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Mali

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Summary

  • Do not travel to the capital, Bamako, or to northern Mali. This includes Kidal, Timbuktu, Gao, Mopti, the area of Segou north of the Niger River and all areas north of the latitude of Diema. There is a high threat of kidnapping, terrorism and banditry and the security situation is extremely volatile.
  • Reconsider your need to travel to all other parts of Mali due to the threat of kidnapping, terrorism and banditry.
  • The political and security situation throughout Mali could deteriorate with little warning. Make sure you have robust security arrangements in place. Have contingency plans and be prepared to leave at short notice if necessary, including by keeping your travel documents up-to-date. See Safety and security
  • Demonstrations occur regularly in Bamako and can turn violent. Avoid political rallies, protests and large gatherings. See Safety and security
  • Mali is under a State of Emergency. Expect a robust security presence, including police patrols, possible police security checks on restaurants and hotels, vehicle and personal security checks. See Safety and security.
  • There is a high threat of terrorist attack in Mali. There has been a sharp increase in terrorist attacks since early 2015. Most attacks targeted Malian police and security forces but some targeted venues frequented by foreigners. Numerous attacks were in Bamako. Further attacks are likely. Avoid vulnerable locations. See Safety and security.
  • In October 2017, the US Government informed its citizens of a continued threat of attacks against hotels, restaurants, and bars frequented by Westerners, particularly in the cities of Bamako and Gao. In June 2017 it warned of an increased threat of attacks against Western diplomatic missions, places of worship and other locations in Bamako where Westerners frequent. See Safety and security.
  • Australia does not have an embassy or consulate in Mali. The Canadian Embassy in Bamako provides consular assistance to Australians in Mali and can issue Provisional Travel Documents. The Australian High Commission in Ghana can also assist Australians in Mali. If the security situation in Mali deteriorates, the ability of the Canadian Embassy in Bamako to provide consular services to Australian citizens may be limited.

Entry and exit

Visas

You will need a visa to enter Mali. Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact the nearest Embassy of Mali for up-to-date information.

Other formalities

The World Health Organization (WHO) lists Mali as endemic for yellow fever. Yellow fever is a serious and potentially fatal disease preventable by vaccination. A valid yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for entry to Mali and on exit from the country.

Read Yellow fever for information on re-entry to Australia following exposure to yellow fever.

Passport

Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months from the date you intend to return to Australia.

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.

Be aware of attempts to get access to your passport by deception.  If you are forced to hand over your passport, contact the Embassy for advice.

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

Money

The local currency is the West African CFA franc (XOF). Declare all foreign currency in excess of XOF 25,000 on arrival. Travellers cheques can be exchanged at major banks.

There are limited ATM facilities. Some credit cards are accepted in major hotels in Bamako. Credit cards are accepted only rarely outside Bamako. Ensure you have sufficient cash to meet your needs.

Safety and security

A State of Emergency was introduced in April 2016 and has been extended until 31 October 2018. Expect a robust security presence including police patrols, vehicle and personal security checks and possible police security checks on restaurants and hotels.  

Terrorism

There has been a sharp increase in terrorist attacks in Mali since early 2015. Most recent attacks have targeted security forces and United Nations (UN) peacekeepers but some have targeted venues frequented by expatriates.

Recent terrorist incidents include:

  • In August 2017, a UN peacekeeper and a Malian soldier were killed after gunmen opened fire on a patrol in Douentza. Seven people, including five Malian security guards, a civilian and a gendarme, were killed in a separate attack on a UN base in Timbuktu.
  • In June 2017, five people were killed in an attack on a tourist resort east of Bamako and three UN peacekeepers were killed in an attack on a UN base in Kidal.
  • In May 2017, seven Malian soldiers were killed and seven others were wounded in an attack on a military position in Almoustrat and a person was killed and nine peacekeepers were injured in an attack on a UN base at Timbuktu airport.
  • In April 2017, Malian soldiers were killed and wounded when a terrorist group captured a military barracks in Tagharoust, 150km south of Timbuktu.
  • In March 2017, three Malian soldiers were killed and four reported wounded in an attack on an army checkpoint 150km from Gao.
  • In January 2017, a bomb attack on a military base in Gao killed more than 70 people.
  • In July 2016, 17 people were killed and 35 injured in an attack by armed terrorist groups on a Malian army base in Nampala, Segou district.
  • In March 2016, a small arms and grenade attack was carried out on the EU Training Mission headquarters at the Hotel Nord Sud, Bamako.

The security situation in northern Mali, Bamako and areas bordering Mauritania has been dangerous and volatile for some time. A number of recent attacks in southern and central Mali point to a deteriorating security environment in the south.

Terrorists could launch an attack at anytime and anywhere in Mali. Targets could include places identified with foreign interests, including embassies, international schools, mining operations and venues frequented by expats such as restaurants and hotels.    

In October 2017, the US Government informed its citizens of a continued threat of attacks against hotels, restaurants, and bars frequented by Westerners, particularly in the cities of Bamako and Gao. In June 2017, it warned of an increased threat of attacks against Western diplomatic missions, places of worship, and other locations in Bamako where Westerners frequent.

If, despite the risks, you travel to Mali:

  • Be alert to possible threats throughout Mali, especially in public places.
  • Avoid hotels, restaurants, bars, churches, crowds and other possible targets for terror attacks.
  • If you must go to a crowded place or other possible terror target, have a clear exit plan for if there is a security incident.
  • Report any suspicious activity or items to police.
  • Monitor the media for any new or emerging threats and for advice of curfews and other restrictions.
  • Take official warnings seriously and follow the instructions of local authorities.
  • If there is an attack, leave the affected area immediately if it is safe to do so. 
  • Avoid the affected area in the aftermath of an attack because of the risk of secondary attacks.

More information: Terrorist Threat Worldwide

Kidnapping

There is a high threat of kidnapping across Mali. A number of terrorist groups are active in Mali and have the intent and capability to kidnap foreigners. Criminal gangs have also carried out kidnappings for terrorist groups in return for financial reward. Foreigners, western mining interests, aid workers and long-term residents of Mali are possible targets.

Several foreigners, including Australians, have been kidnapped in Mali in recent years. In February 2017, a Colombian national was kidnapped in southern Mali, approximately 300km from Bamako. In December 2016, a French aid worker was kidnapped in Gao, northern Mali. Between 2012 and 2017, several French, Swiss and Algerian citizens were kidnapped in Mali. Some were killed.  

The Australian Government does not make payments or concessions to kidnappers. Ransom payments to kidnappers, many of whom are associated with proscribed terrorist groups, are known to have funded subsequent terrorist attacks. Ransom payments to terrorist groups are likely to breach Australian anti-terrorism financing laws.

If, despite the high threat of kidnapping throughout the country, you travel to Mali:

  • read Kidnapping before you travel
  • seek professional security advice
  • put effective personal security measures in place.

Civil unrest and political tension

Following a military coup, and a rebel takeover of northern provinces, including Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu in 2012, France and a number of African countries deployed troops to Mali in 2013. The African-led International Support Mission in Mali transitioned to a UN peacekeeping mission, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) on 1 July 2013. French and UN forces remain in Mali.

The Malian government signed a peace agreement with key rebels in June 2015 but military clashes with armed rebel and terrorist groups continue to occur in northern regions. The situation in the north and central regions is highly volatile. Night-time checkpoints and road blocks are common and curfews can be imposed with little notice.

Demonstrations occur regularly in Bamako and can quickly turn violent.

The political and security situation throughout Mali could deteriorate with little warning.

  • Keep vehicle and personal identification documents with you at all times when travelling by road. Approach security checkpoints slowly and comply with instructions.
  • Avoid political rallies, protests and large gatherings.
  • If you are in an area where a protest is occurring, leave if it is safe to do so. Otherwise, remain indoors and away from the windows.
  • Make robust personal security arrangements.
  • Maintain contingency plans to ensure you are prepared to leave at short notice if necessary. This includes having up-to-date travel documentation.
  • Avoid areas of sensitivity, such as government facilities and military installations.
  • At Senou International Airport, expect your vehicle to be searched. Make sure all occupants, including the driver, are carrying personal identification.

Crime

Petty crime such as pickpocketing and theft are common in urban areas of Mali.

Armed banditry, kidnapping and carjacking occur, particularly in the northern regions. Four-wheel drive vehicles are often targeted. Bandits are active in all remote areas of the country.

  • Pay strict attention to your personal safety and security at all times.
  • Carry only what you need. Leave other valuables in a secure location.
  • Don't tempt thieves – avoid wearing expensive watches, jewellery and cameras.
  • Avoid carrying bags that are easy to snatch.
  • Pay close attention to your personal possessions at all times.
  • Keep your car windows and doors closed and locked at all times, including when moving.
  • Avoid visiting banks or using ATMs alone. Only use ATMs in banks, hotels and other buildings with security.

Scams

Internet scams come in many forms, including romance, friendship, business and employment opportunities. Victims have suffered financial loss. Victims who travel to Mali or other West African countries to meet a friend or prospective marriage partner they have met online, or to seek restitution for money they have lost, are at risk of kidnapping, assault and robbery. Some victims have been killed. 

Commercial internet fraud is prevalent and often originates in West African countries. Criminals have been known to seek details of 'safe' bank accounts overseas in which to transfer large sums of money (as a donation or for a percentage of the amount involved). They may also provide fake cashier cheques for 'urgent' shipments of large quantities of goods, request sizeable fees for a fake government contract and extort money from individuals they have convinced to travel to Africa for a business opportunity.

Bogus internet friendship, dating and marriage schemes are operating from Mali. These scams typically result from connections made through internet dating sites or chat rooms. Once a virtual friendship develops, you'll typically be asked by your 'friend' or prospective marriage partner to send money to enable them to travel to Australia. In some cases the relationship is terminated with very little chance that any funds can be recovered. In other cases, foreigners are lured to Africa to meet their friend or prospective marriage partner and become victims of crime including kidnapping, assault and robbery.

  • Scrutinise all approaches originating in Mali (or other West African countries) from people you don't know.
  • Don't send money to anyone in Mali until proper checks are made.
  • If you are the victim of a scam, get legal advice. 
  • Don't to travel to Mali to seek restitution.

More information: Scams

Local travel

Landmines and improvised explosive devices have been used in the north and north east of Mali.

Road Travel

Banditry and other crime makes road travel dangerous. Driving at night is particularly dangerous as most roads are in poor condition. Driving conditions deteriorate further in the rainy season (June to September).

  • Seek professional security advice before travelling by road.
  • Only travel by road if you have adequate security measures in place.

Driver's licence

You can drive in Mali with a valid Australian driver's licence and an International Driving Permit (IDP). You must get your IDP before departing Australia.

Motorcycles

Only use registered taxis and limousines, preferably those arranged through your hotel.

Taxis

Only use registered taxis and limousines, preferably those arranged through your hotel.

Public Transport

The security environment makes travel by public transport dangerous. Avoid public transport.

 Air travel

Flight schedules can change and flights can be cancelled with little warning.

A vehicle checkpoint is regularly in place at the main entrance to Senou International Airport in Bamako. You'll need vehicle and personal identification for all passengers.

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

More information: Air travel

Laws

You're 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 trouble or out of jail.

Drug laws

Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are severe and can include heavy fines and lengthy terms of imprisonment in local jails. More information: Drugs

Other laws

Serious offences, including murder, sedition and spying, carry the death penalty.

It is illegal to photograph military zones, military assets and/or military personnel, transportation facilities and government buildings.

Homosexual activity is not explicitly illegal in Mali, but may be considered 'contrary to accepted standards of behaviour', which is a criminal offence. More information: LGBTI travellers

Written authorisation from the National Museum in Bamako is required for the purchase and/or removal of archaeological objects from Mali.

Australian laws

Some Australian criminal laws apply overseas. If you commit these offences, you may be prosecuted in Australia. Laws include those relating to:

  • bribery of foreign public officials
  • child pornography
  • child sex tourism
  • female genital mutilation
  • forced marriage
  • money laundering
  • terrorism.

More information:

Dual nationals

Mali recognises dual nationality but, if you're a dual national and you're arrested or detained, Malian officials may restrict the ability of Australian officials to provide consular assistance to you. Travel on your Australian passport at all times.

If you're a dual national, you may be required to fulfil civil or military service obligations in Mali. Check with the nearest Embassy of Mali before you travel.

More information: Dual nationals

Local customs

There are strong Islamic codes of dress and behaviour in Mali. Take care not to offend.

The Islamic holy month of Ramadan is expected to occur between early May and early June 2019. During Ramadan, take care to respect religious and cultural sensitivities, rules and customs. In particular, avoid eating, drinking and smoking in public and in the presence of people who are fasting.

More information: Ramadan

Health

Travel insurance

Take out comprehensive travel insurance before you depart to cover overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. Make sure your policy includes adequate coverage for any pre-existing conditions.

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 and cost you many thousands of dollars upfront.

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.

More information:

Medication

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

Before you leave Australia, check if your medication is legal in each country you're travelling to and find out if any quantity restrictions or certification requirements apply. Consult your doctor about alternatives well in advance of travel

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

More information: Prescription medicines

Health risks

Mosquito-borne diseases

Mali is listed by the WHO as endemic for yellow fever. Yellow fever is a potentially fatal viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes. It is preventable by vaccination.

Malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases, including dengue fever, also occur.

Protect yourself against mosquito-borne illnesses:

  • ensure your accommodation is insect proof
  • take measures to avoid insect bites, including using insect repellent and wearing long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing
  • get vaccinated against yellow fever before you travel
  • consider taking malaria prevention medication
  • seek medical advice if you have a fever, muscle pain, rash or severe headache.

More information:

HIV/AIDS

The rate of HIV/AIDS infection in Mali is high. Exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in activities that expose you to risk of infection.

Other infectious diseases

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

  • Use good hygiene practices including frequent handwashing.
  • Boil drinking water or drink bottled water.
  • Avoid ice cubes.
  • Avoid raw and undercooked food.
  • Don't swim in fresh water to avoid exposure to as bilharzia (schistosomiasis) and other water-borne diseases.
  • Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering diarrhoea.

Medical facilities

Medical facilities in Bamako are very limited and even more basic in rural areas. Local medical expertise is lacking and there are very few burns and mortuary facilities. Medical staff generally have only limited English.

You'll usually need to pay upfront, before you receive treatment.

If you become seriously ill or injured, you'll need to be evacuated to a destination with appropriate facilities. Medical evacuation can be very expensive.


Natural disasters

Flooding may occur during the rainy season from June to September.

Severe weather can have an impact on your travel overseas. Monitor local media for up-to-date information.

If you're visiting an area recently affected by severe weather:

  • confirm your plans and activities with your tour operator or travel provider
  • check the condition of infrastructure and facilities with local tour operators and hotels.

More information: Severe weather

Where to g​et help

Depending on what you need, your best option may be to contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, employer or travel insurer. Your travel insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.

Emergencies

  • Fire: phone 18
  • Medical emergencies: phone 15 or go direct to the hospital
  • Criminal issues: phone 17 or 2023 9511, 8000 1114, 8000 1115, 2022 1335, 2023 9515 or visit the nearest police station

Always get 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 doesn't have an embassy or consulate in Mali. The Canadian Embassy in Bamako provides consular assistance to Australians in Mali. This service includes the issuing of Provisional Travel Documents. If the security situation in Mali deteriorates further, the ability of the Canadian Embassy in Bamako to provide consular services to Australian citizens may be limited.

Canadian Embassy, Bamako

Koulikoro Street
Séméga Building
District II
Bamako, Mali
Phone: +223 44 98 04 50
Fax: +223 44 98 04 55
Email: bmakog@international.gc.ca
Website: canadainternational.gc.ca/mali

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

You can also get consular assistance from the nearest Australian High Commission in Accra, Ghana.

Australian High Commission, Accra

2, Second Rangoon Close
(cnr Josef Broz Tito Ave)
Cantonments, Accra
Ghana
Phone: +233 302 216 400
Fax: +233 302 216 410
Email: AccraHC.Enquiries@dfat.gov.au
Website: ghana.highcommission.gov.au
Facebook: Australian High Commission, Ghana
Twitter: @AusAmbGHA

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

If you're unable to contact the Embassy or High Commission in a consular emergency, contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre in Canberra on +61 2 6261 3305, or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Additional resources