In my previous 2 posts, I wrote about how I got my visa to Burundi (check it here: Burundi Part I) and what to see/do and eat there (check it here: Burundi Part II). This is my third and last post about this country and it´s meant to transmit to you my own impressions about my trip.
Getting there: I had to fly from Kigala, Rwanda to Bujumbura, Burundi. Although it is actually a maximum 4 hour drive, they were continuously closing the borders between these 2 countries. It was better not to risk crossing the border only to not be allowed to enter Burundi and be sent back. The flight was less than 30 minutes. The plane and the airport were almost empty, but it was the safer way to get there. My flight was going to Nairobi, Kenya with a short stop in Bujumbura for people like me flying there. But once the plane stopped only a few of us got out and the rest looked at us with a face as if to say „you must be crazy my friend, I hope you survive this adventure“. Haha!
Agriculture: About 90 percent of the population there depends on agriculture for a living. The main products are coffee, tea, beans, bananas, sweet potatoes and corn. The primary export product is the coffee. It´s a pity that I don´t drink coffee (Yes, I know, I´m a Cuban who doesn´t drink coffee and smoke cigars, haha), but you should try their coffee and tell me. 😉
Money: The 100 BIF notes are so old that no one wants to use it anymore. They feel almost insulted if you pay them with this notes. Check this picture and you will understand why.
Money exchange at the airport: When I changed my 20€ at the airport it was 36.940 BIF (the exchange rate at the airport in August 2016 was 1€ = 1.847 BIF), so the girl gave me only 36.500 BIF and told me that she had no coins or small notes to give me the remaining 440 BIF.
When my friend Arielle came to pick me up and heard about this, she went to the currency exchange place and reclaimed the missing money. It was less than 1€ but she didn´t want people to give wrong information or lie to the tourists and she is right. Btw…don´t expect to have wifi at the airport.
Police: There are policemen everywhere. The police stopped us a few times for some passport control and to check the car. One time I went out of the car to take a picture at the main square in the city center and the policeman came to my friend taking my picture to tell her that I was not properly dressed. He said that he is not upset at me because I´m a tourist and I don´t know the rules of the country but he was upset at her because it was her responsibility to tell me about how to dress. She told him that first we were on our way to the beach and that second, there is not actually a written rule about how to dress on the Bujumbura´s streets. Anyway, apart from this little discussion that actually ended up with „ok, but don´t do it again and welcome to our country“, we had no big problems with the police. However, my friend told me about other friends of hers who had some major problems while being controlled. In this case I advise you to take care about what to dress if you are walking alone on the strees, specially if you are a woman.
Transport: They have tuc tucs in Burundi, I didn´t expect this. Apart from it, everyday I saw a lot of trucks transporting charcoal (what they call Amakara) for cooking or transporting whatever else. These are, of course, overloaded (like in most of the African countries I have been to). And then I saw, all the time, bikers behind these trucks risking their lives just to go faster. It actually reminded me of Cuba, some bikers there do the same things. Crazy!
Rumors: When I talked to some people in other countries, they told me there was a curfew in Burundi a few months before my visit. When I asked my friends living there, they told me that people were not forced to be indoors at night and not go to the streets. Instead some people just decided, by themselves, to go home earlier for their own security. Nevertheless bars and clubs were always open to party until late. And yes, when I was there we went to party all 3 nights, haha!
Children: Just like in every African country, children start running behind your car and want to take pictures with you. I love this. Children jumping and smiling at you but I always feel bad when I don´t have anything to offer them. So if you are on the road, please take at least some candies with you. They will be very happy and grateful about it.
People: I already mentioned in my last posts how friendly Burundians were to me. From hosting me in their own houses, to inviting me for drinks and food, to taking days off from work in order to show me their country and to organize the trips for me. But apart from Burundians I met some foreigners living there and I was interested in listening to their stories and knowing why they wanted to live in this country. So I asked one guy from Greece. He has spent half of his life in this country, which makes more than 20 years, and he was really happy to be there. He is running a bar/restaurant with his Burundian wife in Bujumbura. It´s called The Plateaux. When I asked him why he likes living there he told me: „There are many reasons why I love this country but I will mention to you only 3: First there is no time in this country. You can wake up when you want, go to work, take a siesta, go to work again or not go. This is Africa. Time doesn´t exist here. Second I love the weather here. It‘s perfect. It´s not too hot and it´s not cold at all. And when it rains, it does so for only a few hours to refresh the whole city. And third they have the most beautiful girls in Africa!“ Then he pointed to his wife, who was, certainly, very beautiful.
I hope you guys are motivated to discover this culture one day.
For more pictures in Burundi check my Burundi album
Enjoy it and stay tuned!!!