Getting Around Burundi

  • Transportation
    by CatherineReichardt

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  • CatherineReichardt's Profile Photo

    So odd you won't confuse it with any other airport

    by CatherineReichardt Updated Jul 20, 2013

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    Airport buildings are usually distinguished by their functionality rather than their architectural flair, so the originality of Bujumbura terminal came as something of a surprise. I think it's fair to say that you'd have to search pretty hard to find a stranger looking airport than this.

    I should perhaps point out that this is a wildly flattering photo of the airport which I've filched from Wikipedia: as a general rule, photographing airports (which are usually classed as strategic installations) is a risky business thoughout the developing world and can easily land you in jail, so I wouldn't recommend it. In reality, it is sadly dilapidated and far from the extrovert celebration of 60s space age architecture it might appear. On reflection, it reminded me of those strange conical structures that dot the Canadian landscape and are used to store salt to deice the roads in winter.

    The terminal building is curious in that sections (such as the departure lounge and the baggage hall) are partly open to the elements. I suppose that in a tropical environment, it helps to keep down the ventilation costs, but it does lend a sort of 'unfinished' air to the place, and it does suffer by comparison with the brand, spanking new airport in Kigali, which is the transit point for most international visitors to Burundi.

    The visa kiosk and immigration desks are disorganised, but at least the officials aren't as curt or officious as many that I've encountered in other African countries. On arrival, you will have to fill in an immigration card (which annoyingly has to be collected in the arrivals hall rather than being distributed on the inbound flight), so make sure you have a pen handy, as these are in short supply. The good news is that you can obtain your (overpriced) Burundian visa on arrival, so proceed to the visa desk to have this issued before you move on to immigration - this is not a fast process, but at least by the time you get to immigration, the Burundian passengers will have been processed, so the queue shouldn't be long.

    I thought that the nicest part of the airport was the emerald green lawn in front of the terminal building, where we spotted over a dozen large herons stalking unfortunate frogs: I can think of few better welcomes to a country!

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  • mnybondas's Profile Photo

    Burundi can be entered...

    by mnybondas Written Aug 24, 2002

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    Burundi can be entered overland from the neighbouring countries Congo, Rwanda and Tanzania. The road from Rwanda is in a reasonable condition. The road from Tanzania has a reputation of being in a poor condition especially during the rainy season.

    There is a passenger ferry Liemba which operates on the Lake Tanganyika. Liemba is an ex German warship which has been converted to a passenger ship. It operates between Mpulungu in Zambia, Kigoma in Tanzania and Bujumbura in Burundi. Travelling on the Liemba is an experience which should not be missed. The ship is not luxurious, but it offers a reasonably comfortable travelling experience on the Tanganyika lake in the heart of the African continent.

    Burundi demands visas from everyone. The visa can be arranged in one of the neighbouring countries. If you arrive by air and there is no Burundian embassy in your home country you are allowed to enter the country without a visa. In this case you have to arrange the visa during your stay in Bujumbura. Otherwise you are not allowed to leave the country.
    Like in many African countries the best way to get around are the shared taxis. A shared taxi leaves when it is full, so occasionally you have to be patient and wait several hours before the shared taxi is ready to leave.

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