Burundi and Its Capital Bujumbura
Русская версия This posts tells how to spend time in mysterious East African Burundi, what to see there and where to shop, how to get to the free safari, see the hippos of Tanganyika, and visit the only museum in the country.
We came to Burundi from Tanzania and our trip was not easy. We got a three-day transit visa and, having reached Bujumbura at around midnight, we checked into the guesthouse of the Anglican Church. The room which cost around 20 dollars per night included a dorm, something like a living room with a table and two chairs, and own shower with toilet – this may sound impressive, but in fact the room was poor and not too clean. The mosquito net was very dirty and with holes, so we had to put up our own.
At this time, we could get the food only at the gas station. As they explained to us in the guesthouse, only very rich people go to the gas station – those who have a car. They can also afford buying European goods in it. In fact, there was little to eat: we bought chips and European cheese – and the latter was an unforgivable mistake. The cheese obviously is not kept as needed during the transportation and in the African fridges. Our stomachs immediately reported this to us and kept reporting for the whole next day. That is how we got sick for the only time in East Africa in a month – by our own mistake. This is the answer to those who are afraid to go to Africa.
To be honest, we were afraid too. After reading what was written on the Internet, we were scared of Burundi in particular, and promised to ourselves to be in our room as soon as the sunset comes, closing the door and propping it up with a chair. In practice, we found ourselves outside at midnight on the first day looking for food, and on the second day – for the Internet. Nothing happened to us, and, although we recommend being careful, you should not imagine Africa as a wild country. It is needless to say that everyone (including the doctor who was giving us the vaccination shots) who learned that we were going to Africa tried to scare us with Ebola. It did not matter for people that Ebola centered in Western Africa, which is closer e.g. to Spain than to Eastern Africa.
Having had enough sleep after the difficult trip and overcoming the inconveniences related to the stomach problems, in the morning, we went to see the city.
The first thing to see was the main square. The column in the center of it depicts various occupations Burundi is traditionally good at.
Tourist information center is nearby, and its employees are obviously bored without work. Here we were given free maps (of Burundi, since there was no city map) and the business cards of guides, perhaps, they may be useful for someone. These guides speak English, which is not too usual in French-speaking Burundi.
Jacques Nyandwi, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, +25779468041 (mobile), +25722224208 (office)
Valentin Kavakure visit-burundi.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, +25775824250
Not far from the square and the information center there is a monument to some politician. The monuments in Burundi look quite unusual and funny if compared to our traditional monuments.
Also, we knew that there is a Congolese market nearby and walked around for quite a while looking for it. When we were desperate, we suddenly found it. It is next to Source of Nile hotel, and the GPS coordinates are: -3.379898, 29.361165 (3°22’47.6; 29°21’40.2″E). We strongly recommend it for visiting: after some bargaining Vitya bought Congolese coins here, for a low price, as we think.
Then we had a lunch in a café recommended by Lonely Planet and for a hundredth time promised ourselves not to follow their recommendations.
Rambled around the main market… The old market burned, that is why the new one is scattered around.
In this and other posts about Africa you will have to see many photos of women carrying something on their heads: Nastya admired their art and could not stop taking pictures.
The only museum in Burundi and Bujumbura (entrance fee – 5000 francs) consists of a tiny zoo and nearby souvenir kiosk. For an extra fee you may feed a guinea pig to a small leopard, sit on the crocodile, or hold a snake. The fee obviously goes to the guide’s pocket, as officially there are no such services. These tricks are well-trained on different tourists, we were not the first ones and also followed them. That is how Vitya found himself on a crocodile, and he is very much ashamed of it till now 🙂
If you also want to do it, bargain. They even offer to poke a crocodile with a stick for an extra fee, but at this point of time we resisted. You can see chimpanzees here as well, one of them used to walk around the zoo freely.
In a souvenir kiosk we were offered a primitive wooden magnet of Burundi for 7 euros, and after a long bargaining the seller agreed to reduce the price of 6 euros only. We did not buy it, but this is quite a tendency in East Africa that the magnets are very hard to find, and if you find one, it is very expensive (some years ago we bought a beautiful magnet for 7 euros in super-expensive Switzerland).
From the museum, we went down to Tanganyika beach and got to the only cafe here.
What is unusual about the beach and the cafe is that the families of hippos come here and you can watch them for free for hours. Compared to insane prices for safaris this is very pleasant. In the same way we watched flamingoes in Tanzanian Singida for free, while the usual flamingo safari to Natron lake starts from 300 euros per person. We saw a lot of pictures and videos of hippos and drank some local beer Primus (2700 francs for 0.75 litres bottle), ate some potatoes with kebab. Here you may also watch the locals fishing.
In the evening we visited one of the Internet cafes (3000 francs per hour) and bought pineapples and other fruit from the street vendors.
The next day, on the 25th of December, it suddenly came out that Burundians celebrate Christmas (once again, Lonely Planet does not know about it) and everything is closed. Before leaving, we decided to see the last attraction, the mausoleum of some important Burundian price Louis Rwagasore. You can reach it by dala-dala from the southern parking at Central ville, near the main market. You should have the name of the place written on the paper with you though; otherwise you may get on the wrong dala-dala. On the arrival, we tried to enter the mausoleum. The soldier came out and told that the mausoleum is on the day off, but still let us come in. In reality, there is nothing special for those who have little national or personal on national connection to it.
The view is nice though.
On the way back down the hill to the city, we watched how rich people live in Bujumbura: this is a district for politicians and other local oligarchs.
At the end, Vitya was lucky to complement his collection with a photo with a Burundian policeman:
Having collected our luggage from the guesthouse, we went back to the market, this time to the northern parking. For 350 Franks, we reached Siyoni bus station and got onto the bus to Rwanda. Soon we will get to know another, third country!
Burundi left a pleasant and calm impression, especially with its hippos. It should be said that we visited it just on time: currently the country is being torn with the protests again the president who wants to change the constitution and rule for the third term. Burundians do not want to bear with it – and this is a lesson to us too – they protest even though the president has already destroyed more than 200 oppositionists. Let’s hope that the country peace and democracy will be reestablished soon: Burundi is worth visiting.