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Faille aux Allemands ©Kiki and Johannes
The serenity and charm of Burundi will dawn on visitors like a pleasant surprise. Emerging from a longstanding civil war, travel to Burundi has until recently been discouraged but the small republic in east Africa is now enjoying an influx of curios tourists, attracted by its new-found peace and astounding natural beauty.
Lapped by the clear waters of grand dame Lake Tanganyika, the longest lake in the world, and blessed with lush mountainous jungles to the north and rolling green hills to the east, the only land below 3,000 feet (915m) in Burundi, is a narrow strip of plain along the Ruzizi River. A wealth of sights are on offer, from the thermal waterfalls in the Mugara Reserve and the southern source of the Nile at Rutovu, to Kibira National Park, where chimpanzees, colobus monkeys, and crested mangabeys dash swiftly through dense foliage. And even though coffee is the country's largest export, it is the vast tea plantations of Teza and Rwegura that will capture the visitor's imagination.
Burundi has had a turbulent history. A 12-year ethnic-based civil war between the Hutus and Tutsis, mirroring the violent genocide in neighbouring Rwanda, broke out in the early 1990s after tension between the dominant Tutsi minority and Hutu majority flared up, demoralising the people and weakening the country's infrastructure. A ceasefire agreement and free and fair elections were conducted in 2005, resulting in relative peace and a new democratic government.
Although undeveloped and in bad repair, the capital Bujumbura, offers a friendly and cosmopolitan ambience. Charming art deco buildings from the colonial heydays line the streets and restaurants serving Belgian, Asian and Burundi cuisine, as well as the local Primus beer, can be found throughout the centre. For colourful markets, leather, ceramics, ivory, and woodcarvings, follow the road to Gitega, Burundi's second largest city, where the Museum of Traditions can also be found.
The international dialling code for Burundi is +257. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). There is good mobile phone coverage in the western area of the county and a handful of internet cafés can be found in Bujumbura.
117 (Police); 118 (Fire); 112 (Medical)
French and Kirundi are the official languages and Swahili is widely spoken along Lake Tanganyika and in the Bujumbura area.
Travellers are allowed to import 1,000 cigarettes or 1,000 grams of tobacco, and one litre of alcohol. Cameras should be declared on arrival.
Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. Round two pin attachment plugs and round pin plugs with receptacle or male grounding pin are standard.
Burundi enjoys a warm equatorial climate. Temperatures vary with altitude and season. Summers are hot and humid with temperatures ranging between 66°F (19°C) and 88°F (31°C). Winters only slightly cooler with temperatures ranging between 63°F (17°C) and 82°F (28°C). Rainfall is irregular, falling mainly in the northwest with rainstorms common at higher altitudes. The rainy season occurs from March to May and September to December. Dry seasons vary in length but are usually from June to August and January to March. The best time to travel to Burundi is in the cooler season, between June and August, to avoid the worst of the hot temperatures, but any time of the year will ensure good weather.
All travellers require a visa, but for some nationalities a visa will be issued upon arrival in Bujumbura, valid for a maximum stay of 30 days; only if travellers carry with them an "Entry Authorisation" letter issued by the authorities of Burundi before departure. Return or onward tickets, all documents required for next destination and sufficient proof of funds are recommended. We also recommend that passports be valid for six months after intended period of travel.
US nationals require a valid passport and visa.
UK nationals require a valid passport and visa.
Canadians require a valid passport and visa.
Australians require a valid passport and visa.
South Africans require a valid passport and visa.
Irish nationals require a valid passport and visa.
New Zealand nationals require a valid passport and visa.
There have been cases of cholera confirmed in Burundi. Chloroquine and sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine resistant malaria is a major concern in Burundi and travellers should take the necessary prophylactics containing lariam, malarone or doxycycline. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required if coming from an infected area or visiting any area outside of the main cities. Travellers should be wary of kiosk foods and drink only bottled or boiled water. Burundi's medical facilities are very basic. Travellers should ensure they have health insurance covering evacuation by air ambulance.
Travellers should consult the nearest Burundi embassy regarding the security situation before embarking on travel to Burundi. Since democratic elections and a ceasefire agreement in 2005, Burundi has returned - for the most part - to a normal state of affairs and is enjoying an increasing influx of tourists. Travel to the rural border areas with the Democratic Republic of Congo should be avoided as cross border fighting by armed guerrillas from both sides occurs sporadically. Travellers should be aware of the still-active rebel group, the Forces Nationales de la Liberation (FNL), who attack government forces and civilians intermittently, but mostly travellers to Burundi tend to gravitate toward Bujumbura and therefore should be more concerned with threats such as pick pocketing, purse snatching, armed robbery, and petty crime. Locals should be consulted about the presence of crocodiles and hippopotamus along the border of the lake. Travellers should also exercise caution after dark, avoid walking alone, and be aware of curfew laws.
Emergency Phone Number
117 (Police); 118 (Fire); 112 (Medical)
* For current safety alerts, please visit Foreign travel advice - GOV.UK or Travel.State.Gov
The official currency is the Burundian Franc (BIF), which is divided into 100 centimes. Since Burundi started issuing its own currency, centimes have not been produced. Currency exchange can be conducted at a main bank in Bujumbura or Gitega. A few ATMs in Bujumbura accept foreign Visa cards but outside of the city make sure you carry all you need in cash. Banks are open from Monday to Friday in the morning only.
Exchange RateNot available.
Embassies of Burundi
Burundi Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 342 2574.
Burundi Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 234 9000.
Burundi Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 342 4881.
Foreign Embassies in Burundi
United States Embassy, Bujumbura: +257 22 20 7000.
British Embassy Liaison Office, Bujumbura: +257 22 246 478.
Canadian High Commission, Nairobi, Kenya (also responsible for Burundi): +254 20 366 3000.
Australian High Commission, Nairobi, Kenya (also responsible for Burundi): +254 20 444 5034-9.
South African Embassy, Bujumbura: +257 22 24 82 21
Embassy of Ireland, Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania (also responsible for Burundi): +255 22 2602 355.
Respect for elders is practiced with conviction in Burundi and travellers should adopt a similar philosophy when interacting with locals.
The business world in Burundi is relatively undeveloped. Lightweight suits should be worn to formal meetings, which are usually conducted in French. An interpreter should be organised beforehand. Handshakes are important in Burundi and formal meetings often include food and drink, which is considered rude to turn down. Office hours are Monday to Friday 8am to 12pm and 2pm to 5.30pm. During the hotter months, a longer lunch break is taken.
A 10 percent tip at a restaurant is customary. Porters should also be tipped a few dollars.
Public Holidays in Burundi
Burundi is a country with so much to offer, not only with regards to sights and activities, but also the attitudes and culture of the wonderful people that you are sure to meet. The geographical position of this country allows it to have a wide range of beautiful landscapes, which offer amazing views and attractions. The country of Burundi is also the home to a truly amazing people, culture, and history, which add to the rich diversity of the nation.
As a visitor to Burundi, you can explore a traditional way of life in a small Busekera village, visit the countryside and learn about its farming community, or participate in the discovery of the history behind the vibrant life of the Burundian people.
In the legendary hills of this African nation evidence of ancient kingdoms can be found: Kiganda, for example, is a small town in Muramvya where tourists can explore a Burundian Heritage Site with two traditional royal grounds open to the public. Distributed throughout the small country, beautiful waterfalls such as Kagera Falls are also not to be missed, and for a good bout of relaxation head to the beaches of the famous Lake Tanganyika, where one can sit back and enjoy an African sunset like no other.
Because the best attractions are situated in rural areas, it is wise to hire a professional guide for your sightseeing in Burundi.
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