Burundi is a small country located in East Africa, with some cultural and geographical ties connecting it with Central Africa. It is squeezed in between Rwanda, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Though it is not a common destination for most travelers that go to East Africa, if you have it in you to bear the risks of visiting Burundi and the means for it, you should definitely consider traveling here. It has many risks to it – for example, traveling outside the capital of Bujumbura is a risky move, especially after nightfall.
However, if you’re an adventurer, you really might have a good time here, as you will mostly run into friendly people – just be sure to get vaccinated against malaria and to drink plenty of water. You should also bear in mind that Burundi is still recovering from a natural disaster that occurred in 2014. Namely, a severe flooding caused destruction countrywide and the country is still suffering the consequences. It is also shaken by political turmoil over the next elections. If you do visit, be sure to visit the Nile Sources near Rutovu, and bring your swimsuit and swimming gear: the hot springs with picturesque surroundings are a heavenly experience for tourists.
Warnings & Dangers in Burundi
OVERALL RISK : HIGH
Burundi isn't a safe destination for travelers. You should know that many governments advise their citizens not to travel to the country as it is considered very high risk. Be very aware of your surroundings at all times. Both petty and violent crimes are normal here.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : MEDIUM
Transportation isn't too safe either. Roads aren't exactly known for being catastrophic but they can be rather dicey at times, and traveling after dark can get dangerous due to incidents of armed robbery that have happened. Keep in mind that buses and public transport is where pickpockets and thieves operate.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : HIGH
As you would expect, petty theft and pickpocketing is widespread in Burundi. Make sure you don't flash your valuables and generally don't look like you're wealthy. Dangling cameras, flashing money or credit cards or expensive jewelry is strongly recommended against. Be particularly careful in crowded areas.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : HIGH
There are many natural disasters that hit Burundi commonly, like earthquakes, landslides, river floods, and water scarcity. There are factors in Burundi that heighten the country's susceptibility to these disasters, like soil degradation, deforestation, high poverty levels, and population density.
MUGGING RISK : HIGH
Petty crime is not the only problem in Burundi - violent crime rates are high throughout the country, and you can expect muggings, burglaries, carjackings and armed banditry on the roads. These occurrences are common and the risk increases after dark, so avoid going anywhere after nightfall.
TERRORISM RISK : HIGH
Though Burundi hasn't been attacked recently, terrorist attacks shouldn't be ruled out and the biggest threat is coming from Al Shabaab group that has made public threats against Burundi because of its support to the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia.
SCAMS RISK : HIGH
There are many scams in Burundi, like in most poor and dangerous countries. Be wary of people trying to distract you in order to steal from you and of taxi drivers overcharging you for a ride. We advise you to be extremely careful when handling money and around ATMs.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : HIGH
Burundi is definitely not safe for solo female travelers. They are advised, if it is absolutely necessary that they leave their accommodation at night, to go out accompanied by someone. Be sure to avoid remote streets, both during day and night, and do not flash your belongings or handle money in public.
So... How Safe Is Burundi Really?
Burundi isn’t safe at the time and is currently in a state of unrest. It is still shaken by the military coup that occurred in May 2015, and is recovering from the consequences of disastrous flooding that occurred in 2014, so tourists are strongly advised against traveling to Burundi. Those that are currently in Burundi are encouraged to plan their departure from this country as soon as they have the opportunity to.
Though democracy has shown its face in Burundi during the recent past and with it, something resembling normalcy has returned to much of the country, travelers are still not safe here. The biggest threat for both tourists and locals is the rebel group called Forces Nationales de la Libération that persists in attacking government forces, locals, civilians and foreigners. Apart from that, you will encounter incidents related to banditry, armed robbery, petty crime and other forms of violent crime, so avoid going anywhere after dark. Due to threats on the streets, many roads, villages, neighborhoods, embassies and organizations have curfews. Monitor the situation closely and consult your embassy if anything goes wrong.
Bear in mind that in 2009, the Burundian government criminalized homosexual acts between males, so if you’re a member of LGBTQ community, stay away from Burundi. There are some other issues to bear in mind, concerning your health in Burundi: avoid eating foods on kiosks and generally on the street and never drink non-boiled tap water. Do not go to Burundi, if you haven’t been vaccinated for diseases and epidemics characteristic for this area. HIV infection is also widespread, with some sources suggesting 18.6% in the cities have HIV and 7.5% in the rural areas.
- Visas - Most countries do need a visa in order to visit Burundi. Make sure that your passport is valid for at least six months past the date of your staying in Burundi and that you have one blank page in your passport. If you are not sure about your visa status, visit www.doyouneedvisa.com which will let you know whether or not you need visa based on your nationality and the country you want to visit.
- Currency - Burundian franc is the official currency in Burundi. ATMs aren't exactly widespread but you might find some in the country, and some of them accept foreign credit cards. Top-end establishments accept credit cards, but don't rely on this.
- Weather - Burundi has mild and warm climate, with variations depending on the altitude, but when it comes to temperature, it doesn't vary much. Basically, Burundi has two rainy seasons - the major one lasts from February to May, and the minor one lasts between September and November. There is also two dry seasons: the longer one lasts from June to August and the shorter one takes place between December and January.
- Airports - Bujumbura International Airport is the only international airport and the only one with a paved runway. It is located in Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi.
- Travel Insurance - Just like anywhere else, we recommend getting travel insurance when traveling to Burundi, since it covers not only the costs medical problems, but also theft and loss of valuables.