Whether you come from Uganda, Rwanda, DRC, or Tanzania, there are many ways to travel to Burundi overland.
Nestled in the heart of East Africa, Burundi may be a small country by African standards, but it has so much to offer to the enterprising traveller. Rich in culture and tradition, it is known for its hospitality and, in recent years, has opened itself up to the world. Burundi lifted many restrictions on its borders and, just this year, introduced a convenient visa-on-arrival system.
In this article, I want to break down how and where you can enter the country overland from the three neighbouring states: Rwanda, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). I will also give you full details of Burundi’s new visa-on-arrival system so you can be fully prepared once you’re there.
Firstly, some caveats: transportation between Burundi and its neighbouring countries is minimal. Most bus companies will take you only as far as the border post, and once you have crossed, you must take another bus from there to your destination in Burundi.
All buses within Burundi are run as a public service by the Burundi Ministry of Transport. They have no fixed schedule but run throughout the day. To take one, simply flag it down on the main road of the town you are in.
In this article, I will focus on how to get from a border post to Burundi’s capital, Bujumbura, considering that there are no direct connections between them.
NOTE: Even though a few companies offer a direct service to Bujumbura from Kampala, Goma, or Kigali, their websites have yet to provide any further information online about booking, timings and price.
Crossing from Rwanda to Burundi overland
This is the country with the best access to Burundi.
Even though Rwanda has three border crossings with Burundi, the crossing at Kanyaru in the south-central part of the country is probably the most convenient for travellers coming from Kigali.
Bugasera and Rukana are the other two border crossings, but they are less well served by transport links, and you will probably rely only on private transport. For those who arrive from Bukavu via Rwanda or the Nyungwe Forest National Park, arranging private transportation from there to Rukana and then from Rukana to Bujumbura is the most convenient way to get to Bujumbura.
Travelling through the Kanyaru border post
Volcano Express runs buses from the Rwandan capital of Kigali to the Kanyaru border at 5 AM, 6 AM, 8 AM, 10 AM, and 11:30 AM. The journey takes 4 hours and costs 3,840 RWF (3.50 EUR).
Once across, shared mini buses/taxis are available to take you to Bujumbura. This takes about 3 hours and costs 15,000 BIF (7.50 EUR). Alternatively, you can take a bus from the nearby town of Kayanza for 7,000 BIF (3.50 EUR), taking about 2 hours.
NOTE: Some direct buses from Volcano Express Agency connect Kigali and Bujumbura. However, there is not much information about it. The best way to find out the schedule would be for you to stop by the agency’s office (Sion Market) and ask around.
Crossing from DRC to Burundi overland
DRC has one direct border crossing with Burundi at Gatumba. It is the closest land border to Bujumbura, and a bus from this border post to the city costs only 1,000 BIF (0.50 EUR). It takes less than an hour.
NOTE: Private taxis can also pick you up and take you to Bujumbura for 15-20 USD and take you anywhere around the city in 20-25 minutes.
This route is also the most convenient border crossing for travellers who visit the Kahuzi-Biega National Park in DRC and do not want to travel through Rwanda to Burundi. This is also a great connecting point from the town of Bukavu.
From Bukavu, the fastest way to get to Bujumbura is through Rwanda. However, the road from Bukavu to Gatumba is the cheapest for travellers needing visas to cross Rwanda.
Unfortunately, this is one of the worst roads I’ve travelled in my life, and I heard rumours that it is not recommended to travel overland here in terms of security. However, with the proper precautions, it should not be a problem.
Read more: Burundi, the country where the drums are sacred
From Bukavu to Gatumba takes around 6-7 hours by 4×4 car (200 USD per car) or 11 hours by public bus (15 USD). Minibuses are available from both sides departing very early in the morning (around 8 AM) – check a couple of days before at the central bus station. And private vehicles can be hired by your tour operator in DRC.
This was the route I took while travelling from DRC to Burundi, and it ended up being the most convenient for me to get to Bujumbura.
Read more: How to cross overland from Rwanda to DRC
Crossing from Tanzania to Burundi overland
Tanzania has two main crossings with Burundi. The Manyovu crossing, just north of the Tanzanian town of Kigoma, is the one I recommend. Kigoma has a major airport and is otherwise well-served by transport links.
Onward transport to Bujumbura is via bus from the border town of Mabanda, costing 10,000 BIF (5.00 EUR) and taking about 4 hours.
For the other crossing, at Kobero in the east, travellers should first reach Kananga in Tanzania. Transport from the border to Bujumbura would then be via bus from Muyinga near the border, costing 13,000 BIF (7 EUR) and taking about 4 hours.
Read more: These are the best things to do in Bujumbura, Burundi
Direct buses from East Africa to Burundi
According to the local Burundian blog Burundi on the Map, Volcano Express offers connections to Bujumbura to most East African countries via Kigali. These buses run a direct connection to Kigali, and from there, you can take another connecting bus to cities like Kampala, Juba, Goma, or Nairobi.
These are the prices of some of their overland connections:
- Bujumbura – Kigali: 65.000 BIF (30 EUR)
- Bujumbura – Kampala (via Kigali): 150.000 BIF (70 EUR)
- Bujumbura – Nairobi (via Kigali): 300.000 BIF (140 EUR)
- Bujumbura – Dar Es Salaam (via Kigali): 150.000 (70 EUR)
- Bujumbura – Juba (via Kigali/Kampala): 300.000 (140 EUR)
- Bujumbura – Goma (via Kigali): 100.000 BIF (46 EUR)
Read more: How to cross overland between Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya
Visa on arrival
All visitors to Burundi from outside East Africa must get a visa to enter. Since last year a visa on arrival has been available. Simply speak to the official at the border crossing. A month-long visa costs 100 USD, and a 3-day-long visa costs 40 USD. The month-long visa is the maximum available for tourists.
Be sure to have the following with you:
- Passport, valid for the duration of stay
- 2 x passport photos (we didn’t have and it was not an issue)
- Yellow fever vaccination certificate (obligatory)
- COVID 19 vaccination certificate
- Itinerary, proof of booked accommodation or return flights or a detailed trip itinerary outlining all activities you plan to do in Burundi. – just a hotel booking is enough.
Read more: Which are the best natural places in Burundi
Looking for a reliable tour operator?
If you want to find the best tour operator in Burundi beforehand, SafariBookings is the best platform for it.
They have the largest database of tour operators in Africa and you can simply send a request and negotiate a tour and a price directly with the operator. You don’t have to pay any additional fees.
These are some of the most popular tours in Burundi at SafariBookings.
Where to stay in Burundi
Accommodation in Burundi ranges from all prices. From 10 USD for a private room without AC to hundreds of dollars for a luxury resort with all-inclusive.
Burundi is also one of the least visited places in Africa. It is easy to find accommodation on the spot. However, if you want to be safe, you can book hotels easily with Booking.com
By booking a hotel using the platform below, you will also support the blog and get the cheapest price on the market.