When you have a wish to explore every country of the world and find beauty, you might come across the decision to visit Burkina Faso as well. Located in West Africa, it is an enthralling destination for travelers largely due to its theatrical landscapes and kind nature of inhabitants. No matter which country you belong to, you will be greeted with a warm welcome here. If you want to explore the untouched facets of the West African culture, this place might be the perfect answer for you.
The meaning of the word Burkina Faso is the land of the honest people. The locals are known as Burkinabé, and they enjoy meeting new people and welcoming guests with affection and respect. Two cities of Burkina Faso are worth a visit, Ouagadougou, the national capital, and Bobo-Dioolasso. If you want to explore some real artists, you will not be disappointed in Ouagadougou. Scores of talented artists reside here. Music, art, architecture are the key assets of this landlocked country.
In case you want to explore the wildlife then too you will be delighted. The country has four amazing national parks that have big cats, monkeys, hippos, exotic bird species and elephants as their inhabitants. But before you decide to veer off the tourist trail in search of some hidden gems, you should know the answer to two crucial questions, how safe is Burkina Faso for tourists and is Burkina Faso safe to visit.
Top Risks Faced by Travelers When Visiting Burkina Faso
Overall Risk is Burkina Faso: HIGH
If you are hoping to visit Burkina Faso, it is highly recommended that you consider your safety as well as the safety of your loved ones. Even large cities like Ouagadougou is not as safe, and the more you explore, the smaller towns, the more risk you will be in.
You should read this Burkina Faso safety guide carefully before packing your bags and visiting this West African nation. The country is plagued with the presence of robbers, muggers, thieves and even terrorists. Women have little rights in the country, and the children can be seen begging on streets. The country is also home to water disasters, and lack of healthcare means you need to stay vigilant to avoid getting contaminated by diseases such as Yellow Fever, Hepatitis A, Malaria, and Typhoid.
Pickpocketing Risk: MEDIUM
If you are still pondering how safe is Burkina Faso for tourists, you should know that the safety levels of this country are at par with most West African nations. Street crime, including pickpockets, are commonly found here, and you will do well to stay away from them as they might be armed.
- How to Avoid Pickpocketing in Burkina Faso?
You should try to carry as little valuables you have got, not even much cash. It is also advised that you be vigilant all the times and stay away from isolated alleys and crowded areas which are a haven for pickpockets. You can keep the valuables in hotels as the security there is moderate but don’t leave the door of your room open, even for a few minutes.
- What to Do If You Have Been Pickpocketed in Burkina Faso?
As soon as you realize that your valuables are missing, you should contact the local police. If you are in an urban area, you will do well to report the pickpocketing to Police Nationale du Burkina Faso or Police municipal, i.e., national police or municipal police. If the incident happened near the border, or in a rural area, you should report it to Gendarmerie Nationale. Remembering the contact numbers is essential before you visit this country and you’ll find the same advice while reading any Burkina Faso safety travel tips.
Do not try to mess with the pickpockets are they are armed and won’t back out from a fight. They might harm you seriously and leave you bleeding on the road. Be cautious but never try to be a superhero.
Scams Risk: HIGH
The risk of financial scams is quite high in any West African nation. Criminals often fool the travelers by telling them to put their money in “supposedly safe” bank accounts overseas. If you fall for this scam, you will end up losing all the money that you wished to keep safe.
- How to Avoid Being Scammed in Burkina Faso?
You should keep all your credit cards and cash with you and never deposit them locally no matter how large a profit is promised to you. You should also ensure that you don’t use the ATMs but get the money from the bank if you need it. Never write your bank details anywhere but memorize them. Avoid talking to people who promise to keep your money “safe.” Don’t befriend strangers, even women, as they might con you.
- What to Do if You Have Been Scammed in Burkina Faso?
If you are scammed by scammers in Burkina Faso, you should seek the help of the police as stated above. Don’t try to follow the conmen or con-women for that matter as you might end up hurting yourself. These conmen are smart, and they have superior weapons so steer clear of them. After all, no amount of money is worth your life, is it?
Kidnapping Risk: HIGH
Kidnappings are quite common in Burkina Faso, especially in the Northern parts near borders with Niger and Mali. Terrorist groups like the Al Qaeda keep an eye on the borders and capture and kill foreigners just for fun or for monetary gain. You should read Burkina Faso safety travel tips thoroughly to ensure that you avoid the areas where terrorists are often spotted.
- How to Avoid Being Kidnapped in Burkina Faso?
You should never visit the Northern parts of Burkina Faso without police protection. If you can’t have that, it’s better to avoid places like the town of Dojibo where two Australians were kidnapped in 2016. It is also smart never to wander alone at night as you might seem like a good target to kidnappers.
- What to Do If You or Someone Close to You has Been Kidnapped in Burkina Faso?
You should offer them a reward like your camera and all the money you possess. You can also request the kidnappers to let you contact the loved ones and intimate your embassy. Your country might be able to help you out. Do not fight or shout at anyone as you might be murdered just for that.
Theft Risk: HIGH
Muggings, assaults, and thefts are quite common in Bobo Dioulasso, Ouagadougou, and United Nations traffic circle. So, you would be wise to be careful in those regions and crowded areas.
- How to Avoid Getting Robbed in Burkina Faso?
Do not carry much cash or valuables with you. If possible, carry only local currencies in small number. It is also advised that you never carry your original passport, but it’s photocopies with you because if you the original is lifted, you would be in a tricky situation.
- What to Do If You Got Robbed in is Burkina Faso?
Go to the local police as advised above, national and municipal if you are in an urban area and the Gendarmerie Nationale if you are in a rural area, or near the border. Never try to catch the thieves yourself as they would be in a group and would most likely carry a dangerous weapon. These thieves can kill for a few dollars so don’t you dare mess with them on your own.
Rape Risk: MEDIUM
The cases of rape and sexual assaults are quite common in cities like Ouagadougou and even the smaller towns. So, women are advised not to travel without a male companion. If you must visit the country alone, make sure you carry a licensed weapon with you or hire local security. Hotel security is generally adequate so you should stay indoors as much as possible.
- How to Avoid Unwanted Scenarios in Burkina Faso?
Avoid traveling at night and wear clothes that cover you from head to toe. Some people might consider even slight skin show like wearing skirts as an invitation to rape so, you better not let them. In case you suspect someone is keeping an eye on you, contact the local police and end your trip. No trip is worth risking an unfortunate incident.
- What to Do if You Encounter Something Unpleasant?
If you think that someone is targeting you, you better get away from that person and report the situation to the local police. Yes, we have said this before a lot in this Burkina Faso safety guide but that’s always the best course of action. Do not go to a lonely alley or an empty room. Get back to your hotel and stay indoors as much as possible. You might also want to cut your trip short and return home.
Terrorism Risk: HIGH
Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb or AQIM often penetrates into Burkina Faso from Niger and Mali, where they already have a base. Arms and drugs trafficking are also common due to terrorist and criminal networks. Due to 2011 conflict in Libya, it is assumed that heavier and specialized weapons are used by AQIM and other rebel groups. This has destabilized the Sahel region more.
- How to Avoid Terrorists in Burkina Faso?
You should stay away from crowds and areas that are potential targets like government buildings, and embassies. It is also advised that you stay away from regions where terrorists are sighted or were sighted in the past. In case you are caught, there is nothing you can do except convince them to call your embassy. Then things will depend on how your country can help or protect you.
- What to Do If You Encounter Terrorists in Burkina Faso?
If you are witnessing a terrorist activity, then you need to hide in a safe place. You, as a foreigner would be their perfect idea of a target, so you better hide your skin with clothes. If possible, contact the local police or army officials and share what you witnessed. Don’t let them see you let alone approach them.
Risks for Women Travelling Alone: HIGH
Violence against women and children is quite common in Burkina Faso. So, if you are a woman, you are not safe if you plan to travel alone. You might be kidnapped for money and raped just because you are a foreigner. So, the answer to is Burkina Faso safe for solo women travelers is no.
- How to Avoid Unwanted Scenarios?
You must never travel alone in Burkina Faso as a tourist and women are more at risk than men. It is also advised that you hire a local guide even if you are with other male or female friends as the guide will let you avoid potentially dangerous areas. Do not leave your hotel during the night no matter what the reason is.
- What to Do If You Encounter Something Unpleasant?
As we have told you before the answer to is Burkina Faso safe for solo women travelers is No so if you need to travel alone, you must be very careful. Stay away from a pack of strangers and run if you suspect they have got their eyes on you. Go back to your hotel and call the police if possible. The hotel security might be able to protect you.
Risks for People Travelling with Children: MEDIUM
Demonstrations that often turn violent are quite common in Burkina Faso. So, you will do well to remember not to go near crowds when you have your kids with you. Hire security if you must travel to Burkina Faso with kids. But traveling with kids to this West African nation is highly not recommended.
- How to Avoid Unwanted Scenarios?
If you think that someone is watching your kid, then you better get back inside the hotel and take the next flight back home. The criminals kidnap and kill kids for a few dollars, so you better protect your little one.
- What to Do if you Encounter Something Unpleasant?
In case your kid is kidnapped, you should contact the local police for help. Do not try to fight with the kidnappers as they might be armed. Offer them money if possible and request them to return your little one. Money usually is a great motivator for them so you must give them all valuables on you to protect your kid.
Natural Disasters Risk: HIGH
The risk of natural disasters is pretty high in Burkina Faso. The country often becomes a victim of flooding. In August 2015, about 20,000 people were severely endangered due to heavy rains that led to severe floods in Ouagadougou. About 3,700 people were left homeless.
- How to Avoid Unwanted Scenarios?
Keep an eye on the local news to determine if a natural disaster might hit soon. Leave the country if you are already there or postpone your trip for later.
- What to Do if You Encounter Something Unpleasant?
It is advised that you contact the local authorities to get you out of the risk-prone area. You should also pack all your belongings and leave the country before the situation gets worse and the waves hit your hotel or place of accommodation.
List of Vaccines You Need When Visiting Burkina Faso
- Measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine
- Diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine
- Varicella (chickenpox) vaccine
- Polio vaccine
- Yearly flu shot
Diseases You Might Encounter in Burkina Faso
- Yellow Fever
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Meningitis (Meningococcal disease)
Burkina Faso is a hidden gem in West Africa that a traveler must explore. But before you plan your trip, check with the embassy and take certain precautions we mentioned in this Burkina Faso safety guide. It will ensure that you have a pleasant and trouble-free trip to this marvelous country.