Burundi is a small country in Central Africa. It is surrounded by Rwanda, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
|Currency||Burundi franc (BIF)|
|Area||total: 27,830 sq km |
water: 2,180 sq km
land: 25,650 sq km
|Population||6,373,002 (July 2002 est.)|
|Language||Kirundi (official), French (official), Swahili (along Lake Tanganyika and in the Bujumbura area)|
|Religion||Christian 67% (Roman Catholic 62%, Protestant 5%), indigenous beliefs 23%, Muslim 10%|
The country is divided into 16 provinces (Bubanza, Bujumbura, Bururi, Cankuzo, Cibitoke, Gitega, Karuzi, Kayanza, Kirundo, Makamba, Muramvya, Muyinga, Mwaro, Ngozi, Rutana, Ruyigi ), as well as the capital, Bujumbura, which has the same administrative status as a province. Each province is divided into smaller districts, known as "communes" in rural areas and "quartiers" in the capital, there are a total of 117 of such groupings. Beneath this, there are several lower levels of administrations, including the sector, the "colline", or hillside, and the smallest grouping, the "Nyumba Kumi" or "group of 10 houses."
The largest city by population is the capital, Bujumbura, situated on eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika. The second largest city is the central city of Gitega, the former colonial capital, followed by the northern city of Ngozi.
Bujumbura's airport is served by Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airways, both of whom make frequent flights via their respective hubs in Nairobi and Addis, respectively. Kenya Airways flights occasionally pass through the Rwandan capital, Kigali en route, and both airlines connect to major international hubs in Europe, codesharing with principal international carriers. Smaller flights via charter and private planes from Eastern DRC and other cities in the sub-region arrive in Bujumbura as well, though are presumably not the preferred route for the risk-averse western traveler.
Although most travelers will find that they can get around passingly well with a working knowledge of French (and increasingly, English), some familiarity with Swahili, or the related local language, Kirundi, is helpful particularly in rural areas.
For the international traveler, Burundi offers some culinary surprises -- fresh fish from Lake Tanganyika and produce from the nation's rich volcanic soil are particularly notable. There is a sizable Southeast Asian community, offering curried dishes alongside the more traditional rice and beans, and french-inspired European offerings. For lighter meals, samosas and skewered meats are common, and bananas and fresh fruit are often served as a sweet snack.
Although accommodations in rural areas can be spartan, Bujumbura hosts a number of international-grade hotels, catering to a mainly a U.N. and international clientele. The only international-brand hotel to be found is a Novotel, which will set you back about $120 a night. Other notable hotels include the Source du Nil ($120/night), the Hotel Botanika ($85/night), the Clos de Limbas ($70/night) and the new, anglophone Sun Safari.
Although some semblance of normalcy has returned to much of the country with the conclusion of the nation's democratic transition and a democratically chosen head of state in August, 2005, travelers should be warned that there is still significant insecurity throughout the country and exercise extreme caution. Besides the still-active rebel group, the Forces Nationales de la Liberation (FNL), who continue to attack government forces and civilians, threats posed by banditry and armed robbery, as well as petty crimes remain. Visitors should exercise caution, avoid traveling after dark, and be aware of curfew laws. Many roads close at night, and most embassies put out curfews on their staff. As any conflict or post-conflict situation, visitors should consult their embassy to be apprised of the latest local developments, and be sensitive to the changing security environment.
Be careful of Kiosk foods and avoid unboiled water. Also ensure you have been vaccinated.