Country Specific Information

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April 27, 2009

 COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:Burundi map  One of the poorest countries in the world, Burundi is a small, densely populated central African nation bordering Lake Tanganyika, Rwanda, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  After more than 12 years of civil and ethnic strife, an electoral process deemed free and fair resulted in the installation of a democratic government in 2005.  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.  Facilities for tourism, particularly outside the capital, are limited.  Read the Department of State Background Notes on Burundi for additional information.

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ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:  A passport, visa and evidence of immunization against yellow fever are required for entry.  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.

Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site.  For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.

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SAFETY AND SECURITY:   See the Department of State’s Travel Warning for Burundi.

The potential for transnational terrorist activity in Burundi is very low.  Public demonstrations are generally nonviolent and well controlled by the police.  However, any demonstration or spontaneous gathering has the potential to become violent.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State's, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada or, for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.  These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.  For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s A Safe Trip Abroad.

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CRIME:  Crime poses a high risk for foreign visitors to Bujumbura and Burundi in general.  Common crimes, often committed by groups of armed bandits, include mugging, purse-snatching, pick-pocketing, burglary, automobile break-ins and carjacking.  Do not leave valuable items unattended in a hotel room.  Many criminal incidents involve armed attackers.  Armed criminals often ambush vehicles, particularly on the roads leading out of Bujumbura.  Criminals in Bujumbura often operate in pairs or in small groups involving six or more individuals.  If confronted by an assailant, do not resist.  Due to insufficient resources, local authorities in any part of Burundi are often unable to provide timely assistance in case of need. 
U.S. Government personnel are prohibited from walking on the streets during the hours of darkness and using local public transportation.  Foreigners, whether in vehicles or at home, are always potential crime targets.  Americans should exercise common-sense judgment and take the same precautions as one would in any major city.  

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INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:  The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.  If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for assistance.  The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, help you find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds may be transferred.  Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed. 

Burundi does not have an emergency assistance line similar to “911.”  In the city of Bujumbura, the number for police assistance is 22-22-37-77; 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.

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CRIMINAL PENALTIES:  While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.  Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.  Persons violating Burundian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.  Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Burundi are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.  Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.  Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.

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CURRENCY: There are no ATMs in Burundi, and 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 2003.

HOMOSEXUALITY: The government of Burundi recently adopted a new penal code that, while stipulating increased penalties for forced labor and human trafficking, also contains language criminalizing homosexuality.  To date, however, there have been no charges brought against homosexuals under the code.

PHOTOGRAPHY: The Embassy recommends that visitors not photograph airports, military installations, or other government buildings, and obtain permission from individuals before taking their photographs. 

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MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:  Medical facilities in Burundi do not meet U.S. standards.  Travelers should carry an ample supply of properly-labeled prescription drugs and other medications with them, 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. 

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Burundi. 

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s website.  For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website.  Further general health information for travelers is available from the WHO.

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MEDICAL INSURANCE:  The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.  Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.

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TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:  While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.  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 regular reports of violent attacks on vehicles traveling the roads throughout the country outside of Bujumbura.  U.S. Government personnel are required to travel upcountry via two-vehicle convoy and have their trips pre-approved by the Embassy's Regional Security Officer.  The Embassy recommends that Americans 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 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, 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.  Fuel is scarce at times.  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 $8.50 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 22-22-37-77; 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. 

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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 website.

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CHILDREN'S ISSUES:  For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.

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REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:   Americans living or traveling in Burundi are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy in Burundi through the State Department’s travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel within Burundi and the Embassy’s current security policies, including areas that are off-limits to U.S. Government personnel for security reasons.  Americans without internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy.  By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency.  The U.S. Embassy is located on Avenue des Etats-Unis, telephone (257) 22-20-7000, fax (257) 22-22-2926.

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This replaces the Country Specific Information for Burundi dated March 2, 2009, to update the section on Special Circumstances.

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