Sprawling over numerous hills and valleys, with roads which wind crazily around and across the contours, Gisenyi can be a confusing city to navigate. Just when you think you know where you are going, your destination appears on the horizon in another direction!.
However, it’s a fairly compact city and if you are not put off by the idea of steep slopes, over-friendly children and changeable weather, walking is a fantastic way to get about. If you have just arrived, don’t forget that Gisenyi is at around 1,000 feet, so take it easy on the hills.
Although the geography of the city is confusing, you can nearly always spot a landmark to help you find your way to your destination. Many buildings offer great Lake Kivu views across the city, so if you plan to explore on foot you will do well to start by getting to grips with the geography, map in hand.
Public transport is plentiful and cheap, and if you get lost or exhausted, or it starts to rain, you will never be far from a moto (motorbike taxi). Always agree the price in advance, and check the helmet – they are often good for decorative purposes only, as the buckles and straps are broken or far too loose. If you protest, the driver will usually try and readjust the strap for you, or as likely as not offer you his own, usually rather hot and greasy…! Most drivers speak a smattering of French or English, so if you know the name of your destination they will get you there. Don’t be fooled by the maps – road names are non-existent and rarely used. People navigate by buildings and local landmarks, so try using these instead.
As well as walking as a means of getting about town, there are plenty of good hikes on the hills which ring the city. These offer spectacular Kivu Lake views and can be surprisingly peaceful away from the constant calls of “Muzungu”.
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