Bujumbura

Bujumbura...the name is so exotic it just rumbas off the tongue. 'Buj', as many foreign residents refer to it, has a striking location on the shores of Lake Tanganyika and many of its suburbs sprawl up the looming mountains that ring the city to the north and east.

Comatose during the long civil war, the Burundian capital is a mixture of grandiose colonial town planning, with wide boulevards and imposing public buildings, and the dusty, crowded streets that characterise the capitals in much of Africa. It is also one of the most important ports on Lake Tanganyika.

Bujumbura has a freewheelin' reputation and the dining, drinking and dancing scene can compete with the best in the region. That said, it's not the safest city by night, so it is important to take taxis after dark. Security has improved with the influx of UN peacekeepers, but robberies are still common.

A short way out of the city are some of Africa's best inland beaches. White sand, turquoise waters and beachside bars. Pinch yourself. This is Burundi, not the Caribbean.

INFORMATION

Banque du Crédit de Bujumbura (Rue Science) and Interbank Burundi (Blvd de la Liberté) both offer credit-card cash advances but commissions are high. Both charge 2.5% plus a flat fee of €10. There's an open black market in Buj and dealers hang out on Chaussée Prince Rwagasore. Rates vary according to the official exchange rates and the amount to be changed.

There are internet cafés throughout the city centre.

Face à Face (Blvd de l'Uprona; ® 8am-10pm) A stylish Internet café with fast connections and tasty snacks. Main post office (cnr Blvd Lumumba & Ave du Commerce; ® 8am-noon &2-4pm Mon-Frl, 8-11am Sat) Phonecards and stamps.

Office National du Tourisme ( (g) 222202; Ave des Euphorbes; ®7.30am-noon&2-4.30pm Mon-Frl) Not much In the way of handouts.

DANGERS & ANNOYANCES

Bujumbura is a more dangerous city than Kampala (Uganda) or Kigali (Rwanda), but is not quite in the league of Nairobbery. It is generally safe to wander about on foot during the day. The character of the city changes around 8pm, as 'les petits bandits' move in. Take particular care near popular nightspots, as you never know who is lurking in the dark.

SIGHTS & ACTIVITIES

Sights? That's a tough call. The biggest hitters are the beaches on Lake Tanganyika, by far the best in the region. The sand is white and powdery, and the waves should keep the bil-harzia at bay. Saga Beach (pronounced Sagga) is the place to be, named in honour of the most popular bar here.

None of the so-called museums are really worth the time to visit, as they have been long neglected. Opening times are as erratic as the collections. The Musée Vivant (Ave du 13 Octobre; admission BFr2000) is a reconstructed traditional Burundian village with some exhibits of baskets, pottery and drums, but it's also a part-time zoo and the animals aren't kept in impressive conditions.

SLEEPING

Hotel prices in Bujumbura shot up when the UN came to town. This is a good city to indulge in something a bit nicer.

HôtelLeDoyen(g224378;AveduStade;rBFr20,000,with air-con BFr35,000; (§1 ) This rambling old colonial-era building, set amid verdant grounds, has the cheapest rooms in the city, as its rates are in local currency rather than US dollars. Rooms have high ceilings and big bathrooms at the top end.

Hotel Ama horo ( @ 247550; Rue de 11 ndustrle; r US$30-70; (SI) One of the newer hotels in Buj, the Amahoro has established a name for itself as a comfortable, centrally located place to stay with a good range of amenities. All rooms have satellite TV, fridge and hot water.

Hotel Botanika (fD 226792; hotel botanlkaiahotmall.com; Blvd de l'Uprona; s/d USS60/70; (g) ) Bujumbura's boutique hotel, the Botanika is a charming retreat from the rigours of life in Burundi. There are only seven rooms, and all come equipped with satellite TV, minibar and beautiful bathroom. It also has an excellent European restaurant.

EATING & DRINKING

One of the best things about Bujumbura is the food. There are great bakeries, lively cafés and some of the finest restaurants in the region.

Dmitri Supermarket (Chaussée Prince Rwagasore) One of Buj's unexpected treats, this supermarket is the best stocked in town, selling Swiss chocolate, superb salami and European cheeses.

Boulangerie-Pâtisserie Trianon (Ave du Commerce; BFr500-2000) Always packed out for breakfast thanks to a great combination of fresh croissants and local coffee. Strangely, it's closed at lunchtime.

Cercle Nautique ((g)222056; Ave de la Plage; mains BFr3000-10,000) The most famous spot in Bujumbura, the Cercle is one of those colonial-era clubs that remains resolutely popular thanks to good food and drinks aplenty. Set on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, this is a must when passing through Buj.

BUJUMBURA

INFORMATION

Banque du Crédit de Bujumbi Belgian Embassy Congolese Embassy Face à Face Interbank Burundi Main Post Office Office National du Tourisme Rwandan Embassy Tanzanlan Embassy US Embassy

SIGHTS «.ACTIVITIES

Musée Vivant

4 C3

5 C3

Hotel Amahoro 12 C3

Hotel Botanlka 13 C2

Hôtel Le Doyen 14 C2

EATING (Q

Boulangerie-Pâtisserie Trianon 15 C3

Cercle Nautique 16 A4

Dmitri Supermarket 17 D3

Saga Residence 18 C3

Chez Ruhara 19 D3

Eden du Lac 20 A3

ENTERTAINMENT 0

SHOPPING □

TRANSPORT

23 C3

24 C3

25 D3

26 C3

New Yahoo Express

27 C3

28 C3

Yahoo Car

(see 18)

SIGHTS «.ACTIVITIES

Musée Vivant

Chez Ruhara 19 D3

Eden du Lac 20 A3

Saga Residence (®) 242225; Chaussee Prince Rwa-gasore; mains BFr4000-7000) This impressive place, also a small hotel, has a large menu of steaks and fresh lake fish, and is exquisitely decorated with Congolese crafts and local textiles.

On weekends a lot of the action moves out to the beach bars on Lake Tanganyika, particularly Saga Beach.

Eden du Lac (Ave de la Plage) Near the Cercle Nautique, this garden bar is a local institution. Drinking with a view and discerning dining.

Chez Ruhara (Ave France) The ultimate club in Buj, Chez Ruhara is a cross between an underground rave and a scene from Mad Max, as it's set in the basement of an unfinished tenement block. It's nicknamed 'Jazz Club' and rumbles on all night on weekends.

Le Braisière (Blvd de l'Indépendance) For live music, try Le Braisière at Hôtel Cyrano, which usually has a local band playing on Saturday night from 7pm.

SHOPPING

Burundi is hardly famous for its handicrafts, but a lot of excellent work makes its way across the border from DRC. The best place to browse is the small craft market (Ave du Stade). Haggle hard to get a good price.

GETTING THERE & AWAY

For contact details of the international airlines serving Burundi, see p617.

Minibuses ply the major routes around the country, and leave from the minibus station near the market area. They usually dry up after lunchtime due to lingering security concerns.

GETTING AROUND

To get to central Bujumbura from the airport costs about US$10. On the return trip, you could take a taxi-motor (motorbike taxi) for about BFr2500.

After 8pm always take a taxi in the city, no matter how short the distance, as robberies are common.

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