Road Conditions and Safety: National highways are in fair to good condition, though large potholes are common. During the rainy season, February to May, many roads become impassable. Flooding and landslides also destroy bridges and block routes. Many roads in the interior are in disrepair. U.S. Embassy personnel are prohibited from driving outside of cities after dark.
There is a general lack of:
- Functioning traffic signals
- Road signs
- Road shoulders
These make driving dangerous, particularly outside of towns and especially at night. Poor driving standards and wayward pedestrians, cyclists, and roaming livestock create further hazards.
Rural areas: When travelling outside of Bujumbura, be aware of increased risks of ambush and highway robbery, which usually happen at night. Motorists in Burundi should be careful to keep their doors locked and windows closed when driving around the capital. Service stations are scarce and fuel shortages are common. Professional roadside assistance is not available outside the capital. Carry with you:
- Spare tires
- Food and water
- Satellite phone
- Maps and navigation equipment
- A first aid kit
Traffic Laws: An international driving permit and third-party insurance is required. Long-term residents can apply for a Burundi driver?s license. Use of cell phones while driving is illegal. Give buses and taxis a wide berth as they start and stop abruptly, often without pulling to the side of the road.
In the case of an accident, call and attempt to have police respond. If a hostile mob forms or you feel your safety is in danger, leave the scene and proceed to the nearest police station or gendarmerie to report the incident. Do not stop at the scene of an accident.
Public Transportation: Public transit is unregulated, unreliable, and generally unsafe due to overloading, reckless driving, inadequate vehicle maintenance, and the risk of petty crime. U.S. Embassy personnel are prohibited from using public transportation, including taxis. Fatal collisions occur frequently. Hire private transport from a reliable source.
If you use a taxi, negotiate the fare before beginning your journey. Taxis are not metered, so confirm with your hotel what fare you should expect on trips.
See our Road Safety page for more information.
Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Burundi, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Burundi?s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization aviation safety standards. Further information may be found on the FAA?s safety assessment page.
Most medical facilities in Burundi are inadequate for even routine care. Emergency services are severely limited. If you do need medical care, you will be asked to pay cash in advance and may be denied treatment if unable to do so. Credit cards are generally not accepted; insurance companies are not billed. In an emergency, a medical evacuation would likely be necessary.
We do not pay medical bills. Be aware that U.S. Medicare does not apply overseas.
Medical Insurance: Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers overseas only accept cash payments. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.
We strongly recommend supplemental insurance for medical evacuations.
Medication: If traveling with prescription medication, check with the government of Burundi to ensure the medication is legal in Burundi. Always, carry your prescription medication in original packaging with your doctor?s prescription.
Food- and water-borne illnesses are common.
The following diseases are prevalent:
Further health information:
Local laws and Special Circumstances
Criminal Penalties: You are subject to local laws, regardless of your nationality. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Convictions for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs are severe and result in long jail sentences and heavy fines. You may be questioned by the police if you are unable to produce an acceptable form of identification.
Arrest Notification: If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy immediately. See our webpage for further information.
Power Outages: Power outages occur frequently and may affect public services such as access to potable water.
Photography: It is illegal to take pictures of government buildings, military installations, and key infrastructure such as airports and border controls. You could be detained or arrested, fined, and have your equipment confiscated. Do not take photos of Burundians without their permission.
Phone Service: Cell phones are used extensively. SIM cards can be purchased locally and used with a compatible cell phone. Your must present a copy of your ID and/or passport for registering your SIM card.
Currency: The Burundian franc (BIF) is the official currency. U.S. dollars and euros are accepted in urban areas. Most transactions are conducted in cash; credit cards are rarely accepted outside of Bujumbura. Most vendor and banking institutions will take only bills in near-mint condition, printed after 2009. Examine U.S. bills to ensure they are legitimate. Exchange currency only at reputable banks. ATMs are available at the international airport and in Bujumbura, but they dispense only Burundian francs. The U.S. Embassy does not exchange currency for U.S. citizens.
Faith-Based Travelers: See the following webpages for details:
- Faith-Based Travel Information
- International Religious Freedom Report ? see country reports
- Human Rights Report ? see country reports
- Hajj Fact Sheet for Travelers
- Best Practices for Volunteering Abroad
LGBTI Travelers: Burundian law criminalizes same-sex sexual acts with penalties ranging from fines to imprisonment of three months to two years, but prosecutions are rare. People have, however, been detained based on their perceived sexual orientation.
Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance: Access to transportation, lodging, and public buildings is limited. There are few sidewalks and no curb-cuts, and most buildings lack functioning elevators.
Women Travelers: Sexual and domestic violence, including rape, is a widespread problem. In some cases, police and magistrates require victims to pay the costs of incarceration for the perpetrator. Center Seruka and Center Nturengaho provide shelter and counseling to victims of rape and domestic violence. Several international NGOs provide free medical care for victims, mostly in urban areas.
See our travel tips for Women Travelers.
Safety and Security
See the Department of State?s Travel Advisory for Burundi.
Incidents of violence occur country-wide. Grenades and small arms may be used.
- International borders may close without notice.
- Cibitoke and Bubanza provinces, and the Mutimbuzi commune of Bujumbura Rural province, are vulnerable to attacks by armed groups from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
- Relations between Burundi and Rwanda are tense, and there is a risk of cross-border incursions and armed clashes.
Regional terror groups have threatened U.S., Western, and Burundian interests and are capable of crossing borders to carry out attacks.
- Carry original and color photocopies of your U.S. passport and visa at all times.
- Avoid large public gatherings. Even events intended to be peaceful can turn violent.
- Be vigilant around city centers and cautious when traveling in rural and border areas.
- Monitor news and consular alerts.
Searches: Security forces routinely search vehicles and homes (including those of foreigners and U.S. citizens). Residential searches are allowed between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.; police must present identification and a warrant. Report improper searches to the U.S. Embassy.
Roadblocks: Police maintain checkpoints throughout the country. Travelers have reported harassment, bribe solicitation, intimidation, and (rarely) physical violence, especially during heightened security situations.
- Be compliant, calm, and courteous.
- Identify yourself as a U.S. citizen.
- Provide copies of identification documents if requested; attempt to keep originals.
- Do not leave until instructed to do so.
- Report harassment to the U.S. Embassy.
Crime: Theft, robbery, and burglary are common; armed or violent crime causing injury or fatality occurs often. Petty crime occurs at all hours; serious crimes occur mostly at night. Although rarely targeted, foreigners should take precautions.
Victims of Crime:
- Bujumbura?s emergency number is 112. To report a crime, however, it is best to do so in person.
- U.S. citizen victims of sexual assault or domestic violence should first contact the U.S. Embassy.
- Remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime.
- However, legal response and recourse can be limited.
See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas..
- Help you find appropriate medical care;
- Assist you in reporting a crime to the police
- Contact relatives or friends with your written consent
- Explain the local criminal justice process in general terms
- Provide a list of local attorneys
- Provide our information on victim?s compensation programs in the U.S.
- Provide an emergency loan for repatriation to the United States and/or limited medical support in cases of destitution
- Support in cases of destitution
- Help you find accommodation and arrange flights home
- Replace a stolen or lost passport
Tourism: No formal tourism industry infrastructure is in place. Tourists are considered to be participating in activities at their own risk. Emergency response and subsequent appropriate medical treatment is not available in-country. U.S. citizens are encouraged to purchase medical evacuation insurance. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.
Entry exit Requirementsh
Requirements for Entry:
- Visa, obtain before traveling. In order for applicants to obtain a visa, Burundi requires a letter of invitation/sponsorship from an individual or organization within Burundi.
- World Health Organization (WHO) card with yellow fever vaccination. For more details on immunizations go to http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list.
Visit the Embassy of Burundi website or the nearest Burundi embassy or consulate for visa information.
Mandatory Registration: All non-Burundian residents who intend to stay one year or more are required to register their presence at the main office of the Commissariat G?n?ral des Migrations in Bujumbura. Contact their office at +257 22 25 79 00 for more information.
- Registrants (including children) must appear in person with their passports.
- Failure to comply can result in fines.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Burundi.
See the Department of State?s Fact Sheet on Burundi for information on U.S.-Burundi relations.