From March 14 to March 22, I had plans to travel in the Great Lakes Region of Africa with a friend from college. We had next to no plans beyond “let’s meet at Nyambugogo bus station at 2PM on Friday,” and that didn’t change as the trip continued. For the second half of our week together, we were in Burundi, partially because we had never been, and partially because J had booked his departing ticket out of the Bujumbura airport. If you like feeling like you have a plan, here’s what you should NOT do in Burundi:
Don’t get on a bus headed to rural middle-of-nowhere with only the name of a town and a couple of Kirundi buzzwords to go off of. Especially avoid doing this if you have established just one day earlier that “at least we won’t be getting on anymore buses without anything to go on but the name of a town and a couple of [local language] buzzwords.”
Do not take motos out into the middle of nowhere rural Burundi without first assessing your cash situation. You will run out of money, and you will also get a flat tire in the middle of rural Burundi, which will add to both the excitement of the adventure and the stress of being totally unprepared.
Do not assume that just because an attraction is natural means it’s free to visit. If you assume this, chances are you’ll spend over an hour riding a moto, plus two hours waiting for a blown tire to be fixed, only to arrive at the waterfall and find out that no one told you it costs 10,000 Burundian francs, and you don’t have enough cash.
Do not show up to the bus station before sunrise with little to no information about your bus. You will convince yourself that today is the day you get murdered in a bus station, and also you will be forced to trust the first person who offers to help you, which is sometimes not exactly a genius plan.
Do not take a matatu with 25 other people crammed into it for a two hour drive to the Rwandan border. just don’t. Even if it only costs you $2.
Do not assume that your bus will leave you at passport control safe and sound. You WILL have to take a moto another 10k to the actual border.
Do not assume that there will be buses and taxis just waiting for you on the other side of the aforementioned Rwandan border. In actuality, there will be none, and you will be forced to hitchhike in an NGO truck, head hung in shame for not having any idea what you’re doing.
But only opt out of these things if you like boring stuff. Otherwise, go HAM.