There are a handful of countries in West Africa that have the West African CFA franc as their official currency. Burkina Faso is one of them. You may also be familiar with the Central African CFA franc, which is known by a different ISO code than the one given here and is used by central African countries.
It may well be a familiar idea to you that francs are divided into centimes. This was the case when the French franc existed and it is the case here with the West African CFA franc as well. With that said though, you won’t actually come across or use any centimes when you go to Burkina Faso. There are no longer any of them in use.
This leaves us with coins denominated in francs, and there are lots of them available. The smallest is the one franc coin, and from here you can use the 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, 200 and 250 franc coins as well. The largest is still to come – this is the 500 franc coin.
Aside from the wealth of coins you can use during a trip to Burkina Faso, you can also use banknotes. There are far fewer notes than there are coins, but you’ll find you can use the 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000 and 10,000 franc notes during your stay.
The mid-Forties was the time in history that the West African CFA franc was created. It made little difference to those living in West Africa though since the French West African version of the franc was used up until the new CFA franc for Western Africa was brought in. Burkina Faso has long since used this particular currency so it has several decades’ worth of history now.
It is unlikely that you’d be able to find a bureau de change that would be able to change your own currency for that of the West African CFA franc prior to your trip to Burkina Faso. This is much more easily done when you get to the country, although it is by no means as simple as it is in some Western countries.
However there are ways and means of making it happen. For example traveller’s cheques are often seen as one of the most convenient ways to get cash. Make sure you get your traveller’s cheques either in US dollars or in euros, since this can result in fewer charges. Make sure you hang onto all your receipts in terms of getting hold of money and indeed for the original traveller’s cheques when you get them. You might sometimes be asked to present them, so it’s usually better safe than sorry.
You can bring cash into the country to exchange for the local CFA franc in banks as well, and again the US dollar and the euro are the two best ones to opt for here. You might find some of the bigger hotels will exchange your cash for you as well, but do check in advance rather than assuming your chosen hotel will do this. Check charges between outlets too to ensure you get the best deal.
As for card payments, well… you can take a credit card with you (Mastercard is your best bet here) but to be honest you may well find you never use it. Most transactions are cash-based so make sure you have enough cash and traveller’s cheques to get you through your entire stay.
If you already have a good currency converter you rely on you can use this as your source of the latest exchange rate information. This is easy enough to do and providing the currency converter updates fairly frequently you’ll get a good idea of how far your own currency will go when converted into it.
There is a very useful page detailing the travel advice and information for visas for anyone heading to Burkina Faso. You can access the page (updated regularly in regard to the latest types and prices applicable) at http://www.burkinafasovisa.co.uk.
The situation in Burkina Faso is problematic at the time of writing. According to the official travel advice given via the website of the UK government, the northern areas of the country are not advisable to travel to for any reason. The remainder of the country – a significant area as you can imagine – is listed as being recommended only to those who must travel there for some reason. In most cases this would cover those on official business who could not put off their journey. It doesn’t cover tourist visitors or other casual visitors. The reason for this uncertainty is due to political tensions and unrest in the country. Unfortunately terrorism is also potentially a threat here.
If you do ever manage to visit the country in safer circumstances and times, it is also worth being aware of the situation with regard to crime. The biggest risk to be aware of is street crime – and it may not always be of the petty kind either. While thieves will be on the lookout for easy targets for pickpocketing and bag snatching, others will be armed and will not worry about approaching someone and threatening them to steal their valuables.
The best thing you can do is to be aware of the areas to avoid in the part of the country you are considering travelling to. You may also wish to minimise the amount of valuables you carry with you, especially those that are visible to others. Make sure you are careful when exiting banks too; ensure any cash you have exchanged is safely put away before leaving.
Burkina Faso is in West Africa – we know this because of the currency in use there. However it helps to know which other countries surround it so we can get a more accurate idea of where the country lies. Mali meets its entire north-western border, while further round to the north-east is Nigeria. In the south-eastern corner lies Benin, while Togo and Ghana are further past this in a clockwise direction on the southern border. Finally in the south-western corner is Cote d’Ivoire.
The capital of Burkina Faso is Ouagadougou. It is wise to remember this is a city that poses problems for tourists since there is a high degree of crime here. It is sometimes known more simply as Ouaga owing to the exceptionally long name!
There are plenty of sights in the city, including monuments and statues, and also the Bangr-Weoogo Park. It has been in the city since the 1930s but it received a number of renovations around 10 years ago.
If we leave the city behind and head a relatively short distance towards a called called Manega, we will find one of many museums in the country. This particular one is called the Musee de Manega (you will notice the French influence here in several ways). It is also called the Manega Museum and it is musical in nature. The history of musical instruments in the country is reflected here, and if you have an interest in music you will definitely find it a fascinating place to go.
One thing you will probably not be surprised to learn about Burkina Faso is that it has a number of national parks. One of these is the Arli National Park. This is located in the south-eastern corner of the country and it receives its name from the river that runs through it. There is a huge number of animals here, from hippos to lions and antelopes to monkeys. If you arrange a holiday here at any point you have a good chance of seeing many animals in the wild.
There are plenty of other natural sights to be found in the country too, such as those seen at Lake Tengrela. The lake itself may be small but the animals to be found here certainly are not. We’re talking about hippos and the lake is famous for them.
It’s obvious there are all kinds of charming and fascinating places to go in Burkina Faso. It is just a shame the situation in the country at present denies foreigners from visiting safely. Perhaps in the future we can hope this situation will change but it certainly seems a long way off at the moment.
When things do change we know there will be many sights and attractions to see in the country, and many places to spend our francs too. Until then we must visit from afar with the help of the internet.