Back

Country Reports

Mauritania Country Report

Overview

INTRODUCTION

All those traveling to Mauritania, a vast and sparsely populated country (3.5 million people), should take significant precautions due to the precarious security environment.

AREAS TO AVOID

All travel to the northeast of Mauritania, an area stretching from Nouadhibou across to the Western Sahara border, reaching from Ouedane until Tidhika, and passing through the north of Tintane to reach southern Khabou, is highly discouraged.

The Zouerate area presents the only such exception, although individuals must reach the area via air. Regardless, nonessential travel is discouraged. Although the British authorities advise against all but essential travel to the rest of the territory, the French government only formally advises against traveling from the cities of Akjoujt and Rosso to the western cities of Khabou and Ouedane.

Nevertheless, extra care must be taken in the western part of the country, including in the capital Nouakchott.

SECURITY

The northeast part of the country is a transportation hub and is often used by traffickers. The majority of this area is placed under the control of the army, and access requires the express authorization of the Chief of Staff. Note that many Western diplomatic authorities formally advise against all travel to this area.

TERRORISM

The terrorist threat is extremely high, particularly for foreigners (attacks and kidnappings). Due to events in neighboring Mali (international military intervention, terrorism, presence of numerous armed groups, internally displaced persons, political instability), Mauritania remains vulnerable to the activities of regional terrorist groups. On June 30, 2015, the radical Islamist group Ansar Dine claimed responsibility for an attack perpetrated in the Malian village of Nara, located near the Mauritanian border, and shortly thereafter threatened to carry out similar attacks in Mauritania. Some Western governments advise against attempting to cross into Mali by road due to the presence of a number of terrorist groups (and fleeing refugees) along the border.

In the rest of the country, including in Nouakchott, it is important to remain vigilant. Once in Mauritania, travelers should scrupulously adhere to a number of security measures, including: staying in a secured hotel (preferably in central neighborhoods with guarded entrances); be particularly attentive to all suspicious behavior, particularly while in public areas, near government installations, and, particularly, in areas frequented by foreigners.         

CRIME

Criminality is increasing in the cities, in particular in the capital. Cases of violent crimes in particular (armed robbery, burglaries), are rising. Residents are advised to employ a guard service to monitor their residences. Numerous physical assaults, including armed attacks, have occurred in the city-center, new neighborhoods, and the beaches situated in the immediate vicinity of Nouakchott, even in broad daylight. Individuals are advised to avoid isolated and unlit beaches in the capital, as well as the Cinquième district after dark. Therefore, it is imperative to remain extremely prudent, to limit walking distances, to avoid isolated areas, and to lock your vehicle's doors and windows when driving around the city. 

Cases of kidnapping and violent crimes have also been reported in the northern region of Hodh El Chargi in the southeast.

In cases of burglaries or assaults, it is advised to file a complaint with the local police and authorities and to contact the Consular section of the Embassy.

SOCIOPOLITICAL RISKS

The political scene has been relatively calm since incumbent president Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz was reelected for a second five-year term in June 2014. Nevertheless, tensions rose in 2016, mostly due to the president's repeated attempts to hold a national referendum to revise the country's 1991 constitution. Major demonstrations were organized by opposition parties to denounce this project. However, it was approved by a large majority of voters (85%) despite the opposition boycott. The reform of the constitution, which has been in force since 1991, makes it possible to abolish the Senate and replace it with regional councils as of August 15, and to change the national flag and the national anthem. The Constitutional amendment also is slated to abolish the High Court of Justice, the Islamic Superior Council, and the mediator of the Republic.

Moreover, demonstrations to denounce slavery practices still in effect in the country, and violent reprisals by government security forces against anti-slavery activists are frequent.

Although most demonstrations are peaceful, some demonstrations are violently repressed by security forces and travelers are advised to avoid such gatherings.

Visitors should also be aware that religion can be a sensitive topic in the country and they should thus conduct themselves in a respectful manner.

TRANSPORTATION

Travel insurance is mandatory upon entering Mauritania.

Road infrastructure is generally adequate. However, due to difficult traffic conditions (i.e. roads covered in sand, poor visibility, presence of animals, and state of vehicles…), all night travel should be avoided.

Outside the capital, all travel has to be completed in daylight, in an all-terrain vehicle (4x4), preferably in a convoy, equipped with sufficient supplies of water, food, and fuel. Travelers are advised to inform trusted contacts of their destination and to be accompanied by a guide. Vehicles should also be equipped with spare mechanical parts (wheel, cables etc.) and telecommunication devices (via satellite for example). Finally, passengers should be able to prove their identification at all times (passport and visa).

Travelers are advised to vary their itineraries as much as possible as well as the times of their trips.

In the case of an accident, it is best to indicate the location of an accident with flares or a warning triangle, to warn local authorities, and to contact the Consulate Section of your Embassy. Please call 17 to reach the police, 19 to reach the fire station and 119 to reach the gendarmes.

The use of public transportation is not recommended as it is not very reliable; it is best to rent a car with a chauffeur.

HEALTH

Health insurance should be taken out covering repatriation and care given abroad before traveling to Mauritania.

Medical infrastructure is limited throughout the country.

Yellow fever is endemic, notably in the southern part of the country. When traveling back from a country with a high risk of contracting this disease, it is mandatory to present a certificate of vaccination against yellow fever to enter the territory. The World Health Organization (WHO) advises travelers to vaccinate themselves before any travel to the Southern Sahara.

The risk of malaria is present all year around, except in the northern regions (Dakhlet-Nouadhibou and Tiris-Zemour. Dengue fever and chikungunya are also present in the country. It is imperative to adhere to individual protective measures against mosquito bites and to follow an adapted medical treatment.

Cases of Rift Valley Fever (RVF) have been reported.

Water is not potable in Mauritania and diarrheal diseases are chronic, notably in Nouakchott. It is essential to only drink purified, boiled, or bottled water as well as to be careful with your food and to wash your hands multiple times during the day.

In order to avoid parasite contamination, it is strongly advised to avoid swimming or washing your clothes in stagnant waters. Individuals present should not, under any circumstance, walk barefoot.

It is imperative to respect all necessary protective measures against HIV/AIDS, which affects a large portion of the adult population in the country and is the primary cause of mortality.

The risk of meningitis cannot be ruled out as the country is situated on the meningitis belt.

INFRASTRUCTURE

Credit cards and checks are not accepted in local businesses so it is best to have cash available or traveler's checks. An ATM, widely regarded as safe, is available on the premises of the bank, Société Générale, in Nouakchott.  

LEGAL

It is forbidden to photograph public, religious and / or military buildings, airports, and ports as well as public servants. Legal proceedings will be brought against individuals who violate these rules.

Travelers are advised to carry identification at all times.

Climate

In the south of the country the rainy season lasts from July until September and during this time sandstorms can sometimes strike. Temperatures are very high throughout the country between April and September (40°C in May and June). The rest of the year temperatures fluctuate between 20°C and 25°C. In desert zones conditions are hot during the day and cool at night; during the winter months temperatures can approach freezing.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +222

There are no emergency services in Mauritania.

Electricity

Voltage: 220 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

More