The Muzungu’s top reasons to travel to Burundi
I loved visiting Burundi. My Burundian and Rwandese hosts treated me like royalty; I will never forget their kindness and hospitality. Sadly, few people will travel to Burundi until the political situation is resolved. When it is, here are the muzungu’s Burundi travel tips!
The official lingua franca is French, which is fine if you’re at a tourist hotel or bar, but I found few street vendors, for example, who spoke French. Educated Burundians generally speak French – the man or woman on the street may not. English is not widely spoken either.
Burundians are not used to tourists, nor having their photo taken – although the guys below completely disprove that point 🙂
Watching the hippos at Rusizi Nature Reserve was a nice day out but can’t honestly match up to other East African safari destinations for wildlife numbers, diversity or even tourism infrastructure.
Burundi is an excellent destination for birdwatchers (sharing almost the same birdlife as neighbouring Rwanda).
Burundi may be off the travel and tourism circuit for now, but let’s pray normality returns to the ‘Heart of Africa’ as quickly as possible.
Burundians eat well!
Burundi has scrumptious ‘fusion’ cuisine.
In addition to the traditional African foods of matooke (banana), ugali and cassava we ate a variety of fish from Lake Tanganyika, French-style crusty baguette bread and fantastic beers. (I can’t say I’m a fan of ugali though…)
I wanted to visit Bujumbura the moment Lonely Planet wrote “Bujumbura has the best inland beaches in Africa.” Lake Tanganyika is safe to swim in (there is no Bilharzia, like in many of East Africa’s lakes).
“Lake Tanganyika is second largest of the lakes of eastern Africa. It is the longest freshwater lake in the world (660km or 410 miles) and the second deepest (1,436 metres or 4,710 feet) in the world. It is comparatively narrow and varies in width from (16 to 72 km or 10 to 45 miles). Lake Tanganyika covers about (32,900 square km or 12,700 square miles) and its shores are in Burundi, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Zambia. It occupies the southern end of the Western Rift Valley, and for most of its length the land rises steeply from its shores.”
Burundians love to party at the beaches’ many bars and nightclubs. The capital city of Bujumbura boasts a vibrant beach nightlife of bars, restaurants and nightclubs (you can see why I want to go back, can’t you?!)
Lake Tanganyika’s white sandy beaches are just a stone’s throw from Bujumbura. The city is laid out in a classic European colonial grid-type layout. There’s an interesting variety of architecture.
Bujumbura is an interesting mix of European influence of the 1940s – and earlier – of eclectic hand-painted African shop signs and, sadly, even more potholes than Kampala.
The beaches attract Burundians and expats from neighbouring DR Congo to wile away their Sunday afternoons.
One of the cultural highlights – and most noteworthy tourism exports – are ‘les Tambourinaires de Burundi’ the traditional drummers. A must-see (hear!) experience when in Burundi.
Did you know…? The East Africa Tourist Visa makes it possible to buy one visa for travel to Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya. Tanzania has apparently signed up (but in July 2016 there’s little evidence of that). The muzungu sincerely hopes that Burundi will join the East Africa Tourist Visa party one day.
Have you traveled to Burundi? Which places would you recommend visiting?