Bujumbura is the largest city and capital of Burundi.
You can get in via the airport, which is close to the city. 1st language is Kirundi, 2nd is French, only a few speak English.
Visa rules and prices change frequently. As of November 2011, two different visas were available on arrival (both at the airport and land borders) - a one month, multiple entry visa costing USD90, and a 3 day (2 night) transit visa for USD40. Visas can be obtained from embassies abroad prior to travel. Taxis from the Airport to the city centre are USD20,- or BIF30.000,-
Taxis are cruising all over town; negotiate the price with them before the ride as taxi drivers and most businessmen try to charge more for tourists. As of late 2014, rides within downtown are about 2000 Burundian francs; a ride from downtown to the beach clubs bora bora, club du lac tanganyka and saga beach were BIF7000.
Rides with the small yellow tuk tuk trikes are fun and usually half the price of a taxi. They are a great choice for a maximum of 2 persons without baggage. You can go only until the boundary of the city center as Tuk tuks are banned from the very city center.
A even cheaper option is a moto-taxi (single seat on a motorbike, dangerous) costing BIF500-1000 a journey, but these were recently banned from the city centre for safety reasons.
Burundians typically rely on the many mini-buses, costing BIF300 to anywhere in city centre in mid-2011, and BIF600 to the suburbs. The price is probably a bit higher today. Minibuses serving the north of the city arrive and depart at the front of the central market (marché central), while those heading south use the parking lot in the back of the market near the Interbank head office. The last mini-buses leave around 22:00 as of 2011. It is not advised to walk at night after that; if you need to go anywhere, take a taxi.
To catch a lift in any type of vehicle from the side of the road, hold out your hand with your palm facing upward. This works for taxis, buses, motorcycles, and all sorts of private and commercial vehicles. Mini-bus conductors will honk and use their fingers to show how many seats are available. If the bus is full, they will wave their hand with their palm facing downward. It is not uncommon for private vehicles to pick up foreigners requesting lifts during the daytime. They range from high-end SUVs driven by white-collar workers to flat bed pickup trucks where you must stand up. Payment is generally not expected for hitchhiking short distances, but working-class Burundians regularly give each other money for small favours, so there is no harm in offering.
If you want to drive a car: Burundians don't have a driving licenses that meet international standards, so there are basically no rules on the streets of Burundi and as a consequence they love to push in and use every possible space from every possible direction. It is advisable to do it like the burundians and honk before every potentially dangerous situation as many of them show poor situational awareness and driving style is "naturally impulsive". Sometimes gas stations run out of fuel for days. It is advisable to have the tank at least half full at all times.
- Musée Vivant, rue du 13 Octobre (heading west, just before Lake Tanganyika). Small zoo and natural history museum. Exhibits include a chimpanzee fish from Lake Tanganyika, crocodiles, birds, and snakes. There’s also a traditional Burundian village on the grounds. For about BIF2,000 per person, a guide will show you around. For extra money they will feed live rabbits and Guinea pigs to the crocodiles and snakes. 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 BIF3,000 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. For BIF100,000 you can have a boat tour for up to 8 people lasting 30 to 45 minutes. This will get you even closer to hippos, crocodiles, birds and out to Lake Tanganyika. Best time is the morning from 07:30.
- 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 a monument has later been raised.
- 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.
Hippos are very fast & dangerous and can appear everywhere on the shore of the lake Tanganyika - the 2nd largest and 2nd deepest lake in the world. Only the locals can be seen in the lake. Beaches are 20 minutes West of town in the vicinity of the airport.
- Bora Bora, Uvira Roadway. Beach Club west of the town where the young, beautiful and rich meet. Lovely garden and architecture, stunning views to the lake, Pool, Beach Volleyball.
- Karera Beach, Uvira Roadway. Nice beach resort.
- Saga Plage, Uvira Roadway, . Beach with restaurant, entertainment complex, and hotel. Nice place to pass some time.
- Geny´s Beach, Uvira Roadway. Beach hut with restaurant. Very slow
- 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 Centre). Extensive monthly film, theatre 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 BIF2000. 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.
- Federation Football (soccer) games at the Stade in Rohero are at 14:00 and 16:00 on Saturdays. Entrance as of late 2011 was BIF500 regular and BIF2000 first class.
- Université de Burundi ("Collège") has a large swimming pool with high-dive and a spectacular view of Bujumbura and Lake Tanganyika. The security guard can sometimes give you a hard time if you don't look like a college student. If you kindly tell him that you are there for 'sport' he will let you in. There is a small bar on the overlook above the pool that is good for sundowners. Many people run up the mountain, through Kiriri to the University, a grueling run but worth the beer at the top.
- Entente Sportive, Av du Stade. Daily 07:00-19:00, BIF3500 (Aug 2008). Old colonial entourage. Length of the pool 33m!
- 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. BIF4000 during the week and BIF10,000 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 MAESTRO & VISA debit cards but they charge BIF5000 for each transaction and exchange rates are poor. Cash in Euros or USD recommended. When changing money at a forex bureau or on the street, be aware that only US dollar bills dated Series 2006 or newer will be accepted.
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. Little boys sell plastic bags for BIF100 at the market. The Central Market and the very crowded big vegetable market at the bus station is the favourite area of criminals. They will cut your bag to get your purse or mobile phone.
Small supermarkets can be found all over town. They normally stock imported goods at a luxury price.
The Italian-Christian grocery "Mutoj" is the nicest store in town, 10 Minutes out of the city centre on the Avenue Des Etats-Unis (close to Boulevard du 28 Novembre). The store is very clean, they have a great selection of vegetables, fresh meat, grilled chicken, milk, yoghurt, cheese, pastries, ice-cream, snacks, water, kitchenware, and the prices are very reasonable.
"Bon prix" on the Boulevard du 28 Novembre (close to Avenue Mujinga) has a good selection of imported food, local cheese, sausage and fresh vegetables.
The largest supermarket in town is "Dimitri" on the little roundabout of Chaussee Prince Louis Rwagazore and Av du Congo. The selection of fresh vegetables is very limited but you get cheese, snacks, sausage, chocolate, kitchenware, water, spices.
The Greek owned 'Boucherie Nouvelle' on Av du Congo is worth a visit. Always busy, but then it offers a wide variety of meat, cheese and charcuterie. Opposite the shop you find vendors with exclusive and rare vegetables and in the rainy season wild mushrooms of all kinds. Be prepared for a repetitive approach and attention engaging you in persuasive 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.
Some restaurants that are worth a visit are:
- Dynasty Chinese Restaurant. Ask the taxi driver. It is located on a residential street (ADD DIRECTIONS). The food is amazing and comparable to Chinese food in NYC and even in China
- Botanika Boulevard de l´Uprona, small, European style dining. Main course BIF9000-18000. Nice tiny garden, good for brunch on weekends, has wireless. Popular with business, government and expats.
- Bujacafe Av du 18 Septembre, good coffee, great croissants, located in a beautiful quiet garden, they also offer cakes, fresh juices and basic fastfood.
- Le Bouteille d'Or (near centre of town, ask a taxi driver, or a local). Basic beer garden that serves a local speciality, beef "michopo", deliciously seasoned steamed beef served with little dough cubes.
- Le Cayor, Chaussee Prince Louis Rwagasore (Opposite Centre Culturel Français). Busy for lunch. General Burundian dishes, but also Cameroonian food.
- Le Cafe Gourmand Avenue de France, popular french bakery opposite to Dimitri supermarket - Very sweet patisserie (cakes, tartlettes, croissants, brownies), coffee, fresh juices, salads, sandwiches, panini, bread, baguette, nice view of the city from the terrace.
- Le Plaisir Avenue de l'Amitié beside Radio Isanganiro. Popular restaurant serving Burundian dishes. Busy for lunch, especially if you want a table upstairs. Menu items are not always available, so it is best to ask the server what is available. The Sangala fish topped with onions is excellent, and the stewed beef (lunch only) is very reasonably priced.
- Oasis Greek restaurant and pizza on the main drag in town - next to Havana. Excellent Greek mezze.
- Pont Muha, (continue Bld de la Liberte till you reach the river Muha). Best Burundian brochettes in town. If you are hungry take the brochette Hôtelière.
- Roca Golf Hotel Avenue de la Tanzanie, quality buffet at the best hotel in town that meets international standards with fresh soup, salads, grilled fish, meat, fruits, deserts. 1200h lunch (13$), 1830h dinner (18$). Sunday brunch 1145h (21$)
- Tropicana, Chaussée Prince Louis Rwagasore (Head East from Palace De L'Indépendance). Stylish and new (Dec 2010) restaurant and internet café. Very good burgers, omelettes, juices and coffee.
- La Baguette Magique, Boulevard Lumumba Patrice. Not a café or restaurant, just a very good bakery. Worth stopping at to stock up on cakes/croissants.
- Chez Michel, Next to Hotel le Tanganika. 257 222 75292. Excellent Belgian Bistro with Belgian beers. </eat>
- Le Cafe Beryl, Chausee Prince Louis Rwagasore. #57. M-F 06:30-22:00, Sa-Su 11:00-22:00. Bistro which is also good for the selection of Asian and Russian teas, juices and snacks.
- BBQ, Avenue Muyinga. Interesting menu and cosy ambiance.
- Chez Andre, Chaussée Prince Louis Rwagasore. Super fancy restaurant in a large, decked-out mansion. Service can be slow and disappointing.
- Le safran, Av Kukiko 38 (Rohero II), ☎ +257 22 213 999, . 08:00-14:30 & 18:00-22:30. Quality restaurant with a buffet rocking every Friday evening with live music. The cosy bar with pool-table has a happy hour 18:00-19:00. Moderately priced.
- Shanghai, Avenue Muyinga (coming from the central market, take the Chaussée Prince Louis Rwagasore and turn left just before the Alimentation Escale du Bien - it's about 600 m up the Av. Muyinga, opposite a kindergarten). Best Chinese in town. Very fast service (in and out in less than an hour), also open for lunch.
- Taj Mahal, Chaussée Prince Louis Rwagasore, Indian food.
- Tandoor, BV Uprona (Between Bv Uprona and Bv 28 September). Good Indian food
- Belvedere, Avenue de Belvedere. Dining with a superb view over the city. Also open for lunch. Expensive.
- Restaurant "Chez Vaya"Traditional Greek Kitchen old from 1989 with panoramic view Tel (257) 22228231 Mob (257) 79921191 E-mail: [email protected]
- Bora Bora Beautiful Beach Club west of the town where the young, beautiful and rich meet. Lovely garden and architecture, stunning views to the lake. Great for a sundowner. Food on the other hand is high priced low quality fastfood.
- Cercle Nautique de Bujumbura, Avenue de la Plage. The food is not impressive, but the views (on a clear day) on Lake Tanganyika and the mountains of Congo (DRC) are unforgettable. As of late 2011, new owners have maintained the same prices but brought with them a miniscule that in no way reflects the offerings of the original menu, and shoddy service. On rare occasions you can see hippos in the evening time.
- Ubuntu, Avenue de la Plage. Nice garden setting in deluxe hotel with great pizzeria and great view to the lake tangyanika where you can see hippos on rare occasions. The garden also houses several turtles, peacocks, and has two beautiful crested cranes (exotic bird). Live music on Sunday evening from 1800h. Pizzas from BIF9000
- Eden Great lake views. Best pizza in Bujumbura, owned and managed by a well-known Belgian restauranteur who flies the mozzarella in from Italy. Ave de la Plage (along lake, past Ubuntu)
- Restaurant Tanganyika, 1 Avenue de la Plage.  Set in a glorious 1930s art deco building and run by a professional Belgian chef. Restaurant Tanganyika serves up some of the best food in the city. Mains from BIF18,000.
- Waka Waka Boulevard de Port by the TOYOTA dealer, Italian Pizzeria, good for original italian style pizza (very thin bread), own butchery and mozzarella production nearby at "ITALBU"
- Restaurant Hotel La Palmeraie, Nice new hotel with garden/pool side restaurant serving excellent French and international cuisine. Nice wine list, but meals can an be expensive (30-40$).
- Habesha, Avenue Rukonwe (near the PSG Office). Good Ethiopian food.
- La Cervoise du Gaulois, Rue Mutaho. (Ave du Large direction Kinindo, cross Pont Muha, left after the green fence of Quartier OUA, first right. The Heineken sign on the left.). Closed Mondays.. Owned by a Quebecer-Burundian couple. Price range is between Havana Club and Botanika. Gourmet hamburgers, steak, ribs, etc. Beer on tap in frosted glasses. WiFi. Ask about film screenings and NHL hockey game nights.
- Le Safran, Av. Kunkiko 38 (Rohero II), ☎ +257 22 213 999, . 8-1430 / 18-2230. At Av. Kunkiko in quartier Rohero II you'll find this quality restaurant with a buffet every Friday evening and Sunday afternoon and evening. The cozy bar with a colourfull dans-night on Friday has a happy hour between 18:00 and 19:00 hours. medium.
Several bars are located on Av de l'Universite (between Bld de l'Independence and Blv Mao Tse Tung).
The best known places for a transnight dance are l'Archipel and Havana. L'Archipel can be found at Blv de la Liberté and Havana is on Blv de Uprona (around the corner of the Novotel).
- Coeur d'Afrique, (Quartier Asiatique, near Ciné Caméo.). Outdoor 'cabaret' features live singing on weekend nights, popular with the college-aged crowd. Probably not wise during the raining season as there is no roof. They usually run out of cold beer early in the evening. (Many Burundians actually prefer their beer warm.) Food is available from the calmer place across the street.
- Dominoes Sports Bar and Restaurant, Behind Kings Conference and HCR on Ave De Large Kinindo Bujumbura ((Kings conference Centre Turn right and right again were 100 metres on the left)), ☎ 75635862. 07:30 till whenever. Dominoes Restaurant is just 5 minutes from Bujumbura town centre Fantastic Gardens,Great food and drink with a good variety of dishes at fair prices. Great place to play Petanque, and bring the children, it's a cool place to go good for a romantic evening, or lean on the bar and play Dominoes...later in the evening we move tables and dance the night away to great music. Welsh man owned so your sure of a warm welcome and great service. It is in a safe secure place. Just Honk at the Gate to come in.
Accommodation can be broadly split into the northern beach resorts and downtown. Downtown can be further split into places near the lake, the city centre proper, and up in the hills behind the city centre.
There's a great guest house to stay that only cost BIF20,000 a night (there's a cheaper option for 14,000). The guest house is still renovating but the rooms currently available are super clean and spacious. It is located next to the President's house and across from the French embassy. Very easy to find.
Northern beach resorts
- Hotel Club du Lac Tanganyika on the lake at $100 upwards for a single person but $50 surcharge for a second person. The Italian owned hotel is popular on the weekends with the expat crowd so a fee of 10.000BFR was introduced for the usage of the pool. Located outside of the city right at the beach. It also has some sporting facilities such as tennis courts. Breakfast is included.
- Karera Beach Hotel on the lake. More of a weekend-getaway than a hotel, chalets on the beach (with kitchenette, TV etc) start at $65 per night. Breakfast and other services not included. tel 247818 or mobile 77762185
- Restaurant Tanganyika 1 Avenue de la Plage  - has 4 spacious rooms overlooking the garden - recently refurbished with new bathrooms, art deco fixtures, free wifi and air conditioning. A small sandy beach is over the road. Good value at $60 per night including breakfast. The road is a little noisy however.
- Safari Gate, Avenue du Large (at the lake), ☎ +257 22 21 47 80, . Don't believe the prices quoted on their website, they are long out-of-date. The cheaper $60 rooms are pretty dingy and have no view - better to splash out on a $120 room. $60 - $120.
Downtown, city centre
- Hotel Amahoro, PLOT NO.242 INDUSTRIAL AVENUE, ☎ (+257) 22 24 75 50 (+257) 22 24 75 51, . checkin: 12;00; checkout: 11:00. In the center of town. Wifi, nice little restaurant, and conference rooms. The cheapest rooms have cold showers. Website: http://www.hotelamahoro.com/ English: http://www.hotelamahoro.com/en/ US$55-100.
- Hotel Botanika tiny, delightful boutique hotel above Restaurant Botanika - one of the best restaurants in town. Located in centre of town, in the vicinity of a lot of bars and nightclubs, so very noisy on weekends. Great food and service and Wi-Fi. around USD90 per night.
- Dorado Hotel, Avenue de L'industrie, ☎ +257 22 25 95 07, . Basic hotel with air conditioned rooms and wireless internet. The food from the restaurant is excellent. USD80.
- Guesthouse Ave du Cafe, Ave du Cafe (near maison de la presse), ☎ +257 22222056, . Simple NGO-style guesthouse in a house. Currently only 4 rooms. You share living space and dining table with other guests (mainly Belgian NGO workers on mission to Burundi). Tarif includes breakfast, lunch, laundry and wireless. Other numbers are 78880176 or 75800801 email [email protected] $45.
- Water front hotel (approx 100 USD). The former international Novotel brand and has been privatised after being state owned for several years. The former first hotel in town, is in desperate need of renovation and has seen a lot better times.
- Hotel de L'Amitie (approx 50 USD ) in the centre of town.*
- Roca Golf Hotel, Boulevard de la Tanzanie, ☎ +257 22 277 100, . Nice hotel with free wi fi, air conditioning in rooms, access to golf course included in price. Opened in December 2011. US$200-300.
Up in the hills
- Vaya Hotel, ☎ +257 22 228231 ([email protected]), . Vaya Hotel The restaurant is 20 years old, shabby and overpriced, but the (4) rooms are good value. It's situated at the top of the hill near University, far from the centre of town, so its quieter and cooler. (around USD90 per night)
- Village Hotel $100 upwards per night. Located in Rohero. Owned by Interbank Burundi. 28 rooms, all amenities including swimming pool and internet. E-Mail [email protected] tel (257) 22244359
- Hotel Alexestel, Avenue MAKAMBA (Avenue Makamba, Rohero I), ☎ (+257) 22 253972 ([email protected]), . checkout: 12.00. Room types: Basic, Single rooms - Double rooms and Deluxe room. Facilities: Free wireless Internet connection, free swimming pool, a bar-restaurant. Laundry service, free breakfast, mosquito net, hot water in bathroom. 40$-50$-60$.
- Hotel Alexestel, Nyakabiga, Avenue MUYINGA (Avenue Muyinga, close to new mosque, Nyakabiga), ☎ (+257) 22 253972 ([email protected]), . checkout: 12.00. Room types: Single rooms - Double rooms with or without A/C. Facilities: Free wireless Internet connection, a restaurant. Laundry service, breakfast, mosquito net, hot water in bathroom. 50$-70$.
Bujumbura is a moderately safe city, but common sense prevails. Walking around during the day should be fine, but at dusk (18:00) the streets rapidly 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.
The central market and big vegetable market at the bus station is the area of thieves. They are after your purse and your mobile phone. At the crowded vegetable market they will cut your bag to get what they want. Pockets with buttons are recommended.
- Cars: Thieves are after mirrors, turn indicator lights, antennas. It may be advisable to pay the idling boys or security guards to look after your car about BIF200 for 30 minutes.
- Beggars: Some adults use children other than their own for begging. Protect the children and give them food (peanuts, boiled eggs, milk, proteins) or clothes instead of money.
English and French language broadcasts are available from the BBC World Service on 90.2MHz and 105.6MHz.
Internet access is best at an expat restaurant with Wi-Fi, especially Café Aroma on Boulevard de l'Uprona. For those without their own device, Surf Internet Café (back of Rusca Plaza, Ave. de l'Amitié) has generally fast Internet on good quality computers during the day. In the evening, your best bet in the city centre is [email protected] near the Waterfront Hotel. 3G wireless sticks are available from Econet as of mid 2011, with other carriers planning to offer them soon.
- Belgium, Boulevard de la Liberté, 9, ☎ +257 22 22-61-76, .
- 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. Latitude -3.3825, longitude 29.3611
The Belvedere bus company has regular services to Kigali and several Burundian destinations. Their office is behind Dmitri's near the US Embassy. There's also an Intercity bus station on Ave. de l'OUA near GTS.