Toggle Menu SearchSearch
smartraveller.gov.au smartraveller.gov.au

Summary

  • Reconsider your need to travel to Mauritania due to the threat of kidnapping and terrorist attack, and the unpredictable security situation.
  • Do not travel to Tiris Zemmour, Adrar, Tagant, Hodh ech Chargui, Hodh El Gharbi, Assaba and Guidimaka or within 25 kilometres of the border with Western Sahara. There is a high threat of kidnapping from terrorist groups in these regions. See Safety and security.
  • Wherever you go in Mauritania, you risk being kidnapped. Foreigners have been kidnapped throughout Mauritania. See Safety and security.
  • Avoid unnecessary travel in remote areas. Register any travel beyond Nouakchott with the local police.
  • Avoid places that are visited by foreigners. Have appropriate personal security measures in place. Be alert to possible threats to your security at all times.
  • Monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.
  • Given the unpredictable security situation in Mauritania, we strongly recommend that you register your travel and contact details with us, so we can contact you in an emergency.
  • See Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.

Entry and exit

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact the nearest Embassy of Mauritania, for the most up to date information.

Other Formalities

Yellow fever is endemic in Mauritania. To protect yourself against this potentially fatal disease and to avoid trouble entering other countries after you leave Mauritania, get vaccinated for yellow fever before travelling there. See Health.

More information:

Passport

Your passport is a valuable document and attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place.

By law, you must report the loss or theft of your passport to the Australian Government as soon as possible. You can:

Make sure your passport has at least six months validity from your planned date of return to Australia.

Money

The local currency is the ouguiya, which cannot be imported or exported. When you leave Mauritania, you can't have more foreign currency with you than the amount you declared on your arrival.

Some businesses that cater principally to foreigners may accept Euros. Most transactions are in cash and ouguiyas are preferred in most shops and restaurants. Credit cards are not widely used. Travellers cheques are not accepted.

ATMs are available in several banks in Nouakchott. Some ATMs may accept foreign credit cards. Check ATM locations with your bank before you travel.

Safety and security

Terrorism

Terrorists are active in Mauritania. In October 2016, the US Embassy warned its citizens that terrorists may be planning to carry out attacks imminently against places where US citizens congregate in Nouakchott.

Terrorist attacks could be directed against any locations known to be frequented by foreigners, as well as premises and symbols associated with the Government of Mauritania. Possible targets include clubs, restaurants, embassies and high commissions, international schools, international hotels, expatriate housing compounds, churches and other places of worship, shopping centres, outdoor recreation events, tourist areas and transport hubs or identifiably western interests, including businesses.

  • Avoid unnecessary travel in remote areas
  • Avoid places visited by foreigners
  • Avoid sitting in open terraces of cafes
  • Have appropriate personal security measures in place
  • Watch for suspicious or unusual activity
  • In planning your activities, consider the kinds of places known to be terrorist targets and the level of security provided.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. More information: Terrorist Threat Worldwide

Kidnapping

Wherever you go in Mauritania, you risk being kidnapped. A number of westerners have been kidnapped in Mauritania in recent years, predominantly from remote and desert areas. Some kidnap victims have been killed. There are currently several western hostages being held in the Sahel region.

Kidnappers are particularly active throughout the region encompassing Tiris Zemmour, Adrar, Tagant, Hodh ech Chargui, Hodh El Gharbi, Assaba and Guidimaka and within 25 kilometres of the northern border with Western Sahara. National boundaries in the region are porous and kidnappings happen in all countries of the Sahel region. Foreigners travelling alone or with insufficient security make easy targets. Kidnapping is undertaken either directly by terrorists or by criminal groups who on-sell the victims to terrorist groups.

The Australian Government's longstanding policy is that it does not make payments or concessions to kidnappers. The Australian Government considers that paying a ransom increases the risk of further kidnappings, including of other Australians.

  • Do not travel to Tiris Zemmour, Adrar, Tagant, Hodh ech Chargui, Hodh El Gharbi, Assaba and Guidimaka and within 25 kilometres of the border with Western Sahara (except the city of Nouadhibou – see next point)
  • Reconsider your need to travel to the city of Nouadhibou
  • If, despite our advice, you travel to an area where there is a particular threat of kidnapping, seek professional security advice and prepare accordingly.

Throughout Mauritania:

  • regularly change your daily routines
  • avoid places visited by foreigners
  • avoid unnecessary travel in remote areas
  • have appropriate personal security measures in place.

More information: Kidnapping

Crime

Theft and assault

Bandits are active across Mauritania. Bandits have carried out attacks at night in beach areas of Nouakchott and at deserted beach areas during daylight hours. Bandits have attacked vehicles travelling by road between Mali and Mauritania and in the north of Mauritania.

There are increasing reports of car-jackings and theft associated with organised people smugglers who are using Mauritania as a transit point for illegal travel by sea to the Canary Islands.

Travellers also encounter pickpocketing and other petty crime.

  • Have appropriate personal security measures in place
  • When travelling by car, keep the doors locked, the windows up and valuables out of sight
  • Pay attention to your personal security at all times.

Scams

Commercial and internet fraud often originates in West African countries such as Mauritania. Many victims have been defrauded and those who have travelled to the originating country have had their lives endangered. Some victims have been killed. Typically, criminals seek details of 'safe' bank accounts overseas (such as yours) in which to transfer large sums of money (as a donation or for a percentage of the amount involved). Others provide fake cashier cheques for 'urgent' shipments of large quantities of goods, request sizeable fees for a fake government contract and/or extort money from individuals they have convinced to travel to Africa for a business opportunity.

Some Australian citizens have also been defrauded or had their lives endangered by bogus internet friendship, dating and marriage schemes operating from West African countries. These scams typically result from connections made through internet dating schemes or chat rooms. Once a virtual relationship develops, the Australian citizen is asked by their friend or prospective marriage partner to send money to enable travel to Australia. In some cases, the relationship is terminated and any chance of recovering the funds is highly unlikely. In other cases, foreigners are lured to Africa to meet their friend or prospective marriage partner and they become a kidnapping victim.

  • Be very wary of any request or demand to send money to anyone in Mauritania.
  • If you are a victim of a financial scam, obtain legal advice
  • Do not travel to Mauritania to try to get your money back if you have been defrauded: there is a significant risk of physical assault or extortion by the perpetrators
  • Be very wary of any invitation to Mauritania to meet someone you have met over the internet as you could face extortion, kidnapping or other threats on arrival. 

More information:  Scams

Civil unrest and political tension

There have been demonstrations in several locations across Mauritania since 2012, including in Nouakchott.  Some protests and demonstrations have turned violent.

  • Avoid all protests, demonstrations and large public gatherings
  • Keep an eye on the local news and other sources for information on planned and possible protests, demonstrations or other unrest.

Local travel

Organise any travel within Mauritania in conjunction with a reputable local company. Register any travel beyond Nouakchott in advance with the local police/gendarmes. All travel outside of Nouakchott should be in a convoy with adequate security. Do not travel to Tiris Zemmour, Adrar, Tagant, Hodh ech Chargui, Hodh El Gharbi, Assaba and Guidimaka and within 25 kilometres of the border with Western Sahara. See Safety and Security.

Unexploded landmines are a risk to travellers near Mauritania's border with the Western Sahara region. Mines can shift in sandstorms. If, despite our advice, you travel to this area, always keep to well-travelled roads.

Road travel 

Driving can be dangerous. The major arterial roads linking Nouakchott with Nouadhibou to the north and with Bamako (Mali) to the west are generally in good condition. However other roads in Mauritania are in poor condition. Sub-standard vehicle maintenance, poor local driving standards, animals on roads and shifting sand dunes all increase the risk of accidents.

  • Avoid driving at night
  • Always carry adequate reserve supplies of food, water and fuel
  • Make sure your car is in roadworthy condition
  • Only travel in the desert if you are familiar with the area
  • Check the credentials and references of desert guides.

More information: Road safety and driving

Air travel

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See instead the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Mauritania.

More information:  Air travel

Laws

Local laws

You are subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter, but we can't get you out of jail.

More information: Arrested or in prison

Drug laws 

Penalties for all drug offences, even possession of small amounts, include heavy fines and/or imprisonment.

More information:

Other laws 

Penalties for treason and murder include the death sentence.

While legal in some countries, the following activities are illegal in Mauritania:

  • homosexual activity. More information: LGBTI travellers
  • unauthorised photography of military installations, airports, government buildings and religious buildings
  • importation of non-Islamic religious materials
  • non-Islamic preaching
  • importation of alcohol, firearms and pork products
  • transportation of any form of alcohol by private citizens.

Australian laws 

Some Australian criminal offences apply to overseas. You can be prosecuted for them in Australia.  These offences include, but are not limited to:

  • child sex offences and child pornography
  • female genital mutilation
  • forced marriage
  • drug trafficking
  • people smuggling and human trafficking
  • bribery of foreign public officials
  • money laundering
  • terrorism and foreign incursions

More information: Staying within the law

Dual nationals

The Mauritanian government does not recognise dual nationality.

More information: Dual nationals

Local Customs

Ramadan

The Islamic holy month of Ramadan is expected to occur between mid-May and mid-June 2018. During Ramadan, take care to respect religious and cultural sensitivities, rules and customs. Avoid eating, drinking and smoking in public and in the presence of people who are fasting.

More information: Ramadan

Dress

There are conservative standards of dress and behaviour in Mauritania, particularly for women. Take care not to offend.

Affection

Avoid physical contact between men and women in public. Public displays of affection can cause offence, particularly in rural and traditional areas and near mosques, religious shrines and religious educational institutions.

Health

Travel insurance 

Take out comprehensive travel insurance before you depart to cover overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation.

Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for your medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs. This can be very expensive.

Confirm:

  • what circumstances and activities are, and are not, covered under your policy
  • that you are covered for the whole time you will be away.

More information: Travel insurance

Physical and mental health 

Consider your physical and mental health before travelling, especially if you have an existing medical condition.

  • At least eight weeks before you depart, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and implications for your health
  • Get vaccinated before you travel.

Medication

Not all medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia are available in other countries. Some may even be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.

Take prescription medicine with you so you remain in good health. Always carry a copy of your prescription or a letter from your doctor stating what the medicine is, how much you'll take and that it's for personal use only.

Before you leave Australia:

  • check if your medication is legal in each country you're travelling to and what is required to take that medication into the country
  • get medical documents authenticated by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade before you depart (if required).

More information: Prescription medicines

Health risks

Mosquito-borne illnesses 

Malaria is a risk throughout the year in most areas except in the northern regions of Dakhlet-Nouadhibou and Tiris-Zemmour. Other mosquito-borne diseases (including dengue fever and rift valley fever) also occur in the region. 

Mauritania is listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as endemic for yellow fever. Yellow fever is a potentially fatal viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes, which is preventable by vaccination.

Protect yourself against mosquito-borne illnesses:

  • get vaccinated against yellow fever before you travel to Mauritania
  • ensure your accommodation is mosquito proof
  • take measures to avoid insect bites, including always using insect repellent and wearing long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing
  • consider taking prophylaxis against malaria.

More information:

HIV/AIDS

HIV/AIDS is a risk for travellers. Exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in activities that expose you to risk of infection.

Other diseases and health issues

Water-borne, food-borne, parasitic and other infectious diseases (including cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, bilharzia, leptospirosis, meningitis, tuberculosis and rabies) are prevalent with serious outbreaks occurring from time to time.

  • Boil all drinking water or drink bottled water
  • Avoid ice cubes
  • Avoid uncooked and undercooked food
  • Seek urgent medical attention if you suspect poisoning, if you have a fever or suffer from diarrhoea.

More information: Infectious diseases

Medical facilities

Medical facilities in Mauritania are limited, particularly outside Nouakchott.

Most doctors and private hospitals will require up-front payment regardless of whether you have travel health insurance.

If you become seriously ill or injured, you would need to be evacuated to a destination with appropriate facilities. Medical evacuation could be very expensive. Make sure you have appropriate insurance for your trip.

Where to get help

Depending on the nature of your enquiry, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, travel agent, travel insurance provider, employer or airline. Your travel insurer should have a 24 hour emergency number.

Emergencies

  • Police 17
  • Firefighters 18
  • Gendarmes 119

Most hospitals do not have ambulances capable of providing emergency care. 

Always obtain a police report when reporting a crime.

Tourism services and products

For complaints relating to tourism services or products, contact your service provider directly.

Australian Government

Read the Consular services charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.

 Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Mauritania. You can obtain consular assistance from the Australian Embassy in Paris:

Australian Embassy, Paris

4 Rue Jean Rey
75724 Cedex 15
Paris
Telephone +33 1 4059 3300
Email: consular.paris@dfat.gov.au
Website:  france.embassy.gov.au

Check the Embassy website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

In a consular emergency, if you are unable to contact the Australian Embassy you can contact the 7 day 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Additional Resources