Burundi opens its doors to most every nationality in the world for visa on arrival. It is on the rebound from a violent recent past and is still subject to a US State Department travel warning. It major tourist draws, if there were tourists, are Where Stanley Didn’t Meet Livingstone and a contested source of the Nile. My kind of place!
Bujumbura Airport (BJM) gets kudos for funky architecture and the open air departures hall is a great spot to wait for a flight. Arrivals has a casual, friendly feeling. Local women with heavy carry-on baggage pass their items forward past immigration to be collected later. Airport employees greet their friends and some scoot to the front of the line.
Hotel Amahoro was my choice for its mid-range price and central location. Airport pickup was US$25, same as a taxi, so I went wife it for extra caution. The driver showed up an hour later, after several calls. I chatted with passengers including an Indian arrival who needed me to call his friend. The Indian community in East Africa has a tumultuous history of periods of prosperity and expulsion. The young man said, “Only we can do business here.” Airport employees were shutting down for the night when my driver arrived.
Bujumbura at night is hardly menacing. In between rain showers, young people stroll and shop. Bars are plenty, so are pizza joints. A local taste in a restaurant is a bit harder to locate. I went to upscale Hotel Botanika for a Burundi-French dinner. I chatted with the chef, and amazingly, a few days later we ran into each other a few days later in Kigali, Rwanda where he was visiting university friends. On a weekday by 9 pm the city is dark and shops are shuttered.
Hotel Amahoro’s breakfast is modest. Tang, wieners and French bread. The rooftop view of the city is worth enduring the greasy wieners. Lake Tanganyika sits to the west, blocked from the city by the port. The main central market has collapsed and is boarded up. I took a morning walk through the bustling traffic.
I chartered a taxi for a swing down to La Pierre de Livingstone et Stanley, 30 minutes south of town.
Then back up north to the airport with a detour to the crumbling resorts at Saga Beach on Lake Tanganyika.
I can’t point to anything specific to appeal to a tourist about Burundi however I got a good vibe from the country.
Everything was so smooth until I tried to check in to my Ethiopian Air flight to Kigali. The first agent couldn’t find my name, looked puzzled, turned to her colleague, who in turn also looked puzzled, and asked why I didn’t have a ticket. So began United + Ethiopian = Big Trouble in Little Burundi…
In this series:
- Uganda Visa on Arrival
- Rwanda New Visa on Arrival Process
- The East Africa Borderless Visa for Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda
- Burundi Visa on Arrival
- Tanzania Transit Visa Saves $70 for US Citizens
- ATMs in Uganda – Stanbic When All Else Fails
- Uganda and the Source of the Nile
- Uganda Entebbe Airport Lounge Has a Faux Mountain and Goldfish Pond
- The flyDubai Experience
- Where Stanley Didn’t Meet Livingstone
- Burundi is Rocovering
- More to come…