Information Sheet for U.S. Citizens Residing in Burundi
Washington, DC: U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs
This information is current as of August 12, 2014
Country Description: One of the poorest countries in the world, Burundi is a small, francophone, densely populated central African nation bordering Lake Tanganyika, Rwanda, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Burundi was plagued by a civil war from 1993 to 2006 that often involved non-governmental and non-combatant targets. In December 2008, the last rebel group agreed to demobilize and register as a political party. Between May and September 2010, Burundi held a series of five elections covering all elected offices at all levels of government which domestic and international observers considered to be credible. Years of fighting have devastated a historically fragile economy that depends largely on subsistence agriculture. Poor public health and education, weather disasters such as drought and floods, crop diseases, soaring food and fuel prices, and lack of infrastructure exacerbate the effects of conflict and delay recovery. Limited facilities for tourism are slowly becoming available around Bujumbura. Outside the capital, particularly towards the southern town of Rumonge, tourist facilities are developing along the lakeshore. However, road and safety guidelines should be considered when traveling outside of Bujumbura.
Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)/ Embassy Location: If you are going to live in or visit Burundi, please take the time to tell our Embassy about your trip. If you enroll, we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements. It will also help your friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency. Here's the link to the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.
U.S. Embassy Bujumbura
Avenue des Etats-Unis
Telephone: + 257 22 20 7000
Emergency after-hours telephone: + 257 79 938 841
Facsimile: +257 22 24 3467
Entry / Exit Requirements: A passport valid for six months and evidence of immunization against yellow fever are required for entry into Burundi. In January 2010, the Government of Burundi issued a diplomatic note stating that travelers would no longer be able to obtain entry visas upon arrival at ports of entry and should apply for visas from their nearest Burundian Embassy or consulate. However, to-date all ports of entry still issue three-day and one-month tourism visas upon entry. Travelers to Burundi should inquire about visa procedures with their nearest Burundian Embassy or Immigration Office before planning a trip. Travelers with an expired visa are not permitted to leave the country without acquiring an exit visa prior to departure.
The latest information about visas may be obtained from the Embassy of the Republic of Burundi, Suite 212, 2233 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20007, telephone (202) 342-2574, or from the Permanent Mission of Burundi to the United Nations in New York at telephone (212) 499-0001 thru 0006. Visit the Embassy of Burundi website for the most current visa information.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Burundi.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.
Threat To Safety and Security: See the Department of State's Travel Warning for Burundi.
In October 2009, al Shabaab publically threatened to attack Burundi to retaliate for its participation in the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). The U.S. Embassy takes this threat seriously and has reviewed the current security posture for U.S. government personnel and travel warnings for U.S. citizens in the region. Remain vigilant while performing your daily activities or while traveling outside of major cities to decrease the likelihood of becoming a victim of crime or other violent acts.
Public demonstrations are generally nonviolent and well controlled by the police. However, any demonstration or spontaneous gathering has the potential to become violent. Avoid them. Stay up to date by:
- Bookmarking our Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which contains the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution.
- Following us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well.
- Downloading our free Smart Traveler IPhone App to have travel information at your fingertips.
- Calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the United States and Canada, or a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444, from other countries.
- Taking some time before travel to consider your personal security. Here are some useful tips for traveling safely abroad.
Crime: Crime poses a high risk for foreign visitors to Bujumbura and Burundi in general. Due to insufficient resources, local authorities in any part of Burundi are often unable to provide timely assistance in cases of emergency. U.S. government personnel are prohibited from walking on the streets after dusk or using local public transportation. Foreigners, whether in vehicles or at home, are always potential crime targets. Common crimes, often committed by groups of armed bandits, include mugging, purse-snatching, pick-pocketing, burglary, automobile break-ins and carjacking. Don't leave valuable items unattended in a hotel room. Many criminal incidents involve armed attackers. Criminals in Bujumbura often operate in pairs or in small groups involving six or more individuals.
The Department of State advises you to use caution when traveling, paying particular attention when traveling to and from frequent destinations including work, home, and popular shops or restaurants. You should also avoid establishing routines and vary routes between regularly-traveled destinations in order to reduce vulnerability to targeted criminal or terrorist acts. In general, you should pay close attention to your personal security at locations where Westerners are commonly known to congregate and avoid demonstrations and large gatherings. U.S. citizens living and working in Bujumbura should take this opportunity to ensure your security and emergency action plans are up-to-date.
Likewise, outside of Bujumbura, vulnerability to criminal attacks on the roads continues to be a serious concern. The U.S. Embassy strongly cautions against traveling outside of towns after nightfall. When traveling upcountry, the best practice is to use convoys of multiple vehicles to prevent becoming a victim of crime in the event of mechanical failure or emergency while traveling. Furthermore, the U.S. Embassy recommends travelers be equipped with satellite telephones, mapsand navigation equipment, medical gear to include trauma supplies, and vehicle maintenance and recovery equipment, especially when traveling off main routes.
Don't buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, if you purchase them you may also be breaking local law.
- Replace a stolen passport.
- Help you find appropriate medical care if you are the victim of violent crimes such as assault or rape.
- Put you in contact with the appropriate police authorities, and if you want us to, we can contact family members or friends.
- Help you understand the local criminal justice process and direct you to local attorneys, although it is important to remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime. In the city of Bujumbura, the number for emergency assistance is 112. In practice the number often goes unanswered and you may seek police assistance in person; there is no comparable number outside the capital.
Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
Criminal Penalties: While you are traveling in Burundi, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than those of the United States. There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States. For example, you can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is also a crime prosecutable in the United States.
Burundian law requires that you carry some form of identification at all times. You can be held for questioning if you do not have an identification document when one is requested by a member of the Burundian Police. It is illegal to take pictures of certain sensitive buildings/installations in Burundi. If you see Burundian Police near an installation, it's safer to seek permission before taking photographs. Driving under the influence can land you immediately in jail. Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Burundi are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
If you break local laws in Burundi, your U.S. passport won't help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It's very important to know what's legal and what's not where you are going.
Based on the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, bilateral agreements with certain countries, and customary international law, if you are arrested in Burundi, you have the option to request that the police, prison officials, or other authorities alert the U.S. embassy of your arrest, and to have communications from you forwarded to the U.S. embassy.
Accessibility: While in Burundi, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what you find in the United States. Although local law prohibits discrimination against people with handicaps, this law is not enforced. Furthermore, there are no laws requiring access to transportation, communication, or public buildings for persons with disabilities. There are few sidewalks and no curb-cuts. Most buildings do not have functioning elevators. People living in Burundi with disabilities must rely on their families for support.
Currency: There are a few international ATMs in Burundi. However, frequent power outages and connectivity issues prevent them from being a reliable source for currency. Additionally, most Burundian hotels and businesses do not accept credit cards. Many hotels in Bujumbura accept payment in U.S. dollars or Euros from non-Burundians. Travelers should be aware that Burundian banking practices prohibit acceptance of U.S. currency printed before the year 2006.
Same Gender Sexual Relations: The Government of Burundi adopted a penal code in April 2009 that, while stipulating increased penalties for forced labor and human trafficking, also contains language criminalizing same gender sexual relations. To date, however, there are no reports that anyone has been arrested or prosecuted for such activities.
Photography: The U.S. Embassy recommends that you not photograph airports, military installations, or other government buildings, and obtain permission from individuals before taking their photographs.
Power Shortages: At times, the power supply in Bujumbura can be a serious problem, particularly during dry season and after nightfall.
Medical Facilities and Health Information: Medical facilities in Burundi do not meet United States standards. You should carry an ample supply of properly-labeled prescription drugs and other medications with you, as certain medications and prescription drugs are unavailable or in short supply. Sterility of equipment is questionable, and treatment is unreliable. Ambulance assistance is non-existent and emergency services are all but unavailable. Hospital care in Burundi should be considered in only the most serious cases and when no reasonable alternatives are available. Malaria prophylaxis is recommended for travel to all parts of Burundi.
You can find good information on vaccinations and other health precautions, on the CDC website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in Burundi. For further information, please consult the CDC's information on TB.
Medical Insurance: You can't assume your insurance will go with you when you travel. It's very important to find out before you leave whether or not your medical insurance will cover you overseas. You need to ask your insurance company two questions: --Does my policy apply when I'm out of the United States? --Will it cover emergencies like a trip to a foreign hospital or a medical evacuation? In many places, doctors and hospitals still expect payment in cash at the time of service. Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctors' and hospital visits in other countries. If your policy doesn't go with you when you travel, it's a very good idea to take out another one for your trip. For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.
The information below concerning Burundi is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
While travel on most roads is generally safe during the day, travelers must maintain constant vigilance. There have been reports of violent attacks on vehicles traveling the roads throughout the country outside of Bujumbura. U.S. government personnel are required to have their trips pre-approved by the Embassy's Regional Security Officer and carry a satellite phone with them. The U.S. Embassy recommends that U.S. citizens not travel on the national highways from dusk to dawn. Drivers without valid permits, and the ease with which a driver's license can be acquired without training, make Burundian drivers less careful, predictable, or mindful of driving rules than U.S. drivers may expect.
There are no functioning traffic signals in Bujumbura, and virtually nothing of the kind elsewhere in the country. Roadways are not marked, and the lack of streetlights or shoulders makes driving in the countryside at night especially dangerous.
Additionally, drivers may encounter cyclists, pedestrians, and livestock in the roadway, including in and around the capital. Mini-vans used as buses for 18 persons should be given a wide berth as they start and stop abruptly, often without pulling to the side of the road.
Large holes or damaged portions of roadway may be encountered anywhere in the country, including in Bujumbura; when driving in the countryside off main roads, it is recommended that travelers carry multiple spare tires. During the rainy season, many side roads are passable only with four-wheel drive vehicles. Burundi's supplies of gasoline and diesel fuel are imported predominantly from Kenya and Tanzania, and are relatively expensive due to high transportation costs. Service stations are rare outside of the major cities.
Third-party insurance is required, and it will cover any damages (property, injury, or death). If you are found to have caused an accident, you automatically will be fined 10,000 Burundian francs (approximately $7.00 U.S.) and your driver's license will be confiscated until the police investigation is completed. Although the law provides for the arrest of drunk drivers, in practice, the police do not act on this law.
In the city of Bujumbura, the number for police assistance is 112, although frequently calls to this number are unanswered; there is no comparable number outside the capital. If you are involved in an accident causing death, it is advised that you leave the scene of the accident and proceed to the nearest police station.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Burundi, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Burundi's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. Further information may be found on the FAA's safety assessment page.
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This replaces the Country Specific Information for Burundi dated July 6, 2011, to update the section on Currency.