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Burundi - AVOID ALL TRAVEL
Global Affairs Canada advises against all travel to Burundi, due to ongoing political tensions, civil unrest and daily armed violence. The situation could deteriorate rapidly. If you are in Burundi, you should leave by commercial means if you can do so safely. If you require assistance, contact the High Commission of Canada in Nairobi, Kenya. Consult the Security tab for more details.
Safety and security
Safety and security
Provinces of Bubanza and Cibitoke
Border security is still a concern in these provinces, given the various violent clashes in eastern DRC and occasional cross-border movement by armed groups. Banditry, small arms trafficking, kidnappings and attacks on civilians by former soldiers, rebels and youth gangs have been reported.
Periodic closure of the border between Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo can occur without notice.
Tensions throughout the country continue to increase, since the contentious presidential elections of July 2015. The situation is particularly worrisome in Bujumbura, where daily violence including grenade attacks and exchange of gunfire has resulted in several deaths and injuries. On December 11, 2015, heavy gunfire and explosions were reported around military facilities in Bujumbura. Flights in and out of Bujumbura have resumed; however, there could be delays and cancellations. Be extremely vigilant during your movements around the city and in crowded places such as churches, markets, cafés and bus stations, in particular at night.
Security forces have the authority to conduct searches between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., in homes and vehicles in order to allegedly recover weapons. Car searches seem to be conducted randomly, usually at roadblocks. Foreigners have been subjected to both car and home searches. To search a house, officers must present their identification card and a search warrant. We recommend that you cooperate with the officer. Should you encounter problems, request to contact the Consulate in Bujumbura or the High Commission in Nairobi, Kenya (see Assistance).
There are an increasing number of check points. Travellers have reported incidents of harassment, intimidation and physical violence at checkpoints, particularly when leaving Bujumbura via the Kamenge roundabout to travel towards the Rwandan border. You should monitor local news as the situation remains fluid. Ensure that you have the appropriate visa to be granted entry at your destination. Exceptionally, visa requirements to enter Rwanda via air or land have been waived for Canadians leaving Burundi because of the current situation. Ensure that your travel documents are up-to-date.
All non-Burundian residents have to register their presence at the main office of the Police de l'Air, des Frontières et des Étrangers (PAFE) in Bujumbura. Registrants (including children) must show up in person, with their passport, and will subsequently be issued a biometric ID card. Foreigners who fail to comply with this new requirement could face fines. Contact the PAFE office at +257 22 25 79 00 for more information.
Demonstrations occur and have the potential to suddenly turn violent. Avoid all demonstrations and public gatherings, follow the advice of local authorities and monitor local media.
Regional terror groups, including those associated with al Qaeda and al-Shabaab, continue to threaten Western interests and other potential targets in Burundi. The September 21, 2013 attack on an upscale Nairobi mall illustrates the threat of attacks on civilians in East Africa. Further attacks cannot be ruled out. Be vigilant in crowded places and monitor local media.
On December 3, 2016, the U.S. Embassy in Burundi issued a security message to alert its citizens to "potential [terror] activity in early December, including, but not limited to, the Kajaga neighborhood and its associated restaurants and beach resorts.” Exercise increased vigilance in these areas and other public places.
Crime rates are high, and significantly increase after dark. Incidents of muggings at gun or knife point, armed car hijackings, robbery, purse snatching and pickpocketing occur. Crime is often committed by children. Assaults occur against people walking or jogging alone, particularly on roads around Lake Tanganyika. Avoid walking, driving or taking public transportation after dark, anywhere in the country. There are large amounts of small arms and weapons in circulation, easily available to various groups. Keep valuables, travel documents, and cash in hotel safes. Keep separate copies of important documents, including your passport.
Road conditions have greatly improved throughout the country over the last decade, yet there is still a need for strict adherence to security rules and procedures. Information on road security must be checked on a daily basis. You can seek advice from the UN office in Burundi (tel: + 257 22205598).
There are few traffic signals and signs. Roads are not marked and street lights are almost non-existent, which makes driving at night especially dangerous. You should carry multiple spare tires. During the rainy season, many roads are only accessible with four-wheel-drive vehicles. Driving habits are often more erratic and reckless than in Canada.
Service stations are rare and roadside assistance is not available outside the capital. In the event of an accident, leave the scene without stopping and go to the nearest police station or, if necessary, to the hospital.
It is recommended that road travel be undertaken in a convoy of at least two vehicles. Overland travel outside of Bujumbura should be avoided. You may encounter legitimate roadblocks. However, be aware that criminals are known to impersonate security forces and setup fake roadblocks to solicit bribes.
The use of public transportation, particularly taxis, is discouraged, as drivers often operate within a criminal network. If the use of a taxi is unavoidable, a recommended taxi should be identified. Public buses (matatus) should not be used, as vehicle and road conditions are the cause of frequent serious accidents.
The Government of Canada does not assess foreign domestic airlines’ compliance with international aviation safety standards. See Foreign domestic airlines for more information.
General security information
Exercise extreme caution, monitor local media reports and maintain close contact with the Consulate of Canada in Bujumbura or the High Commission of Canada in Nairobi, Kenya.
Tourist facilities are very limited. You should select local accommodation and transportation wisely. Local tour operators, including those offering adventure activities, may not offer safety standards and equipment that correspond to those found in Canada. Telecommunications are poor.
Swimming in lakes and rivers is unsafe because of the possibility of being attacked by wildlife and the risk of catching water-borne diseases. Check with local authorities for the latest information.
There is no ambulance service.
It is the sole prerogative of every country or territory to determine who is allowed to enter or exit. Canadian consular officials cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet entry or exit requirements. The following information has been obtained from Burundian authorities and is subject to change at any time. The country- or territory-specific entry/exit requirements are provided on this page for information purposes only. While every effort is made to provide accurate information, information contained here is provided on an "as is" basis without warranty of any kind, express or implied. The Government of Canada assumes no responsibility, and shall not be liable for any damages in connection to the information provided. It is your responsibility to check with the Embassy of the Republic of Burundi and its consulate for up-to-date information.
Official (special and diplomatic) passport holders must consult the Official Travel page, as they may be subject to different entry requirements.
Canadians must present a passport to visit Burundi, which must be valid for the duration of the stay. Before you leave, ask your transportation company about its requirements related to passport validity, which may be more stringent than the country's entry rules.
Temporary passport holders may be subject to different entry requirements. Check with diplomatic representatives for up-to-date information.
Canadians need a visa to visit Burundi. They also need an onward ticket.
Children and travel
Children need special documentation to visit certain countries. See Children for more information.
See Health to obtain information on this country’s vaccination requirements.
Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
Vaccines to Consider
You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.
Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread through contaminated food and water or contact with an infected person. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.
Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment, sharing needles, tattooing, acupuncture or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.
Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or by touching objects and surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus. Get the flu shot.
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease and is common in most parts of the world. Be sure your measles vaccination is up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
Rabies is a deadly illness spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from an infected animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).
Yellow Fever - Country Entry Requirements
Yellow fever is a disease caused by a flavivirus from the bite of an infected mosquito.
Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.
- There is a risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
- Proof of yellow fever vaccination for travellers from all countries.
- Vaccination is recommended.
- There is currently a shortage of the yellow fever vaccine in Canada. It is important for travellers to contact a designated Yellow Fever Vaccination Centre well in advance of their trip to ensure that the vaccine is available.
- Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care provider.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites.
About Yellow Fever
Yellow Fever Vaccination Centres in Canada
* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Food and Water-borne Diseases
Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.
In some areas in East Africa, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in East Africa. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!
Cholera is a bacterial disease that is most often spread by drinking water or eating food that has been contaminated. It causes diarrhea and in severe cases it can lead to dehydration and even death.
Most travellers are at very low risk. Travellers at higher risk include those visiting, working or living in areas with limited access to safe food, water and proper sanitation, or to areas where outbreaks are occurring. Travellers at higher risk should discuss with a health care provider the benefits of getting vaccinated.
Schistosomiasis can be spread to humans through freshwater sources contaminated by blood flukes (tiny worms). The eggs of the worms can cause stomach illnesses like diarrhea and cramps or urinary problems. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Avoid swimming in freshwater sources (lakes, rivers, ponds). There is no vaccine available for schistosomiasis.
- Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
- Risk of developing travellers' diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor standards of hygiene and sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
- The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.
Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher for children, travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives or travelling for a long period of time. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should speak to a health care provider about vaccination.
Insects and Illness
In some areas in East Africa, certain insects carry and spread diseases like African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), chikungunya, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, dengue fever, leishmaniasis, lymphatic filariasis, malaria, onchocerciasis (river blindness), Rift Valley fever, West Nile virus and yellow fever.
Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.
Onchocerciasis (river blindness) is an eye and skin disease caused by a parasite spread through the bite of an infected female blackfly. Onchocerciasis often leads to blindness if left untreated. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Protect yourself from blackfly bites, which are most common close to fast-flowing rivers and streams. There is no vaccine available for onchocerciasis although drug treatments exist.
Zika virus infection
Zika virus infection is a risk in this country. Recent or ongoing cases of Zika virus have been reported in this country.
All travellers should protect themselves from mosquito bites day and night.
Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects such as abnormally small heads (microcephaly). Zika virus can also be sexually transmitted.
Travellers who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy:
- Should avoid travel to this country
- If travel cannot be avoided follow strict mosquito bite prevention measures.
- Talk to your health care professional about the risk of Zika infection in pregnancy.
- Use condoms or avoid having sex for the duration of the pregnancy, if you are pregnant and your partner has travelled to this country.
- Female travellers: wait at least 2 months after returning from this country before trying to conceive (get pregnant) to ensure that any possible Zika virus infection has cleared your body.
- Male travellers: wait 6 months after returning from this country before trying to conceive. Use condoms or avoid having sex during that time.
See travel health notice: Zika virus: Advice for travellers
- There is a risk of malaria throughout the year in the whole country.
- Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no vaccine against malaria.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in enclosed air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider pre-treating clothing and travel gear with insecticides and sleeping under an insecticide-treated bednet.
- See a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss the benefits of taking antimalarial medication and to determine which one to take.
Animals and Illness
Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, and bats. Certain infections found in some areas in East Africa, like avian influenza and rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks and impairs the immune system, resulting in a chronic, progressive illness known as AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome).
High risk activities include anything which puts you in contact with blood or body fluids, such as unprotected sex and exposure to unsterilized needles for medications or other substances (for example, steroids and drugs), tattooing, body-piercing or acupuncture.
Tuberculosis is an infection caused by bacteria and usually affects the lungs.
For most travellers the risk of tuberculosis is low.
Travellers who may be at high risk while travelling in regions with risk of tuberculosis should discuss pre- and post-travel options with a health care provider.
High-risk travellers include those visiting or working in prisons, refugee camps, homeless shelters, or hospitals, or travellers visiting friends and relatives.
Medical services and facilities
Medical care, medication and prescription drugs are extremely limited. Travellers with specific health conditions and victims of serious accidents or trauma would need to be treated outside of the country, but medical evacuations are not available.
Keep in Mind...
The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.
Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.
Laws and culture
Laws & culture
You are subject to local laws. See Arrest and detention for more information.
Homosexual activity is illegal.
Penalties for the possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are severe.
You should request permission before taking photographs of military installations, airports, government buildings and local residents.
Dual citizenship is legally recognized in Burundi. However, Canadian officials may be limited in their ability to provide you with consular services if local authorities consider you a Burudian citizen. You should always travel using your valid Canadian passport and present yourself as Canadian to foreign authorities at all times to minimize this risk. You may also need to carry and present a Burudian passport for legal reasons, for example to enter and exit the country (see Entry/exit requirements to determine passport requirements). Citizenship is determined solely by national laws, and the decision to recognize dual citizenship rests completely with the country in which you are located when seeking consular assistance. See Travelling as a dual citizen for more information.
The currency is the Burundian franc (BIF). The economy is cash-based. Credit cards are not widely accepted. While some automated banking machines (ABMs) can be found, they are unreliable and not secure to use.
Most shops will not accept or exchange U.S. dollars printed before the year 2006.
Natural disasters and climate
Natural disasters & climate
The dry season extends from mid-May to early October.
The rainy season begins in February and continues to mid-May. During the rainy season, heavy downpours are common and can result in flash floods. Infrastructure and transportation routes may be damaged and secondary roads may become impassable. You should exercise caution, monitor local news and regional weather forecasts, and plan accordingly.
There is no centralized number to reach emergency services. Research and carry contact information for local police and medical facilities.
Consular assistance is provided by appointment only.
Bujumbura - Consulate of Canada
Nairobi - High Commission of Canada
For emergency consular assistance, call the High Commission of Canada in Nairobi, Kenya and follow the instructions. At any time, you may also contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa.
The decision to travel is your choice and you are responsible for your personal safety abroad. The Government of Canada takes the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provides credible and timely information in its Travel Advice to enable you to make well-informed decisions regarding your travel abroad. In the event of a large-scale emergency, every effort will be made to provide assistance. However, there may be constraints that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide services.
See Large-scale emergencies abroad for more information.
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