Safety and security

Crime

There’s a high risk of crime. Muggings at gun and knife point, bag snatching, pick-pocketing, burglary, car break-ins, and armed car hijackings have all been reported. Avoid walking in the streets or using public transport after dark, even in Bujumbura city centre, and don’t carry large amounts of money. Take care when withdrawing or exchanging cash, and avoid doing so at night.

Arrange guards for homes and stay at hotels that have good security. Safeguard valuables and cash. Use hotel safes, where possible. Keep copies of important documents, including your passport and visa, separately. Be wary of who you plan to meet and where, and inform colleagues or family members of your plans.

Local travel

The security situation across Burundi stabilised when the last remaining rebel group was officially disarmed in 2009. However, Burundi is still volatile, particularly in the run-up to the 2015 elections.

There have been incursions and clashes between armed groups, including an armed attack on civilian vehicles. The threat of ambush by bandits remains high. You should make contact with your destination before you leave setting off and ensure that you allow enough time to complete your journey during daylight hours.

Road travel

Land border crossings are currently open.

You can drive in Burundi on a full UK driving licence for the first 6 months after you arrive. You’ll then need to get a Burundi driving licence. There are only a small number of asphalt roads and these are sometimes in poor condition. Driving standards are poor and there are frequent serious accidents. Main roads can become blocked by landslides, particularly after heavy rain. Keep car doors locked and windows closed when driving. Access in to and out of Bujumbura city is controlled by police at night.

Road blocks and document checks are common, and not always official. Carry a copy of your passport and visa, but you may be required to produce the originals.

Avoid travelling on collective and public transport (buses and motorbike taxis), due to poor vehicle maintenance and low driving standards.

A landslide in February 2014 damaged Route Nationale 1 (the main road from Kigali to Bujumbura). Cars and light vehicles continue to use it, but it is impassable for heavy trucks. The rainy season has started and the road is liable to further damage. Take local advice on road conditions before planning to use that route, especially after heavy rain.

A landslide in March 2015 has destroyed a bridge on Route Nationale 3 (commonly called the Rumonge road, heading south out of Bujumbura). The road is currently impassable and expected to remain so for a number of weeks. If you’re travelling south from Bujumbura you should plan to use alternative routes and factor in increase travel time to ensure that you arrive at your destination before nightfall.

Air travel

The airport is currently open, but you should check schedules with airlines as at present not all commercial flights are operating. A number of carriers fly in and out of Burundi including: Rwandair, Ethiopian Airlines, Kenyan Airways, South African Airways, Fly Dubai and Brussels Airlines.

The EU has published a list of air carriers that are subject to an operating ban or restrictions within the EU.

Political situation

On 13 May in Bujumbura General Godefroide unsuccessfully attempted a military coup. The political situation remains uncertain and fluid.

Parliamentary elections were held on the 29 June and Presidential elections are planned for 21 July. There have been violent incidents in the aftermath of the parliamentary elections and the period around polling days is likely to be marked by demonstrations and instability.

There are increased political tensions, with violent demonstrations in the capital and around the country. The police have used live ammunition and tear gas against demonstrators. Avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings.

Pre-electoral tensions are particularly pronounced in areas bordering the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Consular assistance

There is no British Embassy in Bujumbura. Burundi is covered by the British High Commission in Kigali, Rwanda. However, the British Embassy Liaison Office (telephone: +257 22 24 64 78 or + 257 22 25 03 66; address: Building Old East, Place de L’Independence, Bujumbura), can provide limited advice and assistance. The Belgian Embassy in Burundi is able to provide consular assistance to British nationals. All visitors or long term residents should register with the Belgian Embassy: Boulevard de la Liberté, 9, Bujumbura; telephone: + 257 22 22 32 66 or + 257 22 22 61 76; email: Bujumbura@diplobel.org.