Burkina Faso is one of safest countries in West Africa. However, be aware of thieves in the big city. Violent assault is rare. Pickpockets and purse snatchers are something to watch out for in big cities, especially in Ouagadougou, where it is recommended not to carry a bag with you when at all possible. The common, cheap green taxis in the big city can sometimes host thieves. Hold on to your purse, and keep your money safely tucked away. If you want to carry around a camera or other item that requires a bag, it is often safer to put it in one of the ubiquitous black "sachets" plastic bags that you get when you purchase something in a store, so that potential thieves will assume there's nothing of great value inside.
You should always take precautions when travelling, but Burkina is a remarkably safe and respectful country. Women travellers rarely experience any problems. Foreigners, especially white foreigners, frequently attract significant attention, but the interest is mainly an attempt to sell you tourist items or overpriced goods. Indeed, the BurkinabÃ© will show more patience and friendliness to the foreigner than to another BurkinabÃ©, be it in a small village or in a big city.
There was a violent altercation between military and police in December 2006. Members from involved parties made it a point to advise foreigners on the street that they should find shelter and stay out of harm's way. The problem was resolved quickly and no foreigners came to any harm.
Yellow fever vaccination required. Malaria is a serious problem, so be sure to begin take prophylaxis prior to leaving for Burkina and continue taking it while there and often for some time after returning home. Cholera vaccination may be required in event of outbreak. Meningitis is also a problem, and vaccination is highly suggested. Typhoid is common, as are other water and food-borne diseases such as e coli. Typhoid vaccination is recommended but it is not 100% effective so it is still important to take precautions.
The water is not safe to drink, especially outside the big cities where untreated well water is often the norm. Buy bottled water, and bring a water filter for emergency use if you're planning on spending time in any villages.
Passport and a visa are required to enter the country. You generally should obtain your visa in advance, although European Union citizens can obtain visas upon arrival at the airport 10,000 CFA. French citizens now require to get a visa in advance at 70 euros for one entry. If you are not from the European Union, the cost of a 3-month, 1 entry visa is 28 300 CFA, and must be acquired in advance of your journey. The BF embassy in Washington offers six-month, multiple-entry visas for US$100. US citizens only are eligible for a five-year, multiple-entry visa for US$100.
If coming by land EU and US citizens are able to get a seven day single entry visa for 10,000 CFA at the border. As of July 1st, 2010, at the border to Ghana at Paga, they increased the price to 94,000 CFA, payable in cash and the exchange rate offered at the border was 10-20% lower than market rates. No passport photos were required. They only were able to issue a 90 day visa. 2 passport photos and a yellow fever certificate are required border crossing at Paga, in July 2010, did not ask for yellow fever certificate. Border police said that 10,000 CFA visas were still available, but back in Accra. Border police also said that the 90 day visa was convertible at no cost to a 5 year visa for a USA passport in Ouagadougou. Visas may be extended to 3 months multiple entry at the Bureau de SuretÃ© de l'Etat which can be found in most major cities. To get the extension you should arrive before 9AM again with 2 passport photographs and collect your passport again that afternoon.
Upon arrival, you may be asked to prove you've been vaccinated against Yellow Fever if you are travelling from within Africa. Failure to provide proof may result in either being forced to receive the vaccination at the airport, for a fee, or be refused entry into the country.
French is the official language; however, you will find out that, outside the big cities, most people do not speak much French. Many African languages of the Sudanic family are widely spoken. The most common language is MoorÃ©. Start the day with some Moore the language of the Mossi: yee-bay-goh "good morning"
See also: MoorÃ© phrasebook
You will observe the BurkinabÃ© exchange greetings in what appears to be a shared prayer or ritual. Literally, all they are saying is "good morning, how's the family, how's work, how's your health..."Greeting is a very important part of BurkinabÃ© culture, and the only thing you really need to do here is to make an instant friend.
Ignoring someone and not greeting him or her, however, is taken far more seriously than in western cultures. It is virtually a slap in the face to ignore someone that has greeted you, or to not greet at all. Foreigners can probably get away with being "cold" and "unfriendly" in some settings, but it is a good idea to greet everyone you pass by.
Remember to always use your right hand when eating, greeting, offering gifts, paying for items, etc. This is true in both Muslim and Christian regions, as the left hand is used throughout the country in conjunction with water in place of toilet paper. The ubiquitous coloured plastic teapots are filled with water and carried to the bathroom for "wiping."
Women are often targets of extra attention from men, but catcalls and unwanted advances are not appropriate in Burkina, so don't be afraid to refuse this attention. In general, people are very respectful to women and foreigners.