Travel Consideration: Burkina Faso

Contributed By RealAdventures

Burkina Faso, previously known as Upper Volta, is a developing West African country that borders the Sahara Desert. The official language is French. Facilities for tourism are not widely available.

A passport and visa are required. Travelers should obtain the latest information and details from the Embassy of Burkina Faso, 2340 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 332-5577. There are honorary consuls for Burkina Faso in Decatur (Georgia), Los Angeles and New Orleans. Overseas inquiries should be made at the nearest Burkina Faso embassy or consulate.

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. The capital of Ouagadougou periodically experiences demonstrations and civil unrest. Although the 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 and contact the consular section of the U.S. Embassy upon arrival to register and to obtain the latest information on travel and security.

Street crime in Burkina Faso poses high risks for visitors. Most reported incidents involve purse-snatchers and street scam artists, who target wallets, jewelry 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 and the 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.
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to local police and to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. The pamphlets, A Safe Trip Abroad, and Tips for Travelers to Sub-Saharan Africa, provide useful information on protecting personal security while traveling abroad and on travel in the region in general. Both are available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at

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

U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas may face extreme difficulties.

Check with your own insurance company to confirm whether your policy applies overseas, including provision for medical evacuation, and for adequacy of coverage. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.
Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.

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.

Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor

Travelers should exercise great caution when traveling by land in Burkina Faso. The few roads that exist are in very bad condition. Most roads are unpaved, narrow, and full of potholes. 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.

For additional information about road safety, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page road safety overseas feature at at

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 law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in the Burkina Faso are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

U.S. citizens are encouraged to register with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou on Avenue John F. Kennedy, and to obtain updated information on travel and security in Burkina Faso. The mailing address is 01 B.P. 35, Ouagadougou. The telephone numbers are (226) 30-67-23/24/25; the fax number is (226) 31-23-68.

This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated September 14, 1999 to remove Y2K information and to add a section on Criminal Penalties and Children's issues, and to update the sections on Safety and Security, Medical Facilities, Medical Insurance and Crime.

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