Dramatic landscapes abound in this little-known African country
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Dramatic landscapes abound in this little-known African country

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Burkina Faso Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

274,200 sq km (105,870 sq miles).

Population

18,633,725 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density

69 per sq km.

Capital

Ouagadougou.

Government

Parliamentary republic.

Head of state

President Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba since 2022, was overthrown by Capt. Ibrahim Traoré in September 2022.

Head of government

Prime Minister Albert Ouedraogo since 2022.

 

Electricity

220 volts AC, 50Hz. European-style plugs with two round pins are standard.

On the face of it you can see why Burkina Faso lacks mainstream appeal: a landlocked West African nation with rowdy neighbours, this country has a harsh climate, unforgiving geography and an infrastructure few would want to be at the mercy of. Set piece attractions are also lacking.

Yet Burkina Faso remains an enthralling destination for intrepid travellers, thanks to its wonderful inhabitants and dramatic landscapes. As such, the country, though not frequently visited, is a fine place in which to immerse yourself in West African culture.

Meaning “land of the honest people,” Burkina Faso proudly proclaims to be one of the friendliest countries in Africa – and visitors are sure of a warm welcome. Burkinabé, as the people of Burkina Faso are known, are the exact opposite of the harsh land that they inhabit – and it is these cordial and courteous people who make coming here such a joy.

Burkina Faso’s traditional cultures are best sampled in its two largest cities: the fabulously named capital, Ouagadougou (also known as “Ouaga”) and the second city of Bobo-Dioolasso (simply referred to as “Bobo”).

Both have large communities of artists, particularly Ouagadougou, which is famed for its music scene. The art and architecture of the capital are also worthy of attention, with several largescale sculptures enlivening the streets.

Away from the cities, Burkina Faso’s four national parks harbour a surprising diversity of wildlife. If you can’t explore them all, then do make a beeline for Arli, which is home a wide range of ecosystems and is an important habitat for West Africa’s last big cats and elephants. Hippos, monkeys and various exotic bird species also call this national park home.

Burkina Faso might not suit first time travellers, but for hardy adventurers this is a destination in which to veer off the tourist trail and discover the hidden gems of West Africa.

Travel Advice

Coronavirus travel health

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Burkina Faso on the TravelHealthPro website

See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

International travel

Unvaccinated travellers departing Burkina Faso will need to present a negative PCR test certificate, dated no more than 3 days prior to departure. Tests cost 25,000 FCFA (approximately £32).

Entry and borders

See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in Burkina Faso.

Be prepared for your plans to change

No travel is risk-free during COVID-19. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.

If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.

Plan ahead and make sure you:

  • can access money
  • understand what your insurance will cover
  • can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned

Travel in Burkina Faso

Face masks

Wearing face masks in public places is mandatory.

Healthcare in Burkina Faso

If you think you have COVID-19 symptoms, you should call the government helpline on 52-19-53-94 or 70-95-93-27

Isolation is compulsory for those who have tested positive for coronavirus, and two-week quarantine for anyone who has had physical contact with a confirmed case.

Finance

For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.

There is no British Embassy in Burkina Faso and our ability to provide consular assistance is severely limited. If you’re in Burkina Faso and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the British Embassy in Accra [https://www.gov.uk/world/organisations/british-high-commission-accra] or contact the FCDO in the UK on +44 1908 516666. You can speak to a consular officer 24/7 on this number – select consular services and then the emergencies option. For less urgent enquiries you can make contact using this form.

Mobile phone networks can be unreliable especially outside towns and cities.

Political Situation

A transitional government assumed control in Burkina Faso following the coup d’état on 30 September 2022. The political situation remains unstable, and further coups are possible.

Public demonstrations including anti-government protests are common in Burkina Faso. You should avoid all political rallies and gatherings, demonstrations and protests. Crowds can gather quickly and may become violent. Foreign, national and local government facilities have been targeted and damaged in previous demonstrations. You should monitor the local news to help you avoid such gatherings. If you become aware of a crowd gathering where you are, you should leave the area immediately.

Crime

There is a risk of armed groups stopping vehicles (including public buses) on major roads to rob them, particularly at night.

Street crime poses high risks for visitors. Most incidents involve opportunist snatches of purses, wallets, jewellery and other valuables. Thieves are particularly active in crowded places. The areas near and around the UN Circle and the former Central Market in Ouagadougou experience a high amount of street crime. You should take sensible precautions. Do not carry valuables in public places or walk alone at night.

Scams

British nationals are increasingly being targeted by scam artists operating in West Africa. The scams come in many forms such as romance and friendship, business ventures, work and employment opportunities, and can pose great financial risk to victims.

You should treat with considerable caution any requests for funds, a job offer, a business venture or a face-to-face meeting from someone you have been in correspondence with over the internet who lives in West Africa.

Local travel

If you decide to travel outside of Ouagadougou against FCDO advice, you should take professional security advice and avoid travel between towns by road at night, particularly from Bobo Dioulasso to Côte d’Ivoire, and Fada to Benin and Togo. There is a history of violent incidents in these areas.

Incidents are not confined to principal routes. Secondary roads (notably roads in the east to Benin, Bogandée and Gayeri) have also been affected.

You should also take care if you’re travelling by road between Burkina Faso and Niger. Travel in convoy where possible and seek local advice before setting out.

Armed roadside banditry is a problem across the country, and the number of attacks has increased in recent years. Drivers who have refused to stop for robbers have been shot at. Remote and border regions are particularly vulnerable but there have been attacks on the main road between Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso.

Road travel

You can drive in Burkina Faso using a UK driving licence.

With a few exceptions, roads are poor with few streetlights. There is a risk of banditry and hitting stray livestock. Road conditions off the main roads are often difficult, especially in the rainy season (June-September). Vehicles do not always have headlights and are often in poor condition. There is a history of violent incidents along roads in areas outside Ouagadougou.

Stay on clearly marked roads or tracks and avoid minor roads in remote areas unless travelling in convoy. If you break down off a main road you may not be able to attract help. Carry drinking water with you.

Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Burkina Faso, including in Ouagadougou.

Attacks could be indiscriminate and occur without warning. Places frequented by foreigners, including diplomatic premises, hotels, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, stadiums, concert halls, shopping areas, markets, national infrastructure, airports and other transport hubs, places of worship (especially churches), national parks, businesses with western interests and foreign, national and local government facilities may also be targets of attack.

You should be vigilant, be alert to announcements, monitor local media and follow the advice of the local authorities. Avoid all large gatherings, including music festivals, shows, concerts, sporting events and any public marches or demonstrations. You should exercise extra caution during election periods, festivities, and religious and public holiday periods.

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out more about the global threat from terrorism.

Burkina Faso contributes to the UN peacekeeping initiative in Mali (MINUSMA) and is therefore considered a legitimate target by Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQ-M) and its associated groups. On 18 September 2018, armed, masked men purporting to be members of AQ-M posted an online video announcing their presence in Burkina Faso.

Two military zones are currently in place in Soum in the north, and in the south-east on the border with Benin. Civilians found within them risk being mistaken for terrorists and caught up in military operations.

Security mitigation is limited outside the capital Ouagadougou. There have been regular attacks on police, military personnel and civilians, particularly close to the borders with Mali, Niger and Cote d’Ivoire and in the Eastern Region.

Notable recent attacks include:

  • On 11 June 2022, over 100 people were killed following a terrorist attack in Seytenga in the province of Seno, close to the border with Niger.
  • On 4 to 5 June 2021, over 160 people were killed in an attack on the village of Solhan in north-eastern Burkina Faso.
  • On 26 April 2021, one Irish national and two Spanish nationals were killed in an ambush on the PK 60 road between Fada-N’Gourma and Pama.
  • On 29 to 30 May 2020, around 50 people were killed in three separate attacks in the eastern Kompienga region, and in the northern provinces of Sanmatenga and Loroum. The deadliest of these attacks killed at least 25 people after unidentified gunmen opened fire at a cattle market.
  • On 24 December 2019, 42 people were killed following a terrorist attack at a military outpost, The attack took place in Arbinda in northern Soum province, close to the border with Mali.
  • On 1 December 2019, at least 14 people were killed after gunmen opened fire inside a church in Hantoukoura, eastern Burkina Faso.
  • On 5 November 2019, 37 civilians were killed and 60 injured following an attack on a convoy carrying workers to a Canadian gold mine near Boungou, in eastern Burkina Faso.

There have also been attacks in the capital, Ouagadougou:

  • In March 2018, an attack took place on the French Embassy and the Army Headquarters. 16 people were killed, including 8 attackers, and 80 people injured.
  • In May 2018, Burkinabe security forces engaged the suspected attackers in the Rayongo district, on the outskirts of the capital. Three suspected terrorists were killed, and 5 gendarmes and 1 civilian wounded. Weapons and bomb-making materials were found at the scene.

There is a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria.

Kidnap

There is a very high threat of being kidnapped in Burkina Faso including in Ouagadougou. British nationals are viewed as legitimate targets, including those engaged in tourism, humanitarian aid work, journalism or business sectors. If you’re kidnapped, the reason for your presence is unlikely to serve as a protection or secure your safe release.

The threat of kidnap is likely to continue as groups remain intent on demonstrating capability and increasing influence across the region. AQ-affiliated and other regional Islamist groups including Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM) and Islamic State Sahel Province (ISSP) operate in the region. These groups rely on kidnapping for ransom to finance their activities and will continue to target foreign nationals.

Read more about the threat from terrorism in the Sahel.

Recent kidnap incidents include:

  • In April 2022, a Polish national was kidnapped in north-eastern Burkina Faso and was released in June 2022. A US national was also kidnapped in Yalgo in the north-east and released in September 2022.
  • On 15 January 2019, a Canadian citizen was kidnapped near Gayeri in the Est region and found dead near the Niger border 2 days later.
  • In mid-December 2018, a Canadian and Italian were kidnapped in southwest Burkina Faso. They were found alive by UN peacekeepers in March 2020 in north-east Mali after reportedly escaping.
  • In September 2018, 2 foreign nationals were kidnapped in the far north by an armed group.
  • In January 2016, 2 western nationals were abducted in the northern town of Djibo near the border with Mali, one of whom has since been released.

A number of hostages kidnapped in Burkina Faso are still being held by terrorist groups.

You should maintain a high level of vigilance at all times, especially when travelling and in crowded public places, including camps for displaced people, religious gatherings and insecure spaces such as places of worship, markets, shopping areas, hotels, bars, nightclubs, restaurants and transport hubs. You should make sure you have carefully considered the threat and have reasonable, proportionate mitigation measures in place.

The long-standing policy of the British government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The British government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners builds the capability of terrorist groups and finances their activities. This can, in turn, increase the risk of further hostage-taking. The Terrorism Act (2000) makes payments to terrorists illegal.

Carrying ID

Carry ID (passport or residence permit) at all times.

Behaviour

Burkina Faso has a large Muslim population. You should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times. You should be aware of your actions so that they do not offend others, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas.

Drugs

Do not get involved in drugs of any kind. If you commit a criminal offence you can expect to be subjected to local law. Penalties can be severe. Convicted offenders can expect heavy fines and long jail sentences. Local prison conditions are harsh.

Exporting items

Burkina Faso’s custom authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning export from the country of items like masks, religious materials and antiquities. Exporting art objects is subject to the prior approval of the Ministry of Culture.

Photography

Do not photograph military or other government installations. If you’re a tourist, you no longer need to get a photograph permit from the Tourist Office but there remains a list of prohibited buildings/installations for which film crews still need permits.

LGBT

Homosexuality is illegal. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.

This page has information on travelling to Burkina Faso.

This page reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British Citizen’ passport, for the most common types of travel.

The authorities in Burkina Faso set and enforce entry rules. If you’re unsure how Burkina Faso’s entry requirements apply to you, contact its UK embassy, high commission or consulate.

If you’re fully vaccinated

Travellers are required to provide evidence of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 on arrival to and departure from Burkina Faso.

Vaccinated travellers are not required to present a PCR test pre-travel or on arrival.

If you’re not fully vaccinated

Unvaccinated travellers are required to present a PCR test certificate dated no more than 3 days prior to arrival in Burkina Faso.

Children and young people

RDT and PCR tests are not required for children under 10 years old.

If you’re transiting through Burkina Faso

Transiting is when you pass through one country on the way to your final destination. Check with your airline before departing.

Check your passport and travel documents before you travel

You should check with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay. No additional period of validity beyond this is needed.

Visas

You’ll need a visa to enter Burkina Faso. If you live in the UK, you should apply for a visa direct from the Embassy of Burkina Faso in Brussels. Contrary to the information on the Embassy’s website, there is currently no other method of obtaining a visa for Burkina Faso in the UK.

There are also Burkinabe Embassies in the region, including in Accra and Abidjan.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Burkina Faso.

Yellow fever certificate requirements

Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.

If you have a health condition, or you are pregnant, you may need specialist healthcare abroad. Check whether your destination country can provide the healthcare you may need and ensure you have appropriate travel insurance for unexpected medical evacuation or local treatment.

See the Coronavirus travel health and Healthcare sections in the Coronavirus page for COVID-19 health information.

At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.

General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.

The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or brought in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, check this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate
of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).

Local medical care

Medical facilities in Burkina Faso are very limited. For serious medical treatment, evacuation to Europe is necessary. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and medical evacuation.

Other health risks

UK health authorities have classified Burkina Faso as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. For information and advice about the risks associated with Zika virus, visit the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.

Malaria and other tropical and water-borne diseases are common.

The rainy season normally runs from June to October. Torrential rains can cause floods and landslides. Monitor local weather reports and expect difficulties when travelling to affected areas during this season. See Tropical cyclones

Credit cards are accepted by a few of the larger hotels and restaurants in Ouagadougou. You’re unlikely to be able to use them anywhere outside the capital. There are a few ATMs in Ouagadougou (Visa only). Other brands of credit cards are not accepted. In general, and in particular outside Ouagadougou, you should make sure you have enough cash to cover any eventuality.

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in London on 020 7008 5000 (24 hours).

Foreign travel checklist

Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.

Travel safety

The FCDO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.

When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCDO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.

Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.

Refunds and cancellations

If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or cannot offer a refund to their customers.

For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Registering your travel details with us

We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.

Previous versions of FCDO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you cannot find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice Team a request.

Further help

If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry, or contact us on Twitter or Facebook. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.