What You Need To Know about Ouagadougou

Ouagadougou is the capital of Burkina Faso and the administrative, communications, cultural and economic centre of the nation. It is also the country’s largest city. The city’s name is often shortened to Ouaga. The inhabitants are called ouagalais. The spelling of the name Ouagadougou is derived from the French orthography common in former French African colonies.

Ouagadougou’s primary industries are food processing and textiles. It is served by an international airport and it is linked by rail to Abidjan in the Ivory Coast. There is no rail service to Kaya. There is a paved highway to Niamey, Niger, south to Ghana, and southwest to Ivory Coast.

Area:219.3 km²


  • The currency in Burkina Faso is the West African CFA franc, the best foreign currency to carry is euros, easily exchanged at any bank, hotel or bureau de change. Travellers cheques cannot be exchanged in Burkina.
    There are numerous Visa ATMs in every city; the only bank to accept MasterCard is Banque Atlantique (in Ouagadougou, Bobo and Banfora only). Payments by credit card are rarely accepted and subject to a 5{bfdd1f3892506c35dcf782e097e6eba0e67a6441f889639b7ced06a2b8b10f78} surcharge.


The climate of Ouagadougou is hot semi-arid under Köppen-Geiger classification, that closely borders with tropical wet and dry . The city is part of the Sudano-Sahelian area, with a rainfall of about 800 mm per year. The rainy season stretches from May to October, its height from June to September, with a mean average temperature of 28 °C (82 °F). The cold season runs from December to January, with a minimum average temperature of 16 °C (61 °F). The maximum temperature during the hot season, which runs from March to May, can reach 43 °C (109 °F). The harmattan (a dry wind) and the monsoon are the two main factors that determine Ouagadougou’s climate. Even though Ouagadougou is farther from the equator, its hottest months’ temperatures are slightly hotter than those of Bobo-Dioulasso, the second most populous city.


French is the official language and widely spoken in the towns and cities. However, in the countryside many people use the local languages, such as Moore/Moré (pronounced ‘more-ray’) spoken by the Mossi, Dioula (pronounced ‘Jula’) a trading language of West Africa and Fulfulde, the language of the Fulani in the north.

Health and security

  • Whatever you do, taking risks in Burkina Faso isn‘t a good idea. Emergency health care can be non-existent in some regions.
    The capital, Ouagadougou, does have ambulances and hospitals but areas outside the main city are definitely not the best equipped.
    Short supply of emergency health can leave you stranded when you need it most.
    And if they do get to you, ambulances in Burkina Faso or most countries in West Africa, are never going to be amazing.
    Do yourself a favour and think carefully about what you do. Travelling in these areas means you need to think extra about the risks you are willing to take.
    And so you know, medical evacuation can sometimes cost around US$100,000.

    As a result, travel insurance may provide cover if you suffer a sudden illness or serious injury (or you die) overseas and you require emergency medical transport or repatriation home for medical reasons. The 24/7 emergency assistance team will need to be contacted to coordinate this.
    Medicines are another dilemma in Burkina Faso. Similar to the ambulance situation, basic medical supplies aren‘t always available.
    The best advice is to grab what you need for your stay in the country…then pack extra. You can never carry too much medicine or simple first aid equipment. West Africa isn‘t an easy travelling location, so prepare wisely.

  • Criminals in urban areas may carry a knife or other edged weapon in order to cut the strap on bags, purses, or backpacks and can become violent particularly when the victim is noncompliant. Ordinarily, thieves do not threaten victims with weapons, although there have been thefts and attempted thefts involving firearms and knives. Street crime (pickpocketing, purse snatching, and backpack/cell phone theft) is pervasive in major cities. Cellular telephones, jewelry, laptops, and items of value are the frequent targets of thieves. The majority of street crime is committed after dark and is often perpetrated by one or two individuals on motorbikes.

    Street crime typically increases in Ouagadougou around the holidays, the bi-annual West African Movie Festival (FESPACO), and the bi-annual Regional Craft Festival (SIAO).


  • If you plan to travel to Burkina Faso, you must have an International Certificate of Vaccination (yellow card) that has been validated by an approved vaccination clinic. To be effective against the virus you need to do this at least 10 days before travel.
  • Burkina Faso has a large Muslim population. You should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times. You should be aware of your actions so that they don’t offend others, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas.
  • Don’t get involved in drugs of any kind. If you commit a criminal offence you can expect to be subjected to local law. Penalties can be severe. Convicted offenders can expect heavy fines and long jail sentences. Local prison conditions are harsh.


  • Don’t miss the Fespaco festival, Going strong since 1969, this world-renouned festival, held biennially, sees African films competing for the prestigious Étalon d’Or de Yennenga – Fespaco’s equivalent of the Oscars.
  • On Fridays at 7am the Moro-Naba of Ouagadougou, emperor of the Mossi and the most powerful traditional chief in Burkina Faso – presides over the Moro-Naba ceremony at the palace. It’s a formal ritual that lasts only about 15 minutes. Travellers are welcome to attend, but photos are not permitted.