Burundi, Africa - Stein Travel

Burundi

Destinations




    • 16+ years

    • 12-15 years

    • 2-11 years

    • 0-23 months


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Welcome to Burundi

Overlooking the turquoise waters of Lake Tanganyika with a freshly roasted cup of coffee, banana frites and some succulent brochettes, the serenity and charm of Burundi will dawn on visitors like a pleasant surprise. Emerging from a longstanding civil war, travel to Burundi has been discouraged up until recently and the small republic in east Africa, sandwiched between African titans Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo, is now enjoying an influx of curious 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.


Business

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.

Climate

Burundi enjoys a warm equatorial climate. Temperatures vary with altitude and season. Summers are hot and humid and winters only slightly cooler. 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.

Communications

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.

Customs

Respect for elders is practiced with conviction in Burundi and travellers should adopt a similar philosophy when interacting with locals.

Duty Free

Travellers are allowed to import 1,000 cigarettes or 1,000 grams of tobacco, one litre of alcohol and a reasonable amount of perfume. Cameras should be declared on arrival.

Electricity
Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. Round two pin attachment plugs and round pin plugs with receptacle or male grounding pin are standard.
Health

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.

Language
French and Kirundi are the official languages and Swahili is widely spoken along Lake Tanganyika and in the Bujumbura area.
Money

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. US dollars, dating before 2003, are often not accepted. Travellers cheques in US dollars or Euros are accepted but commission rates are high. Banks are open from Monday to Friday in the morning only. Credit cards are rarely accepted and ATMs are not readily available, so it is wise to bring the necessary capital in an easily exchangeable currency.

Passport Visa

A visa will be issued on arrival if there is no Burundi diplomatic representation in the traveller's country of origin. Diplomatic representation is currently available in Belgium, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan and the USA. Tourist or business visas, valid for up to 30 days, incur a fee of EUR50. Return or onward tickets, all documents required for next destination and sufficient proof of funds are recommended.

Safety

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.

Time
Local time is GMT +2.
Tipping

A 10% tip at restaurants is customary. Porters should also be tipped a few dollars.

Located within Bujumbura, in a reconstructed 'traditional' Burundian village, the Museé Vivant is an interesting place to visit, even if it is perhaps not for the faint-hearted. The 'village' section of the Museé Vivant is a great place to walk around, with a built-to-scale royal habitation, and lovely thatched-roof cabins selling local arts and crafts. The 'zoo' section of the Museé Vivant is, however, a little more 'exotic' than those accustomed to western zoos might be prepared for: the Museé Vivant boasts a leopard, and a celebrated collection of crocodiles, snakes, and other reptiles (not all housed in fantastic conditions) - and for a fee of 2,000 francs, visitors can buy live guinea pigs to feed to the animals. It might not be everyone's cup of tea, but those looking for a more hands-on and unique zoo experience, are sure not to be disappointed.


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