Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Wednesday, 18 June 2014.   It contains new information in the Summary and under Where to get help (the Canadian Embassy in Mali can provide consular assistance to Australians). We continue to advise Australians not to travel to any part of Mali because of the unpredictable security situation, ongoing armed conflict with rebel groups in northern Mali, the activities of armed groups (including terrorists and bandits), and the threat of kidnapping.

Mali overall

Summary

  • We strongly advise you not to travel to any part of Mali because of the unpredictable security situation, ongoing armed conflict with rebel groups in northern Mali, the activities of armed groups (including terrorists and bandits), and the threat of kidnapping.
  • If you remain in Mali, you are advised to avoid all political rallies, protests and large gatherings. You should avoid areas of sensitivity, such as government facilities and military installations and places frequented by Westerners.
  • We advise Australians in Mali to maintain several days’ stock of food and water. You should keep a low profile and monitor the media for information. You are advised to regularly review your security arrangements and ensure that you are prepared to leave at short notice if necessary. This should include having up-to-date travel documentation, including, if possible, visas for neighbouring countries.
  • In March 2012, elements of the Malian military staged a coup. In April 2012, armed rebel and extremist groups took control of the northern provinces of Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu as well as parts of Mopti. While most of Malian territory has since been liberated, military clashes with these armed rebel and extremist groups continue in northern regions.
  • There is an ongoing high threat of kidnapping against Westerners in the north and west regions of Africa, including throughout Mali and the remote and desert areas of Mauritania, southern Algeria and Niger. For more information about kidnapping, see our Kidnapping threat travel bulletin.
  • In May 2014, clashes occurred between Government forces and armed rebel groups in Kidal, Northern Mali, resulting in casualties.
  • Violent protests have occurred in Bamako in May with the possibility of further unrest.
  • The risk of armed banditry is high throughout Mali, especially in the northern provinces and in border areas.
  • Following the French/African military intervention in Mali, there is a possibility of retaliatory attacks targeting Western interests. Extremist groups in the region have declared their intention to increase terrorist attacks and kidnappings targeting Westerners. The presence of extremists has been reported in the northern regions of Mali and along the Mauritanian border.
  • Presidential and legislative elections took place in Mali in the second half of 2013. The political and security situation remains unpredictable and could deteriorate with little warning.
  • Australia does not have an embassy or consulate in Mali. The Canadian Embassy located in Bamako, provides consular assistance to Australians in Mali. This service includes the issuance of Provisional Travel Documents. The Australian High Commission in Ghana, can also assist Australians in Mali.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
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Entry and exit

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Mali for the most up to date information.

Mali is listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) 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 into Mali and on exit from the country. For more information about yellow fever, including Australian re-entry requirements, see the Department of Health website.

Make sure your passport has at least six months’ validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Safety and security

Civil unrest/Political tension

We strongly advise you not to travel to any part of Mali at this time because of the unpredictable security situation, ongoing armed conflict and the threat of terrorism, banditry and kidnapping.

In March 2012, members of the Malian military staged a coup. In April 2012, armed rebel and extremist groups took control of the northern provinces of Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu as well as parts of Mopti.

An interim president and a transitional government were sworn in in April 2012.

Following a request from the interim government, France deployed troops to Mali in January 2013. A number of African nations subsequently deployed troops under the auspices of the African-led International Support Mission in Mali which transitioned into a UN peacekeeping mission on 1 July 2013. While most of Malian territory has since been liberated, military clashes with armed rebel and terrorist groups continue to occur in northern regions.

Presidential elections were held in July and August 2013 and Ibrahim Boubacar Keta was sworn in as Mali’s President on 4 September 2013. Legislative elections were held in November 2013 and December 2013. Despite this, the political and security situation remains unpredictable and could deteriorate with little warning.

If you remain in Mali, you are advised to avoid all political rallies, protests and large gatherings. If you are in an area where a protest is occurring you should leave if it is safe to do so, otherwise remain indoors and away from the windows.

In May 2014, clashes occurred between Government forces and armed rebel groups in Kidal, Northern Mali, resulting in casualties.

Violent protests have occurred in Bamako in May 2014 with the possibility of further unrest.

We advise Australians in Mali to maintain several days’ stock of food and water. You should keep a low profile and monitor the media for information on political developments. The BBC World Service in English is available in Bamako on 88.9FM.

If you decide to stay in Mali, you should review your security arrangements regularly and ensure that you are prepared to leave at short notice if necessary. This should include having up to date travel documentation including, if possible, visas for neighbouring countries.

While the security situation in Bamako is generally calm, the situation elsewhere in Mali remains volatile. Night time checkpoints and road blocks are common and curfews could be imposed with little notice. You should keep vehicle and personal identification documents with you at all times when travelling by road. Approach security checkpoints slowly and comply with instructions.

We advise Australians who remain in Bamako to avoid areas of sensitivity, such as government facilities, military installations and places frequented by Westerners.

Senou International Airport in Bamako is operating normally, although at a heightened level of security. A vehicle checkpoint is regularly in place at the main entrance to the airport. Expect your vehicle to be searched and ensure all occupants, including the driver, are carrying personal identification. Flight schedules may be subject to change or cancellation with little warning.

Terrorism

While major northern cities have been liberated, military clashes with armed rebel and terrorist groups continue to occur in northern regions.

The threat of terrorism, banditry and kidnapping is high throughout the country, including in Bamako and southern Mali.

There is an ongoing high threat of kidnapping against Westerners in the north and west regions of Africa, including throughout Mali and the remote and desert areas of Mauritania, southern Algeria and Niger. Al Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), a terrorist group responsible for the kidnapping of foreigners, is active in Mali and poses a significant security threat for travellers, including in southern Mali. Foreigners, Western mining interests and NGOs (non-governmental organisations) may be possible targets.

Following the French/African military intervention in Mali, there is a possibility of retaliatory attacks targeting Western interests. Extremist groups in the region have declared their intention to increase attacks and kidnappings targeting Westerners. Criminal gangs have previously carried out kidnappings for extremist groups in return for financial reward.

The presence of extremists has been reported in the northern regions of Mali and along the Mauritanian border. However, the threat is not limited to these areas; extremist groups have a proven capability of travelling long distances to carry out kidnappings and attacks.

There have been several incidents of Westerners being kidnapped in Mali. On 2 November 2013, two French journalists were kidnapped in Kidal, in northeast Mali, and subsequently killed. On 21 November 2012 a French national was kidnapped in Dima, east of Kayes, near the Senegal/Mauritanian border.

A Swiss national was kidnapped in Timbuktu on 15 April 2012, before being released on 24 April 2012. On 4 April 2012, seven Algerian diplomats were kidnapped in Gao, three of whom were released on 5 July 2012. On 25 November 2011, one western tourist was killed and three others kidnapped in an attack on a restaurant in central Timbuktu. On 24 November 2011, two French nationals were kidnapped from the town of Hombori in Mopti province, one of whom has since died in captivity.

For more information about kidnapping, see our Kidnapping threat travel bulletin.

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. If you do decide to travel to an area where there is a particular threat of kidnapping, you should ensure you have personal security measures in place, seek professional security advice and take out kidnapping insurance.

You should be aware that terrorist targets could include places frequented by foreigners and identified with Western interests, including embassies and international schools.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General advice to Australian travellers.

Crime

Petty crime such as pickpocketing and theft are common in urban areas of Mali. Thieves target large public gatherings and are also active on trains, particularly at night.

In the north of the country, armed banditry, kidnapping and carjacking occur. Four-wheel drive vehicles are particularly targeted. Bandits are active in all remote areas of the country.

Commercial and internet fraud is prevalent and often originates in West African countries. Victims have been defrauded and those who travel to the originating country have had their lives endangered. Some victims have been killed. 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. If you are a victim of a financial scam, we advise you to obtain legal advice and not to travel to Africa to seek restitution as there is a risk of physical assault from the perpetrators. Our international scams page provides more detail on these types of scams.

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

Money and valuables

Australian currency and travellers' cheques are not accepted in Mali. Consult with your bank to find out the most appropriate currency to carry and whether your ATM card will work in Mali. Some credit cards are accepted in major hotels in the capital city, Bamako. They are rarely accepted outside of Bamako. Travellers' cheques may be exchanged at banks. There are limited ATM facilities in Mali.

Make two photocopies of valuable documents such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.

While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.

As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

You are required to pay an additional fee to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.

Local travel

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

Given the prevailing security environment, you should avoid public transport. Travel by road should only be considered if adequate security precautions are deployed. Driving at night is particularly dangerous as most roads are in poor condition. Driving conditions deteriorate further in the rainy season (June to September).

Laws

If you remain in Mali, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are severe and can include heavy fines and lengthy imprisonment in local jails. Other serious offences, including murder, sedition and spying, carry the death penalty.

It is illegal to photograph around 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 subject to a prison term of up to two years. See our LGBTI travellers page.

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

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years’ imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Local customs

The Islamic holy month of Ramadan is expected to begin in mid-June 2015. During Ramadan, Australians travelling to countries with significant Muslim communities should take care to respect religious and cultural sensitivities, rules and customs. In particular, people who are not fasting are advised to avoid eating, drinking and smoking in public and in the presence of people who are fasting. For more information see our Ramadan travel bulletin.

There are strong Islamic codes of dress and behaviour in Mali. You should take care not to offend. Typical dress for women includes loose-fitting clothing which covers the arms and legs, and a headscarf.

Information for dual nationals

While the Government of Mali recognises dual nationality, officials may place restrictions on the ability of Australian officials to provide consular assistance to Australian/Malian dual nationals if they are detained or arrested. We recommend you travel on your Australian passport at all times.

Australian/Malian dual nationals may be liable for civil/military obligations. Before travel, dual nationals should check with the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Mali.

Our Dual nationals page provides further information.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. 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 a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

There has been a serious outbreak of Ebola virus disease in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, resulting in a significant number of deaths (WHO Disease Outbreak News). Monitor closely the health advice issued by local authorities and avoid travel to affected areas. For more information, see the Ebola outbreak in West Africa travel bulletin.

Medical facilities in the capital Bamako are very limited and even more basic in rural areas. Up-front payment is usually required before commencing treatment. In the event of a serious illness or accident, medical evacuation to a destination with appropriate facilities would be necessary. Medical evacuation costs could exceed $A100,000.

Malaria is common in West African countries, including Mali. Other mosquito-borne diseases (including dengue fever) also occur. We encourage you to consider taking prophylaxis against malaria and to take measures to avoid insect bites, including using insect repellent at all times, wearing long, loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing, and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito-proof.

Mali is listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a country at risk for yellow fever. Yellow fever is a potentially fatal viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes, which is preventable by vaccination. We strongly recommend that you are vaccinated against yellow fever before travelling to Mali. See the Entry and Exit section for important information about vaccination certificate requirements. For more information about yellow fever, see the Department of Health website

Water-borne, food-borne, parasitic and other infectious diseases (including HIV/AIDS, cholera, hepatitis, meningitis and tuberculosis) are prevalent with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. We advise you to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, and avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food. Do not swim in fresh water to avoid exposure to certain water-borne diseases such as bilharzia (schistosomiasis). Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

Where to get help

Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Mali. By agreement between the Canadian and Australian governments, the Canadian Embassy in Bamako provides consular assistance to Australians in Mali. This service includes the issuance of Provisional Travel Documents. The address is:

Canadian Embassy, Bamako

Immeuble Semega
Route de Koulikoro
Bamako, Mali
Telephone: (+223) 20 212 236
Facsimile: (+223) 20 214 362
Email: bmakog@international.gc.ca
Website: www.canadainternational.gc.ca/mali/index.aspx

You can also obtain consular assistance from the nearest Australian High Commission which is in Accra, Ghana:

Australian High Commission, Accra

2, Second Rangoon Close
(cnr Josef Broz Tito Ave)
Cantonments, Accra
Ghana
Telephone: (+233) 302 216 400
Facsimile: (+233) 302 216 410
Email: AccraHC.Enquiries@dfat.gov.au
Website: www.ghana.highcommission.gov.au

If you are travelling to Mali, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we also encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

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

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.

Additional information

Airline safety

Please refer to our air travel page for information about aviation safety and security.

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

The rainy season is June to September when flooding may occur. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.