Everyone bargains for goods in Burkina Faso, and you'll be expected to, especially at local markets. It's best if you have a starting price in mind, and work up from that – the seller will always start with a higher price than he or she expects to get, and eventually you'll meet somewhere in between.
Dangers & Annoyances
Burkina Faso is one of the safest countries in West Africa. Crime isn't unknown, particularly around big markets and gares routières (transport stations), but it's usually confined to petty theft and pickpocketing. Wear a money belt and don't flash cash or valuables in public. Solo women might get some hassle, but a simple bonne journée ('have a good day') should suffice in warding off unwanted attention.
The power supply is 220V. Plugs are of the European two-round-pin variety.
Embassies & Consulates
Emergency & Important Numbers
|Burkina Faso's country code||226|
|International access code||00|
Entry & Exit Formalities
Once you have the necessary visa(s) and your yellow fever immunisation certificate (aka the 'yellow card'), entering and exiting Burkina Faso is fairly hassle-free.
The following are allowed to be brought into Burkina Faso:
- 200 cigarettes
- 50 cigars
- 50g of tobacco
- 250ml of perfume
- 1 bottle of wine and 1 bottle of spirits
The following are prohibited:
- Illegal drugs
- Guns, explosives and ammunition
- Plants and plant material
- Meat and meat products
- Pets and animals
- Pornographic material
Anyone who is not an Ecowas (Economic Community of West African States) national needs a visa to enter Burkina Faso.
One-month visas are available at border crossings and the airport for single/multiple entry CFA94,000/122,000 (bring two photos). However, visa policies can change, so it is strongly recommended you get your visa from a Burkinabé embassy before travelling, where it will cost €70/90 for a three-month single/multiple-entry visa.
Visas for Onward Travel
The Visa de l'Entente, valid in Côte d'Ivoire, Niger, Togo and Benin, is available at the Service des Passeports in Ouagadougou; bring two photos, your passport and CFA25,000. It is valid for 60 days, and is single-entry. It takes 72 hours to process.
If you're only visiting one country, the following embassies deliver visas:
Benin A single-entry one-/three-month visa costs €70/90. You'll need two photos and photocopies of your passport.
Côte d'Ivoire A three-month, single-entry visa costs €50 and requires one photo and a hotel confirmation. Check www.snedai.ci for details.
Ghana Three-month visas are issued for €70 and require four photos.
- Greetings The Burkinabé are a polite people, and everyone will extend a hand for a handshake when they meet. Special reverence is shown when a person grips the other's right upper arm with their left hand during a handshake.
- Taboos Make sure you don't shake hands or give things with your left hand, as it is reserved for toilet functions.
- Modesty Legs are a very sexual part of the body in Burkina, so you're advised – both men and women – to wear long trousers at all times.
- Attitudes Couples should avoid displays of affection in public.
Homosexuality is not illegal in Burkina Faso, but any sexual behaviour that goes against 'good morals' is punishable by law. Local attitudes are highly conservative and utmost discretion is advisable. Public displays of affection between same-sex (and even opposite-sex) couples should be avoided. There are no openly gay or lesbian bars or clubs in Burkina.
Wi-fi is available in most midrange and top-end hotels and restaurants in towns and cities. Internet cafes are plentiful there, too – the post office is usually a good bet – but nonexistent in more remote areas.
The police in Burkina Faso are generally friendly, and asking for bribes is unusual. Should you be arrested by the police, however, note that you can be held and questioned for up to 72 hours without a warrant. After 72 hours, you are entitled to a consular visit and a lawyer, as well as a medical check-up.
- Newspapers & Magazines International versions of French- and (a few) English-language publications are available in Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso.
- Radio BBC World Service is on 99.2FM in Ouagadougou. For a French-language service, tune in to RFI on 94.0FM.
ATMs are widespread in cities. Credit cards are not generally accepted. If bringing foreign currency, euros are your best bet for easy exchange.
There are numerous Visa ATMs in every city; the only bank to accept MasterCard is Banque Atlantique (in Ouaga, Bobo and Banfora only).
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
Burkina Faso uses the West African franc (CFA). The bank notes come in 500, 1000, 2000, 5000 and 10,000; coins are split into 1, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, 200, 250, 500 francs.
The best foreign currency to carry is euros, which are easily exchanged at any bank, hotel or bureau de change.
Payments by credit card are rarely accepted and are subject to a 5% surcharge.
There are no strict rules about tipping in Burkina Faso. Tipping in a maquis (rustic restaurant), or if you've bargained a taxi fare, is not done. More upmarket restaurants are accustomed to receiving tips, though it remains very much at your discretion.
Travellers cheques cannot be exchanged in Burkina.
Banks Typically open 9am to 2pm, Monday to Friday.
Bars & Clubs Normally open from late morning until the last customers leave (late); nightclubs generally open from 9pm into the wee hours.
Restaurants Lunch is served from 11.30am to 2.30pm, dinner 6.30pm to 10.30pm.
Shops & businesses Usually 8am to noon and 3pm to 6pm, Monday to Friday, as well as 9am to 1pm on Saturday.
Sonapost is Burkina's national postal service. The main post office branch in Ouagadougou is on Avenue de la Liberté.
Burkina Faso also celebrates Islamic holidays, including Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, the dates of which change each year.
New Year's Day 1 January
Revolution Day 3 January
Women's Day 8 March
Easter Monday March/April
Labour Day 1 May
Ascension Day 40 days after Easter
National Day 5 August
Assumption 15 August
All Saints' Day 1 November
Republic Day 11 December
Christmas Day 25 December
- Smoking Prohibited in all enclosed spaces in Burkina Faso, but allowed in the outdoor areas of restaurants, bars and hotels.
Taxes & Refunds
Restaurants and hotels always include 18% VAT in their prices. Visitors may not claim a refund of VAT paid on goods.
- Burkina's country code is 226. The international access code is 00.
- Landline phone numbers here start with 2, while mobile numbers begin with 7.
- Telephone cards for international calls are expensive; using a VoIP service (such as Skype) is a better bet.
Mobile phone coverage is excellent and cheap. Local networks include Telmob, Airtel and Telecel. International texts cost from CFA50 and calls from CFA75 per minute with pay-as-you-go credit (a SIM card costs CFA500).
Burkina Faso is on Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). It's in the same time zone as London and Lisbon, and one hour behind continental European capitals, such as Rome, Paris or Madrid; New York is five hours behind and Sydney is 11 hours ahead.
Most toilets in Burkina Faso are a basic affair – the squatting variety, with no toilet paper but a plastic pot of water to clean up with. You're well advised to carry your hygienic products with you, particularly for cleaning hands. Public toilets at bus stations will charge a small fee (around CFA50 to CFA100) for access, but offer no toilet paper.
More upmarket restaurants and hotels will usually have toilet paper, clean toilets and soap for washing hands.
Travel with Children
Children and teens should love Burkina Faso for the friendliness of its people, its natural beauty and the opportunities for seeing wildlife. It can be, however, a somewhat hard environment for the under 6s, due to the heat and long rides on very bumpy roads. There are also general health hazards to consider, such as malaria and various stomach bugs.
There are no baby-changing facilities as such, and since babies are carried on backs, you may be best advised to use a baby carrier instead of a stroller or pram – pavements are mostly non-existent. You can find nappies (diapers) in the larger supermarkets quite easily.
Teens will enjoy visiting local villages, and going on wildlife-spotting trips, such as at the Réserve de Nazinga, and walking around Sindou Peaks. Hotels such as Les Jardins de Koulouba in Ouagadougou, or Villa Bobo in Bobo-Dioulasso, have lovely swimming pools that older kids will enjoy (note that there are no proper shallow ends for small children).
Burkina Faso is not easily accessible for travellers with disabilities, and there are few, if any disability-friendly facilities. Furthermore, the pavements in cities are in such poor shape that those using wheelchairs will find it difficult to get around.
Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guide from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.
There are ample opportunities for volunteering in Burkina – from literacy projects (both for adults and children) to working with women's associations, these are great ways to get involved with the lives of local people.
International Citizen Service (ICS; www.volunteerics.org) is a UK-based organisation that offers volunteering projects for people aged 18 to 25 years. Websites such as African Volunteer Network (www.african-volunteer.net) also list a wide range of volunteer projects available.
Weights & Measures
- Weights & Measures The metric system is used.
Individuals moving to work in Burkina Faso will need a work permit, which is obtained through their employer. If you change jobs within Burkina Faso, your work permit will need to be renewed with each new employer. There are reliable umbrella companies that manage to employ workers who can then move between companies without having to renew the work permit each time. Visit www.internations.org for general information about moving to Burkina for work.