Officially known as the Republic of Burundi, this small country located in the Great Lakes region of Africa faces a magnitude of challenges in attracting tourists. If it weren’t for its wildlife-rich national parks it would perhaps be off the tourist map altogether. However, natural beauty and wealthy cultural offerings sway some people into braving rebels and bandits for a taste of this Garden of Eden. Strict curfews will put a damper on your fun, but the local beer flows freely so long as a chimpanzee doesn’t snatch the bottle right out of your hand.
When to Go
Burundi has two rainy seasons and one dry season.
The short rainy season runs from October to December, while the long one is from February to the first half of May.
Dry season is experienced from the second half of May to October.
Getting There & Away
Burundi has an inadequate transportation system that adds to the reasons why the country’s economy is poor and undeveloped. It also has no railroad system. Air services are maintained by Air Burundi, who provide domestic flights to and from Tanzania, Rwanda and the Republic of Congo. Air Zaire, Sabena and other airlines provide international flights. The country’s international airport is located in Bujumbura with six smaller airports and several helicopter landing strips. Getting around is most conveniently done on an organized tour, as navigating the haphazard transport network could take you a lifetime.
Health & Safety
You would be wise to stick to the curfews here unless you want a run in with some bandits or local rebels, and whatever you do, don’t assume the recent ceasefire agreement has made things that much safer. Keep an eye on security developments and consult your embassy before you travel. If you plan to get jiggy with any of the locals, take a stack of condoms with you as the growing HIV rate is rocking the country.
Food & Hospitality
Food will not be a problem for most visitors so long as you like beans, and plenty of them. The locals eat beans at least once a day, more frequently if possible. Sweet potatoes, cassava, plantains, maize and peas complement beans. The bars and restaurants in Bujumbura and Gitega have a wider choice, serving Asian, Greek and French cuisine. The poverty-stricken locals don’t dine out much, and restaurants are expensive as a result.
Four-and five-star hotels can be found in Bujumbura and near Lake Tanganyika, some with shoreline views and golf courses, but for the most part expect more spartan choices.
Two days in Bujumbura
Three days in Lake Tanganyika
Two days in Kirundo
Bujumbura: is the capital port-city of Burundi located on the shore of Lake Tanganyika. Get ready for theatre, music, colonial dining and some stiff bargaining.
Lake Tanganyika: one of Burundi’s most popular tourist destinations, this lake runs along the length of the western region of the country. People-watch at the restaurants and cafés that line the lake, or get your skis on for some serious waterskiing.
Cities of Muramyva and Gitega: are regarded as former royal cities of the country. The recently renovated National Museum and the Chutes de la Kagera waterfalls can be found in these areas.
Bururi province: the Rutovu monument marking the country’s claim to the source of the Nile River is located in this province.
Kirundo: located in the far north, Kirundo is home to three lakes: Rwihinda, Rweru and Cohoha. Nicknamed ‘Birds Lake’, don’t come here if you think Hitchcock’s The Birds ranks as one of the scariest films of all time.
Water sports: get your Speedos on and hit Lake Tanganyika to indulge in some sailing, swimming, waterskiing and even fishing.
Nature tripping: stroll along the central plains of Gitega or traverse the city’s mountaintops with a stop at the renowned Chutes de la Kagera waterfalls for breathtaking views.
Art study: learn Burundi’s arts and crafts at the Craftwares Village in Giheta such as wood carving, sculpting, painting and ceramic and leather making.
Urubugu: compete with the natives in the country’s ancient game known as urubugu or mancala. It might take you a while to get to grips with the carved wooden boards and seashells, pebbles or seeds, but once you do, you’ll be highly respected.