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Despite being one of the poorest West African countries, landlocked Burkina Faso is hospitable and resplendent with natural wonders. The people are friendly and churn out quality African arts and crafts. As the country is the size of Britain, destinations are close to one another. Visitors can drive to the Sindou Rocks, Karfiguéla Waterfalls and Mare aux Hippopotames in fairly quick succession.
Roads are unsealed and unlit away from the main centres. Driving at night should be avoided as carjacking is common and livestock routinely crosses roads. Police are lax regarding road rules, while many roads are impassable in the wet season (May to November).
Driving licences: having an International Driving Permit is a must to back up your UK licence. A temporary, local driving permit will also suffice.
Which side does Burkina Faso drive on: the right.
Motorways: 68mph (110kph)
Rural areas: 50mph (80kph)
Built-up areas: 31mph (50kph)
Alcohol limits: no limit, but drinking and driving should be avoided as driving here requires full concentration.
Driving age: 18 years.
Seatbelts: compulsory for all passengers, with infants seated in restraints in the rear.
Mobile phones and GPS: it is officially against the law to drive while using a mobile phone unless using a hands-free kit. GPS here is unreliable, but maps can be downloaded.
Cost of fuel in Burkina Faso: cheaper than the UK, especially diesel.
Car hire and fuel payment: use cash for fuel as credit cards are rarely accepted (and should be guarded closely), particularly at petrol stations on rural roads. Car hire firms require a credit card on booking and when picking up vehicles.
Insurance: ensure your car has fully comprehensive insurance as many local drivers are uninsured. If such insurance is not included in the rental, it is recommended to buy excess insurance.
Traffic and parking: central Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso can be thick with traffic, while rural roads have light traffic for the most part. You can park on the street, but do so in the daytime only. Parking at your hotel is better.
There is one rail option into the country, from neighbouring Ivory Coast (Côte d'Ivoire). A service runs from Abidjan in the south, through Banfora and Bobo-Dioulasso in southern Burkina Faso before connecting with the capital, Ouagadougou. It is a 48-hour trip, however, and is prone to being suspended, so check ahead. Fares on this route range from £4 for second class to £6 for first class, which isn’t always available. The domestic rail service is limited, with a daily service linking Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso. The long trip is cheap but typically crowded.
In towns, taxis are typically in bad shape, even in the capital of Ouagadougou. They are green, unmetered and run on a shared basis in the main centres, with fares being negotiable. Short hops typically cost between £0.25 and £0.60, but fares go up at night. If you want a private taxi to yourself, take a more expensive white one.
Buses arrive in Ouagadougou from Mali (north), Ghana (south) and Benin (southeast). Minibuses also run from these places as well as from Ivory Coast (Côte d'Ivoire), Niger and Togo. Local buses are known as ‘cars’ and go between all main towns. Buses are private, with STMB and TGV being the most comfortable services and often featuring air conditioning and allocated seats. These providers serve main destinations, while overloaded services go to other towns.
UK travellers can catch a connecting flight to Ouagadougou Airport from Paris (Orly or Charles de Gaulle) or Brussels. Both these cities are connected to London via Eurostar. Taxis are available at the terminal, and it takes less than five minutes to ride to the city centre. Taxi fares range from £0.60 to £1.20.
Bobo-Dioulasso, the country’s second city, is about the best place to be based. While the centre of this city in the southwest has hotels and decent crafts shopping at the Grand Marche, it is also near to many reserves and forests, such as the Forest of the Mou.
The striking Karfiguéla Waterfalls are located to the southwest, near Banfora, while farther west are the Sindou Rocks. The La Mare aux Poissons Sacres de Dafra sacrificial site is another popular attraction in this region.
East of Banfora is the unremarkable town of Gaoua, which is the gateway to the UNESCO World Heritage Loropéni ruins. North of Bobo-Dioulasso is the Mare aux Hippopotames, a hippo hole.
The capital city of Ouagadougou, or Ouaga (‘Wa-Gha’), is situated on the Mossi Plateau in the centre of the country. Though not worth much time, it has several worthwhile museums, including the National Museum and the Snake Museum, while south of town is Kabore Tembi National Park.
If you have time, the most impressive park—W National Park—is in the east and shares its territory with Niger and Benin. You can go on safari here and see lions, cheetahs, leopards, elephants and hippos.
A tropical climate brings a dry (November to March) season and a wet (June to October) season. November to January has the best weather, when it is slightly cooler with average temperatures in the 25°C (77°F) range. It can get into the 40s (°C) in March. January and February are typically hazy (the Harmattan haze), with dust coming in from the Sahara.