Australian Government advice for Burundi
When travelling to Burundi, you should always get travel insurance in case the worst happens. To help you ensure you travel safely, we have included the travel advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for Burundi.
This Advice was last issued on Wednesday, 11 December 2013. It has been reviewed and reissued with editorial amendments. We continue to advise Australians to reconsider their need to travel to Burundi and advise Australians not to travel to the provinces of Bujumbura Rural, Bubanza and Cibitoke.
Provinces of Bujumbura Rural, Bubanza and Cibitoke
- We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Burundi at this time because of high levels of serious crime, possible civil unrest and the threat of terrorist attack.
- We strongly advise you not to travel to the provinces of Bujumbura Rural (the province that surrounds Bujumbura), Bubanza and Cibitoke because of the risk of armed violence, banditry, kidnapping and cross-border attacks by rebels.
- The 21 September 2013 attack on the Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi, Kenya, underscores the ongoing threat posed by Somali-based militants across East Africa, including Burundi. Somali-based militants have issued threats against Burundi, specifically the capital Bujumbura, due to Burundi’s participation in the African Union Mission in Somalia.
- We strongly advise you not to travel at night given the unpredictable security situation, the risk of banditry, and poor road conditions throughout the country. The US Embassy and United Nations have advised their staff not to walk or use public transport after dark due to these concerns.
- Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Burundi. The Australian High Commission in Kenya provides consular assistance to Australians in Burundi.
- Because of the unpredictable security situation we strongly recommend that you register your travel and contact details with us, so we can contact you in an emergency. If you intend to travel to, or are a resident in, Burundi you should also register your presence with the Belgian Embassy, which is in charge of an evacuation plan for Australians. See Where to Get Help for further information.
- Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
Entry and exit
Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Burundi for the most up to date information.
Burundi is listed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as endemic for yellow fever. Yellow fever is a serious and potentially fatal disease preventable by vaccination. A valid yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for entry into Burundi.
As the quarantine requirements for yellow fever vaccination differ between countries, we recommend that you check the yellow fever entry requirements for all countries you intend to enter or transit by contacting their foreign missions in Australia . Some airlines may require passengers to present a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate before being allowed to board flights out of the country. For more information about yellow fever, including Australian re-entry requirements, see the Department of Health website .
Make sure your passport has at least six months’ validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.
Safety and security
The 21 September 2013 attack on the Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi, Kenya, underscores the ongoing threat posed by Somali-based militants across East Africa. Somali-based militants have issued threats against Burundi, specifically the capital Bujumbura, due to Burundi’s participation in the African Union Mission in Somalia. These militants have demonstrated the intent and capability to carry out attacks on public places, causing major loss of life in Uganda (2010) and Kenya (2013). Australians in Burundi should evaluate their personal security situation in the light of the ongoing threat posed by Somali-based groups.
In planning your activities consider the kind of places known to be terrorist targets which include clubs, hotels, resorts, restaurants, bars, schools, places of worship, airports including civil aviation, markets and marketplaces, shopping centres and malls, political and sporting events, outdoor recreation events, bus terminals, public transport infrastructure, Burundian government buildings and tourist areas.
Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General advice to Australian travellers .
Civil unrest/political tension
We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Burundi at this time because of the high levels of serious crime and the fragile security situation. While the security situation has stabilised in recent years, outbreaks of violence can occur without warning. Bandits are a security risk across the country. We recommend you monitor the media and other local sources for information about possible new safety or security risks.
You should avoid all demonstrations and large public gatherings as they may turn violent.
A ceasefire agreement between the Government and the last remaining rebel group, the Forces Nationales de Liberation (FNL) was signed in September 2006, and a further cessation of hostilities agreement was signed in May 2008. In April 2009 the FNL renounced the use of arms, registered as a political party and some of its members have been integrated into the security forces and government. However the FNL has not completely disarmed and the security situation remains tense, with the risk that the conflict could start again at short notice.
Provinces of Bujumbura Rural, Bubanza and Cibitoke: We strongly advise you not to travel to the provinces of Bujumbura Rural, and Bubanza because of the risk of banditry and armed clashes between FNL and the Burundi Government. The lack of strong border controls means there is a high risk of armed violence, banditry, kidnapping and cross-border incursions by rebel groups from the DRC.
Between late September and early October 2012, clashes between armed militia and national security forces occurred north of Bujumbura. These militia are believed to have come from and returned to Rukoko forest.
On 18 September 2011, gunmen opened fire on a crowded bar in Gatumba, several kilometres from Bujumbura and near the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). More than 30 people were killed in the attack.
We strongly advise you not to travel to Cibitoke province because of the risk of cross border violence. On 19 July 2011, nine people were killed in clashes between the police, military and unidentified gunmen.
There are high levels of serious crime throughout Burundi. Crime, such as muggings, burglaries, carjackings and armed banditry, is common and the risk increases after dark. Foreigners have been targeted. The use of weapons and violence is common.
On 8 June 2011, a foreign national was kidnapped for ransom in Bujumbura during daylight hours. The kidnapping was violent and the victim had to be medically evacuated. This type of crime is rare but there is a high threat of kidnapping near the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo. For more information about kidnapping, see our Kidnapping threat travel bulletin.
Since May 2011, there have been targeted attacks on local residences and businesses in Bujumbura Rural (a province that surrounds Bujumbura) by armed groups. These attacks are increasing and expected to continue.
Armed criminals ambush vehicles, particularly on the roads leading out of Bujumbura.
Assaults have been reported against people walking or jogging alone, particularly on roads around Lake Tanganyika.
Money and valuables
Before you go, organise a variety of ways to access your money in Burundi, such as credit cards, travellers' cheques, cash, debit cards or cash cards. Consult with your bank to find out which is the most appropriate currency to carry and whether your ATM card will work overseas.
There are limited numbers of ATMs in Burundi but they are unreliable and most hotels and businesses do not accept credit cards. You should check payment options with your hotel beforehand. Payment may be accepted in US dollars or Euros.
Most shops and businesses will not accept or exchange US dollars dated pre-2006.
Make two photocopies of valuable documents such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.
While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.
As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from The Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority .
Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.
You are required to pay an additional fee to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.
We strongly advise you not to travel at night given the unpredictable security situation, the risk of banditry, and poor road conditions throughout the country. The US Embassy and United Nations have advised their staff not to walk or use public transport after dark due to these concerns.
If you must travel outside of Bujumbura, we advise you to telephone the UN office in Burundi on +257 22 21 93 42 for the latest security advice. The US Embassy has recommended to its citizens that they travel in a convoy of at least two vehicles.
Most roads and vehicles are in poor condition. Traffic accidents are common due to excessive speed, poor driving habits and insufficient lighting. See also our road travel page.
Roads throughout Burundi, including in Bujumbura, may be subject to roadblocks.
Landmines have exploded in areas frequented by travellers.
Heavy rains, especially between February and May, can cause flooding and landslides. These may cut roads and damage infrastructure.
Please refer to our air travel page for information about aviation safety and security.
When you are in Burundi, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.
Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter .
Penalties for drug offences are severe and include lengthy imprisonment and heavy fines.
It is illegal to take photos of sensitive buildings in Burundi. We recommend that you do not take photos of airports, military installations and government buildings.
Homosexual acts are illegal in Burundi and penalties may include imprisonment. Homosexual activity may lead to harassment by the public and/or police. See our LGBTI travellers page .
Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.
Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.
Information for dual nationals
Our Dual nationals page provides further information.
We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. 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 a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.
It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.
Medical facilities are very limited throughout the country. In the event of an accident or illness, medical evacuation by air ambulance to Nairobi (Kenya) would be necessary and, if serious, a medical evacuation from Kenya to a destination with the required facilities would be recommended. A medical evacuation from Burundi could cost tens of thousands of dollars.
Burundi is listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as endemic for yellow fever. Yellow fever is a potentially fatal viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes, which is preventable by vaccination. We strongly recommend that you are vaccinated against yellow fever before travelling to Burundi. See the Entry and Exit section for important information about vaccination certificate requirements. For more information about yellow fever, see the Department of Health website .
Malaria occurs widely throughout the year in Burundi. Other insect-borne diseases (including filariasis, plague and African sleeping sickness) also occur. We encourage you to consider taking prophylaxis against malaria and to take measures to avoid insect bites, including using insect repellent at all times, wearing long, loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof.
Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including HIV/AIDS, cholera, meningococcal and tuberculosis) are prevalent with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. We recommend you boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food. Do not swim in fresh water, including Lake Tanyganyika, to avoid exposure to certain water-borne diseases such as bilharzia (schistosomiasis). Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.
Where to get help
Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Burundi. You can obtain consular assistance from the nearest Australian High Commission which is in Kenya:
Australian High Commission
Riverside Drive (400 metres off Chiromo Road)
Telephone: +254 20 4277 100
Facsimile: +254 20 4277 139
Australian High Commission Kenya
In a consular emergency, if you are unable to contact the High Commission you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.
If you are travelling to Burundi, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we strongly recommend that you register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.
If you intend to travel to, or are resident in, Burundi you should also register your presence, preferably by email, with the Belgian Embassy in Bujumbura. They are in charge of an evacuation plan, including for Australian and British citizens. The Belgian Embassy contact details are:
Boulevard de la Liberte, 9. Bujumbura
Tel: + 257 22 22 32 66 or + 257 22 22 61 76
Natural disasters, severe weather and climate
The rainy season in Burundi is from February to mid-May, when flash flooding is common. Roads may become impassable during this time.
Earthquakes can occur in Burundi.
If a natural disaster occurs you should pay attention to warnings and follow the advice of local authorities. Information on natural disasters, including earthquakes, can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service .
For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling with children page.