Threat level: High
The current travel safety advice for Burundi is to remain extra vigilant when visiting this country. There are travel advisories in place advising against all travel to certain parts of the country, especially the bordering areas near to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Please check advisories with your local embassy before you travel.
Recent security risk events
Attackers thought to be linked to Al Shabab have launched several grenade attacks at army patrols and at police officers in the capital, Bujumbura, killing several people since early 2016. Bujumbura has recently witnessed a string of grenade and bomb attacks, dozens of Burundian Army soldiers have been killed by Al Shabab in Somalia too.
There is political unrest at present with the United Nations declaring the latest election (2015) “not free or credible”. There was a failed coup d’etat on 13th May 2015 and the political future is not certain.
In January 2017 the environmental minister Emmanuel Niyonkuru was assassinated in the capital city of Bujumbura. Although nobody has claimed responsibility, arrests have been made in relation to the attack.
There is an external threat posed in the region by the Islamist Al Shabaab group. Although based in Somalia, there has already been a spill over to neighbouring countries, such as the September 2013 Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi and the May 2014 attack against a restaurant in Djibouti.
Burundi is one of the ten least developed countries in the world. As of 2014 Burundi has the lowest per capita GDP (of any country) in the world. Its lack of wealth can be attributed to a number of reasons: it has been hit hard by HIV/AIDS virus which has caused widespread poverty and strained medical services. The country further has a history of ethnic violence between the Hutu and Tutsi factions. A new constitution was established in 2005 and after which, the country elected a majority Hutu government.
Visitors to the country should take great care to restrict travel to daylight hours. Police and other officials may seek bribes so tourists need to be aware of this, and have emergency contact details of their embassy or consulate.
The general level of crime is high in Burundi. There have been many reported muggings and hi-jackings, in most of these cases a high level of violence was used. Knife and gun crime is a regular occurrence. You should remain wary of your surroundings at all times.
The political situation in Burundi still remains tense and there have been a number of violent attacks, particularly against those perceived to be opposed to the election of Nkurunziza’s third term. The police have been known to discharge live ammunition and tear gas into groups of demonstrators. Avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings at all costs and keep close watch of local media.
Burundi and Rwanda often have violent border disputes and as such relations between the countries are strained.
The country has recently become a member of various international and regional organizations, including the United Nations and the African Union.
Land border crossings are only temporarily open, the situation is unpredictable and they may be closed without advance warning at any time. The overall conditions of the roads are poor and they are often blocked or impassable due landslides, especially after heavy rain, this is mostly during the wet season.
Most border crossings between Burundi and Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania, and Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are currently open. However, there are an increasing number of police and military check points.
Official languages: French, Kirundi & Swahili Religion: Christian & Hutu Currency: Burundian franc
All visitors to Burundi are required to apply for visas. The only exceptions being passport holders from Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. The cost a visa is £60.00 (UK£) (as of July 2015).
It is advised that visitors to Burundi are up-to-date with primary boosters such as MMR. It is essential that you get vaccinated against Yellow Fever as there is risk of the disease throughout the country. It is an entry requirement that you present a certificate proving your immunisation. This should be completed at least 10 days prior to departure.
It is further recommended that most travellers get Tetanus, Typhoid and Hepatitis A vaccinations. You may also want to consider a Rabies jab as there is a small risk in some areas of the country. Check with your local health professional prior to travel if you are unsure.
Other health risks
Malaria is an issue in Burundi. It is vitally important, therefore, that all visitors take necessary precautions to prevent mosquito bites such as using mosquito nets where possible and take anti-malaria medication before, during and after your visit.
Schistosomiasis (parasitic infection also known as bilharzia) is also an issue, so contact with fresh water including activities such as swimming, bathing or paddling in fresh water lakes and streams is advised against.
Personal hygiene must be paramount, the local water supply avoided at all costs and bottled water inspected prior to consumption. A number of cases of bottled water being refilled with tap water and re-sold have been reported.