Local Laws & Customs Tips for Travelers to Burkina Faso

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Burkina Faso has a wild mixture of culture and chaos. The country is in political turmoil, but travelers should not be ignorant towards local laws and cultural traditions. This is what you need to know before you go.

A mosque in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso Photo © Getty Images/Kypros

From what you can and can't export to carrying photocopies of your passport, sex and the cash economy, this is what you need to know before you go to Burkina Faso.

Imports and exports

Burkina Faso is a common path for overland trucks and travelers in West Africa. Travelers love to take home souvenirs, but be careful. Burkina Faso's authorities don't take kindly to precious things being removed from their country if they are important.

Customs authorities enforce strict regulations on exports. Items like masks, religious materials and antiquities won't be released easily. So before you invest your money into a priceless bargain, make sure it's a legitimate sale.

The Director of the National Museum has stated that all exportation of objects of art is subject to the prior approval of the Ministry of Culture.

So do your research to make sure you aren't about to buy anything you can't take out of the country.

Carry copies of your passport

It's not unusual while traveling here to be asked to show your identification. Before handing over your passport or identification, make sure the people who are asking you are legitimate authorities.

It's safest to take a photocopy of your passport with you to Burkina Faso, and keep it on you at all times with your visa information. Keep your real passport locked up safe in your accommodation.

Are cash or credit cards the way to go in Burkina Faso?

Burkina Faso is a cash economy, and credit cards aren't the best option for making payments.

Credit cards are only accepted at high-end establishments in the capital, Ouagadougou. Take cash with you for street stalls and markets.

Be prepared to carry a fair bit of cash around in Burkina Faso. ATMs aren't common beyond major cities, and if you want to exchange money, Euros are your best option.

Not all cards are accepted, so check before you go if your card will work with Burkina Faso's ATMs.

Photography laws in Burkina Faso

One old custom has recently been dissolved to the cheers of travelers. Tourists once had to get a photography permit to take pictures in Burkina Faso – and this was required for anyone traveling. To get one of these permits was a huge hassle.

The tourist office got rid of the permits, but there are still buildings and areas you can't photograph, such as military or government buildings.

Is Burkina Faso safe for LGBTQ+ travelers?

Homosexuality is not illegal in Burkina Faso, however LGBTQ+ people may face discrimination, and should be aware that only some discrimination laws are in place. Due to the mostly Muslim population, use your common sense safety instincts, and avoid overt public displays of affection.

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