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Is Burkina Faso Safe?

Burkina Faso faces significant safety risks due to terrorism and civil unrest, particularly in the northern regions. Terrorist groups frequently target security forces, leading to violent clashes. Petty crime is also prevalent in major cities. Travelers should exercise extreme caution, avoid high-risk areas, and closely monitor travel advisories. Adequate medical facilities are limited, necessitating comprehensive travel insurance and vaccinations. Respecting cultural norms and exercising vigilance can mitigate risks during your visit.

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Safety & Security

Burkina Faso has faced significant security challenges in recent years, particularly in the northern and eastern regions bordering Mali and Niger. Terrorist groups affiliated with Al-Qaeda and ISIS have carried out numerous attacks, targeting both security forces and civilians. Violent crime and kidnappings have also been reported, especially in areas near the borders.

  • Terrorism remains a major threat, with frequent attacks occurring in the Sahel region, including bombings, ambushes, and kidnappings. Terrorist groups have targeted hotels, restaurants, and other locations frequented by foreigners.

  • Violent crime, such as armed robbery and carjackings, is a concern, particularly in urban areas and along major highways. Criminals often target vehicles with foreign plates or those perceived as wealthy.

  • Civil unrest and political tensions have led to protests and demonstrations, which can turn violent without warning. Travelers should avoid large gatherings and follow local news for updates.

  • Scams and petty crime, such as pickpocketing and bag snatching, are common, especially in crowded areas and markets. Remain vigilant and take precautions to protect personal belongings.

While the capital, Ouagadougou, is generally considered safer than other regions, travelers should exercise heightened caution throughout the country and follow the advice of local authorities and travel advisories.

Health & Medical

Travelers to Burkina Faso should be aware of potential health risks and take necessary precautions. Vaccinations for diseases like yellow fever, hepatitis A and B, typhoid, and meningitis are recommended. Malaria is prevalent, so antimalarial medication and insect repellent are essential. Travelers should also be cautious about consuming contaminated food and water to avoid illnesses like traveler's diarrhea.

  • Insect-borne Diseases: Malaria, dengue fever, and other mosquito-borne diseases are common. Use insect repellent, wear protective clothing, and sleep under treated mosquito nets.

  • Vaccinations: Ensure you are up-to-date on routine vaccinations, and consider additional vaccines like yellow fever, hepatitis A and B, typhoid, and meningitis.

  • Food and Water Safety: Avoid consuming tap water, ice cubes, and raw or undercooked foods. Stick to bottled or purified water and thoroughly cooked meals.

  • Medical Facilities: Medical facilities in major cities are limited, and quality care may not be readily available, especially in rural areas. Travelers should consider purchasing comprehensive travel health insurance.

  • Air Pollution: Air pollution levels in urban areas can be high, posing a risk for respiratory issues. Those with pre-existing conditions should take necessary precautions.

Natural Disasters

Burkina Faso is prone to several natural disasters that travelers should be aware of. The country experiences a hot semi-arid climate, with a dry season from November to May and a rainy season from June to October. During the rainy season, heavy downpours can lead to flash floods and landslides, especially in urban areas with poor drainage systems.

  • Droughts are also a common occurrence, particularly in the northern regions, posing risks to water and food security.
  • The northern regions are susceptible to dust storms and sandstorms, which can disrupt transportation and visibility.
  • Wildfires are a risk during the dry season, especially in areas with dense vegetation.

While not a frequent occurrence, earthquakes are a potential hazard in Burkina Faso, as the country is located in a seismically active region. Travelers should familiarize themselves with safety procedures in case of an earthquake.

It is advisable for travelers to monitor weather forecasts, follow local advisories, and take necessary precautions during their stay in Burkina Faso.


Transportation in Burkina Faso can be challenging for travelers. While major cities have public transportation options like buses and taxis, services are often unreliable and road conditions can be poor, especially in rural areas.

  • Road Safety is a significant concern due to poorly maintained roads, lack of proper signage, and reckless driving practices. Travelers are advised to exercise caution when driving or using hired transportation.

  • Public Transportation in cities like Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso consists of shared taxis and buses, which can be overcrowded and lack safety standards. Travelers should prioritize private transportation or reputable tour operators.

  • Rail Network is limited, with only a few operational lines primarily used for freight transportation. Long-distance travel by train is generally not a viable option for tourists.

  • Air Travel is the safest and most reliable mode of transportation for longer distances within the country. However, domestic flight options are limited, and services may be disrupted due to security concerns or operational issues.

Travelers are strongly advised to exercise caution, plan their transportation carefully, and consider hiring private drivers or joining organized tours, especially when venturing outside major cities or traveling long distances.

Cultural Norms

Burkina Faso is a culturally diverse nation with a rich heritage. Travelers should be mindful of local customs and traditions to ensure a respectful and enriching experience. Here are some essential tips:

  • Greetings: Greetings are important in Burkina Faso. It's customary to greet people with a handshake, and inquire about their well-being before engaging in conversation.

  • Dress Code: Modest clothing that covers the shoulders and knees is recommended, especially in rural areas and religious sites. Avoid revealing or tight-fitting attire.

  • Ramadan: During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to dusk. Travelers should refrain from eating, drinking, or smoking in public during this period.

  • Photography: Always ask for permission before taking photographs of individuals, especially in rural areas or religious sites.

  • Gestures: Avoid gestures that may be considered offensive, such as pointing with the index finger or showing the soles of your feet.

  • Hospitality: Burkinabé people are known for their hospitality. Accepting offers of food or drinks is a sign of respect and appreciation.

By respecting local customs and traditions, travelers can foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of Burkina Faso's rich cultural heritage.

Emergency Services

Emergency services in Burkina Faso are limited, especially outside major cities. Travelers should exercise caution and be prepared for potential delays or lack of adequate medical care.

  • Ambulance Services are available in major cities but may be unreliable or slow to respond, especially in rural areas.
  • Police and Fire Services exist but are often understaffed and underfunded, leading to potential delays in response times.
  • Medical Facilities in Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso offer reasonable care, but facilities in other areas may be basic or lacking essential equipment and supplies.
  • Private Clinics catering to expatriates and tourists are available in Ouagadougou, but services can be expensive.
  • Travel Insurance with emergency evacuation coverage is highly recommended, as quality medical care may require evacuation to neighboring countries.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Is Burkina Faso safe for tourists?

Burkina Faso has a high risk of terrorism, crime, and civil unrest, especially in border regions. Reconsider travel due to the unpredictable security situation. Remain vigilant, avoid crowds and demonstrations, and follow the advice of local authorities.

Is Burkina Faso safe for solo female travelers?

Solo female travelers face additional risks in Burkina Faso due to gender-based violence and cultural norms. Exercise increased caution, dress modestly, and avoid isolated areas. Consider hiring a local guide or joining a group tour for added safety.

Is Burkina Faso safe for families?

Burkina Faso is generally not recommended for family travel due to the unstable security situation and lack of adequate medical facilities. If traveling with children, ensure they are up-to-date on vaccinations and take extra precautions to ensure their safety.

Is Burkina Faso LGBTQ+ friendly?

Same-sex relationships are illegal in Burkina Faso, and the LGBTQ+ community faces discrimination and social stigma. Public displays of affection between same-sex couples are not advised. Exercise caution and discretion to avoid potential legal issues or harassment.

Do you need a visa to go to Burkina Faso?

Most visitors require a visa to enter Burkina Faso, with some exceptions for short stays. Visa requirements vary by nationality, so check with the nearest embassy or consulate for specific regulations and processing times before travel.

Can you drink tap water in Burkina Faso?

Tap water is not safe to drink in Burkina Faso. Drink only bottled or purified water, and avoid ice cubes made from tap water. Boiling or using a water purification system is recommended for drinking and brushing teeth.

What is the currency in Burkina Faso?

The official currency in Burkina Faso is the West African CFA franc (XOF). While credit cards are accepted in larger cities and hotels, cash is preferred, especially in rural areas. Ensure you have sufficient local currency on hand.

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