ViaVia offered me a complimentary stay in exchange for this review. Prices were correct at the time of publishing but check their website to verify.
Back in 2015 and 2016 when I was working on my Addis Ababa map, it was pretty difficult to find a decent place to stay without paying a stupid amount of money for very little. On my first trip I stayed with a friend of a friend for awhile, but then they left and it was several trips where I had to stay in very dodgy guesthouses. Then, one day when I was indulging in one of my regular trips to the gelato place, I discovered that a new bar/restaurant/guesthouse was about to open a few doors down and it looked really great. Me and my gelato wandered over to find a lovely restaurant, a friendly owner and staff, and a guesthouse that looked like a person would actually want to stay there.
This magical place in Addis was called ViaVia and I learned that it was a branch that’s part of a global Belgian franchise. After that I found ViaVias in Dar and Entebbe and I was equally blown away each time by the service and quality. So when I heard a ViaVia was opening in Kigali, I was quite eager to check it out because I’d found the standards to be high in all of these other cities. I got in touch to learn more and they invited me to stay for a few nights – so I did!
The owners Astrid and Adolphe a Belgian/Rwandan couple opened ViaVia in June this year and they’ve really done an amazing job in a short amount of time. The building and grounds are perfect as a guesthouse and they’ve designed it in a way that leaves all of the rooms feeling airy and bright. The rooms are all very large and many have balconies that take in that beautiful Kibagabaga view. The desk in my room was a nice touch, too. The guesthouse has six total rooms (and I’d be very happy to stay in any of them) and a capacity of 16 guests at once.
As I mentioned above, the rooms are spacious and very bright with high ceilings. Importantly, they’ve got a great variety of different types of rooms. I ended up staying in a massive family room with a huge double bed and two singles. It was certainly overkill for one person (but at $65/night the price is great if you’re looking for a crazy amount of space) but if you’re travelling with kids in tow or if you’re a group of friends who don’t mind sharing a room then this is perfect and a great bargain at $160 for the room. Plus it has a huge bathroom with a jacuzzi! Oh and the beds were super comfy, the WiFi is fast and reliable, and the showers are amazing.
They’ve got four other rooms that can be booked as a single, twin, or double, ranging in price from $60 to $80 per night. Plus, one of the things that I think sets them apart, is their dorm room ($25/night). It’s absolutely beautiful for a dorm! It even has an en suite bathroom and, though it’s on the bottom floor and doesn’t have a balcony, there’s plenty of great outdoor space to hang out in on the grounds so it’s not really an issue. The dorm is spacious and spotless and a definite step above what I’m used to in my past life as a backpacker. Plus if you’re really on a budget you can camp in their lovely garden for $10/night which is an absolute steal. Camping is hard to come by here in Kigali and this might even be the only place that currently offers that as an option. The garden also has a kid’s area in the corner and lots of space to relax or play on the grass.
The furnishings at ViaVia are really beautiful and, rather than filling their guesthouse with generic stuff you could buy anywhere, they’ve taken care and time to design many things themselves that have been made by talented local craftspeople. They get so many compliments on their furniture that they’ve made a catalogue of sorts and you can place orders through them for tables, side tables, and chairs.
Breakfast is included in the price and you get to order a la carte each morning from the menu which is a nice change to a standard buffet or not having any choice at all. I opted for the home made granola, yogurt, and fruit both mornings because it’s so delicious but an omelette with bread and spreads or pancakes with fruit and honey are also options. Breakfast also comes with coffee or tea and juice and, considering the excellent price of the rooms, it’s an impressive spread to get each morning!
Which takes me to the food. ViaVia is as much about food as it is about accommodation and they have a full menu and are open to the general public for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I’ll do a separate review on their restaurant sometime soon, but let it be known that their menu is creative and the food is excellent. I tried a few different things and really enjoyed the pumpkin soup (Rwf 4,000) and the plantains with ginger peanut dipping sauce (Rwf 3,000). They take a lot of care with the plating and the little extras like reusable napkins and water from a carafe instead of plastic bottles, and I love all of this attention to detail.
I enjoyed having a starter sent up to my room in the afternoon so I could work from the balcony, have a snack, and enjoy the lovely view as the day came to a close. It really was a perfect way to chill out after a long day working. If you’ve got a choice, try to get a room with a balcony so you, too, can enjoy hanging out with guacamole and chapati (Rwf 2,500) on a balcony. Is there anything finer?
The only possible downside to a stay at ViaVia is their location out in Kibagabaga. If you’re in Kigali because you have a conference at the Marriott or Serena or somewhere else in town then Kibagabaga is pretty far away, relative to other areas. The good news is that nowhere is Kigali is really that far away and traffic here tends to flow pretty well. If you have a car, you’re sorted but if not, motos are plentiful and you can even take the bus from the main road.
In general, Kibagabaga has come a long way over the years from being a strictly residential area and there are quite a few businesses that have popped up here over the years. You can find nice swimming pools right around the corner from ViaVia at Pili Pili and Al Cobra Dubai if you want to enjoy the Kigali sun and you’re not really so far from Nyarutarama and Gacuriro where you’ll find some other great places. If you’re into running, this area’s streets are some of the best, and there really is nowhere in Kigali with such a wonderful view of the entire city.
Astrid, Adolphe, and the staff of ViaVia really do a wonderful job of making you feel welcome and making sure everything is as perfect as it can be. They’re all really great about checking in to see how things are going and, I image, very quick to resolve any issues that might pop up. There’s a real sense of hospitality and the place feels welcoming and it has a lot more soul than your average mid-range Kigali guesthouse. For the price, there really is nowhere better that I’ve found.
I’m very excited to see where they take ViaVia… they seem to have a lot of plans and ideas and I’m looking forward to seeing them grow and to see the ViaVia brand become stronger because of their success!