Bujumbura is the largest city and capital of Burundi.
You can get in via airport, which is close to the city. Visa rules and prices change frequently. As of November 2011 two different visas are available on arrival – a one month, multiple entry visa costs US$ 90, a 3 day (2 night) transit visa is $40. Visas can be obtained from embassies prior to travel.
Get around town
Taxis are cruising all over town; you need to negotiate the price with them. As of early 2010, rides within downtown were about 1500-2500 Burundian francs; rides to and from airport can be absurdly expensive (20,000 francs) but there's little you can do about it. In town, during the day, a cheaper option is a moto-taxi costing 500-1000 francs a journey. Burundians typically rely on the many mini-buses, but you'll need someone to help you figure that out.
What is there to see
- Musee Vivant, rue du 13 Octobre (heading west, just before Lake Tanganyika). Small "zoo" and natural history museum. Exhibits include fish from Lake Tanganyika, crocodiles, birds, and snakes. There’s also a traditional Burundian village on the grounds. For about 2,000 BFU per person, a guide will show you around. Sometimes, local cultural events occur on the grounds, such as performances by the Burundian drummers.
- Rusizi National Park, RN 4 (a few miles past Club du Lac, nearly at the Congo border). See hippos and crocodiles sunning themselves on the banks of the Rusizi River. The area is also where Gustave, the world's largest Nile crocodile, has been spotted. There are also some amazing birds to be seen. For about 3,000 BIF per person (plus tip), a guide and a guard will join you in the car and give you a tour of the park. You’ll stop at several points along the water to view hippos, crocodiles, and birds.
- Livingstone-Stanley Monument (La Pierre du Livingstone et Stanley), village of Mugere, about 12km south of Bujumbura on RN3. It's not the spot where Stanley said "Dr. Livingstone, I presume," but it has a gorgeous view of the lake. Livingstone and Stanley passed through the area and carved their names on a large rock.
- Go for scenic drives (security permitting!) for spectacular views from the hills of Bujumbura Rurale to the east of town or along Lake Tanganyika to the south of town. Find a place to enjoy banana beer or maybe a Fanta and chit-chat with store keepers.
What is there to do
- Karera Beach, Uvira Roadway (on Lake Tanganyika about 20 min of town). Nice beach resort.
- Saga Plage, Uvira Roadway (on Lake Tanganyika about 20 min of town), . Beach with restaurant, entertainment complex, and hotel. Nice place to pass some time.
- Association Burundaise pour la protection des Oiseaux (ABO), . A local conservation group that conducts birdwatching tours of Rusizi Park and other areas. Some of their guides speak English.
- Check local flyers for information on Burundian drummer performances, or just be on the look out for a wedding reception taking place somewhere. With help from locals, you can also arrange to visit a drum troupe, get a lesson, and then see a private performance.
- Many activities are organized by the Centre Culturel Francais (CCF), Chaussee Prince Louis Rwagasore, +257 222351 (City Center). Extensive monthly film, theater and music program available from their offices. CCF also offers courses in French and Kiswahili (individual and group).
- Ciné Caméo (19 Avenue des Paysans),in the Asiatic quarter screens all the latest blockbusters for about 2000FBu. The only cinema in the country, and a place to enjoy some air conditioning on hot dry season nights.
- Several swimming pools available for who wants to cool down from the hot days. They play a lot of soccer and are extremely good at running.
- Entente Sportive, Av du Stade. Daily open from 07 – 19 hours, FBu 3500 (Aug. 2008). Old colonial entourage. Length of the pool 33 meters!
- Hotel Club Lac du Tanganyika, Chaussee D'Uvira (Take route in the direction of the Border with the DRC – Gatumba), +257 250220/221, fax +257 250219, . Daily open till 20 hours. FBu 4000 during the week and FBu 10000 during the weekend. Hotel pool, but in the weekends meeting point for the ex-pat community of Bujumbura. Breakfast and lunch served at the poolside. Beach nearby.
- War Memorial* at the top end of Ave Belvedere – for great sunset views. The Belvedere and Chez Vaya restaurants are nearby and offer equally good views – although during weekdays they only open at 6.30PM – after sunset.
Interbank has several ATMs in Bujumbura that accept international VISA debit cards but they charge 5000 FBu for each transaction.
- Most of the things that one needs can be found in one of the stalls in the Central Market. Stiff bargaining is needed to get it for the right price.
- Small supermarkets can be found all over town. They normally stock luxury items at a luxury price.
- The largest supermarket in town is Dimitri on the little roundabout of Chaussee Prince Louis Rwagazore and Av du Congo. Do not expect too much, but Dimitri has shopping carts!
- The Greek owned 'Boucherie Nouvelle' on Av du Congo is worth is worth a visit. Always busy, but then it offers a wide variety of meat, cheese and charcuterie. Opposite the butcher you find vendors with exclusive and rare vegetables and in the rainy season wild mushrooms of all kinds. Be prepared for a real hassle and 'persusive' sales techniques.
- The best place to buy souvenirs is the small curio market on Av de Stade.
- Another small curio market is found on Chaussee Prince Louis Rwagazore, opposite Library St. Paul.
The people in Bujumbura love their food and enjoy eating out with friends or family. A beef or fish brochette, chips or fried plantain and a fresh salad is available in all restaurants. But take your time. All food is freshly prepared and the cooks take time. Waiting an hour before the food arrives is certainly not abnormal.
Restaurants are scattered all over town, but the best are located in Rohero and Kiriri.
Bujumbura is a moderately safe city, but common sense prevails. Walking around during the day should be fine, but at night time (6PM) the streets get very dark and you are best off getting a taxi except for very short walks. Day or night there are very few police around. The area near the port feels pretty dodgy day or night.
English/French language broadcasts are available from BBC World Service on 90.2MHz and 105.6MHz.
- Belgium, Boulevard de la Liberté, 9, ☎ +257 22 22-61-76. http://www.burundi-embassy.be
- Greece, P.Ο. Βοx 1660, Bujumbura, ☎ +257 22 42 42532.
- United Kingdom. There is no UK embassy in Burundi, but there is a liason office + 257 22 22-32-66. Burundi is covered from the British High Commission in Kigali, Rwanda. Consular assistance is provided by the Embassy of Belgium.
- United States, Ave des Etats-Unis, ☎ +257 22 20-70-00 (fax: +257 22 22-29-26), . M 9AM-noon, 2PM-3PM, W 2PM-3PM, F 9AM-10:30AM.
About 60km south of Bujumbura are two lakeside resort hotels, Blue Bay and Resha Royal Imperial Hotel which make for nice day trips or as somewhere to stay overnight. Both have restaurants serving up excellent grilled fish.