How to Get from Tanzania to Burundi and from Burundi to Rwanda: visas, transport, and funny experiences
We started from Tanzanian Mwanza to Burundian border at 4AM. Our couchsurfer Dorocella had forgotten to pay for the electricity, which is why we had to pack in darkness. In Africa, electricity works on the basis of prepay system: if you do not have money on your account, you do not have electricity. Dorocella had ordered pikipiki for us in advance, so, at 4.30AM, we were at the bus station, which had been full with life by then. Two days before we had bought the tickets to the bus towards the Burundian border (20000 shillings per person). The bus was supposed to leave at 5AM; it started at 5.20.
Like when we were driving from Dodoma to Mwanza, we got the last row in a rotten bus. This time we decided to try to sleep, in vain. 25 minutes after the start, the passengers had to leave the bus to get to Victoria lake ferry. It cost 1000 shillings, and by some chance only we had some cash left. We found an English-speaker in the bus and stuck to him. We should mention that we were following this strategy throughout all Africa, mostly choosing males wearing glasses: usually they appeared to be more educated. After half an hour on the ferry, crazy passengers ran to the buses with their huge bags. We were wondering: why, if everyone has his or her own seat? We were quite naïve, since many more people entered our bus, and some were trying to sit on our seats.
We defended our seats with some difficulties, only after teaching the locals Russian curse word. All the way after, they were laughing and repeating it. 🙂 By the way, there is a special employee in the bus, responsible for dispersing the passengers within it. “You go sit in the aisle, you go sit with these two people on their two seats, you go sit with these three people on their seats, you go sit behind their backs, on top of the seats”. This time, when he sent two teenagers to sit on our necks (they already took off the sandals to climb on top of the seats more easily), we started to protest. This is the professional, wearing bright so that all those who are in need could easily find him:
On some reason, we were mostly taking not highway (although it was available), but the local village and town roads. On the rare toilet stops, one literally had to climb out of the bus over the people’s heads. We should mention that Vitya did not go out to the toilet for 9 hours to defend our places.
So we were trying to enjoy the views.
All this madness lasted for quite some time. At 14.35 we reached some town, where the majority of people got off. 10 kilometres away was our destination Cabanga – the town, nearest to Burundian border, but we were waiting for the people’s luggage to be unloaded. Then the bus luggage rack jammed, and we were waiting for it to be opened. There were some important goods there and we were waiting for them to be counted.
Finally, we reached the town at Burundian border, found another man wearing glasses, and stuck to him. To reach the border, you then need to take a shared taxi (2000 per person). At the border, there are many currency exchange people who even tried to fool our friend wearing glasses, who turned out to be a pastor from Congo. One building at the border houses both Tanzanian and Burundian border guard and the cashier’s desk where you may pay for your visa.
First, they stamped our passport to certify that we left Tanzania. Then we paid 40 dollars each to get Burundian 3-day transit visa (!!! keep the invoice, they will ask for it when you leave the country!!!) and registered our entrance. After finishing these formalities, we changed the money at the currency exchange kiosk. Meanwhile, the pastor found another pastor, who agreed to bring us and two more people to Bujumbura – the capital of Burundi for 25000 Burundian francs per person. We were very happy about it, although we did not know what expected us. After half an hour of driving, the car ran out of gasoline, and the pastor had to catch some motorcyclist and ask him to go to the gas station. Then the driver stopped at every (!) village. We bought pineapples, chickens, several sacks of coal and cabbage; the night shopping also included a lot of bargaining, so it took quite some time. The car, yet with chickens and pineapples only:
When we finally reached Bujumbura (at about 11 PM), the entrance to the city was blocked by the soldiers. The president was riding in. After his motorcade passed, we entered the city and the pastors asked us to sit into another car. Chickens and pineapples were also moved into this brand new vehicle. While the car was making circles in the midnight Bujumbura, the conspiracy theories started to develop within us, as after all sufferings we could not believe in people any more. Finally, they brought us to the guest house at Anglican church, and we were incredibly happy. We will certainly tell about nice city of Bujumbura where we saw the whole family of hippos in the wilderness for free and visited the Congolese market. We travelled there just on time, since now Burundi is difficult to visit because of political riots.
We left Burudi in two days, for the capital of Rwanda, Kigali. This was a less adventurous trip: for 350 Burundian francs we reached Siyoni bus station and took Volcano bus, leaving for Kigali every hour (13000 francs).
After travelling from Tanzania, we did not expect to see a good bus, accommodating as many passengers as it is counted for. The buses were leaving on time and there were no people with huge bags, only decent suitcases.
The nearest bus was already full, and we had to wait for 1.5 hours. While waiting, we walked in the market near the bus station. Unfortunately, we ran out of Burundian cash, but Nastya managed to convince Burundians to accept the Belarusian money to visit the toilet.
The bus stopped at the border.
We had applied for the East African visa (for Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda) in advance here. The officers checked our documents and asked to pay 100 dollars per person. Attention! Make sure you have several banknotes with you, as in our case, the officer did not want to accept the particular banknote. Then they prepared the invoices, and the officer filled in the visa with his pen.
For some reason they asked where we were staying. The bus was waiting for us, so, we did not have time to change the money. On the way from the border to Kigali, we saw a lot of Rwandans dressed up, since this was the Christmas day and they were returning home from church.
Then the bus stopped at the café. We did not buy anything, since we did not have Rwandan money. One passenger asked why we had not bought food and gave two of his three meat sticks to us, saying, “Merry Christmas”. We gratefully took one.
That is how our short friendship with him started. Why it did not end up well is another story – of Kigali.