Burkina Faso Travel Guide: Essential Tips and Highlights
Burkina Faso, a landlocked country in West Africa, offers a unique travel experience filled with vibrant culture, rich history, and remarkable landscapes. As a traveler, you’ll be captivated by the warmth and hospitality of the Burkinabé people who are known for their kind and welcoming disposition. This travel guide is designed to ensure a memorable and safe journey throughout this fascinating country.
One of the key aspects of planning a trip to Burkina Faso involves understanding how to safely and efficiently navigate the country. This includes important information about transportation options, health guidelines, and accommodations. Additionally, exploring Burkina Faso’s major cities and regions, as well as its cultural insights, helps you to better appreciate the nation’s unique customs, traditions, and natural beauty.
- Discover Burkina Faso’s vibrant culture and history, as well as the friendly nature of the Burkinabé people.
- Prepare for your journey by understanding transportation options, health guidelines, and choosing suitable accommodations.
- Maximize your travel experience by exploring notable cities, regions, and gaining insights into local customs and traditions.
Visas and Entry Requirements
Before traveling to Burkina Faso, you need to obtain a visa. Citizens of some West African countries may be exempt, but most foreign nationals will require a tourist visa. It is best to apply at the Burkina Faso Embassy or Consulate in your country. You will need a valid passport, a completed application form, passport-sized photos, and a copy of your itinerary. Yellow fever vaccination and a Cholera I.D. card are also required for entry.
Air and Land Travel
By Air: The main international gateway to Burkina Faso is Ouagadougou International Airport (OUA). There are regular flights from Europe, West Africa, and neighboring countries. Some airlines that operate in and out of OUA include Air France, Brussels Airlines, Turkish Airlines, and regional carriers like Air Burkina and ASKY Airlines. When booking your flight, compare prices and services of various travel providers.
By Land: If you prefer traveling by land, you have several options:
- Car: You can rent a car or drive your own vehicle into Burkina Faso. Ensure that your vehicle documentation and insurance are in order, as you may need to present them at border crossings.
- Buses: Traveling by bus is an economical choice. There are several bus companies operating between Burkina Faso and neighboring countries, such as Ghana, Mali, and Ivory Coast. Be aware that bus journeys can be long and may not be as comfortable as traveling by car or plane.
- Taxis: You can take shared or private taxis across borders. Shared taxis are cheaper, but they may take longer as they wait to fill up with passengers before departing. Private taxis offer a faster and more convenient option, but can be pricey.
Remember that land border crossings might require additional paperwork and visa checks, so have your documentation ready. Additionally, some aerial and land borders may close at night or for security reasons, so always keep yourself updated on the current situation before you travel.
Political and Security Situation
Burkina Faso has experienced political instability in the past, leading to occasional coup attempts and protests. While the situation has improved, it remains essential for you to stay informed about the current political climate before your visit and during your stay. Avoid large gatherings and demonstrations, as they might escalate into violence unexpectedly.
The security situation in Burkina Faso poses certain challenges due to terrorist activities, particularly near its borders with Mali and Niger. Terrorism and kidnappings, both aimed at foreign nationals and locals, have occurred in these regions. It is advised that you follow any travel advice issued by your country’s Department of State and avoid areas near borders where possible.
If you find yourself in a state of emergency or requiring emergency help, contact the emergency services or local police stations. It is wise to stay vigilant and maintain awareness of your surroundings at all times.
Crime and Scams
Street crime and scams can be an issue in Burkina Faso, particularly in larger cities. To protect yourself, practice basic safety measures such as not flaunting valuables, avoiding walking alone at night, and being skeptical of offerings that seem too good to be true. U.S. citizens and other foreign nationals should consider registering with their respective embassies to receive alerts and updates on the security situation in Burkina Faso.
Regarding military posts and customs offices, exercise extra caution when navigating around these areas and always follow the instructions of security personnel. It is essential for your safety and that of others to remain respectful and cooperative.
Remember, vigilance and a clear understanding of the security environment in Burkina Faso will go a long way in ensuring a safe and enjoyable trip.
Before planning your trip to Burkina Faso, it’s essential to consider the health guidelines to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. Stay updated on the latest COVID-19 developments and check the travel advisories issued by your country’s authorities.
Ensure you are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and follow the guidelines provided by the CDC and other reputable sources. Carry a copy of your vaccination certificate and consider receiving a booster shot if eligible.
Check if other vaccinations are recommended or required for your travel to Burkina Faso. Commonly advised vaccines include Hepatitis A, Typhoid, and Yellow Fever. You should also be up to date with routine vaccinations such as MMR and polio. Consult with your healthcare provider 4 to 6 weeks before departure for personalized advice.
While in Burkina Faso, follow good hygiene practices to minimize the risk of illness:
- Wash your hands with soap and water frequently or use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick or showing symptoms of respiratory illness.
- Practice cough and sneeze etiquette by using a tissue or your elbow to cover your mouth and nose.
Be cautious of food and water safety while traveling. Prevent food-borne illnesses by adhering to the following recommendations:
- Drink bottled or purified water and avoid tap water, including ice made from tap water.
- Eat freshly cooked food, and avoid undercooked meat, eggs, and seafood.
- Stay away from food that has been sitting at room temperature for a prolonged period.
Protect yourself from mosquito-borne diseases, including malaria, by using insect repellent, wearing long-sleeved clothing, and ensuring your accommodation has screened windows or mosquito nets.
Finally, consider purchasing travel insurance with adequate health coverage for your trip, including provisions for medical evacuation, as healthcare facilities in Burkina Faso may not be up to the standards you are accustomed to in your home country.
Major Cities and Regions
Ouagadougou, the capital city of Burkina Faso, is a lively and vibrant city with a rich cultural scene. You can enjoy local markets, museums, and restaurants here. The Morho Naba Palace, home to the Mossi people’s emperor, is a must-visit. Don’t miss the National Museum of Music and the National Museum of Burkina Faso to learn about the country’s history and culture.
Bobo-Dioulasso, the second-largest city in Burkina Faso, is known for its authentic and traditional architecture. The city is home to the Grand Mosque, a remarkable mud-brick structure built in the 19th century. While you’re there, be sure to visit the Konsa House and the Regional Museum of Bobo-Dioulasso to gain an insight into the region’s history.
Banfora, situated in the southwest of the country, is known for its stunning natural surroundings. Explore the Karfiguéla Waterfalls and the Domes de Fabedougou for breath-taking landscapes. Tour the vast sugar cane fields and the sugar processing factory to learn about the area’s economic significance.
Djibo, located in the Sahel region, is a town with a strong sense of community. While the town itself may not have many tourist attractions, it serves as a gateway to the natural beauty of the surrounding Sahel region. Venture into the nearby pastoral landscapes and immerse yourself in the way of life for local communities.
Remember to respect the customs and traditions of the local people while visiting each of these cities and regions. Your time in Burkina Faso can be both educational and enjoyable as you discover its diverse landscapes, culture, and heritage.
When traveling to Burkina Faso, you’ll have a variety of accommodation options to choose from. In the capital city of Ouagadougou, there is a range of hotels, from budget to luxury. Some popular options include:
- Laico Ouaga 2000: A high-end option with amenities such as a spa, fitness center, and swimming pool.
- Hotel Les Palmiers: A mid-range option located in the city center, offering comfortable rooms and an on-site restaurant.
- Yibi Hotel: A budget hotel with basic, clean rooms and friendly service.
When venturing to other areas of the country, you may encounter more limited options. However, guesthouses and smaller hotels can still be found in most towns. Keep in mind that amenities may be more basic as you move away from the capital.
Food and Beverage
Burkinabé cuisine offers a variety of dishes, with a focus on fresh, local ingredients. Popular staples include tô, a dough-like dish made from millet or corn flour, and ragoût d’Igname, a yam stew. You’ll find many restaurants and street food vendors throughout the country, particularly in Ouagadougou. Some recommended dining options are:
- La Cabane: A casual outdoor eatery with a selection of grilled meats and local dishes.
- L’Oasis: A more upscale option, offering a mix of Burkinabé and international cuisine.
For a taste of local beverages, try dolo, a traditional beer made from fermented millet, or zoomkoom, a refreshing drink made from millet flour, ginger, and sugar.
Remember to always drink bottled or filtered water, as tap water may not be safe for consumption.
Burkina Faso has a diverse religious landscape with a majority of the population practicing Islam. This West African nation is predominantly Muslim, with over 60% of the population following the faith. However, you’ll also find that Christianity and traditional African religions coexist harmoniously in the country. While visiting, it’s essential to respect the beliefs and customs of the people, including observing modest dressing in religiously significant areas.
The rich cultural heritage of Burkina Faso is reflected in its music, which plays a crucial role in daily life. Music serves as a form of communication, celebration, and even conflict resolution. Expect to experience traditional African rhythms fused with modern beats and instruments. One of the most well-known Burkinabé musicians is Mamady Keïta, who has popularized traditional Mandingo rhythms from the Malinke people. Don’t miss an opportunity to attend live music performances, which are integral to the Burkinabé experience.
Burkina Faso has a fascinating history that has shaped its present-day culture. Originally known as Upper Volta, the country gained its independence from French colonial rule in 1960. Since then, a series of political upheavals have occurred, molding the nation’s development. The Tuareg, one of the country’s most prominent ethnic groups, have played a significant role in Burkina Faso’s history and culture. While exploring the nation, you will notice the diversity and complexity of Burkinabé society as a result of its historical experiences.
Exploring Burkina Faso
Markets and Shopping
When visiting Burkina Faso, immerse yourself in the vibrant local markets. The lively atmosphere offers a glimpse into the daily lives of the Burkinabè people. The colorful Grand Marché in the capital city, Ouagadougou, is a must-visit destination. Here, you can find a variety of items, from traditional crafts to fresh produce.
In Bobo-Dioulasso, the second-largest city, the Old Medina Market is a great place to experience the fusion of culture and commerce. You can browse through the numerous stalls selling spices, textiles, and artwork, while also trying local street food.
National Parks and Natural Wonders
Burkina Faso has several national parks that are perfect for wildlife enthusiasts. The Arli National Park offers opportunities to spot elephants, antelopes, and various bird species in their natural habitat. This park is adjacent to Pendjari National Park in Benin, creating a large protected area for the unique West African wildlife.
Another destination for nature lovers is the Ziniaré Wildlife Park, located a short drive from Ouagadougou. It is home to several rare and endangered species, including lions, hyenas, and even crocodiles.
Don’t miss the breathtaking Sindou Peaks in the southwest part of the country. This natural wonder consists of a unique geological formation of eroded sandstone rocks stretching across the landscape. The peaks and surrounding area offer picturesque views, perfect for hiking and exploring.
In Burkina Faso, the official language is French, but you’ll also hear many regional languages. English is not widely spoken, so it’s helpful to know some basic French phrases. For staying connected with friends and family, you can purchase a local SIM card, which offers affordable data plans.
You can also use social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to share your travel experiences and get updates on local news and events. Wi-Fi is available in most hotels and selected restaurants, but the connection may be slow or unreliable.
Legal and Consulate Information
While visiting Burkina Faso, it’s essential to be aware of the legal and consulate information. If you need consular assistance, you can contact the British Embassy in Ouagadougou, located at:
British Embassy Rue du Docteur Goarnisson Ouagadougou, 01 BP 171 Burkina Faso
The embassy can provide support in cases of emergency, such as lost or stolen passports, and offer advice on local laws and customs. Remember that you are subject to the laws of Burkina Faso, so it’s important to familiarise yourself with cultural practices and respect local traditions.
To stay updated on the latest travel advice and safety tips, follow the official Twitter account of the British Embassy: @UKinBurkina. This will help you make informed decisions during your trip to ensure a safe and enjoyable stay.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the top tourist attractions in Burkina Faso?
Burkina Faso offers numerous attractions for visitors to experience. Some of the top sites include the Ruins of Loropéni, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the Sindou Peaks, a unique geological formation. You can also explore the vibrant markets of Ouagadougou or visit the sacred crocodile ponds in Bazoulé and Sabou.
What is the safety advice for travelers to Burkina Faso?
While traveling in Burkina Faso, it is important to exercise caution and stay informed about the latest security updates. Avoid demonstrations, large gatherings, and remote areas whenever possible. Stick to well-traveled routes and lock your accommodations at all times. It is also advised to travel with a reputable guide or tour operator to ensure your safety.
Do US citizens need a visa to visit Burkina Faso?
Yes, US citizens require a visa to enter Burkina Faso. You can obtain a visa at the Embassy of Burkina Faso in Washington, D.C., or upon arrival at Ouagadougou International Airport. Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months beyond your intended stay and has at least one blank page for the visa.
What is the main religion practiced in Burkina Faso?
The majority of the population in Burkina Faso practice Islam, with a significant portion identifying as Sunni Muslims. There are also followers of Christianity and traditional African religions. It’s important to be respectful of the local customs and dress modestly when visiting religious sites.
Who is the current president of Burkina Faso?
The current president, as of October 2023, is Roch Marc Christian Kaboré. He has held the position since 2015 and was reelected for a second term in 2020.
What are some popular cultural experiences for tourists in Burkina Faso?
In Burkina Faso, you can experience an array of cultural activities, such as traditional music and dance performances, visiting local artisans, participating in cooking classes, or attending a local festival. Some popular events include the Pan-African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO) and the National Culture Week of Bobo-Dioulasso (SNC), which showcase the country’s rich heritage and artistic talent.