Burkina Faso Basics

Print this Guide Print this Guide | Email this Guide Email this Guide

The Basics


Time: Burkina Faso has no GMT offset.

Electricity: Electrical outlets in Burkina Faso usually supply electricity at between 220 and 240 volts, 50Hz. European two-pin plugs with round pins are standard.

Money: The West African CFA franc (XOF) is the official currency of Burkina Faso. It is technically divided into 100 smaller units called centimes, but no centime denominations have been issued. Burkina Faso is largely a cash economy and credit cards are seldom accepted, but cash can be withdrawn with a card at certain banks in the big cities. Banks that will change money for travellers include Banque Internationale du Burkina (BIB), Ecobank and Banque Internationale pour le Commerce, l'Industrie et l'Agriculture du Burkina (Biciab).

Note: These rates are not updated daily and should be used as a guideline only.

Language: About 69 languages are spoken in Burkina Faso, but the official language is French.

Entry requirements for Americans: A valid passport and visa are required. A visa can be obtained on arrival for stays of up to one month.

Entry requirements for UK nationals: A valid passport and visa are required. A visa can be obtained on arrival for stays of up to one month.

Entry requirements for Canadians: A valid passport and visa are required. A visa can be obtained on arrival for stays of up to one month.

Entry requirements for Australians: A valid passport and visa are required. A visa can be obtained on arrival for stays of up to one month.

Entry requirements for South Africans: A valid passport and visa are required.

Entry requirements for New Zealanders: A valid passport and visa are required. A visa can be obtained on arrival for stays of up to one month.

Entry requirements for Irish nationals: A valid passport and visa are required. A visa can be obtained on arrival for stays of up to one month.

Passport/Visa Note: It is recommended that all travellers ensure their passports have six months validity remaining. Tourist are required to have proof of sufficient funds for stay and a ticket for onward travel.

Travel Health: Malaria is a problem in Burkina Faso and some form of prophylaxis is recommended for all travellers in all areas of the country. A yellow fever vaccination is required for all travellers to Burkina Faso over one year of age. Vaccinations for hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, and meningococcus are recommended. Those who will be spending a lot of time outdoors and are at risk of animal bites should consider a rabies vaccination. Visitors should also be up to date on vaccinations for polio, MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella), and tetanus-diphtheria. Travellers should drink only bottled or filtered water and avoid ice in drinks. All meals should be eaten while hot and uncooked fruit and vegetables avoided. Medical facilities are very limited and of poor quality, particularly outside of the capital city. Comprehensive travel insurance is required. In many areas of the country, emergency medical services are non-existent, and the supply of medication is often very limited. Travellers who require specific medications should bring along sufficient supplies, accompanied by a signed and dated note from a doctor detailing what the medication is and why it is needed.

Tipping: A 10 to 15 percent service fee is usually included in restaurant bills, but it is customary to tip taxi drivers, porters, and hotel staff.

Safety Information: Burkina Faso is one of the safest countries in West Africa and most visits are trouble-free, but tourists are advised to exercise caution and maintain a high level of security as theft and banditry can be a problem in certain parts of the country. The northern Sahel region is considered dangerous, especially near the borders with Mali and Niger. The Sahel is too remote for the local government or foreign embassies to provide much assistance in the event of an emergency. There have been no documented terrorist attacks directed against foreigners in Burkina Faso, but there is often concern that conflict in neighbouring countries may spill over, and some governments, including the British Foreign Office, advise against all but essential travel to the Sahel region. Crime is a problem in Burkina Faso and incidents of robbery, sexual assault and rape against foreigners have been reported. Most crime, however, is petty, and visitors in cities should beware of bag-snatchers, pickpockets and scam artists.

Local Customs: There are several customs in Burkina Faso that visitors need to be aware of: photography is strictly controlled, and tourists should always ask permission before photographing local people, and never attempt to take a picture of a military or government building. Women should dress modestly and keep shoulders and legs fully covered to avoid unwanted attention. They should also refrain from smoking in public. Shaking hands is an appropriate way to greet a person regardless of sex, and one should always return a greeting. Homosexuality is not generally accepted in Burkina Faso. Eating, touching another person, and giving someone money with the left hand is considered offensive.

Business: Burkina Faso is a poor country which doesn't rank highly for ease of doing business, according to the World Bank. Business etiquette is fairly standard, with lightweight suits or traditional African dress the norm for meetings, and handshakes and business cards exchanged upon greeting. Business hours vary, but most offices are open from 7.30am to noon, and from 3pm to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday. Some shops and businesses are also open on Saturdays from 9am to 1pm.

Communications: Communications in Burkina Faso are limited, even in major cities, due to the low penetration of electricity. Landline use is extremely low, but mobile phones are widely used. The international access code for Burkina Faso is +226. Internet use is also low but on the rise, with internet cafes popping up in major cities.

Duty Free: Visitors to Burkina Faso may import up to 200 cigarettes, or up to 50 cigars; or 250g of tobacco. One litre of spirit and one litre of wine is permitted and 500ml each of eau de toilette and perfume. Sporting guns may be brought in by license only. Prohibited imports include narcotics and counterfeit goods.