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World Travel Guide > Guides > Africa > Burundi

Burundi travel guide

About Burundi

For all its wondrous landscapes (think undulating mountain ranges, dense rainforests and shimmering lakes), travellers are advised to steer clear of Burundi right now – the scenery might be beautiful, but the political situation is decidedly ugly.

Civil unrest, an abortive military coup and controversial elections have dominated the headlines in Burundi recently, which is a great shame given what this country has to offer.

The vibrant if tumultuous capital, Bujumbura, has a prime location on the shores of Lake Tanganyika and just outside the city are some of the best inland beaches in Africa, plus a number of idyllic beachfront bars and resorts.

The city itself has some interesting examples of French architecture and has developed a reputation for its vibrant nightlife, but infrastructural development has been hindered by decades of sporadic conflict that culminated in 1994 and left more than 300,000 dead.

Further beyond the city limits, the four beautiful waterfalls at Chutes de la Karera are well worth a visit, as are a few of the largely unexplored and underdeveloped national parks. Parc National de la Rusiza is the most accessible, just 15km (9 miles) from Bujumbura, while Parc National de la Kibira is the largest rainforest in Burundi and is home to rare colobus monkeys and chimpanzees.

An advantage of Burundi’s small size is that if you have your own vehicle or hire a driver, it’s generally easy to visit any of these highlights and return to Bujumbura within the same day; public transport, however, is limited outside the city.

Burundi has made tentative progress towards peace and stability since a power-sharing government was set up in 2001 and most rebel groups agreed to disarm, but in 2015 President Nkurunziza’s bid to change the constitution and stand for a third term sparked mass protests and a violent response from the state.

Hundreds of thousands of Burundians have fled into neighbouring Tanzania, fearing the collapse of the country’s fragile democracy and a return to civil war. Watch this space.

Key facts

Area:

27,816 sq km (10,740 sq miles).

Population:

11,552,561 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density:

386.2 per sq km.

Capital:

Bujumbura.

Government:

Republic.

Head of state:

President Evariste Ndayishimiye since 2020.

Head of government:

President Evariste Ndayishimiye since 2020.

Travel Advice

Coronavirus travel health

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Burundi on the TravelHealthPro website.

See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

International travel

Commercial flights to Bujumbura International Airport have now resumed at a reduced capacity. Please consult individual carriers for more information.

All land and maritime borders are closed with the exception of goods and cargo.

Entry and borders

See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in Burundi.

Returning to the UK

When you return, you must follow the rules for entering the UK.

Be prepared for your plans to change

No travel is risk-free during COVID. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.

If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.

Plan ahead and make sure you:

  • can access money
  • understand what your insurance will cover
  • can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned

Accommodation

Accommodation remains open but measures may be in place on a case by case basis.

Healthcare

If you think you have COVID-19 symptoms, the Government advice is to visit a testing facility for a test. However, you should be mindful that healthcare facilities in Burundi may not match UK standards.

Testing capacity in Burundi is extremely limited and results can be subject to significant delay.

For contact details for doctors visit our list of healthcare providers.

Your emotional and mental wellbeing is important. Read guidance on how to look after your mental wellbeing and mental health

View Health for further details on healthcare in Burundi.

See also the guidance on healthcare if you’re waiting to return to the UK.

COVID-19 Vaccines if you live in Burundi

This page will be updated as information is available about how you can get a vaccination in Burundi. You can sign up to get email notifications when this page is updated.

Find out more, including about vaccines that are authorised in the UK or approved by the World Health Organisation, on the COVID-19 vaccines if you live abroad.

If you’re a British national living in Burundi, you should seek medical advice from your local healthcare provider. Information about COVID-19 vaccines used in the national programme where you live, including regulatory status, should be available from local authorities

Finance

For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.

Further information

If you need urgent consular assistance, you can contact the British High Commission in Rwanda on +250 252 556 000.

You can sign up for travel advice email alerts and follow @UKinRwanda on Twitter and Facebook, which covers both Rwanda and Burundi.

Crime

There’s a substantial risk of crime. Muggings at gun and knifepoint, 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.

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 changeable.

There have been armed incursions from eastern DRC into neighbouring border areas of Burundi. 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.

The FCDO continues to advise against all travel to Bubanza and Cibitoke provinces due to continued armed attacks.

The FCDO also advises against all travel to the following areas and roads for security reasons: • areas of Bujumbura Rural province west of the Rusizi river towards the Democratic Republic of Congo border, with the exception of the Rusizi Delta Nature Reserve • the road north of Bujumbura airport towards Cibitoke • the main road running west from Kayanza through the Kibira National Park • Ruvubu National Park

Road travel

Land borders with Tanzania and the DRC border crossing at Gatumba-Uvira are open. All other land and maritime borders are closed with the exception of goods and cargo.

Public transport vehicles are banned from crossing the border with Rwanda and there are 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 tarmac 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. Avoid travelling by road outside Bujumbura after dark. This is due to the security situation and road safety concerns.

Road blocks and document checks are common, and not always official. Carry a copy of your passport and visa, but you may be need 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

Commercial flights to Burundi are now operating at a reduced capacity. Please check with carriers for more information. See Coronavirus.

A number of carriers normally fly in and out of Burundi including: Rwandair, 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

There have been violent attacks, including on opposition supporters. There are reports that arbitrary arrests, detentions and disappearances of Burundians, most often from civil society, independent media and pockets of society perceived to be anti-government, continue. The police have used live ammunition and tear gas against demonstrators.

Grenade attacks are common in Burundi, and can be politically motivated. There was a grenade attack on 25 May at a bus stop in Bujumbura.

You should avoid all large gatherings and remain vigilant at all times given security and health (COVID-19) risks.

Consular assistance

Consular support is not available from the British government in Burundi. However, the British High Commission in Kigali, Rwanda can provide consular support to British nationals.

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

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out more about the global threat from terrorism.

Al Shabaab, although based in Somalia, poses a threat across the East Africa region. Al Shabaab has previously 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 and Uganda, linking some attacks to support for the African Union peacekeeping mission. Follow the advice of local authorities and exercise caution while travelling around the country.

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.

There are severe penalties for drug offences.

Homosexual acts have been criminalised since 2009. Punishment includes a prison sentence of between three months and two years, and a fine, although there have been no prosecutions to date. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people are not accepted at all in local culture. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.

This page reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British Citizen’ passport, for the most common types of travel.

The authorities in Burundi set and enforce entry rules. For further information 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.

Entry rules in response to coronavirus

Entry to Burundi

Commercial flights to Burundi are now operating at a reduced capacity. Please check with carriers for more information.

Land borders with Tanzania and the DRC border crossing at Gatumba-Uvira are open. All other land and maritime borders are closed with the exception of goods and cargo.

All travellers to Burundi must have proof of a negative COVID-19 test issued in the last 72 hours. You should not use the NHS testing service to get a test in order to facilitate your travel to another country. You should arrange to take a private test.

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

Quarantine requirements

Arriving passengers will be tested on arrival at Bujumbura airport. Passengers do not have to quarantine on arrival but should self-isolate for 24 hours while awaiting the results of the PCR test. Any visitor who tests positive will be asked to self-quarantine until they have recovered, in a hotel of their own choice.

Tests costs US $100, which will need to be paid in cash on arrival at Bujumbura international airport.

Regular entry 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 needed.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK emergency travel documents (ETDs) are only accepted for exit from Burundi, with destination to the UK. ETDs are not accepted for entry to Burundi.

Yellow fever

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

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Burundi on the TravelHealthPro website.

See the healthcare information in the Coronavirus section for information on what to do if you think you have coronavirus while in Burundi.

At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.

General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.

The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or brought in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).

Other health risks

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) 12th Ebola outbreak was declared over on 3 May 2021. Outbreak 12 began on 7 February 2021 in North Kivu province and was the first Ebola outbreak since the last outbreak in Equateur Province was declared over on 18 November 2020. North Kivu province borders Rwanda and Uganda. Further information and updates on Ebola can be found on the WHO website and the Public Health England (PHE) 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.

An outbreak of cholera continues in Burundi. You should take necessary precautions and seek urgent medical attention if you become unwell.

Malaria is endemic throughout Burundi.

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

UNAIDS estimated that in 2019 there were around 76,000 adults aged 15 or over in Burundi were living with HIV; the prevalence percentage was estimated at around 1% 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.

Medical treatment

If you become ill during or immediately after travelling to the country, seek medical advice immediately. Kira Hospital, Hopital Militaire de Kamenge or Medecin sans frontieres are able to provide appropriate medical care for most serious accidents within Bujumbura. Outside Bujumbura, there is a lack of adequate medical facilities and medical evacuation to Kenya or Rwanda may be necessary.

Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation; this should specifically include the very high costs of evacuation by air ambulance.

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.

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 / Roca Golf and Club du Lac hotels) but rarely outside Bujumbura. ATMs are available, mainly in Bujumbura.

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, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in London on 020 7008 5000 (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 FCDO 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 have 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 FCDO 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 have 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 FCDO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice Team 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.

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