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Flag of Mauritania
Still current at: 07 January 2011
Updated: 15 December 2010

This advice has been reviewed and reissued with amendments to the Travel Summary (travel can be difficult) and Safety and Security - Terrorism (confirm travel insurance applies). The overall level of the advice has not changed; we advise against all travel to Tiris Zemmour, Adrar, Tagant and Hodh el Chargui, Dakhlet-Nouadhibou and Inchiri, and against all but essential travel to the rest of the country.

(see travel advice legal disclaimer)

Travel advice for this country

Travel Summary

  • We advise against all travel to the eastern and northern provinces of Mauritania - Tiris Zemmour, Adrar, Tagant, and Hodh el Chargui - due to the continuing high threat from terrorism throughout the country. This includes all areas bordering Mali, Western Sahara and Southern Algeria.

  • We also advise against all travel to the western provinces of Dakhlet-Nouadhibou and Inchiri. This includes the road from the port of Nouadhibou to Nouakchott - see Rally Racing.

  • We advise against all but essential travel to the rest of the country.

  • There is a high threat from terrorism. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in placed frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.

  • There is a high threat of kidnapping in Mauritania and surrounding countries by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQ-M). Three Spanish aid workers were kidnapped in Mauritania on the road between Nouâdhibou and Nouakchott in November 2009. They were later released. There have been fifteen kidnappings in the region since 2009 including a British national who was kidnapped with a group of travellers in the Mali/Niger border region in January 2009.  He was later executed.

  • On 22 July Mauritanian forces with French technical assistance confronted a terrorist encampment in northern Mali.  Al Qaada in the Islamic Maghreb (AQ-M) may conduct retaliatory attacks on Western targets in the near future.

  • We advise British nationals to keep a low profile, exercise caution, and avoid all areas where there are large gatherings of people. If a demonstration or disturbance is taking place, you should leave the area as quickly and safely as possible. It is important to be aware of your surroundings at all times. British nationals should make themselves aware of developments by listening to media reports for further information, as well as monitoring our Travel Advice.

  • Travel in Mauritania can be difficult and conditions are poor for overland travel. You should take all necessary safety precautions, especially outside of main urban areas, have confidence in your security arrangements and maintain a high level of vigilance. See Safety and Security - Terrorism , Safety and Security - Local Travel and our rally racing page.

  • Developments in the region may trigger public unrest, especially after Friday prayers. You should avoid large gatherings of people and demonstrations, which can turn hostile. Be particularly alert in public places.

  • There is no British Embassy in Mauritania and you should register your presence with the British Honorary Consul in Nouakchott and on LOCATE. You should inform the Honorary Consul if you intend to travel to areas outside the main cities of Nouakchott and Nouadhibou. See General -  Representation in Mauritania .

  • The main type of incident for which British nationals required consular assistance in Mauritania in 2008 were for replacing lost and stolen passports. You should carry a copy of your passport with you at all times for identification purposes.

  • You should take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. See General - Insurance .

Safety and security

Safety and Security - Terrorism
There is a high threat from terrorism. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.

We believe that terrorists continue to plan attacks. In particular, there is a high risk of kidnap throughout Mauritania and surrounding countries from Al Qaeda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQ-M). AQ-M operates directly or through criminal gangs who carry out kidnappings on their behalf or pass on their kidnap victims for monetary gain, which is the reason that attacks have occurred over such a large area.

You should be aware that the long-standing policy of the British Government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage-takers. The British Government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners increases the risk of further hostage-taking.

We advise against all travel to the eastern and northern provinces of Mauritania - Tiris Zemmour, Adrar, Tagant, and Hodh el Chargui - due to the continuing high threat from terrorism throughout the country. This includes all areas bordering Mali, Western Sahara and Southern Algeria.

We also advise against all travel to the western provinces of Dakhlet-Nouadhibou and Inchiri. This includes the border with Western Sahara and the road from the port of Nouadhibou to the capital, Nouakchott - see our rally racing page.

We advise against all but essential travel to the rest of the country.

Recent incidents in or close to Mauritania include:

  • On 16 September the French authorities confirmed that five French nationals, one Togolese and one Malagasay national had been kidnapped in northern Niger. It has been reported that they were taken in the town of Arlit which is on the N25 road about 150km south east of the border with Algeria. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQ-M) have claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.
  • On 25 August 2010 there was an attempted suicide bomb attack outside an army barracks near the city of Nema. Three individuals were wounded.
  • On 23 August 2010 two Spanish nationals kidnapped in November 2009 were released. The third had been released earlier in the year.
  • On 26 July 2010, the French Government confirmed that the French national, Michel Germaneau, who had been kidnapped on 22 April 2010 near Arlit in north western Niger had been executed.
  • On 22 July 2010, Mauritanian security forces attacked a terrorist encampment in northern Mali with French technical assistance. It is possible that AQ-M may conduct retaliatory attacks on Western targets in the near future.
  • On 28 December 2009, a group of Saudi nationals were attacked near the village of Djambala in Niger, close to the Mali border. Four died in this attack.
  • On 18 December 2009 an Italian couple were kidnapped by an armed group in south eastern Mauritania 18 km east of Kobonni on the road to Mali.
  • On 29 November 2009 three Spanish nationals, were kidnapped whilst travelling in an 11-vehicle convoy from the capital, Nouakchott, to the northern port city of Nouadhibou. AQ-M has claimed responsibility.
  • On 26 November 2009 a French national was kidnapped by AQ-M near Gao in Eastern Mali.
  • On 14 November 2009 there was an attempted kidnap in Tahoua, Niger, by heavily-armed individuals against employees of the American Embassy.
  • On 8 August 2009 a suicide bomb attack took place outside the French Embassy in Nouakchott, injuring three people.
  • On 23 June 2009 a US national was killed in Nouakchott. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQ-M) has claimed responsibility for the killing.
  • On 22 January 2009 a group of European tourists were kidnapped in the area of the Mali-Niger border. A British national who was part of this group was later executed.  

When travelling in Mauritania you should take steps to protect your safety, and should make sure you have confidence in your individual security arrangements. You should maintain a high level of vigilance, particularly in public places, and where there are large gatherings of people. You should take precautions for your personal and vehicle safety.

If you are travelling to Mauritania as part of an organised tour you should confirm with the organisers that they are aware of our Travel Advice and that they can confirm in writing that their travel insurance still applies. You should also be aware that the local governments in the region are also attacked by AQ-M. The security forces in Mauritania, Mali and Niger have all suffered fatalities.

See our Terrorism Abroad page.

Safety and Security - Crime

Crime levels are moderate but steadily increasing. There have been several incidents of car jacking involving foreigners in the capital as well as reports of robbery, rape and assault. See our Rape and Sexual Assault Abroad page. You should avoid the unlit and isolated beach at Nouakchott and ‘Le Cinquième’ district after dark as a number of thefts and violent incidents have been reported there in recent years.

See our Victims of Crime Abroad page.

Safety and Security - Local Travel
You should inform the Honorary Consul in Nouakchott if you intend to travel to areas outside the main cities of Nouakchott and Nouadhibou.

Crossing the border from Senegal can be time-consuming and officials may request payments to cross the border.

Should you experience any difficulties, you should seek advice from the British Honorary Consul. Contact details are:

Mr Sid’ Ahmed Ould Abeidna
Tel:  +222 525 8331Mob:  +222 630 1217/+33 6800 19567Fax:  +222 525 3903

Safety and Security - Local Travel - Road Travel
The coast road between Nouakchott and Nouadhibou runs through a region to which we advise against all travel. On 29 November 2009 three Spanish nationals who were travelling in a convoy on this road were kidnapped (see the Safety & Security – Terrorism section of this Travel Advice for further details).  

The conditions of paved roads in Mauritania are generally poor, and overland travel is difficult. You are advised to use four wheel drive vehicles, check the tide times, travel in convoy and ensure you take adequate supplies of water and fuel.

See our Driving Abroad and Rally Racing pages.

Safety and Security - Local Travel - Rail Travel
The national mining company, SNIM, runs a train service for both people and vehicles between Nouadhibou and Atar (80km from Choum).  It is essential to book in advance.

Safety and Security - Local Travel - Air Travel
You should reconfirm all flights.

Mauritania Airways runs flights linking Nouakchott to Nouadhibou (daily), Zouerate, Atar, Kaedi, Kiffa, Tidjikja, Aioun and Nema.

Significant deficiencies have been identified in the level of safety oversight that Mauritania gives to aircraft on its register and to the airlines that it certifies.  

Safety and Security - Sea Travel
Sailing in the port at Nouadhibou can be dangerous because of the number of shallow shipwrecks.

See our River and Sea Safety page.

Safety and Security - Political Situation
Mauritania Country Profile

A bloodless coup took place in Mauritania in August 2008 that overthrew Mauritania's first democratically elected President. Following months of political tension and uncertainty, elections were held on 18 July 2009 and the inauguration ceremony of the elected President was held on 5 August 2009.

Mauritania is calm but further instability cannot be ruled out.

Travellers to Mauritania should be aware of the impact that the situation in Iraq, as well as the violence between Israelis and Palestinians, has had across the Arab world and the risk of public disturbance in response. You should follow news reports and be alert to developments in the Middle East that might trigger public disturbances. You should take precautions for your personal safety and avoid public gatherings and demonstrations. Any increase in regional tension might affect the local situation.

You should be prepared to adjust travel plans at short notice in light of developments.

Local laws and customs

Local laws reflect the fact that Mauritania is an Islamic country. You should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times and be aware of your actions to ensure that they do not offend other cultures or religious beliefs, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas. See our Travelling During Ramadan page.

You should respect Mauritanian laws and regulations. It is considerate to dress modestly. Sale and consumption of alcohol is against the law, although some restaurants do serve it. Police sometimes object to photography without prior permission.

You should carry ID, especially when travelling outside Nouakchott (where you may encounter many police road checks). You should also comply promptly with directions from the police and other Mauritanian security forces, and to carry copies of your personal identity papers (passport) with you at all times.

Homosexuality remains a punishable offence in Mauritania.

Drugs laws are severe. Those found in the possession of any illegal drug may receive a prison sentence.

See our Your trip page.

Entry requirements

Entry Requirements - Visas
Visas are required for entry to Mauritania. They should be obtained prior to travel from the Mauritanian Consulate General in Paris, 89, rue de Cherche-Midi, 75006 Paris, Tel +33 1 45 48 23 88, Fax +33 1 45 44 72 42. Open Monday - Thursday 1000 - 1300. 

Entry Requirements - Passport Validity
The minimum passport validity for entry to Mauritania is three months. 

Entry Requirements - Travelling with Children
Single parents or other adults travelling alone with children should be aware that some countries require documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing lone parents to enter the country or, in some cases, before permitting the children to leave the country. For further information on exactly what will be required at immigration please contact the Mauritanian Embassy in Paris at:


Medical facilities are extremely limited, particularly outside Nouakchott and Nouadhibou, where lack of communications makes dealing with an emergency very difficult. Clinics in Nouakchott and Nouadhibou charge for medical care (sometimes in Euros or US dollars), and may not accept foreign insurance cards. You should ensure that your insurance covers medical repatriation by air ambulance.

The weather can be very hot and dry. Fluid intake should be kept high, making sure enough salts are included.

In the 2008 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic the UNAIDS/WHO Working Group estimated that around 14,000 adults aged 15 or over in Mauritania were living with HIV; the prevalence rate was estimated at around 0.8% of the adult population. This compares to the prevalence rate in adults in the UK of around 0.2%. You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS. You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS. See our HIV and AIDS page.

You should seek medical advice before travelling to Mauritania and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up-to-date. For further information on vaccination requirements, health outbreaks and general disease protection and prevention you should visit the websites of the National Travel Heath Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) and NHS Scotland's Fit For Travel or call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.

See our Travel Health and our Swine flu pages.


General - Insurance
You should get comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. Your insurance should also cover you for medical repatriation by air ambulance. You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake. See our Travel Insurance page.

If things do go wrong when you are overseas see our When Things Go Wrong page.

General - LOCATE Registration
You should register with our LOCATE service to tell us when and where you are travelling abroad or where you live abroad so our consular and crisis staff can provide better assistance to you in an emergency. 

General - Representation in Mauritania

There is no British Embassy in Mauritania. The British Ambassador in Rabat, Morocco is accredited to Mauritania. There is a British Honorary Consul in Nouakchott, Mr Sid'Ahmed Ould Abeidna. If you decide to travel to Mauritania, you should endeavour to register with the Honorary Consul.

Contact details of the British Honorary Consulate are as follows:

Mr Sid’ Ahmed Ould Abeidna:Tel: +222 525 8331Mob: +222 630 1217/+33 6800 19567Fax: +222 525 3903

Honorary Consul is authorised to issue emergency passports in Mauritania. 

General - Money
Local currency (Ouguiya) is not convertible and may not be exported. US Dollars or (preferably) Euros can be changed for Ouguiyas at banks, some hotels and official Bureaux de Change. The rate for Sterling is very poor. Credit cards can be used at a few hotels in Nouakchott and Nouadhibou. ATMs do not accept foreign credit or debit cards.

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