Burkina FasoTips

Living as an Expat in Burkina Faso

1. What are the visa requirements for living as an expat in Burkina Faso?

1. The visa requirements for living as an expat in Burkina Faso vary depending on your nationality and the purpose of your stay. Generally, expats are required to obtain a long-term visa or a residence permit in order to live in the country legally. To apply for a long-term visa, you will typically need to provide proof of financial means, a valid passport, a letter of invitation or employment contract, and possibly other documents such as a health certificate or proof of accommodation. It is advisable to check with the closest Burkina Faso embassy or consulate for the most up-to-date visa requirements and application procedures before planning your move.

2. How is the cost of living in Burkina Faso compared to other countries?

The cost of living in Burkina Faso is generally lower compared to many Western countries, making it an attractive destination for expats looking to live affordably. Here are some key aspects to consider:

1. Accommodation: Renting a house or apartment in Burkina Faso is relatively inexpensive compared to countries in Europe or North America. The cost of accommodation will vary depending on the city you reside in, with Ouagadougou being the most expensive.

2. Food and groceries: The cost of food in Burkina Faso is also lower compared to many Western countries. Basic staples such as rice, vegetables, and fruits are affordable, especially if you buy them from local markets. Imported goods may be more expensive.

3. Transportation: Public transportation within the country is inexpensive, with options like buses and shared taxis available. However, owning a car or using private transportation services may be costly due to fuel prices and maintenance expenses.

4. Healthcare: Healthcare costs in Burkina Faso are lower than in many Western countries, but the quality of medical services may vary. Expats may consider getting private health insurance for access to better facilities.

5. Utilities: The cost of utilities such as electricity, water, and internet services is relatively low in Burkina Faso compared to Western countries. However, the quality and reliability of these services may not be as high.

Overall, expats can expect to have a lower cost of living in Burkina Faso compared to many Western countries, especially when it comes to accommodation, food, and daily expenses. However, it is essential to consider potential challenges such as access to quality healthcare and the availability of certain goods and services.

3. What are the best neighborhoods for expats to live in Ouagadougou?

Expat neighborhoods in Ouagadougou typically offer a blend of safety, convenience, and amenities. Here are some of the best neighborhoods for expats to consider:

1. Ouaga 2000: This neighborhood is popular among expats for its modern housing options, security presence, and proximity to international schools and amenities. It is known for its well-maintained roads and upscale residential properties.

2. Zone du bois: Located in the southern part of Ouagadougou, Zone du bois offers a quieter and more residential feel compared to other parts of the city. It is known for its greenery, spacious compounds, and a sense of community.

3. Koulouba: This neighborhood is home to many embassies, government officials, and diplomatic residences, making it a popular choice for expats seeking a secure and upscale living environment. Koulouba also offers proximity to international schools, restaurants, and expat services.

Ultimately, the best neighborhood for an expat to live in Ouagadougou will depend on individual preferences, budget, and lifestyle needs. It is recommended to visit different neighborhoods in person and consult with local real estate agents or expat communities for tailored advice.

4. Is it safe for expats to live in Burkina Faso?

Living as an expat in Burkina Faso can present certain safety challenges, as the country has experienced instances of political instability and occasional terrorist attacks in recent years. It is important for expats to remain vigilant and stay informed about the security situation in the country. Here are a few key points to consider regarding safety for expats in Burkina Faso:

1. Terrorism: Burkina Faso faces a threat from terrorist groups operating in the region, particularly along its northern border with Mali. These groups have targeted security forces, civilians, and places frequented by foreigners. Expats should avoid travel to areas with a known terrorist presence and follow any security guidance provided by their employers or local authorities.

2. Crime: Like in many countries, expats in Burkina Faso may face risks associated with crime, such as theft and petty crime. It is advisable to take common-sense precautions to protect yourself and your belongings, such as avoiding displaying expensive items in public and being cautious in crowded places.

3. Health and infrastructure: Burkina Faso’s healthcare system may not meet the same standards as those in Western countries, so expats should be prepared for potential challenges in accessing quality medical care. It is also important to consider the country’s infrastructure, which may be less developed in certain areas, impacting factors such as road safety and access to utilities.

4. Overall, while living in Burkina Faso as an expat may come with certain safety concerns, many expatriates have successfully made a home in the country by taking appropriate precautions and staying informed about potential risks. Engaging with the expat community, following local news sources, and building strong relationships with locals can all contribute to a safer and more enjoyable experience living in Burkina Faso.

5. What are the healthcare facilities like in Burkina Faso for expats?

Healthcare facilities in Burkina Faso can vary significantly in quality. Expats may encounter challenges in accessing adequate healthcare services due to limited resources and infrastructure in the country. Public hospitals and clinics often face shortages of medical supplies, equipment, and trained healthcare professionals. Private healthcare facilities, which are generally better equipped, may be more suitable for expats seeking quality medical care. It is advisable for expats to have comprehensive health insurance that covers medical evacuation to a more developed country in case of serious illness or injury. Additionally, expats should research and choose healthcare providers carefully, considering factors such as reputation, location, and available services. It is also recommended to be up to date on vaccines and consult with a healthcare provider before traveling to Burkina Faso.

6. How easy is it to find work as an expat in Burkina Faso?

Finding work as an expat in Burkina Faso can be challenging due to high levels of unemployment and limited job opportunities in the country. However, there are certain industries where expats may have better chances of finding employment, such as in NGOs, international organizations, and the mining sector. Networking and personal connections can also play a significant role in securing work opportunities in Burkina Faso. Additionally, having specialized skills or expertise that are in demand in the country can increase your chances of finding employment as an expat. Overall, while it may not be easy to find work as an expat in Burkina Faso, with persistence, research, and the right qualifications, it is possible to secure employment in certain sectors.

7. What is the process for opening a bank account as an expat in Burkina Faso?

Opening a bank account as an expat in Burkina Faso typically involves several steps:

1. Choose a bank: Research different banks in Burkina Faso to find one that suits your needs in terms of services offered, fees, and locations.

2. Gather required documents: You will need to provide identification such as a passport, a residence permit, and proof of address. Some banks may also ask for a reference letter from your employer or a bank in your home country.

3. Visit the bank in person: Schedule an appointment with the bank and go in person to submit your documents and speak with a representative about opening an account.

4. Complete the application: Fill out the necessary forms and provide any additional information required by the bank.

5. Initial deposit: You may be asked to make an initial deposit to activate your account. The amount required varies depending on the bank and account type.

6. Account activation: Once your application is approved and the initial deposit is made, your account will be activated, and you will be provided with account details and any necessary access information such as an ATM card or online banking credentials.

7. Follow up on any additional requirements: Some banks may have additional steps or requirements for expats opening accounts, so be sure to follow up with the bank if needed to ensure the process is completed smoothly.

8. Are there international schools available for expat families in Burkina Faso?

Yes, there are international schools available for expat families in Burkina Faso. These schools provide a high-quality education following international curricula, such as the International Baccalaureate or Cambridge curriculum, which can be important for expat families looking for continuity in their children’s education. Some of the notable international schools in Burkina Faso include:

1. International School of Ouagadougou (ISO): This is one of the most well-known international schools in Burkina Faso, offering education from pre-school to high school levels.

2. Ecole Française de Ouagadougou (EFO): This is a French international school that follows the French curriculum and is a popular choice for French-speaking expat families.

3. QSI International School of Ouagadougou: This is a part of the Quality Schools International network and follows an American curriculum, catering to expat families from the US and other English-speaking countries.

These international schools typically have modern facilities, qualified teachers, and a diverse student body, providing a supportive environment for expat children to thrive academically and socially.

9. What is the best way to get around in Burkina Faso as an expat?

As an expat living in Burkina Faso, the best way to get around the country is by using a combination of transportation options such as:

1. Taxis: Taxis are readily available in major cities like Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso. It is important to negotiate the fare before starting the journey and ensure that the taxi has a working meter.

2. Public Transportation: Public minibuses, known as “woro-woros,” are a common and affordable way to get around cities and towns. However, they can be crowded and have irregular schedules.

3. Rental Cars: Renting a car can give you more flexibility to explore different parts of the country at your own pace. It is advisable to rent from reputable companies and be cautious of the road conditions.

4. Motorbikes: Motorbike taxis, known as “moto-taxis,” are a popular mode of transportation for short distances. Make sure to wear a helmet and negotiate the fare before hopping on.

5. Walking: In smaller towns and villages, walking can be a convenient way to get around and immerse yourself in the local culture.

It is important to stay vigilant while using any form of transportation in Burkina Faso and be mindful of safety precautions, especially at night. Additionally, familiarizing yourself with local routes and landmarks can help you navigate the country more effectively as an expat.

10. What are the main cultural differences expats should be aware of when living in Burkina Faso?

When living in Burkina Faso as an expat, it’s essential to be aware of the following cultural differences:

1. Greetings: Greetings are very important in Burkinabe culture. It is customary to greet everyone you meet, starting with a general greeting such as “Bonjour” (good morning) or “Bonsoir” (good evening), followed by inquiries about one’s well-being and family. Handshakes are common, but be mindful of using your right hand, as the left hand is traditionally considered unclean.

2. Respect for Elders: Respect for elders is deeply ingrained in Burkinabe society. It is important to show deference and respect towards older individuals, both in language and behavior. Always greet older people first, use polite language when addressing them, and listen attentively to their advice.

3. Clothing: Burkina Faso is a predominantly Muslim country, and modesty in dress is highly valued. It is advisable to dress conservatively, particularly in rural areas and when visiting religious sites. Women should opt for loose-fitting clothing that covers their shoulders and knees.

4. Family Structure: Family plays a central role in Burkinabe society, and familial relationships are highly valued. It is common for extended families to live together or in close proximity, and familial obligations are taken seriously. Understanding and respecting these familial structures is crucial for integrating into the community.

5. Food and Dining: Food holds a special significance in Burkinabe culture, and sharing meals is an important social occasion. When invited to someone’s home for a meal, it is polite to bring a small gift such as fruit or pastries. Additionally, it is customary to eat with your right hand, as the left hand is considered unclean.

By being mindful of these cultural differences and showing respect for local customs and traditions, expats can foster positive relationships and integrate more effectively into Burkinabe society.

11. How is the internet and mobile phone coverage in Burkina Faso for expats?

Internet and mobile phone coverage in Burkina Faso can vary depending on the urban or rural areas where expats are residing. In urban centers like Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso, the internet connectivity is relatively reliable and fast, with several providers offering 3G and 4G services. However, in more remote or rural areas, the coverage may be limited or nonexistent.

1. Major telecom companies in Burkina Faso include Orange, Telmob, and Airtel, which offer various data plans for expats to choose from based on their needs.
2. Expats will need to purchase a local SIM card to access mobile networks, which are widely available at affordable prices.
3. It is recommended to have a back-up option such as a portable Wi-Fi device or satellite internet for areas with unreliable coverage.
4. Overall, expats living in Burkina Faso should expect decent internet and mobile phone coverage in urban areas, but may encounter challenges in more rural locations.

12. What is the availability of recreational activities for expats in Burkina Faso?

Expats living in Burkina Faso have a range of recreational activities available to them. These activities cater to various interests and preferences, providing opportunities for socializing, physical activity, and cultural exploration. Some of the popular recreational activities for expats in Burkina Faso include:

1. Cultural Events: Expats can immerse themselves in the vibrant local culture through various events such as music festivals, dance performances, and traditional ceremonies.
2. Outdoor Adventures: Burkina Faso offers outdoor enthusiasts the chance to explore its natural beauty through activities like hiking, camping, and safaris in national parks.
3. Sports: Expats can participate in or watch sporting events such as soccer, basketball, and cycling, which are popular in the country.
4. Social Clubs: There are expat communities and clubs in Burkina Faso that organize social gatherings, networking events, and outings to explore the local area.
5. Dining and Nightlife: The country’s capital, Ouagadougou, has a vibrant dining scene with restaurants offering a variety of cuisines. There are also bars, nightclubs, and live music venues for those looking to socialize and unwind in the evenings.

Overall, expats in Burkina Faso have access to a diverse range of recreational activities that cater to different interests, making it an enriching experience for those living in the country.

13. How easy is it to make friends and socialize as an expat in Burkina Faso?

Making friends and socializing as an expat in Burkina Faso can be quite easy due to the welcoming and friendly nature of the Burkinabe people. Here are some factors that contribute to the ease of making friends and socializing in Burkina Faso:

1. Hospitality: Burkinabe people are known for their hospitality and warmth towards foreigners, making it easier for expats to establish connections and build friendships.

2. Community Engagement: Expats in Burkina Faso often engage in various community activities, such as volunteering, attending cultural events, and joining local clubs, which provide opportunities to meet new people and socialize.

3. Language: While French is the official language in Burkina Faso, many Burkinabe also speak local languages. Learning some basic French or local phrases can help expats communicate and connect with locals more effectively.

4. Expat Communities: There are expat communities in Burkina Faso, particularly in major cities like Ouagadougou, where expats can meet like-minded individuals, participate in social events, and share experiences.

5. Social Gatherings: Attending social gatherings, such as parties, cultural celebrations, and networking events, can also facilitate meeting new people and expanding one’s social circle as an expat.

Overall, expats in Burkina Faso have ample opportunities to make friends and socialize, thanks to the friendly local population, community activities, language skills, expat communities, and social events available in the country.

14. What are the dining and grocery options like for expats in Burkina Faso?

Dining options for expats in Burkina Faso can vary depending on the city or region they are living in. In the capital city of Ouagadougou, expats can find a good selection of restaurants offering a mix of local Burkinabe cuisine and international dishes. These establishments range from small local eateries serving traditional dishes like tô, riz gras, and brochettes, to more upscale restaurants offering French, Italian, Lebanese, and other international cuisines.

1. There are also a number of expat-friendly cafes and coffee shops in Ouagadougou where expats can enjoy a cup of coffee or tea, as well as light meals and pastries.

2. Grocery options for expats in Burkina Faso include supermarkets, grocery stores, and outdoor markets where a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and other food items are available. Supermarkets in major cities like Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso carry a good selection of imported goods and familiar brands, although prices may be higher than what expats are accustomed to in their home countries.

3. Outdoor markets are a popular option for expats looking to purchase fresh produce and local ingredients at lower prices. These markets can be bustling and vibrant, offering a wide range of fruits, vegetables, grains, spices, and other food items.

In conclusion, expats in Burkina Faso have a range of dining and grocery options available to them, from local eateries and markets to supermarkets and specialty stores catering to international tastes. By exploring the diverse culinary scene in Burkina Faso, expats can enjoy a mix of local flavors and familiar comforts from home.

15. Are there any expat communities or groups in Burkina Faso?

Yes, there are expat communities and groups in Burkina Faso, particularly in the capital city of Ouagadougou. These communities often consist of expats from various countries who come together to provide support, social connections, and a sense of familiarity in a foreign environment. Expats in Burkina Faso may join organizations such as the International Women’s Group, various Chambers of Commerce, or expat networking groups to connect with others facing similar challenges and experiences. These communities can provide a valuable network for expats to share information, resources, and advice, as well as organize social events and activities to help them adjust to life in Burkina Faso.

16. What are the best ways for expats to stay connected with family and friends back home?

Staying connected with family and friends back home is important for expats living in Burkina Faso. Here are some of the best ways to do so:

1. Video Calls: Platforms such as Skype, Zoom, and WhatsApp allow expats to have face-to-face conversations with their loved ones in real-time, helping to bridge the physical distance.

2. Social Media: Utilizing social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter enables expats to stay updated on the lives of their family and friends, share updates about their own experiences abroad, and maintain a constant connection.

3. Messaging Apps: Apps like WhatsApp, Messenger, and Viber are great for quick text messages, photos, and voice notes, providing a convenient way to stay in touch throughout the day.

4. Email: Sending longer, more detailed updates via email can be a good way to communicate with family and friends who prefer written communication.

5. Snail Mail: Sending physical letters or care packages through traditional mail can add a personal touch to staying connected, especially for special occasions or holidays.

6. Setting Regular Times for Communication: Establishing a regular schedule for calls or messages can help both expats and their loved ones anticipate and prioritize staying in touch.

Overall, a combination of these methods tailored to individual preferences can help expats maintain strong connections with family and friends while living in Burkina Faso.

17. Are there any specific legal or cultural considerations expats should be aware of in Burkina Faso?

1. Legal considerations in Burkina Faso that expats should be aware of include the importance of obtaining the correct visa and work permit before engaging in any kind of employment or business activities in the country. It is crucial to adhere to local laws and regulations in terms of residency, taxation, and business practices to avoid any legal issues.

2. Cultural considerations for expats in Burkina Faso include respecting local customs, traditions, and etiquette. Burkina Faso is a diverse country with various ethnic groups, each with its own cultural practices and beliefs. Expats should take the time to learn about the local culture, language, and traditions to foster positive relationships with the local community.

3. Additionally, expats should be mindful of the local dress code, particularly in more conservative or rural areas where modest clothing is expected. It is also important to show respect for elders and authority figures in Burkina Faso, as hierarchy and respect for age are significant aspects of the culture.

4. Lastly, expats should be aware of the security situation in Burkina Faso, as the country has faced threats from terrorism and civil unrest in recent years. It is advisable to stay informed about current events, avoid travel to high-risk areas, and take necessary precautions for personal safety while living in Burkina Faso.

18. How is the weather in Burkina Faso and what should expats expect?

The weather in Burkina Faso is typically hot and dry for much of the year, with a rainy season that lasts from around May to October. During the dry season, which runs from November to April, temperatures can often soar above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), especially in the northern parts of the country. Expats should be prepared for intense heat and the possibility of dust storms during this time.

During the rainy season, temperatures are slightly cooler, but humidity levels rise significantly, making the heat feel more oppressive. Expats should expect heavy rainfall, which can sometimes lead to flooding in certain areas.

1. Expats should pack lightweight and breathable clothing to stay cool in the hot weather.
2. It’s important to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and avoiding prolonged exposure to the sun.
3. Expats should also be prepared for sudden weather changes during the rainy season and take precautions against mosquito-borne diseases like malaria.

19. What are the language considerations for expats living in Burkina Faso?

As an expat living in Burkina Faso, language considerations are crucial for effective communication and integration into the local community. The official language of Burkina Faso is French, so expats will benefit greatly from having a good command of the language. Here are some language considerations for expats in Burkina Faso:

1. French Proficiency: It is highly recommended for expats to have at least a basic understanding of French to navigate daily tasks such as shopping, banking, and interacting with locals.

2. Local Languages: In addition to French, there are more than 60 local languages spoken in Burkina Faso, with Moore being the most widely spoken. Learning a few basic phrases in a local language can show respect for the culture and help build relationships with locals.

3. Language Barrier: While many educated Burkinabé speak French, there may still be a language barrier, especially in rural areas where French proficiency is lower. It is important to be patient and open to using gestures or other forms of communication to overcome language barriers.

4. Language Classes: Expats may consider taking formal language classes to improve their French skills or learn a local language. There are language schools and institutes in major cities like Ouagadougou that cater to expats and offer language courses.

5. Cultural Sensitivity: Language is closely tied to culture, so being aware of cultural nuances and customs associated with language use is essential for expats living in Burkina Faso. Showing an interest in learning the local language can also help expats gain respect and acceptance within the community.

Overall, being proficient in French and showing respect for local languages and customs can greatly enhance the expat experience in Burkina Faso and foster positive relationships with the local population.

20. What advice do you have for expats planning to live in Burkina Faso?

For expats planning to live in Burkina Faso, here are some key pieces of advice to consider:

1. Respect the Culture: Burkina Faso is a country rich in culture and traditions. It is important to respect and embrace the local customs, traditions, and way of life. Take the time to learn about the local culture, language, and norms to better integrate into the community.

2. Safety Precautions: While Burkina Faso is generally a safe country, it is essential to remain vigilant and take necessary precautions. Stay informed about the current security situation, follow local news, and avoid areas with political unrest or high crime rates.

3. Healthcare: Make sure to have comprehensive health insurance that covers medical expenses in Burkina Faso. The country’s healthcare system may not be as advanced as in Western countries, so being prepared for any medical emergencies is crucial.

4. Climate Preparation: Burkina Faso has a hot, semi-arid climate with distinct rainy and dry seasons. Be prepared for the weather conditions and take necessary precautions to protect yourself from heat and potential illnesses related to the climate.

5. Local Connections: Building relationships with locals can greatly enhance your experience in Burkina Faso. Engage with the community, participate in local events and activities, and be open to making new friends.

6. Language Skills: French is the official language in Burkina Faso. It is beneficial to learn basic French phrases to communicate effectively with locals and navigate daily life in the country.

7. Cultural Sensitivity: Be mindful of cultural differences and practices. Avoid behaviors that may be considered offensive or disrespectful in the local context.

By following these pieces of advice, expats can have a smoother transition and enjoy their experience living in Burkina Faso.