Kampala - Kigali / Huye (Butare) - Bujumbura - Kigoma - Mpulungu
Replies: 17 - Last Post: Sep 3, 2013 4:57 AM Last Post By: bigal1
Feb 4, 2013 1:22 PM
I hope there is no such thread yet. Besides, I have the impression that many people are always grateful about the few information they can get about that corner of Africa. So I hope it is not completely misplaced :)
And if I am not completely mistaken, the most recent East Africa travel guide is sort of outdated.
Anyways, I did that journey some two weeks ago and I know it would have had helped me a lot if there had been more information.
So for all of you who think about doing the same route, I hope this thread helps you a bit.
Nevertheless, I will not cover all the information. Only that part which is not or falsely in the 2009 East African Lonely Planet.
It can not be emphasized enough how advategeous the Post Buses are (which do not go to Kigali but Kisoro, e.g., which makes a good stop over) no matter where you are going to. Unlike many other companies they leave on time and not when they are full; meaning that you might even find a spare seat next to you for a part of the journey at least. They take around ten hours to Kisoro and leave Kampala at 7am. From Kisoro its some 8km to the Rwandese border (expect to pay 8000UGX on a boda) from where you can easily get onward transport to Ruhengeri (40mins) and from there to Kigali. In fact, Horizon also has buses going straight from Kampala to Bujumbura, needing around 16 hours, but I cannot commend on whether it is recommendable to take them or not.
Generally speaking, the travel guide is a bit misleading in terms of the bus station since the depicted map only covers the city center. All buses from Ruhengeri arrive around 1km out of town from where they also depart to all directions within Rwanda and beyond, so you do not have to go into town at all if you do not want to spend the night in Kigali. It is 2500 to Huye (2 hours).
Huye / Butare:
I am not sure if the Hotel des beaux arts which is mentioned by the travel guide is still around, but I was looking for it in vain and nobody I asked knew it. But there is another very fair option: Directly opposite the big cathedrale (as indicated in the south on the travel guide's map) is a church-run guest house. You cannot miss it. They have 'dorms' which are 2000 (each compartment is divided by a thin wooden wall and has two beds), basic rooms for 5000 (2 beds and shared bath rooms) and rooms for 10000, but I did not have a look at these.
The bus offices are all along the main road, but an update about their position would be good in the next version of the book.
Definitely check the security situation before you travel. If it is considered safe to travel, Volcano Express is among the recommendable coaches going there from Kigali (leaving around 6am and 8am) through Huye (arriving at 8.30 and 10.30 respectively) twice daily. Their office in Huye is just next to IBIS Hotel, within the filling station to the left of the hotel. It is 6000 from Huye to Bujumbura. The visa can be purchased at the border for 40$, although the German Embassy in Bujumbura had told me that there had been some issues with that so it might be better to get it in advance. However, I did not experience any obstacles personally. Keep the paper/receipt you get at the border though! Because this will be your actual visa and NOT the stamp in your passport (otherwise you might face trouble when you want to leave the country)
The travel guide's as well as the internet's information on cheap accommodation is very scarce for Bujumbura. It is there though. You can either ask the taxi drivers if they know any cheap and safe place (that is if you trust their judgement) or you check out "Via Tanganyika Hotel" on Rue Science (circa C3 on the LP map). Rooms are for 10$ / 15000 Burundi Francs per night (and per person I guess - I can onlx speak on behalf of one person). Rooms are basic but clean and self-contained, come with a fen and mosquito nets. The place is not directly on the road which makes it a bit safer I think, since it does not have a gate (but a security guard!). Good food is available at their restaurant (3000 - 8000) Tel: +25722248459
Taxis in Burundi are cheaper than in other capitals of East Africa, a ride from Sioni (where the international buses arrive and depart) to town is around 4000.
You can either get a bus from Sioni (I am not so sure if that is spelled correclty though) to Kigoma which depart around 7am (needing 7 hours including the 1hour time difference). Otherwise it is also possible to go in stages by mini-bus via Mabanda. Mini buses (7000) depart a bit out of town, so you best ask around where the buses to Mabanda go from. Make sure that they take the route along the coast of Lake Tanganyika so that they do not go thorugh Gitega. Do not depart later than 12pm. Because you might find the border closed if you depart later than that. The road to Nyanza Lac is in good shape (except for some very few potholes), so over-speeding is likely for the few vehicles there.
Crossing to Tanzania in Mabanda is relatively easy, just follow all the other people who are taking that route. When you get off the bus in Mabanda there will be taxis waiting to take 5 passengers the 18km to the Tanzanian border charging 3000. There is one Immigration Office in Mabanda for the Burundian part where the taxis will pass and wait for you to get the clearance. From the Tanzanian side it is another 6000 in a shared taxi to Kigoma needing 40mins. Apparently, there are transit visas available at that border for 30$, valid for 14 days. While the 18km between Mabanda and the Tanzanian border is dust road, the road from the border to Kigoma is in very good shape. So, basically, it is all self-explaining. If you feel lost, just ask anyone to take you everywhere.
If you want to go to Ujiji by mini bus, it is around 2km from where they will drop you. Straight down the road to the famous mango trees. The entrance to the museum is a heavy 20000 and actually not worth the money. Although the prices for those heritage sides have increased dramatically all over Tanzania, they are open to negotiation. (East African?) Students pay 1000. However, the mango tree can most probably also been visited without paying the fee. It is next to the museum on the right (if you are facing the museum) uphill.
To my impression, it is not so clear in the travel guide that First Class is kind of a must. Second Class is under deck next to the noisy machines and with the 3rd class. Second class is NOT self-contained (some people had told me that before), and showers are in fair shape for the first class (though also not self-contained of course). Book in advance as First class will be fully booked at some point for sure. The food on board is really good, so no need to bring anything in fact. It is quite likely that the ferry arrives saturday morning in Mpulungu (sleeping in Kasanga) to avoid stress with Immigration. First class 100$, Second Class 90$ from Kigoma to Mpulungu.
In Mpulungu there are daily buses to Lusaka (150 Kwacha) and Kitwe (170 Kwacha) both departing around 10am going via Kasama, Mpika, Kapiri Mposhi etc., arriving around 3am in Kitwe and probably around midnight in Lusaka. Juldan is recommendable but Power Tools is also very good. Juldan departs a bit further down the road than Power Tools.
I hope the information are helpful for the one or another. Safe travels :)
Feb 4, 2013 10:36 PM
1Great tips, thanks! The Beaux Arts was very difficult to find when I went there a couple of years back. Shame if its gone as it was a decent place. I would recommend the Jaguar bus to Kisoro or Kigali which is (very) slightly nicer than the post bus, which sometimes plays hellish Nigerian movies at full volume
Feb 5, 2013 3:51 AM
Feb 5, 2013 5:21 AM
Feb 6, 2013 3:22 AM
4The trouble with Burundi is that there appears not to be any English language guide book. The only one I can find is in French (Le Petit Fute November 2012 edition) and although I have seen the earlier version I have yet to look at the new edition (does not seem to be on sale in the UK). Whilst I can just about manage with the French the one big draw back with the previous edition was the lack of maps and even the couple that were there could have been much improved and I hope that the new one has maps of the towns and includes location of both transport and hotels
Mar 1, 2013 7:19 AM
Mar 1, 2013 11:21 PM
6Thank you for your report. Just few comments:
Generally speaking, the travel guide is a bit misleading in terms of the bus station since the depicted map only covers the city center. All buses from Ruhengeri arrive around 1km out of town from where they also depart to all directions within Rwanda and beyond, so you do not have to go into town at all if you do not want to spend the night in Kigali.
This is very strange, and unless things have changed during the last months, it is also not true. All the domestic buses leave and depart in the centre. However, they all pass Nyabugogo bus station, perhaps this confuses the OP. The international buses leave all from Nyabugogo, not from the centre.
The best bus company is Belvedere. The roads which these buses use have been safe for the last three years at least. The risky one is the one next to the Congo border.
I don't know about the cheap hotels in Bujumbura, but to my understanding Amitie in the centre should also be cheap. Some hotels have a European name and Burundian name.
Mar 21, 2013 11:50 AM
7Took 10AM Belvedere from Kigali to Bujumbura today, 7 hrs... the route went east border crossing south of Nyamata/via Ngozi in Burundi. Border crossing was super easy, two windows next to each other, stamp out of one, and stamp in+get 3 day visa at the next window. Took about a half hour to process the entire bus. The route was sealed all the way.
Mar 22, 2013 11:00 AM
Apr 1, 2013 1:34 AM
Jun 13, 2013 3:17 AM
10@ Fulana Thanks for the remarks! Perhaps my post was a bit confusing regarding the Kigali section. Afaik you are right (you probably know better anyways as Ive only been to Kigali for a very short time whenever I passed there) that there r offices / bus parks of the main companies in town. But it is also possible to reach any destination without going there by simply taking a bus from Nyabugogo, isnt it?
Afaik there is no official passenger ferry service between the two cities but you might b lucky to get on a container ship or so (which is basically what the LP says, too). The overland route is also very pleasent though.
Jun 18, 2013 2:34 AM
Jul 26, 2013 12:25 PM
Jul 29, 2013 12:53 AM
13When I asked about Burundi visas, it was 90 dollars for a month, took three days processing. You need an invite letter and a hotel booking apparently, or have an interview with the visa dude. I think it's correct that it's only transit visas at the border, though this all probably depends on your passport.
Probably best to get in Kampala.
Aug 1, 2013 6:45 AM
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