Burkina Faso travel guide
About Burkina Faso
On the face of it you can see why Burkina Faso lacks mainstream appeal: a landlocked West African nation with rowdy neighbours, this country has a harsh climate, unforgiving geography and an infrastructure few would want to be at the mercy of. Set piece attractions are also lacking.
Yet Burkina Faso remains an enthralling destination for intrepid travellers, thanks to its wonderful inhabitants and dramatic landscapes. As such, the country, though not frequently visited, is a fine place in which to immerse yourself in West African culture.
Meaning “land of the honest people,” Burkina Faso proudly proclaims to be one of the friendliest countries in Africa – and visitors are sure of a warm welcome. Burkinabé, as the people of Burkina Faso are known, are the exact opposite of the harsh land that they inhabit – and it is these cordial and courteous people who make coming here such a joy.
Burkina Faso’s traditional cultures are best sampled in its two largest cities: the fabulously named capital, Ouagadougou (also known as “Ouaga”) and the second city of Bobo-Dioolasso (simply referred to as “Bobo”).
Both have large communities of artists, particularly Ouagadougou, which is famed for its music scene. The art and architecture of the capital are also worthy of attention, with several largescale sculptures enlivening the streets.
Away from the cities, Burkina Faso’s four national parks harbour a surprising diversity of wildlife. If you can’t explore them all, then do make a beeline for Arli, which is home a wide range of ecosystems and is an important habitat for West Africa’s last big cats and elephants. Hippos, monkeys and various exotic bird species also call this national park home.
Burkina Faso might not suit first time travellers, but for hardy adventurers this is a destination in which to veer off the tourist trail and discover the hidden gems of West Africa.
274,200 sq km (105,870 sq miles).
18,633,725 (UN estimate 2016).
69 per sq km.
President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré since 2015.
Prime Minister Paul Kaba Thieba since 2016.
220 volts AC, 50Hz. European-style plugs with two round pins are standard.
Last updated: 13 March 2017
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
There is a risk of armed groups stopping vehicles (including public buses) on major roads to rob them, particularly at night.
Street crime poses high risks for visitors. Most incidents involve opportunist snatches of purses, wallets, jewellery and other valuables. Thieves are particularly active in crowds. The areas near and around the UN Circle and the former Central Market in Ouagadougou experience the highest amount of street crime. You should take sensible precautions. Don’t carry valuables in public places or walk alone at night.
British nationals are increasingly being targeted by scam artists operating in West Africa. The scams come in many forms: romance and friendship, business ventures, work and employment opportunities, and can pose great financial risk to victims.
You should treat with considerable caution any requests for funds, a job offer, a business venture or a face to face meeting from someone you have been in correspondence with over the internet who lives in West Africa.
You should avoid travel between towns by road at night, particularly from Bobo Dioulasso to Côte D’Ivoire, and Fada to Benin and Togo, due to a history of incidents in these areas.
Incidents are not confined to principal routes. Secondary roads (notably roads in the east to Benin, Bogande and Gayeri) are also affected.
You should also take care if you are travelling by road between Burkina Faso and Niger. You should travel in convoy where possible and seek local advice before setting out. Where possible you should follow a police patrol.
Armed roadside banditry is a problem across the country, and the number of attacks is increasing. Drivers who have refused to stop for robbers have been shot at. Remote and border regions are particularly vulnerable but there have been attacks on the main road between Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso.
You can drive in Burkina Faso using a UK driving licence.
With a few exceptions, roads are poor with few street lights. There is a risk of banditry and hitting stray livestock. Road conditions off the main roads are often difficult, especially in the rainy season (June-September). Vehicles do not always have headlights and are often in poor condition.
Stay on clearly marked roads or tracks and avoid minor roads in remote areas unless travelling in convoy. If you break down off a main road you may not be able to attract help. Carry drinking water with you.