Is Burkina Faso Safe? Crime, Scams & Travel Safety Tips

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If you don‘t like pickpockets, crime or watching your back at every turn, perhaps Burkina Faso isn't the best destination for you.

Sunset in Burkina Faso, West Africa Photo © Getty Images/Olivier Jolly

So, is Burkina Faso safe? The very quick answer to that question is unfortunately no. Western Africa as a whole has never been known as a safe place to travel, but it does lure intrepid travelers each year with the promise of unexplored destinations and incredibly wild wilderness.

Street crime, bandits and scams are common in Burkina Faso, and since 2015 the military have been struggling to contain Islamist violence, which has taken over parts of the country. Since 2015, more than 700 lives have been lost due to this violence. Before you consider traveling here, read your Government's travel advisory for the latest on the security situation. The Australian Government have listed Burkina Faso as 'Reconsider Your Need to Travel', and the US Department of State have listed Burkina Faso as 'Do Not Travel'.

Street crime in Burkina Faso

Travelers moving through Burkina Faso will have to take care from simple crimes on the street. Foreigners are often the target of criminals operating around cities, so be prepared.

Most crime reported involving tourists is purse snatchers, street scams – usually targeting wallets, jewelry, cell phones and cameras.

Do yourself a favor, leave the expensive watch at home, don't carry a purse and watch your back at all times. Best to travel in a big group, you are less likely to be targeted.

A common crime is a camera snatch, usually when a tourist has them dangling from their wrist. Be smart, keep them concealed, unless they are being used.

Assaults and thefts occur, particularly in Bobo Dioulasso and the capital, Ouagadougou. Muggings are common around the central market and the United Nations traffic circle in Ouagadougou. Security risks increase after dark.

Thieves are especially active during international meetings or events which draw large crowds to the capital.

Burkina Faso bandits

Incidents of highway banditry are on the decline across the country, but continue to occur sporadically.

Although the bandits operate mostly at night, there have been daytime attacks. They have injured or killed individuals who refused their demands or attempted to drive through their roadblocks.

A police officer was shot and killed in August 2010 while attempting to stop a robbery.

Several attacks have been directed at intercity public buses, so if you can travel by convoy.

A word of advice, if you do get held up, don't be a hero. These people usually don't mess around.

Financial scams in Burkina Faso

Scams are commonplace in West Africa, so be aware.

Commercial and internet fraud is prevalent and often originates in West African countries. Victims have been defrauded and those who travel to the originating country have had their lives endangered.

Criminals have been known to seek details of 'safe' bank accounts overseas in which to transfer large sums of money.

If you are a victim of a financial scam, we advise you to obtain legal advice and not to travel to Africa to seek restitution as there is a risk of physical assault from the perpetrators.
Financial scams, sometimes involving fraudulent transactions for gold and/or antiquities are originating out of Burkina Faso. If you participate in these schemes you risk financial loss, or physical harm.

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