Burundi

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Tuesday, 19 May 2015.   Reports indicate the international airport and land borders have reopened. Your airline is the best source of information on flight disruptions. If you are in Burundi, you should consider leaving if it is safe to do so. Monitor the local media and other sources for developments which may affect your safety. The level of the advice has not changed. We continue to advise Australians not to travel to Burundi.

Burundi overall

Summary

  • We advise you not to travel to Burundi because of volatile security situation, high levels of crime, civil unrest and the threat of terrorist attack.
  • There has been increasing violence in Bujumbura following the attempted military coup on 13 May 2015.
  • Reports indicate the international airport and land borders have reopened Your airline is the best source of information on flight disruptions. If you are in Burundi, you should consider leaving if it is safe to do so. Monitor the local media and other sources for developments which may affect your safety.
  • The volatile security situation is likely to continue in the lead-up to the June presidential elections. Political rallies, demonstrations and protests are likely across Burundi. There have been violent clashes between police and anti-government protestors in Bujumbura, with a number of people killed. Avoid all demonstrations, protests and large public gatherings. See Safety and security.
  • There is a very high possibility of election-related civil unrest, possibly violent, in the provinces of Bubanza, Cibitoke.
  • There is a high threat of armed violence, banditry and kidnapping in the border areas with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
  • The 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 threat of banditry, and poor road conditions throughout the country.
  • Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Burundi. The Australian High Commission in Kenya provides consular assistance to Australians in Burundi.
  • See Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.
  • 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:
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Entry and exit

Australians must obtain their visas before travelling to Burundi; visas are not available at the border. Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. You should contact an embassy or consulate of Burundi for the most up to date information. Burundi does not have diplomatic representation in Australia, the nearest Embassies of Burundi are in Tokyo, London and Washington.

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

Civil unrest/political tension

There has been increasing violence in Bujumbura following the attempted military coup on 13 May 2015. Reports indicate the international airport and land borders have reopened. . Your airline is the best source of information on flight disruptions.If you are in Burundi, you should consider leaving if it is safe to do so. Monitor the local media and other sources for developments which may affect your safety.

The volatile security situation is likely to continue in the lead-up to the June presidential elections. Political rallies, demonstrations and protests are likely across Burundi. There have violent clashes between police and anti-government protestors in Bujumbura, with a number of people killed. Avoid all demonstrations, protests and large public gatherings.

Terrorism

The 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. Terrorist groups have demonstrated the intent and capability to carry out attacks on public places, causing major loss of life in Uganda and Kenya. Australians in Burundi should evaluate their personal security situation in the light of the ongoing threat posed by terrorist 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, markets, shopping centres, 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. See our Terrorist Threat Overseas bulletin.

Crime

There are high levels of crime throughout Burundi, often involving weapons and violence. The risk of crime, including muggings, burglaries, carjackings, and armed banditry, increases after dark.

Kidnapping for ransom is also a risk in Burundi, and foreigners have in the past been targeted. For more information about kidnapping see our Kidnapping threat travel bulletin.

The Australian Government's longstanding policy is that it does not make payments or concessions to kidnappers. The Australian Government considers that paying a ransom increases the risk of further kidnappings, including of other Australians. If you do decide to travel to an area where there is a particular threat of kidnapping, you should seek professional security advice and have effective personal security measures in place.
Armed criminals have ambushed 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

There are limited numbers of ATMs in Burundi, many of which are unreliable. 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.

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 online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

Local travel

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 United Nations (UN) and US Embassy have advised their staff not to walk or use public transport after dark due to these concerns. The US Embassy has also forbidden travel by its staff outside of Bujumbura between 6.00 pm and 7.00am.

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.

Airline Safety

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

Please also refer to our general air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Local laws

You are subject to the local laws of Burundi, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards. 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. Research laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

Penalties for drug offences are severe and include lengthy imprisonment and heavy fines. See our Drugs page.

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.

Health

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. Avoid swimming in fresh water, including Lake Tanyganyika, to minimise exposure to certain water-borne diseases such as bilharzia (schistosomiasis). Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

The outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in west Africa is the most serious in recorded history. For more information on the outbreak and regional travel restrictions and preventative measures, see the Ebola outbreak in west Africa travel bulletin.

Where to get help

Depending on your enquiry, 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.

If the matter relates to criminal issues, contact the local police. In the city of Bujumbura, the emergency assistance number is 112. Be aware that this service often goes unanswered. There is no emergency assistance service outside the capital.

The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and can’t do to assist Australians overseas.

Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Burundi. You can obtain consular assistance from the Australian High Commission in Kenya:

Australian High Commission, Nairobi

Riverside Drive (400 metres off Chiromo Road)
Nairobi, KENYA
Telephone: +254 20 427 7100
Facsimile: +254 20 427 7139
Website: www.kenya.highcommission.gov.au

See the High Commission website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

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.

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. The Embassy is able to provide consular assistance (except the issuance of passports) to Australians in Burundi, including during emergencies. Contact details are:

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).

Additional information

Natural disasters, 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.

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.

Additional Resources

For additional general and economic information to assist travelling in this country, see the following links:



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.