace manned the office 24/7. They were all kind, so interested in us having a pleasant stay. Martin even walked us up to her hair salon after hours so that Angelina could get a trim. I only hope that I am as welcoming to visitors from abroad as the Iris staff was to us
Each of the rooms features a small table and a couple of chairs right outside the door. You can bring over a beverage or food from the restaurant and eat here. That or dine outside on a pleasant porch adjacent to the restaurant (inside as well). Morning breakfast opens at 6:00 AM – a smart buffet with melon and pineapple and bananas, white cheese slices, breads, coffee, tea, juice and jam – always a great way to start the day. And free with the room. The night kitchen, while not so fast – serves great food, particularly the avocado tuna appetizer. And full bar prices are reasonable.
A special note, the wifi at the Iris excellent. The hotel maintains four wifi locations throughout the property, so you can tune to the one that best provides you access. It is free as well.
We spent three days chilling at the Iris…then circled back around before we left Rwanda – and stayed one last night at journey’s end. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Thanks guys for a lovely time.
Martine and Angelina