Burundi is a country in The African Great Lakes Region in East Africa, although it is also considered to be part of Central Africa. It is landlocked and bordered by Rwanda, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It was a German colony from the beginning of the 20th century until the end of the First World War, when Germany ceded it to Belgium. Burundi gained independence in 1962 and was initially a monarchy. After a series of coups and assassinations which left the country unstable, a one party system was established. There has been ethnic cleansing, two civil wars, and genocides since which have left the country underdeveloped and poor.
The capital of Burundi is Bujumbura, which is also the largest city. It is on the northeastern shore of Lake Tanganyika, which is on the western side of the country. Bujumbura is also the main port in Burundi; it ships a majority of the country’s main export - coffee - as well as cotton and tin ore. The only international airport in Burundi is in Bujumbura; it has flights to and from Brussels, Kigali, Addis Ababa, and Nairobi. There are very few paved roads in the country; the transportation infrastructure is very weak and private bus companies are the only means of transportation to Kigali. Bicycles are a popular means of transportation, or you can charter a car in Bujumbura to get to further tourist destinations like the source of the Nile River or Karera Falls.
A very important side note: Burundi is one country where you cannot get a tourist visa on arrival; make sure you check visa requirements before you travel.
The climate in Burundi is tropical savannah climate, with a consistent yearly temperature range of 19-29 Celcius. The rainy season lasts from October to April; the rest of the year is quite dry.
The currency in Burundi is the Burundian franc. Agriculture is the main industry; coffee and tea are the main exports. Burundi is one of the world’s poorest countries; lack of access to education, economic freedom, a poor legal system, and a high concentration of HIV/AIDS.
Travellers keen to visit Burundi should focus their activities in Bujumbura, where there are markets, museums, national parks, and beaches along Lake Tanganyika. Native drumming, dancing, and indigenous masks are among some of the highlights of the Burundian culture; visit Saga Plage (beach) to experience this. Rusizi National Park is a nature park near town; visit midday to see the hippopotamus families out of the water. Museums in Bujumbura include the Musee Vivant, a tiny zoo where you can feed the animals other live animals; animal rights activists should not plan to visit this but it is a tourist highlight.
Budget accommodation, such as hostels, are rare in Burundi. Instead of backpacker hostels, look for guesthouses or cheap hotels. Plenty of backpackers do visit Africa and fall madly in love with the countries and cultures. Even without hostels, you can travel quite cheaply through eastern Africa.
Once you have your accommodation sorted, set out to explore this fascinating country. Vying with a spring in neighbouring Rwanda, the source of the Nile is only 155km southeast of Bujumbura, near Kasumo. Travellers keen to explore further springs should head down the road to a nearby hot springs for a nice long soak. Karera Falls, near Gitega, are another natural highlight in Burundi; again only accessible with your own transport. Enjoy Burundi and fall in love with Africa!
Hi, I'm Jakob Lombardi,
the Hostelz.com local expert for Burundi hostels. Welcome.