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Travel Security Advice for Burkina Faso

 

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Burkina_FasoBurkina_Faso_Overview


COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:

Burkina Faso, previously known as Upper Volta, is a landlocked, developing country in the Sahel region of West Africa.  Its capital is Ouagadougou.  Burkina Faso is a former French colony; the official language is French.  It is one of the world’s poorest countries, and tourism infrastructure is limited.  Read the Department of State Background Notes on Burkina Faso http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2834.htm for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:

A valid passport, visa, and evidence of yellow-fever vaccination are required for entry into the country.  Visas valid for seven days are available at land borders and for 21 days at the airport; however, both can be converted into visas of up to five years validity at the Direction du Controle des Migrations, a government office in central Ouagadougou.  U.S. travelers should obtain longer-validity visas from the Embassy of Burkina Faso, 2340 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC   20008, telephone (202) 332-5577.  Overseas inquiries should be made at the nearest Burkinabe embassy or consulate.  Visit the Embassy of Burkina Faso web site at http://www.burkinaembassy-usa.org/ for the most current visa information.

Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website.  For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.

SAFETY AND SECURITY:

Ouagadougou occasionally experiences demonstrations and civil unrest.  U.S. citizens traveling to and residing in Burkina Faso are urged to exercise caution and maintain a high level of security awareness at all times.  Although most demonstrations are generally peaceful, there have been several incidents of violence and destruction within recent years.  U.S. citizens should avoid crowds, political gatherings, and street demonstrations, even if they appear to be peaceful.  There have been no known terrorist incidents (bombings, hijackings or kidnappings) directed against foreigners in Burkina Faso.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the U.S. and Canada, or, for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, by calling a regular toll-line at 202-501-4444.  These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.  For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.

CRIME:

Street crime in Burkina Faso poses high risks for visitors. Most reported incidents involve purse-snatchers and street scam artists, who target wallets, jewelry, cell phones and other valuables. Thieves are especially active during international meetings or events, which draw large crowds to the capital. The areas near and around the U.N. Circle, Avenue Kwame N’Krumah, and the former Central Market in Ouagadougou experience the highest incidence of purse snatchings and muggings. Travelers should stay alert, remain in groups, and avoid poorly lit areas.  Be especially cautious at night, when most reported incidents have taken place.

There continue to be frequent armed robberies and attacks on intercity roads throughout the country.  Although these armed individuals and groups operate mostly at night, there have been daytime attacks.  They have injured or killed individuals who refused their demands or attempted to drive through their roadblocks.  Several attacks have been directed at intercity public buses.  U.S. travelers should avoid all intercity travel at night.  Check with the U.S. Embassy for the latest security information before setting out on your journey.

Perpetrators of business fraud often target foreigners, including Americans.  Recent scams that have victimized U.S. citizens have taken many forms, including fraudulent transactions for gold and antiquities.  While such fraud schemes in the past have been largely associated with Nigeria, they are now prevalent throughout West Africa, including Burkina Faso.  The scams pose a danger of both financial loss and physical harm.  Recently, an increasing number of American citizens have been the targets of such scams.  A typical sign of a business scam is the demand for advance payments on contracts.  Persons contemplating business deals in Burkina Faso should contact the commercial section of the U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou if they have any doubts about the legitimacy of a potential business client or partner.

Normally, fraud schemes begin with an unsolicited communication (usually by e-mail) from an unknown individual who describes a situation that promises quick financial gain, often by assisting in the transfer of a large sum of money or gold dust out of the country.  A series of "advance fees" must then be paid in order to conclude the transaction; for example, fees to provide legal documents or to pay certain taxes.  In fact, the final payoff does not exist; the purpose of the scam is simply to collect the advance fees.  One common variation of this scheme involves individuals claiming to be refugees or other victims of various western African conflicts who contact U.S. citizens to request their help in transferring large sums of money out of Burkina Faso.  Another typical ploy has persons claiming to be related to present or former political leaders who need assistance to transfer large sums of cash.  As previously mentioned, other variations include what appear to be legitimate business deals requiring advance payments on contracts.  Sometimes perpetrators manage to induce victims to provide bank account and credit card information, and financial authorizations that allow them to incur large debts against the victim’s credit.  In many instances, victims have lost their life savings.

The best way to avoid becoming a victim of advance-fee fraud is common sense—if a proposition looks too good to be true, it probably is.  Any unsolicited business proposal originating from Burkina Faso or any other source should be carefully checked and researched before funds are committed, goods or services are provided, or any travel is undertaken.

For additional information on scams, see the Department of State’s publication on International Financial Scams at http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/financial_scams/financial_scams_3155.html.

INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.  If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance.  The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred.  Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

See our information for Victims of Crime.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:

Medical facilities and emergency hospital care are very limited, particularly in areas outside the capital, Ouagadougou.  Some medicines are, however, available through local pharmacies.  Travelers requiring medicines should bring an adequate supply for the duration of their stay in Burkina Faso.

Malaria is a serious risk to travelers in Burkina Faso.  Travelers who become ill with a fever or flu-like illness while traveling in a malaria-risk area and up to one year after returning home should seek prompt medical attention and tell the physician their travel history and what anti-malarial drugs they have been taking. For additional information on malaria, including protective measures, see the CDC travelers’ health web site at http://www.cdc.gov/malaria/faq.htm.

Meningitis is endemic in Burkina Faso, and cases are most frequent during the drier, dustier months of January through June. Travelers should confirm that their meningitis A, C, Y, W, 135 inoculations are up to date.

There have been several confirmed cases of avian influenza (H5N1) in Burkina Faso over the last year, although in each case the disease was confined to birds, and was contained. A new outbreak could occur at any time. Travelers should avoid poultry farms and markets, avoid contact with visibly sick or dead birds and any raw poultry, and ensure poultry products are thoroughly cooked prior to consumption. For further information on avian influenza, consult the U.S.

Department of State's Avian Influenza Fact Sheet, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) web site at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/avian/index.htm. World Health Organization (WHO) guidance related to avian influenza is available at http://www.who.int/csr/disease/avian_influenza/en/.

For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en.  Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en.

MEDICAL INSURANCE:

The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.  Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.  The information below concerning Burkina Faso is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Public transportation is not safe.  While urban road conditions are fair, rural roads are in poor condition and roadside assistance is not available.  Travelers should exercise great caution when traveling by land in Burkina Faso.  All but a few roads are unpaved, narrow, and full of potholes.  Livestock and children often dart onto the road without warning.  Road travel at night is especially dangerous and, if at all possible, should be avoided.  At night, there is a high volume of truck traffic passing through the country and pedestrians, bicycles, and carts pose a major hazard on unlit, unmarked roads.  Vehicles are often dangerously overloaded and poorly maintained.  Drivers, including motorcyclists and bicyclists, are often careless.  The police rarely enforce traffic laws and are virtually absent on non-urban roads.  Emergency services are unreliable and overtaxed.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:

As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Burkina Faso, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Burkina Faso’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards.  Further information may be found on the FAA's safety assessment page.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:

Burkina Faso’s customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning export from Burkina Faso of items such as masks, religious materials, and antiquities. The Director of the National Museum has stated that all exportation of objects of art (old or traditional artists’ works, and all old material of the national cultural patrimony) is subject to the prior approval of the Ministry of Culture. Contact the Embassy of Burkina Faso in Washington (see contact information in the Entry Requirements section) for specific information regarding customs requirements.

Foreigners should always carry an identity document, such as a passport or U.S. driver’s license.

Credit cards are accepted at only a few high-end establishments in Ouagadougou. Travelers' checks may be cashed at local banks, but euro-denominated traveler’s checks are much more widely accepted than dollar-denominated ones. There are a few ATMs in Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso, but they do not always accept cards from foreign banks.  ATMs generally accept Visa credit cards with a personal identification number.

Burkina Faso’s laws concerning photography have recently changed.  Photo permits from the Tourist Office are no longer required for tourists.  Film crews still do require permits.  Note that the Tourist Office publishes a list of buildings, installations, and areas that may not be photographed at all.

Local telephone service is adequate but expensive.  Cell phone networks are available in most urban areas.  However, telephone coverage in rural areas is limited. International calls cannot always be made from hotels; it is often necessary to make international calls from a Post and Telecommunications Office, where only local currency is accepted.  Collect calls are not possible.  Cyber-cafes for Internet access are common in both Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso.

Please see our Customs Information.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES:

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.  Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.  Persons violating Burkina Faso laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.  Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Burkina Faso are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.  Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.  Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES:

For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:

Americans living or traveling in Burkina Faso are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Burkina Faso.  Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.  By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.  The U.S. Embassy is located on Avenue Raoul Follereau.  The Consular entrance is located on Avenue John F. Kennedy; consular telephone 50-30-67-23; consular fax: 50-30-77-75.  The Embassy hours of operation are Monday to Thursday from 07:30 to 12:00 and 12:45 to 17:00; Friday 07:30 to 12:30.  The Embassy’s web site is http://ouagadougou.usembassy.gov/. The Embassy is closed on both U.S. and Burkinabe holidays.

This replaces the Country Specific Information for Burkina Faso dated May 7, 2008, to update the Crime section.

 


 

You can also check out the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office advice for Burkina Faso HERE...

Looking for an Embassy ?, You can check out our World Wide Embassy Listings Section HERE (For US Citizens) or HERE (For UK Citizens).........

Regards

The SW Team...........

 

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