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Burundi

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Summary

  • Do not travel to Burundi because of the volatile security situation. Burundi has high levels of crime, civil unrest and a threat of terrorist attack. Violent attacks against individuals occur regularly.
  • If you are in Burundi, consider leaving if it is safe to do so. Monitor the local media and other sources for developments that may affect your safety. See Safety and security
  • The international airport and land border crossings may close at any time without warning. See Entry and exit
  • There are daily reports of violent clashes between police, civilians and other groups across Burundi, with many people killed. Avoid all demonstrations, protests and large public gatherings. See Safety and security
  • The Al Shabaab terrorist group has issued threats against Burundi, specifically the capital Bujumbura, due to Burundi's participation in the African Union Mission in Somalia. See Safety and security
  • Don't travel at night given the volatile security situation, the threat of banditry, and poor road conditions throughout the country.  See Local travel
  • Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Burundi. The Australian High Commission in Kenya provides consular assistance to Australians in Burundi.

Entry and exit

Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders. The Australian Government cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet your destination’s entry or exit requirements.

Do not travel to Burundi. If you're in Burundi, consider leaving if safe to do so.

Due to the volatile security situation, the international airport and land borders can close without warning. Contact your airline directly on up-to-date departure options. Expect delays when crossing land borders.

Visas

If you plan to enter Burundi despite our advice, you'll need a visa issued in advance.

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact an embassy or consulate of Burundi for up-to-date information.

Burundi does not have diplomatic representation in Australia. The nearest Embassy of Burundi is in Tokyo.

Other formalities

You'll need a valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate to enter Burundi. Yellow fever is a serious and potentially fatal disease preventable by vaccination. It is endemic in Burundi. Some airlines may not allow you to board your flight out of Burundi without a valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate.  Read Yellow fever for information on re-entry to Australia following exposure to yellow fever.

More information: Yellow fever risk and certification requirements (by country, WHO)

Passport

Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months after the date you intend to return to Australia.

Your passport is a valuable document and attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place.

Be aware of attempts to get access to your passport by deception. If you are forced to hand over your passport, contact an Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate for advice.

If your passport is lost or stolen, you must notify the Australian Government as soon as possible.

Money

The local currency is the Burundian Franc (BIF). Sums exceeding BIF2,000 cannot be exported without approval. Some businesses may accept US dollars or Euros.

There are limited numbers of ATMs and most are unreliable. Most hotels and businesses don’t accept credit cards. Bank transfers in and out of the country may not be available.

Safety and security

Civil unrest and political tension

There has been a high level of violence in parts of Burundi since contentious election in 2015. Violence has resulted in many deaths and the situation remains highly volatile.

There are regular reports of clashes between police, civilians and other groups in Bujumbura, and across Burundi. Many people have been killed. Violent attacks against individuals also occur regularly.

If, despite our advice, you're in Burundi:

  • seek professional security advice
  • adopt robust personal security measures
  • avoid all demonstrations, protests and other public gatherings
  • monitor the media for any new safety and security risks, including political events that may inflame existing tensions
  • contact friends and family in Australia with regular updates about your welfare and whereabouts
  • leave Burundi as soon as possible.

Terrorism

Terrorism is a significant threat in Burundi. An attack could occur at any time. You could be caught up in attacks directed at others.

Al-Shabaab, although based in Somalia poses a threat across the East Africa region. Al-Shabaab has issued threats against Burundi, specifically the capital Bujumbura, due to Burundi's participation in the African Union Mission in Somalia.

Possible targets for attack include clubs, hotels, resorts, restaurants, bars, schools, places of worship, airports, markets, shopping centres, political and sporting events, outdoor recreation events, bus terminals, public transport infrastructure, Burundian government buildings and tourist areas.

If, despite our advice, you're in Burundi:

  • evaluate your personal security situation in light of the terrorism threat
  • in planning your activities, consider the kind of places known to be terrorist targets and the level of security provided
  • be alert to possible threats at all times, especially in public places
  • monitor the media for any new or emerging threats
  • take official warnings seriously
  • follow the instructions of local authorities
  • if there is an attack, leave the affected area immediately if it is safe to do so.
  • avoid the affected area in the aftermath of an attack because of the risk of secondary attacks.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. More information: Terrorist threat worldwide

Crime

Violent crime is widespread and often involves weapons:

  • armed criminals ambush vehicles, particularly on the roads leading out of Bujumbura
  • kidnapping for ransom happens and foreigners can be targeted
  • people walking or jogging alone have been assaulted, particularly on roads around Lake Tanganyika
  • muggings, burglaries, car-jackings, and armed banditry are common.

The risk of crime increases after dark. The United Nations (UN) and US Embassy advise their staff not to walk or use public transport after dark. The US Embassy forbids travel by its staff outside of Bujumbura at night.

The Australian Government's longstanding policy is that it does not make payments or concessions to kidnappers.

If, despite our advice, you're in Burundi:

  • travel with your vehicle's doors locked and windows up at all times
  • guard against carjacking – be alert to threats, including when stopped in traffic
  • carry only what you need - leave other valuables in a secure location
  • secure your accommodation against intruders
  • be alert to your surroundings at all times
  • don't travel after dark
  • adopt effective personal security measures.

More information: Kidnapping

Local travel

Landmines

Landmines have exploded in areas frequented by travellers.

Road travel

Traffic accidents are common. Most roads and vehicles are in poor condition. Other hazards include excessive speed, poor driving habits and insufficient lighting.

Heavy rains, especially between February and May, can cause flooding and landslides. These may cut roads and damage infrastructure.

Roads throughout Burundi, including in Bujumbura, may be subject to roadblocks. Border crossings with Rwanda are often closed, due to banditry and conflict between armed groups.

There is a significant risk of banditry throughout Burundi. See Safety and security.

The US Embassy recommends its citizens travel in a convoy of at least two vehicles.

If you need to travel by road, first:

  • verify local security and road conditions, including with the United Nations Office in Burundi (Telephone: +257 22 21 93 42)
  • seek local advice on possible routes
  • seek professional security advice
  • adopt effective personal security measures
  • plan all travel to fall well within daylight hours and in convoy
  • make contingency plans.

More information: Road travel

Public transport

Avoid public transport, especially after dark, due to the high risk of crime and poor state of local roads and vehicles. See Safety and security.

Air travel

The international airport can close without warning.

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Burundi.

More information: Air travel

Laws

You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Drug laws

Penalties for drug offences are severe and include lengthy imprisonment and heavy fines. More information: Drugs

Other laws

It is illegal to take photos of sensitive buildings in Burundi. Don't take photos of airports, military installations and government buildings.

Homosexuality is illegal and penalties include imprisonment. Public displays of affection are frowned upon and can lead to harassment by the public and/or police. More information: LGBTI travellers

Australian laws

Some Australian criminal laws apply overseas. If you commit these offences, you may be prosecuted in Australia. Laws include those relating to:

  • bribery of foreign public officials
  • child pornography
  • child sex tourism
  • female genital mutilation
  • forced marriage
  • money laundering
  • terrorism.

More information: Staying within the law

Dual nationals

Read Dual nationals.

Health

Travel insurance

Take out comprehensive travel insurance before you depart to cover overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. Make sure your policy includes adequate coverage for any pre-existing conditions.

Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for your medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs. This can be very expensive and cost you many thousands of dollars upfront.

Confirm:

  • what circumstances and activities are and are not covered under your policy
  • that you are covered for the whole time you will be away.

More information: Travel insurance

Physical and mental health

Consider your physical and mental health before travelling, especially if you have an existing medical condition.

  • At least eight weeks before you depart, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and implications for your health.
  • Get vaccinated before you travel.

More information:

Medication

Not all medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia are available in other countries. Some may be illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.

Before you leave Australia, check if your medication is legal in each country you're travelling to and find out if any quantity restrictions or certification requirements apply. Consult your doctor about alternatives well in advance of travel

Take enough legal prescription medicine with you to last for the duration of your stay so you remain in good health. Carry copies of your prescription and a dated letter from your doctor stating what the medicine is, how much you'll take and that it's for personal use only.

More information: Prescription medicines

Health risks

Insect-borne diseases

Yellow fever is endemic and malaria occurs widely throughout the year. Other insect-borne diseases (including filariasis, plague and African sleeping sickness) also occur.

Protect yourself against insect-borne diseases:

  • ensure your accommodation is insect proof
  • take measures to avoid insect bites, including using insect repellent and wearing long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing
  • get vaccinated against yellow fever before you travel
  • consider taking malaria prevention medication
  • seek medical advice if you have a fever, muscle pain, rash or severe headache.

More information:

HIV/AIDS 

HIV/AIDS is prevalent. Exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in activities that expose you to risk of infection.

Other infectious diseases

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including cholera, meningococcal and tuberculosis) are prevalent. More serious outbreaks occur from time-to-time. Severe outbreaks of malaria and cholera were reported in 2017 and 2018. 

  • Use good hygiene practices including frequent handwashing.
  • Boil drinking water or drink bottled water.
  • Don't swim in fresh water, including Lake Tanyganyika, to minimise exposure to certain water-borne diseases.
  • Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering diarrhoea.

Medical facilities

Medical facilities are very limited throughout the country.

If you become ill or injured, you'll need to be evacuated to Nairobi, Kenya or another destination with appropriate facilities. Medical evacuation can be very expensive.  

Natural disasters

Burundi can experience flash flooding, mudslides and earthquakes.

If a natural disaster occurs:

  • secure your passport in a safe, waterproof location or carry it on you at all times (in a waterproof bag).
  • closely monitor local media and other sources such as the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System
  • follow the advice of local authorities
  • contact friends and family in Australia with regular updates about your welfare and whereabouts.

Severe weather and climate

The rainy season in Burundi is from February to mid-May, when flash flooding and mudslides are common. Roads may become impassable during this time. More information: Severe weather

Earthquakes

Earthquakes can occur in Burundi. Familiarise yourself with earthquake safety measures for each place you stay. More information: Earthquakes

Where to get help

Depending on what you need, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurer. Your travel insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.

Emergency phone numbers

In Bujumbura, the emergency assistance number is 112. This service often goes unanswered.

There is no emergency assistance service outside the capital.

If the matter relates to criminal issues, contact the local police. Always get a police report when reporting a crime.

Australian Government

Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.

Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Burundi. For consular assistance, contact the Australian High Commission in Nairobi or the Belgian Embassy in Bujumbura. The Belgian Embassy can provide consular assistance to Australians in Burundi, including during emergencies, but it doesn't issue Australian passports.

Australian High Commission, Nairobi

Riverside Drive (400 metres off Chiromo Road)
Nairobi, KENYA
Telephone: +254 20 427 7100
Facsimile: +254 20 427 7139
Website: kenya.highcommission.gov.au
Facebook: Australia in East Africa
Twitter: @AusHCKenya

Embassy of Belgium, Bujumbura

Boulevard de la Liberte, 9. Bujumbura
Tel: +257 2222 3266 or +257 2222 6176
Email: Bujumbura@diplobel.fed.be
Website: Embassy of Belgium in Burundi (in French).

Check the High Commission and Embassy of Belgium website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

If you're unable to contact the High Commission in a consular emergency, contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on in Canberra +61 2 6261 3305, or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Additional resources