Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did.
So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. --- Mark Twain

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Burundi Summary

Back in Burundi, Bujumbura

The plane landed half an hour after midnight. The flight was half-empty, there were four white people of us who arrived at the state. The new visa was a transit one and it was given to me at the border at midnight. Three days should be enough to travel to Tanzania. Compared to Estonia - Burundi is a smaller country and all the border stations are within 6-8 hours drive from the capital.

In the dark everything seems the same as before leaving , only the weather is warmer and more humid. After all the rainy season has begun.


The car was in the same place I had left it – the parking place of the hotel Du Source – and untouched. This secure parking place for two weeks was found in the last moment, when less than two hours were left until the departure of the plane.

Before there was another suggested parking place, supposed to be safe in any way and under police surveillance, but at the spot it turned out to be in the suburb and not behind the house or in the yard but just next to the house. So my intuition suggested to find another solution. Not visible to casual passers-by in the street.

It is safer to leave the car somewhere behind the wall and a guard with AK-47 next to it.
There was so little time left until the departure of the plane ,and then the idea, to leave the car at the airport parking place , came to my mind. At least there is day-and-night surveillance. But no customer car park. And so while driving towards the airport the next good idea crossed my mind - to leave the car at the parking place of the hotel Source Du Nile, which is the most decent hotel of Bujumbura. As there is a round the clock lighting and a couple of armed security men. At first at the hotel I was told that they didn`t offer this kind of service and that it was not safe and that it would be safe only when I would overnight there. I replied that having returned back I would overnight there and so it was that thanks to the security officer the car remained at the parking place in front of the house and for a certain amount of money the guards promised to watch it for two weeks. The sum was 30$ that is a bit more than 20 euros, which spread over two weeks makes 1.5 euro per day.

By the car the main issue is that nobody would break in and steal it empty. What concerns the stealing of the car, I didn`t worry as the satellite tracking corresponds immediately as soon as somebody starts the car and tries to move it.

The next day was a bit busy.
First of all Tanzanian visa. According to the information from various sources the visa could be issued at the border. As the border of Rurundi-Tanzania is not particulary tourist – rich - my intention was to apply for it already in Burundi, at the Embassy of Tanzania. As as rule having a visa beforehand it takes much less time at the border. My knowledge was that the visa could be obtained by the next day, but actually the whole procedure took no more than twenty minutes. No such questions as : Why? Who to? Where is the invitation? Etc. etc. The required items for visa formalities were – a passport photograph and a copy of the passport page with personal information. I had quite a number of photographs left but no copies of the new passport yet. So I had to drive half a kilometre to get the copies made.

In conclusion I have only praising words about the Embassy of Tanzania. Just about twenty minutes of waiting and another color sticker was in the new passport. The three – month visa, it cost $50. Another case is resolved.

Next – Comesa Insurance or Comesa Yellow Card (Carte Jaune), which is something similar to our current green card in Europe.

That`s what it looks like.
Basically , this card should be valid in all the 17 countries , including Egipt , that are marked on the map. But having reached Egipt and asking for Comesa Insurance at the port of Nuweiba - the short reply was that they knew nothing about it. The card above is issued in Ethiopia and the price depended on the visited countries. I applied for the next card in Kenya and I was told there that the price was the same, no matter which countries to visit. In practice I have had to present this card only once – entering Rwanda, and there the number of the card was written down somewhere.

In general it is advised in many travel-blogs to have copies of all the documents and keep the original ones safe. I have the copy of this insurance stuck on the corner of the windscreen and the laminated copy of my driver`s license next to it.

More additional info about Burundi.
There are four pages of information about Burundi in East Africa Lonely Planet. Didn`t succeed to find any other travel books in English.

Maps. At the Burundi Tourist Info I asked for a decent map. They had Carte Touristique Du Burundi to offer. ( in the centre of the picture below). Scale 1:750 000. Sufficient, because all the major attractions are on the map.


The card on the left was on sale in Estonia, Viru Centre Bookshop,(7,67 euros) scale 1:400 000. But the card was issued in 2001 so it is not the latest, but nevertheless a detailed one. The card on the right has been bought in Rwanda (10 000 Rwandan francs – 12,2,euros). Tanzania – Rwanda – Burundi Map (2011 edition!!) and it is perfectly usable, when there is no better. All the bigger and medium – sized roads, after all, are present.

GPS was, as usual. Usually this means that outside major towns „Tracks4Africa„ is in use and while driving closer in the direction of South-Africa the better it turns. In Egipt- Sudan – Ethiopia it was of not much help , but since Kenya - perfectly usable. Not surprising – the product of South-Africa company.
And while in towns I have used OpenStreetMap charts , they are more detailed and even small side streets can be found. The inter-urban roads are also on the map, but sometimes they are not very precise.

About visas.
The nearest Burundi Embassy to Estonia is in Germany. As to me I applied for visa in Uganda, Kampala. The Embassy is situated in Kololo, the coordinates are N00 19.674` E032 35.865. The documents are accepted before noon and generally they are returned the second day. The price of the single-entry visa for a month is $90 and it was said that no multiple-entry visas were issued here.´

A passport photo and a copy of the personal information page of the passport were necessary.
It is possible to get a visa from Bujumbura airport without any problem. Either 3-day transit visa ($40) or a multiple - entry visa for a month ($90).

At the land border stations - while coming from Rwanda in Kayanza and also leaving for Tanzania in Kobero – visas were offered.

Burundi Tourist Information.


The official Burundi Tourist Information is in the centre of the town. S03 22.829´E029 21.865´. The door at the right takes to the Tourist Information office. It is possible to buy there a small map of Burundi, all kind of souvernirs, even drums. The door at the left opens to Burunditour Tourist Company, whose employees Ange and Leopold spoke good English and they were good at suggesting different travel routes of varying lengths and also were helpful in finding other necessary establishments, such as embassies, car services, places to visit in Burundi.


The stone indicating place were Livingstone and Stanley stayed.


Nyakazi Gorge – Nyakazu de faille. Or also named Failles des Allemands.


For tourists – the price is higher.


Rusizi National park. Not much to see, but still something. A couple of hippos.



Karera Waterfalls






Children posing properly.


Gitaga Museum. Provides an excellent overview of the history of Burundi.



About the Drum show was written over the previous post.

Pygmy village. Twa or Batwa pygmies are the natives of this region. They had lived in Burundi and also in Rwanda long before Tutsis and Hutus arrived there. According to the present data there are less than one percentage of them in Burundi population now.



Pottery making in a pygmy village.




Tea plantations


Very dangerous and wide-spread way of travelling in hilly roads. Waiting for huge trucks and sometimes up to five bicyclists are driving uphill this way. And the speed is not small at all.



To sum up – Burundi is a „genuine and authentic Africa„ for tourists. Not very safe so even the locals try to avoid driving in the dark.

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