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Is Burundi Safe?

Burundi's safety remains a concern due to sporadic civil unrest, violent crime, and the risk of terrorism. Travelers should exercise extreme caution, avoid crowded areas, and follow local news. While insect-borne diseases like malaria are prevalent, medical facilities are limited. Hiring a trusted local guide and adhering to their advice is highly recommended for a safer experience.

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Safety & Security

Burundi has faced significant security challenges in recent years, with political tensions and civil unrest posing risks for travelers. While the situation has improved, caution is still advised.

  • Crime: Petty crimes like pickpocketing and bag snatching are common, especially in crowded areas. Violent crimes, including armed robbery, have also been reported. Remain vigilant and avoid isolated areas.

  • Civil Unrest: Political tensions and protests have led to civil unrest, particularly around elections. Demonstrations can turn violent with little warning. Monitor local media and avoid large gatherings.

  • Terrorism: While the risk is lower than in some neighboring countries, there is a threat of terrorist attacks, especially in crowded public places. Exercise caution and be aware of your surroundings.

  • Disputes: Disputes between locals and foreigners can escalate quickly. Avoid confrontations and respect local customs and laws.

  • Scams: Be wary of common scams targeting tourists, such as overcharging, fake tour guides, and bogus police officers demanding bribes.

Travelers should exercise increased caution, particularly in urban areas and near borders. Consult your government's travel advisories and register with your embassy or consulate upon arrival.

Health & Medical

Travelers to Burundi should be aware of potential health risks and take necessary precautions. Malaria is a significant concern, and antimalarial medication is highly recommended. Yellow fever vaccination is also required for entry into the country.

  • Insect-Borne Diseases: Malaria, dengue fever, and chikungunya are prevalent in Burundi. Use insect repellent, wear long sleeves and pants, and sleep under treated mosquito nets.

  • Waterborne Diseases: Diseases like cholera, typhoid, and hepatitis A can be contracted through contaminated water or food. Drink only bottled or purified water and avoid raw or undercooked foods.

  • Vaccine-Preventable Diseases: In addition to yellow fever, vaccines for hepatitis A, typhoid, and rabies are recommended for most travelers.

  • Medical Facilities: Medical facilities in Burundi are limited, especially outside the capital Bujumbura. Travelers should carry a well-stocked travel health kit and consider purchasing travel health insurance.

  • Air Pollution: Air pollution levels in urban areas can be high, potentially exacerbating respiratory conditions. Those with respiratory issues should consult a doctor before travel.

Natural Disasters

Burundi is prone to several natural disasters that travelers should be aware of. The country experiences heavy rainfall and flooding during the rainy seasons, which can disrupt transportation and damage infrastructure. Landslides are also a risk in mountainous areas, particularly after periods of heavy rain.

  • Earthquakes are a potential hazard, as Burundi is located along the East African Rift Valley, an active seismic zone.
  • Volcanic Activity is another concern, with the presence of several active and dormant volcanoes in the region.
  • Droughts can occur, leading to water shortages and impacting agriculture, which may affect food availability for travelers.

While the risk of natural disasters cannot be eliminated, travelers should stay informed about weather conditions, follow local advisories, and take necessary precautions. Checking for updates from reliable sources before and during their trip is recommended.


Transportation in Burundi can be challenging for travelers. While public transportation options like buses and shared taxis are available, their safety and reliability are often questionable. Roads, especially in rural areas, are frequently in poor condition, making travel by road risky.

  • Road Safety: Burundi has a high rate of road accidents due to factors like poorly maintained vehicles, reckless driving, and lack of enforcement of traffic laws. Travelers should exercise caution when traveling by road.

  • Public Transportation: Buses and shared taxis are the primary modes of public transportation. However, these vehicles are often overcrowded and poorly maintained, increasing the risk of accidents. Travelers should prioritize safety over cost when choosing transportation options.

  • Infrastructure: Burundi's transportation infrastructure is underdeveloped, with many roads in disrepair, especially in rural areas. This can make travel difficult and increase the risk of accidents or vehicle breakdowns.

  • Rental Vehicles: Renting a vehicle with a reliable company and a professional driver can be a safer option for travelers, but it is also more expensive. Travelers should ensure that the rental company and vehicle meet safety standards.

  • Security Concerns: In some areas, there is a risk of roadblocks, carjackings, or other security incidents. Travelers should exercise caution and follow local advice regarding safe travel routes and times.

Cultural Norms

Burundi is a culturally diverse nation with a rich heritage. As a traveler, it's essential to respect local customs and traditions to ensure a smooth and enriching experience. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

  • Greetings: Burundians place great importance on greetings. It's customary to greet people warmly, even strangers, with a handshake or a slight bow. Avoid rushing through greetings, as they are considered a sign of respect.

  • Dress Code: Modest dress is generally expected, especially in rural areas and religious settings. Women should cover their shoulders and knees, while men should avoid wearing shorts in certain areas.

  • Hospitality: Burundians are known for their hospitality and generosity. If invited to someone's home, it's polite to bring a small gift, such as fruits or sweets. Removing shoes before entering a home is also appreciated.

  • Religious Observances: Burundi has a predominantly Christian population, with a significant Muslim minority. Respect religious practices and avoid disruptive behavior during prayer times or religious ceremonies.

  • Photography: Exercise caution when taking photographs, especially of individuals or religious sites. It's advisable to seek permission before photographing people or sacred places.

  • Language: While French and Kirundi are the official languages, learning a few basic phrases in Kirundi can go a long way in building rapport with locals.

  • Social Hierarchy: Burundian society is hierarchical, with elders and those in positions of authority commanding respect. Avoid public displays of affection or confrontational behavior.

By embracing and respecting Burundi's cultural norms, travelers can foster a deeper appreciation for the country's rich heritage and create lasting positive impressions.

Emergency Services

Emergency services in Burundi are limited and may not meet the standards expected by travelers from Western countries. The availability and reliability of emergency services can vary significantly depending on the location within the country.

  • Medical Facilities: Burundi has a shortage of adequately equipped medical facilities, especially outside the capital city of Bujumbura. Many hospitals and clinics lack essential supplies, medications, and trained personnel.

  • Ambulance Services: Ambulance services are generally unreliable and may not be available in some areas. Response times can be slow, and ambulances may lack proper equipment and trained staff.

  • Fire and Rescue Services: Fire and rescue services are limited, particularly in rural areas. Response times can be lengthy, and equipment may be outdated or inadequate.

  • Police and Security: The police force in Burundi is often understaffed and underfunded. Response times to emergencies can be slow, and the quality of assistance may be inconsistent.

It is advisable for travelers to have comprehensive travel insurance that covers emergency medical evacuation and repatriation. Travelers should also research the nearest reliable medical facilities and have contingency plans in case of emergencies.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Is Burundi safe for tourists?

Burundi is generally safe for tourists who exercise caution. Avoid border regions due to rebel activity. Remain vigilant in cities and use trusted transportation. Obtain comprehensive travel insurance and register with your embassy.

Is Burundi safe for solo female travelers?

Solo female travelers should exercise heightened caution in Burundi. Avoid isolated areas, dress modestly, and arrange trusted guides and transportation. Harassment is possible, but risks can be mitigated with proper precautions.

Is Burundi safe for families?

Burundi can be challenging for families with children due to limited tourism infrastructure and amenities. Medical facilities are basic. Ensure updated vaccinations and consider hiring a local guide to navigate cultural norms.

Is Burundi LGBTQ+ friendly?

LGBTQ+ relations are illegal in Burundi, and the community faces discrimination and potential persecution. Public displays of affection and advocacy are inadvisable. Exercise discretion to avoid unwanted attention or legal issues.

Do you need a visa to go to Burundi?

Most visitors require a visa to enter Burundi, which can be obtained online or upon arrival. U.S., Canadian, and EU citizens can typically obtain a visa on arrival for tourism purposes with a valid passport.

Can you drink tap water in Burundi?

Tap water is not safe to drink in Burundi. Opt for bottled, filtered, or boiled water to avoid potential health risks from contamination. Avoid ice cubes and raw foods washed with tap water.

What is the currency in Burundi?

The official currency in Burundi is the Burundian Franc (BIF). Major hotels and some businesses accept major credit cards, but cash is widely preferred. Obtain local currency from banks or authorized money exchangers.

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