Travel & Tourism
The Republic of Burundi, a tiny country with both soaring mountains and lovely lakeside beaches, has been plagued for many years by a gruesome civil war. Though the country’s current peace is fragile, things are looking up for Burundians. Recent years have brought advances in health care, a spike in coffee and tea exports, and other important economic developments. For the first time in years, a visit to Burundi is a viable and alluring prospect for tourists. Whether you prefer lounging on the beaches of the enormous Lake Tanganyika or bird watching in one of the country’s many national parks, Burundi just might be your ideal vacation spot.
What to Do in Burundi
1. Chutes de la Kagera: Near Rutana, in the southeastern part of the country, you’ll find some spectacular waterfalls, which are especially breathtaking from October to January. There’s no public transportation to the area, so charter a private taxi for the day.
2. Saga Beach: This remote beach along Lake Tanganyika boasts miles of powdery, white sand and clear, turquoise waters. It’s thought to be one of the best beaches in East Africa.
3. Source du Nil: It may look unimpressive, but to Burundians this little spring, high on the slopes of Mount Kikizi, is known as the southernmost source of the Nile. (Ugandans dispute that claim, insisting that the source is on their land.) At Bujumbura hotels, ask about arranging a trip to the sight.
4. Musée Vivant: One of the few still-operating museums in Burundi, the Musée Vivant, in Bujumbura, is both a reconstructed traditional Burundian village and a small zoo stocked with local fish, birds, and snakes.
5. Rusizi National Park: Animals of all kinds, including hippos, antelope, and monkeys, roam this park near Bujumbura, but it’s probably best known as the place where Gustave, the world’s largest man-eating Nile crocodile, can often be found.
6. Bujumbura: Burundi’s capital city, lined with palm trees and Art Déco buildings, has long been a place where Burundians could go to forget their troubles, and that tradition remains strong. Sample the French- and Belgian-inspired fare at the city’s many excellent restaurants, and boogie down at the famously late nightclubs.
7. Kibira National Park: Just south of the Rwanda border, this idyllic park is home to chimpanzees, baboons, rare golden monkeys, and other animals.
8. La Pierre de Livingstone et Stanley: This large rock, about three miles south of Bujumbura, allegedly marks the spot where the New York reporter Henry Morton Stanley met the missionary and explorer David Livingstone and uttered the words “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”
9. Les Tambourinaires de Burundi: Seek out a performance of the country’s most famous, high-energy drumming troupe, which has traveled to places as distant as New York and Berlin.
10. Rurubu National Park: Stretching from the Tanzanian border, in northeastern Burundi, to the center of the country, Burundi’s largest park is an excellent place for bird watching. More than 200 species of birds, including many endangered breeds, have been spotted here.
When to Go
The climate in Burundi varies depending more on where you go in the country than on the particular season. Throughout the hot and humid lowlands, in the southwestern part of the country, temperatures average 86 degrees Fahrenheit; in the mountainous north, temperatures are lower, hovering at about 68 degrees. It’s useful to know, however, that the country has two wet seasons—February to May and September to November.
Getting In and Around
Visas: A passport valid for six months and proof of immunization against yellow fever are required for entry into Burundi. Travelers are no longer able to obtain entry visas upon arrival at the airport. You must apply for a visa from a Burundian embassy or consulate before traveling.
Transportation: Flights from Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, and Ethiopia all fly into Bujumbura International Airport, which is less than ten miles from the city center. The best way to travel to Burundi by land is through Rwanda. Scheduled bus services operate daily between Bujumbura, Burundi, and Kigali, Rwanda.Mobile Phones: You can use a GSM mobile phone in Burundi; consider buying a prepaid SIM card at the airport if you don’t have an international plan.
Safety and Security
Concerned about your safety as you plan travel to Burundi? We at Africa.com, together with our friends, family and colleagues, travel extensively throughout the continent. Here are the resources we consult when thinking of our safety in Burundi:
Africa.com comment: Very timely and frequently updated. Perspective assumes that you ARE going to travel to Burundi, and seeks to give you good guidance so that you understand the risks and are well informed.
Africa.com comment: Can sometimes be considered as overly conservative and discourage travel altogether to destinations that many reasonable people find acceptably secure. On the other hand, they have the resources of the CIA to inform them, so they know things that the rest of us don’t know. See what they have to say about Burundi.
1. Situated slightly south of the equator, Burundi is bordered by Rwanda to the north, Tanzania to the east and south, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west. The small, mountainous country is roughly the same size as the state of Maryland and is split into 17 provinces—Bubanza, Bujumbura Mairie, Bujumbura Rural, Bururi, Cankuzo, Cibitoke, Gitega, Karuzi, Kayanza, Kirundo, Makamba, Muravya, Muyinga, Mwaro, Ngozi, Rutana, and Ruyigi.
2. Burundi francs (BIF) are the local currency. One U.S. dollar is equal to approximately 1,215 BIF.
3. Owing to Burundi’s volatile political climate, the country’s media outlets are sometimes censored, yet, a range of political views, including oppositional viewpoints, is still published. The major publications are the government-owned Le Renouveau, which is published three times a week, Ndongozi, which was founded by the Catholic Church, Arc-en-ciel, a private, French-language weekly, and Ubumwe, a government-owned weekly.
4. Burundi’s official languages are Kirundi (a Bantu language also known as Rundi) and French; Swahili is commonly spoken along Lake Tanganyika and in the Bujumbura area.
5. Smoking is permitted in public places throughout Burundi.