New Years Day in Burundi, Rwanda, and Kenya
When I booked this trip, I really tried to find a way to go to Rwanda, Burundi, and end up in Kenya, with two one-way flights. It wasn’t to be. Lots of flights between them all, but also lots at 2am, 3am, etc. Since these are pretty much hour-long flights…and I have a really strong aversion to redeyes, it’s how we ended up in this situation. Flying into Rwanda from Europe was easy, so that was the jumping off point. Rwanda to Kenya or Burundi was easy….but to get out of the region you have to be in Kenya….so Rwanda-Burundi-Kenya was the logical order. Unfortunately, the only Bujumbura to Nairobi nonstop is at some awful hour in the morning, so we took the one-stop back via Rwanda again. Little did we know it would be such an adventure!
Check-in in Bujumbura was a non-event, seats assigned, and off to passport/security in this very very small airport. I’ve been fascinated with Bujumbura ever since my undergraduate days when I had a good friend from Burundi….looking back, I never would have imagined back then just how “small” this airport is. We saw a security lane marked “VIP” and decided to try it with Delta Platinum cards since we were flying Kenyan….no dice. They gave us blank stares. Flash of the correct passport and we were whisked through, and straight into the “VIP Waiting Room.” Not quite sure why it was needed when the whole airport is one gate and there’s no WiFi, but it was entertaining nonetheless.
Kenya Airlines Flight 442
Bujumbura, Burundi (BJM) to Kigali, Rwanda (KGL) to Nairobi, Kenya (NBO)
Depart Bujumbura 12:15, Arrive Kigali 12:55
Depart Kigali 13:40, Arrive Nairobi 16:10 (1 hour time change)
ERJ-170, Registration 5Y-KYL, Manufactured 2006
So, perhaps the strangest part of this trip was the timing! We boarded in Burjumbura around 11:15, and by 11:30 we were in the air! Yes…we departed a full 45 minutes early! Not sure if everyone had checked in or what, but yup that’s what happened. Same thing in Kigali…arrived way early, and departed nearly 30 minutes early! I guess Kenyan has a major “thing” for being on-time? Anyways, the flights were totally uneventful, and we arrived Nairobi about 20 minutes early. Visa on arrival was quite easy, except for the very very unusual question: “You no working in Nairobi right? Only transit? No making money?” Um, no.
Our next segment out of Nairobi was on a strange small airline that only takes cash, and we were VERY lucky to spot their office after leaving immigration. We were due to go ticket the next day (which I had confirmed via e-mail) but turns out the next day was a holiday in Kenya, and they would not have been open! VERY fortunate. We headed to the East African Safari Express office, confirmed our tickets, got the first carbon-copy tickets I’ve seen in years, and were all set for the big adventure ahead.
Fortunately, the Hilton shuttle waited for us this whole time, and soon we were off to the hotel. We were given a nice junior suite as an upgrade, and everything worked perfectly. A bit of internet time, planning for our one full day in Nairobi the next day, and soon it was off to dinner at a recommended place by some colleagues called “Havana” which was promised as Tex-Mex.
Unfortunately, the food and drink were pretty disappointing, but the amusement of having Tex-Mex in Kenya was pretty high…plus, at least the drinks menu was entertaining if not good! Next up, I’ll update on our full day in Nairobi, which was 100x more fun and interesting than people had led me to believe was possible!