Burundi is a small country in East Africa, although it has some cultural and geographical ties with Central Africa. It is surrounded by Rwanda, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Although the country is rich in culture and history, the country has been in a state of instability since gaining independence in the 1960s. Burundi is one of the world's poorest and least developed countries and has a myriad of social, political, and economic problems.
Negative facts aside, Burundi guards all the elements that constitute its very rich culture: dances, musical rhythms, and handicrafts. The cultural inheritance from their forefathers and ancestors is evidenced by their traditional heirlooms and dances. For those with patience and an open mind, the rewards are unforgettable.
The country is divided into 17 provinces (Cibitoke, Kayanza, Ngozi, Kirundo, Muyinga, Bubanza, Muramvya, Gitega, Karuzi, Cankuzo, Bujumbura Rural, Bujumbura Mairie, Mwaro, Ruyigi, Bururi, Rutana, Makamba). Below the province level, there are "communes" in rural areas and "quartiers" in the capital, with a total of 117 of such groupings. Beneath this, there are several lower levels of administration, including the sector, the 2 639 "collines", or hillside, and the smallest grouping, the "Nyumba Kumi" or "group of 10 houses."
- 1 Gitega — the capital and second largest city, in the middle of the country
- 2 Bujumbura — the largest city, situated on the north-eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika
- 3 Bururi — southern city
- 4 Cibitoke — north-western city
- 5 Kabezi
- 6 Muyinga — north-eastern city
- 7 Ngozi — northern city
- 1 Bururi Forest Natural Reserve — The Natural reserve of Bururi is a 3300 ha expanse of altitude damp forest. The town of Bururi offers visitors this wonderful panorama, to visit the park first go to the INECN office in Bururi, it's not common knowledge among Bururians that you have to do this first. If you are told that there is no entry fee and no guides are available, this is not true. At the office you can pay the entry fee (FBu5,000) and arrange a guide FBu5,000. In this place there are about 117 species of birds and 25 species of mammals have been identified in a forestland surrounding of multifarious vegetation. On a walking circuit along the botanical lanes and trails of this forest the visitor will fully enjoy the wild coolness of our mountains densely covered with trees of many different species. This region is 33 km from Roumonge. The road through it will drive you from the lakes along miles of hallucinating and breathtaking panoramas.
- 2 Kibira National Park. At the apex of the Zaire-Nile, with its 40,000 ha of preserved forests, this the largest completely untouched natural area in Burundi. Its wild life constitutes a shelter for chimpanzees, baboons, cercophitecus (a monkey) and black colobes scattering away to the approach of human beings. The park is criss-crossed by a network of 180 km of tracks and paths mainly used by guard car patrols and motorized tourists. The guards of the park will scout you in the wood undercover where you will be able to discover the fascinating attraction of the primeval forest and the charming songs of birds. Mountain chains hide thermal springs, and the access to the park is made through the tea plantations of Teza and Rwegura which count among the best natural sceneries.
- 3 Nyakazu Break and the Karera Falls — The natural Forest Reserves of Roumonge, Kigwena and Mugara are in course of development to enable chimpanzees and cercopithecuses to find enough food to stay there and procreate. The thermal waterfalls situated in the Mugara reserve will enable you to lend yourselves to natural massage simply by taking showers under these waters raised from the earth’s bosom. The very near beaches of Tanganyika provide an opportunity for a swim and rest.
- 4 Rusizi Natural Reserve — The Natural Reserve of Rusizi will be your first visit in Burundi for the simple reason that it is very near the capital city of Bujumbura. The River Delta extends over 500 ha of vegetation made of Phragmites mauritianus. It is a natural shelter for few families of antelopes and hippopotamuses that come here in quest of grazing land. At the end of the track if you are lucky enough you may meet with a few crocodiles fast asleep on the golden sand of the river banks. The Rusizi palm groves (situated on the Cibitoke road 10 km away from Bujumbura) is also an exceptional landscape that will no doubt make your mind drift away from your day to day preoccupations. It offers to the visitor a rich vegetation completely adapted environment gratified by only a few sparse rains, made of euphorbia, thorny bushes and tall palm trees of the Hyphaena bengalensis var ventricosa species. Right in the deepest part of the reserve you will be able to admire the natural ponds left by the Rusizi meanders. This place is a paradise for birds which come by the hundred and feed themselves by dive-fishing. If you are patient enough you will be able to see some hippopotamuses paddling in the shallow waters.
- 5 Ruvubu National Park — The National Park of Ruvubu lies on the banks of the Ruvubu River and is limited by high rise mountains. It was freed from human inhabitants and returned to complete wild life. The track and length of the path network is approximately 100 km and includes many observation lookouts. You will be accommodated in a newly erected camp and you will be able to tell your friends when you are back home about tracking buffaloes along their trails where the joyful glee of the songs from all the African birds you may think of are heard at every turn.
- 6 Rwihinda Lake Natural Reserve — The Rwihinda Lake Natural Reserve is a real sanctuary for migratory aquatic birds which come to the site by the thousands to reproduce. All these now protected birds can nest more and more on these green swamps and islets of the lake. Crested cranes and herons live there a peaceful live. The visitor can drift along on barges to approach many species of birds without risk of frightening them.
- 7 Vyanda Forest Natural Reserve — This is a forest reserve that can be accessed from the town of Rumonge. The main attraction is the chimpanzees. The facilities for visitors for visitors are almost non-existent but if you go to the INECN office (remember to pronounce it the French way when asking for directions, roughly "ENCN" pronounced the English way) in Rumonge you should be able to organise a visit. It's generally set up for people with their own transport but a visit by local transport can be arranged. Expect to pay FBu10,000 for entry and guide if you see chimps, FBu5,000 if you don't. You should be able to arrange transport from Rumonge for around FBu15,000 for a return trip. The chimps here are not habituated to humans so don't expect the close encounters that are possible in some places.
|Currency||Burundian franc (BIF)|
|Population||11.5 million (2019)|
|Electricity||220 volt / 50 hertz (Europlug, Type E)|
|Time zone||UTC+02:00, Africa/Bujumbura|
|Emergencies||112 (police), 113 (fire department), 117 (emergency medical services)|
|edit on Wikidata|
Burundi is about 27,834 km2 (10,747 sq mi) large and has a population of almost 12 million people, making it one of the smallest countries in the world. Although the country is landlocked, much of the south-western border is adjacent to Lake Tanganyika, one of the deepest lakes in the world.
The region was colonised in the 19th century as part of German East Africa, then taken by Belgium after the First World War. It became independent in 1962.
Burundi is one of the poorest and least developed nations in the world. The vast majority of Burundians live in poverty and work as subsistence farmers. There are many reasons behind Burundi's lack of development and poverty: civil wars, political instability, corruption, a lack of access to education, and the effects of HIV/AIDS.
Cobalt and copper are among the nation's natural resources. Other resources include coffee, sugar and tea.
Burundi's population today is mostly comprised of the Hutu ethnic group (85%) followed by the Tutsi (14%) and Twa (1%).
The earliest known people to live in Burundi were the Twa, a short "pygmy" people who remain as a minority group there. The Hutu and Tutsi people moved into the region several hundred years ago, and dominated it. Like much of Africa, Burundi then went through a period of European colonial rule. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Germany and Belgium occupied the region, and Burundi and Rwanda together became a European colony known as Ruanda-Urundi.
This ended with its independence from Belgium in 1962. In the decades since then, Burundi has known civil wars between the Hutu and Tutsi populations (much like the better-known genocide in Rwanda to the north), and a series of political assassinations. Peace and the re-establishment of civil democracy took place in 2005 with a cease-fire and the election of former Hutu rebel Pierre Nkurunziza as president.
Burundi in general has a tropical highland climate, with a considerable daily temperature range in many areas. Temperature also varies considerably from one region to another, chiefly as a result of differences in altitude. The central plateau enjoys pleasantly cool weather, with an average temperature of 20 °C (68 °F). The area around Lake Tanganyika is warmer, averaging 23 °C (73 °F); the highest mountain areas are cooler, averaging 16 °C (61 °F). Bujumbura’s average annual temperature is 23 °C (73 °F). Rain is irregular, falling most heavily in the north-west. Dry seasons vary in length, and there are sometimes long periods of drought. However, four seasons can be distinguished: the long dry season (June–August), the short wet season (September–November), the short dry season (December–January), and the long wet season (February–May). Most of Burundi receives between 1,300 and 1,600 mm (51 and 63 in) of rainfall a year. The Ruzizi Plain and the north-east receive between 750 and 1,000 mm (30 and 39 in).
Immigration and visa requirements
All nationalities require a visa to visit Burundi except citizens of Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In Europe, visas are available from the Burundi Embassy in London UK[dead link] as well as embassies in Berlin, Brussels and The Hague. A 30-day tourist visa from the Burundi Embassy in London costs £60. Embassies elsewhere provide a 30 day multiple-entry visa for USD90.
As of 2023, two types of visa are available at Bujumbura airport: 3 day for ̯USD40, and 30 day multiple entry visa for USD90. When entering Burundi over land, the only visa available is a 3 day transit visa costing USD40. Please note that the UK government website incorrectly states 30 day visas are obtainable at land borders. A visa extension from the Immigration office in Bujumbura costs USD20 for 10 days or USD50 for 30 days. You will need a passport photo, the original receipt for your 3 day visa, and copies of your passport information page and the arrival stamp page. At the immigration building, find office 121, which is the visa office. The immigration office is a chaotic place, and this process will take a few hours at least.
1 Bujumbura International Airport (BJM IATA). The main airport in the country is served by airlines including: Kenya Airways (Nairobi), RwandAir (Kigali), Ethiopian airlines (Addis Ababa), Brussels Airlines (Brussels), Uganda airlines (Entebbe). Air Tanzania Kigoma and Dar Es Salaam.
Buses are available mainly to Bujumbura. There are international buses from Kigali, Rwanda and Kigoma, Tanzania. Companies include Volcano and Luba Express.
It is also possible to get into Burundi from the east. To do this, take a bus to Kabanga, Tanzania, and from there take a shared taxi to the Burundian border.
Luba express bus lines run a daily bus from Kigoma via the Manyovu border crossing. You can also take a bus to Bujumburu from the border via Mabanda after taking a boda-boda through the border post. Shared taxis are available to the border from Kigoma.
Minibuses also run from Gatumba on the DRC border to Bujumbura.
You can use the ferries to travel along Lake Tanganyika, but they do not operate regularly.
Road and water transport are the main ways for getting around. There are no railways in the country, and the airport in Bujumbura is the only one with scheduled flights (all international).
There are buses between Bujumbura and other cities in the country.
Taxi is an option for intercity travel as well. For example a roundtrip between Bujumbura and Gitega by taxi would cost you around $50 including the fuel.
Traffic culture is moderate, but motorists should be careful. Beware of pedestrians walking in the middle of the road, don't be afraid to use the horn. Moreover local drivers, particularly taxi and van drivers ignore traffic rules all too often.
In Bujumbura, traffic can be very confusing at times and the rural roads are narrow and winding due to the hilly terrain. Roads are of decent quality. Major roads are paved.
The roads along the shores of Lake Tanganyika are dangerous; they are in poor condition and are not fenced off at the steepest points.
Although most travellers will find that they can get around passingly well with a working knowledge of French and increasingly ̺English, some familiarity with Swahili or the related local language, Kirundi, is helpful, particularly in rural areas. The problem may be that Kirundi is extremely difficult to learn. Kirundi and Kinyarwanda (the official language in Rwanda) are quite similar.
Bujumbura is in the western part of the country. Moving towards the east, is Gitega; it’s a large market held in the middle of the town, and its Museum of Traditions (ancient utensils, pictures, commented visit). Travellers will have to make advance bookings to be able to watch an extraordinary and fascinating show unique in the world: “The Drummers of Giheta” playing in their traditional environment. Then you will be making head away towards Rutana to see the admirable panorama of the Karea Falls and the Nykazu Break, called the “Break of the Germans”, which is an exceptional lookout that oversees the Kumoso plain. You will be ending your tour by the visit of Gihofi, a booming town with its new sugar refinery in the heart of the sugar cane plantations country.
Towards the South-eastern part of the country, don’t miss by any means the visit of the Nile Sources near Rutovu. Don’t forget to take your swimming gear with you; otherwise, you may miss the benefit of the hot springs in charming and subtle surroundings. You will also be able to see on your way the last traditional enclosed villas (round habitations surrounded by wooden fences strip in turn surrounded by grazing meadows and ploughed fields).
Further south, you will be able to cross a line of villages succeeding one after the other and wedged between the lake and abrupt mountains. Fortunately, you will be able to stop and have a rest, or go for nautical sports and have a meal in restaurants or simply stop for a drink, on nicely arranged fine sand beaches. Still further south lays the Nyanza Lake. Why not to take a boat and go to Tanzania on the other side of the lake and visit Gombe Natural Park?
Towards the north just before reaching Bugarama, there is an important market for high quality fresh foodstuffs. You can walk across the primeval forest of Kibira the access of which is still very difficult but which is in a process of beaconing. Carry on towards Kayanza and Ngozi, two big agricultural production and trade villages. At Kirundo, near the border with Rwanda, you will discover the small lakes of the North, the peacefulness and serenity of their jagged borders. Take a boat and drift on the Rwihinda Lake to admire numerous birds’ species entirely free on the lake (crested cranes, wild ducks, fishing eagles, etc.).
On the road from Muyinga to Cankuzo, the visit of the Natural park of the Ruvuvu Rivers is a must now that is endowed with accommodation infrastructure; there you’ll be able to admire Burundi protected remnant buffaloes and dorcas (gazelles). The surrounding primeval forest will no doubt leave you with an unforgettable souvenir.
Landmarks and monuments
In Bujumbura, climb to the “Belvedere” on the top of the hill, a dominating point of the town. You’ll be able to visit the mausoleum of Prince Louis Rwagasore, founder of the Uprona party and hero of the independence of Burundi.
Ten kilometres south of Bujumbura at Mugere is the Livingstone-Stanley Monument, a stone marking a spot where the two famous explorers David Livingstone and H. M. Stanley spent two nights on 25-27 Nov 1871 as guests of Chief Mukamba during their joint exploration of the northern end of Lake Tanganyika, following their first meeting at Ujiji, Tanzania 15 days previously.
114 km from Bujumbura, on the Bujumbura-Ijenda-Matana road lays Rutovu, a town where a pyramid was erected at the southern most source of the Nile, at an altitude of 2,000 m.
It is impossible to make a list of all the places worth making a stop, as Burundi is a real Garden of Eden defying weather and exercising on people an irresistible attraction. When arriving in Bujumbura, for all your circuits, itineraries and tours go to the National Office of Tourism where a great choice are available. You will be able to see: the Nyakazu Break to the east, the Karera Falls, the Lake Tanganyika panoramas at Vyanda and Kabonambo, the tea plantations of Teza or Rwegura. The reservoir built at this place is surrounded by beautiful scenery.
There are two museums in Bujumbura and Gitega.
The second largest town in the country, Gitega, has the National Museum founded in 1955 where there is an exhibition of a magnificent ethnographic collection of objects owned by the Crown and that could be seen at the Court in the first part of the 20th century, together with an archaeological collection and historical photographs.
You will enjoy the old photographs of our kings, princes and queens of the 19th century, surrounded by lot of objects owned by men and women of those days; jewellery, baskets from all regions, earthenware for many uses, calabashes to keep water or for churning, war and hunting spears, ploughing instruments, iron-working and sculpting instruments.
In Bujumbura, the Musée Vivant near the lake presents a great part of the treasures in a wider place surrounded by magnificent gardens. Old and modern crafts are presented in beautiful small cabins. However, the masterpiece of this museum is the reconstruction in real dimensions of a royal habitation. The entire surrounding courtyard can be visited and the main hut topped by an interlaced dome covered by a think thatched roof.
The Musée Vivant also keeps up a bird house, where few local species can be seen and a Herpetological Centre, where there are displays of snakes and many species of reptiles. This living museum was regarded as one of the most renowned in Africa since its collection was opened to the public in 1988.
Not all visitors will enjoy it, but it is possible to feed the crocodiles, leopard and some of the snakes in the Musée Vivant. For FBu2,000 you can buy a (live) guinea pig and select the lucky diner.
Watch out for Tina the chimpanzee when visiting the Musée Vivant; she frequently escapes from her cage and can follow visitors around, this can be misconstrued as chasing. Her handlers assure she is not dangerous and just wants to play.
Exchange rates for Burundian francs
As of January 2023:
Exchange rates fluctuate. Current rates for these and other currencies are available from XE.com
The currency is the Burundian franc, denoted by the symbol "FBu" (ISO code: BIF).
Banknotes in Burundi are issued in denominations of 20, 50, 100, 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000 and 10,000 francs.
- DTB bank, Ecobank, CRDB, and KCB have ATMs in Burundi where you can get a cash withdrawal with Visa Card or MasterCard. The Ecobank website has a full list of locations.
Burundi is endowed with very flourishing craftsmanship, with unique delicate and attractive shapes.
Burundi has developed plastic arts only very recently. The visitor will be able to find Gitega and Bujumbura talented artist able to carve sceneries on wooden boards and paint landscapes with beautifully shaded bluish backgrounds.
For the international visitor, Burundi offers some culinary surprises: fresh fish from Lake Tanganyika and produce from the nation's rich volcanic soil are particularly notable. There is a sizeable South Asian community, offering curried dishes alongside the more traditional rice and beans, and French-inspired European offerings. For lighter meals, samosas and skewered meats are common, and bananas and fresh fruit are often served as a sweet snack.
The national dish is beef brochettes (kebabs) and grilled plantains (cooking bananas) available almost everywhere.
Other signature dishes are:
- Mealie-Meal Porridge
- Sangala fish garnished with onions and stewed beef
Soft drinks and beer are readily available. As in Rwanda and DRC, big 72 cl Primus bottles are available for between USD1-2 as well as Amstel, which is about USD2. Both are locally produced and of good quality.
Although accommodation in rural areas can be basic, Bujumbura hosts a number of international-grade hotels, catering to a mainly UN and international clientèle. Notable hotels include the Source du Nil (USD120/night), the Hotel Botanika (USD85/night), the Clos de Limbas (USD70/night) and the new, anglophone Sun Safari.
A cheaper option is the Camel Africa Hotel in Bujumbura at USD9 a night.
There is a dearth of educational opportunities in Burundi, even for Burundian citizens. Years of warfare and instability have badly damaged the country's education system and school enrollment rates are quite low.
The educational scene of the country is unlikely to be attractive to most people reading Wikivoyage.
Burundi is not usually considered a top destination for career advancement. Weak infrastructure, political instability, an inefficient bureaucratic system, a lack of transparency, and low salaries do not make the country a highly popular place to work in.
Due to a lack of opportunities in Burundi, many Burundians often migrate to other countries.
Many NGOs are situated in Burundi. If you have a background in politics or international relations, working in the country won't be such a bad idea. In addition, the country is a great place to further develop your French language skills and deepen your understanding of politics and government.
Although some semblance of normality has returned to much of the country with the conclusion of the nation's democratic transition and a democratically chosen head of state in Aug 2005, travellers should be warned that there is still significant insecurity throughout the country and exercise extreme caution. Besides the still-active rebel group, the Forces Nationales de la Libération (FNL) that continues to attack government forces and civilians, threats posed by banditry and armed robbery, as well as petty crimes, remain. Visitors should exercise caution, avoid travelling after dark, and be aware of curfew laws. Many roads close at night, and most embassies put out curfews on their staff. As in any other conflict or post-conflict situation, visitors should consult their embassy to be apprised of the latest local developments, and be sensitive to the changing security environment.
Be careful of kiosk foods and avoid unboiled water. Also ensure you have been vaccinated.
As in many other African countries, HIV infection is widespread. In 2012, UNICEF estimated[dead link] that 1.3% of the adult population is living with HIV.
As is the case in all African countries, Burundi is a hierarchial society, which means that respect for elders is important. Always treat an older person/authority figure with a great degree of respect, and do not do anything that would make an older person/authority figure feel challenged.
Burundians are family-oriented. It's common for Burundian parents to be intimiately involved in the lives of their children, and they aim to school their children in proper behavior, communal values, and family values. Passing unwarranted comments and/or criticisms about someone's family members is considered rude.
If you've been invited to a Burundian home, you may be showered with snacks and drinks. Do not reject any of these; it's considered rude manners to do so and it could get your host(s) to think that you do not appreciate their hospitality.