Foreign travel advice

Burundi

Summary

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to:

  • all areas within 1 km of the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Cibitoke and Bubanza provinces
  • Ruvubu National Park
  • the road north of Bujumbura airport towards Cibitoke
  • the main road running west from Kayanza through the Kibira National Park

The FCO advise against all but essential travel to the rest of Burundi.

The FCO’s advice against all but essential travel to Bujumbura does not include airside transit through Bujumbura International Airport.

If you don’t have an essential reason to stay in Burundi, you should consider leaving.

Burundi has experienced political instability since President Nkrunziza was inaugurated for a controversial third term in August 2015. There have been violent incidents reported across the country, including a number of targeted political and military assassinations. You should limit your movements, avoid large gatherings and remain vigilant at all times.

In Bujumbura you should avoid areas which have experienced violence. In particular. Kanyosha, Musaga, Mutakura, Kamenge, Cibitoke, Bwiza, Ngagara, Nyakabiga, Gatumba and Bujumbura-rural.

Avoid travelling by road outside Bujumbura after dark. This is due to the security situation and road safety concerns.

If you travel outside Bujumbura, you should get up-to-date local advice before setting off. There are limited facilities up country with little French spoken, and limited infrastructure. Make sure you’re as well prepared and self-sufficient as possible.

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.

The Belgian Embassy is able to provide consular assistance to British nationals. All visitors or long term residents should register with the Belgian Embassy: Boulevard de la Liberté, 9, Bujumbura; telephone: + 257 22 22 32 66 or + 257 22 22 61 76; email: Bujumbura@diplobel.fed.be.

There’s a high risk of street crime. There have been incidents of armed burglary, sometimes targeting foreign exchange offices and banks.

Terrorist attacks in Burundi can’t be ruled out. Al Shabaab has made public threats against Burundi because of its support to the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia.

There have been sporadic grenade explosions since 2015, with a number of deadly attacks in July 2017 targeting bars in Bujumbura’s Gatumba, Buyenzi and Bwiza districts. Attacks have also taken place in other provinces, particularly Ngozi and Kayanza. The attacks don’t target foreigners.

You should remain vigilant and avoid crowded areas (e.g. markets).

UK health authorities have classified Burundi as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. For information and advice about the risks associated with Zika virus, visit the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.

A long running cholera epidemic in Burundi (including Bujumbura) has caused several fatalities since 2013. You should take necessary precautions and seek urgent medical attention if you become unwell.

Safety and security

Crime

There’s a high risk of crime. Muggings at gun and knife point, bag snatching, pick-pocketing, burglary, car break-ins, and armed car hijackings have all been reported. Avoid walking in the streets or using public transport after dark, even in Bujumbura city centre, and don’t carry large amounts of money. Take care when withdrawing or exchanging cash, and avoid doing so at night.

Arrange guards for homes and stay at hotels that have good security. Safeguard valuables and cash. Use hotel safes, where possible. Keep copies of important documents, including your passport and visa, separately. Be wary of who you plan to meet and where, and inform colleagues or family members of your plans.

Local travel

The security situation across Burundi remains volatile, especially due to the current political crisis, which included an attempted coup in May 2015.

There have been incursions, mainly from eastern DRC, and clashes between armed groups, including an armed attack on civilian vehicles. The threat of ambush by bandits remains high. You should make contact with your destination before you set off and make sure that you allow enough time to complete your journey during daylight hours.

Road travel

Land border crossings are currently open, but the situation is fluid and they may be closed without advance warning. In July 2016, Burundi banned public transport vehicles from crossing the border with Rwanda and introduced restrictions on Burundian food products being exported into Rwanda.

You can drive in Burundi on a full UK driving licence for the first 6 months after you arrive. You’ll then need to get a Burundi driving licence. There are only a small number of asphalt roads and these are sometimes in poor condition. Driving standards are poor and there are frequent serious accidents. Keep car doors locked and windows closed when driving. Access in to and out of Bujumbura city is controlled by police at night.

Road blocks and document checks are common, and not always official. Carry a copy of your passport and visa, but you may be required to produce the originals. Reports of attempted robberies at fake checkpoints have increased.

Avoid travelling on collective and public transport (buses and motorbike taxis), due to poor vehicle maintenance and low driving standards.

Road infrastructure is poor and roads are frequently blocked or damaged by landslides, especially after heavy rain. Landslides have destroyed road bridges, making some routes impassable. Check local advice on road conditions when planning travel by road and have a contingency plan in case your preferred route is blocked.

Air travel

A number of carriers fly in and out of Burundi including: Rwandair (which connects to London), Ethiopian Airlines, Kenyan Airways and Brussels Airlines.

The EU has published a list of air carriers that are subject to an operating ban or restrictions within the EU.

Political situation

The political situation remains tense since an attempted coup in May 2015, and disputed presidential elections in July 2015, with violent attacks, particularly against those perceived to be opposed to President Nkurunziza’s third term. Sporadic targetted assassinations continue to happen, with an increase in arbitrary arrests, detentions and disappearances of Burundians, most often from civil society, independent media and pockets of society perceived to be anti-government. The police have used live ammunition and tear gas against demonstrators. Avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings.

The government of Burundi reacted strongly to the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2303 in July 2016, which called for UN police to be deployed to the country. This included demonstrations outside the French Embassy.

Consular assistance

There’s no British Embassy in Bujumbura. Burundi is covered by the British High Commission in Kigali, Rwanda. However, the British Embassy Office (telephone: +257 22 24 64 78 or + 257 22 25 03 66; address: Building Old East, Place de L’independence, Bujumbura), can provide limited advice and assistance. The Belgian Embassy in Burundi is able to provide consular assistance to British nationals. All visitors or long term residents should register with the Belgian Embassy: Boulevard de la Liberté, 9, Bujumbura; telephone: + 257 22 22 32 66 or + 257 22 22 61 76; email: Bujumbura@diplobel.org

Terrorism

Terrorist attacks in Burundi can’t be ruled out. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.

Al Shabaab, although based in Somalia, poses a threat across the East Africa region. Al Shabaab has made public threats against Burundi because of its support to the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia. Al Shabaab have claimed responsibility for attacks in Kenya (September 2013) and Uganda (July 2010). The group linked the attack to Uganda’s presence in Somalia as part of the African Union peacekeeping mission.

Follow the advice of local authorities and exercise caution while travelling around the country.

There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

Local laws and customs

Homosexual acts were criminalised in 2009. Punishment includes a prison sentence of between three months and two years, and a fine.

There are severe penalties for drug offences.

Entry requirements

The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.

The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.

Visas

Visitors to Burundi must get a visa before travel, via any Burundian diplomatic mission.

For further information on visas, contact the Burundi Embassy in London or the Burundian Embassy in Kigali (telephone: +250 575512, fax: +250 576418) if you are travelling from Rwanda.

Carry a photocopy of your passport and visa at all times.

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay. No additional period of validity beyond this is required.

Yellow fever

Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.

Health

Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.

UK health authorities have classified Burundi as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. For information and advice about the risks associated with Zika virus, visit the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.

Since October 2012, around 1000 cases of cholera, including several fatalities, have been reported in Burundi. In 2016, cholera cases were reported in Bujumbura and Bujumbura Rurale. You should take necessary precautions and seek urgent medical attention if you become unwell.

Malaria is endemic, with 2016 seeing an increase in cases compared to 2015,and the announcement by the government of a formal epidemic.

Avoid swimming in Lake Tanganyika due to the risk of being attacked by wildlife and waterborne diseases.

The UNAIDS 2013 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic estimated that around 72,000 adults aged 15 or over in Burundi were living with HIV; the prevalence percentage was estimated at around 1.3% of the adult population compared to the prevalence percentage in adults in the UK of around 0.25%. You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS.

Natural disasters

Previous earthquakes in the region have been felt in Burundi, but there have been no fatalities or damage to infrastructure.

The rainy season runs from February until May and can result in flash floods.

Money

Take US dollars dated post-2006. Most outlets and individuals will not accept or exchange older currency. Euros may also be exchanged. There’s a shortage of foreign exchange currencies in Burundi.

Credit and debit cards are accepted in some places, (including Bon prix shops / Rocagolf and Club du Lac hotels) but rarely outside Bujumbura. ATMs are available, mainly in Bujumbura.

Travel advice help and support

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).

Foreign travel checklist

Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.

Travel safety

The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.

When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.

Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.

Refunds and cancellations

If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.

For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Registering your travel details with us

We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.

Previous versions of FCO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send us a request.

Further help

If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.