Foreign travel advice

Burundi

Summary

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

  • Cibitoke and Bubanza provinces
  • 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

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.

On 28 September 2018, the Burundian government announced it was suspending the work of NGOs in the country. If you’re visiting or working for an NGO, you should keep a low profile and be aware that there’s a risk that IT-plated vehicles may be stopped by the security forces.

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.

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. The Belgian Embassy in Burundi is also able to provide consular assistance to British nationals. All visitors or long term residents should register with the Belgian Embassy.

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.

Since 2015, there have been sporadic grenade and arson attacks on local government infrastructure. The most recent was on Gatumba border post, on the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which suffered an arson attack. There were a number of deadly grenade attacks in Bujumbura’s Buyenzi and Bwiza districts targeting bars in July 2017. None of these attacks target foreigners.

You should remain vigilant and avoid crowded areas (eg 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 substantial 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 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.

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, 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, disputed presidential elections in July 2015 and a referendum on constitutional change in May 2018.There have been violent attacks, particularly against those perceived to be against President Nkurunziza’s third term. Sporadic targeted assassinations continue, 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 since 2015. 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. 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. The Belgian Embassy in Burundi is also 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.

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 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

There are severe penalties for drug offences.

Homosexual acts were criminalised in 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.

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

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 purchased 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).

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.

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.

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.

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 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.