Mini Travel Guide: Burkina Faso

Looking for a travel guide to Burkina Faso? Click through for a local's best Burkina Faso travel tips - what to do, where to go, and how to do it all cheaply, safely, and respectfully!

Looking for a travel guide to Burkina Faso? This west African country is home to waterfalls, hippos, and amazing hibiscus tea. I brought in a local to share her best Burkina Faso travel tips with us!


Burkina Faso is a fracophone, land locked country in west Africa. It is consistently in the poorest three countries of the world but I think one of the friendliest. Burkina Faso means land of honest and upright men in Mooré.

I’m Helen and I first went to Burkina Faso in 2004 where I spent four months working with a local NGO on the outskirts of Ouagadougou the capital city. I also travelled around the country quite a bit.

Since then I have kept in touch with Burkinabé friends, meeting up when possible in the UK and USA when we’ve been in the same place at the same time. This year I went back and spent time again in Ouagadougou

Must go in Burkina Faso

Must go in Burkina Faso

Ouagadougou

Pronounced wagadogoo and usually shortened to Ouaga. The capital city is in the centre of the country so it’s a pretty great base for exploring lots of the country. Ouaga is a very manageable city to get around.

All taxis are painted green and you simply flag one down and then tell it when to stop. A journey will cost around 30 p per person along main roads, more if you go on long journeys or on back streets.

I would recommend a visit to the central market, it is huge and has everything you can imagine. Expect to haggle a lot and go with someone local if you can.

Try and get to see the Mogo Naba who is the chief of the Mossi tribe (the majority people group). Every Friday morning there is a recreation of a historical story of warring brothers at his palace. It is definitely advisable to go with someone Burkinabé as it won’t make much sense if you don’t know the story.

Po is a large town in the south of the country. There are several attractions in the area including traditional painted houses in both Po and a village called Tiebele, all the houses have stories about why they have specific decorations.

Nearby Nazinga is one of the largest wildlife parks in the country and has elephants as well as several varieties of antelopes and monkeys. You can also climb Pic which is the highest point locally and has caves where people used to shelter while hunting and where spirits are supposed to dwell.

Bobo and Banfora

Perhaps this is cheating but these are close enough to combine a trip. Bobo Dialasso is the country’s second city. The main attraction is the central mosque which is made from mud and is very old but requires partial rebuilding after every rainy season.

Banfora is a large town near to Bobo. Banfora is chiefly known for its waterfalls and large lake with hippos.

Must do in in Burkina Faso

Must Do in Burkina Faso

Dance

Burkinabés love to dance. My favorite place to dance is in church; visiting a church in Burkina Faso is an amazing experience whether or not you’re a Christian. Services can last up to 4 hours, so take water! In Ouaga there are often concerts in the Maison du Peuple. Ask a local and they’ll bring you along.

Shop at a market

Most people shop at stalls at the side of the road or local markets usually held on a rota, perhaps weekly or every five days.

Get clothes made

There are local tailors in every neighborhood, buy fabric at the market and choose a design. Women usually buy three paignes, one for a top, one for a skirt and one to wrap your baby on your back.

Must eat in in Burkina Faso

Must eat in Burkina Faso

Degue

Degue is a yogurt with bits in! Its usually very sweet and probably an acquired taste. I’d advise not having this the day before doing any traveling as dairy products are quite likely to make you ill!

Bisap

A drink rather than a food, bisap is a purply-red drink made from hibiscus flowers. They’re boiled with sugar and ginger. Often incredibly sweet.

This is what the majority of Burkinabés eat most of the time, though I don’t love it, its a definite cultural experience. It is a thick white porridgey substance usually served with a sauce.

Cultural tips for in Burkina Faso

Cultural and travel tips for Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso has a Muslim majority and though Ouaga is fairly liberal, shorts and strappy tops are not really appropriate. If visiting a village, long skirts are best, in cities sort of knee length is fine.

Though BF is a francophone country, a lot of people don’t speak French. Mooré is the language of the Mossi people which is the largest tribe in BF and mostly around Ouaga Dioula is spoken in Bobo and Banfora.

One last thing, BF is very sensitive about photos being taken of police or military personnel, buildings or vehicles. Beware of where you point your camera or it might be confiscated.

Thanks so much for sharing, Helen! Have any of you guys been to Burkina Faso?

photos by Rita Willaeart //  Sylwester Arabas //  Anthony Pappone // Princess Cuisine blog //  United Nations Volunteers

6 Comments

Anonymous

I've lived in Burkina Faso since September and I just wanted to mention that actually, large buses are more likely to be stopped by bandits than cars, because business people travel in buses with lots of cash on them.

Anyway, so glad you did a post on Burkina! I've lived and traveled all over West Africa and I have to say that Burkina is by far the friendliest place. The only thing I would add to Helen's post is that it can be tough for non-French speakers to get around here; English is not widely spoken at all.

Reply
Mary

I love this! One of my friends from college is teaching there right now through the Peace Corps, so it was awesome to get to see a little of what her life might be like on a day-to-day basis 🙂

Reply
Mollie @ EatRunRead

I've actually been to Burkina! I was studying abroad in Niger in 2007 and we went on a 2-week trip to Burkina. We went to Ouaga and Bobo and Banfura. By far Banfura was my favorite, we went to the waterfalls and these awesome towers of rock nearby. (I wrote a blog post about running there: http://www.eatrunread.com/2010/10/places-ive-run-banfora-burkina-fasso.html)

I was a bit overwhelmed by how aggressive the people (beggars, "tour guides," people selling things, etc.) were, mostly I think because Niger is a lot more laid back.

But overall definitely an awesome experience! Thanks for posting!

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emchap.com

Based on the first photo's label, I thought this was going to be about Senegal! 🙂 Looking at the wax print in the photo of the tailor's was fun–I have a skirt made in that purple cloth, and I spent months trying to track down some of that hockey print for a reasonable price! And that photo of the bisap made my mouth water. So tasty, and will so wreck your clothes if you spill it, hah.

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