- We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Mauritania at this time due to the high threat of terrorist attack, including kidnapping, and the unpredictable security situation.
- If you do decide to travel to Mauritania, you should exercise extreme caution. If you are in Mauritania, you should avoid unnecessary local travel. Travel beyond Nouakchott should be registered with the local police.
- There is a high threat of terrorist attack in Mauritania. We continue to receive reports that terrorists are planning attacks against a range of targets, including places frequented by foreigners (see Terrorism section below).
- There is an ongoing high threat of kidnapping against Westerners in the north and west regions of Africa, including places frequented by foreigners in Nouakchott and Atar. Westerners have previously been kidnapped in Mali and remote and desert areas of Mauritania, southern Algeria and Niger.
- There is a risk of retaliatory attacks against Western targets by terrorists in Mauritania following the French intervention in the conflict in Mali in January 2013. Terrorist groups in the region declared their intention to increase attacks and kidnappings targeting Westerners.
- You should maintain a high level of vigilance at all times when travelling in Mauritania and avoid unnecessary travel in remote areas.
- Australians should take increased security precautions when in their homes or cars and watch for any suspicious or unusual activity. Pay close attention to your personal security at all times and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.
- We strongly advise you not to travel to the border areas with Mali, Algeria and Western Sahara because of the risk of terrorist groups, banditry and the activities of armed smugglers.
- You should avoid protests and demonstrations throughout Mauritania as they may turn violent.
- Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Mauritania. The Australian Embassy in Paris provides consular assistance to Australians in Mauritania.
- 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.
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 Mauritania for the most up to date information.
Depending on any recent prior travel to countries affected by Yellow Fever, and the length of your stay in Mauritania, you may be required to present a valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate on entry into Mauritania. For further information contact the nearest Mauritanian Embassy or Consulate.
Mauritania is listed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as endemic for yellow fever. Some airlines may require passengers to present a valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate before being allowed to board flights out of the country. If in doubt, check with your airline.
If you have visited Mauritania in the last six days prior to your date of return to Australia, Australian Customs officials will ask you to present a valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate on entry into Australia.
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
We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Mauritania due to the high threat of terrorist attack, including kidnapping, and the unpredictable security situation.
There is a risk of retaliatory attacks against Western targets by terrorists in Mauritania following the French intervention in the conflict in Mali in January 2013. Terrorist groups in the region have declared their intention to increase attacks and kidnappings targeting Westerners. These attacks could occur at anytime, anywhere in Mauritania.
There is an ongoing high threat of kidnapping against Westerners in the north and west regions of Africa, including Nouakchott and Atar in Mauritania. Westerners have previously been kidnapped in Mali and remote and desert areas of Mauritania, southern Algeria and Niger. Past reports indicate that terrorists have planned to kidnap foreigners, including Australians, travelling between Mauritania and Morocco or who may be close to the Mauritania / Mali border, and to conduct attacks against oil facilities in Mauritania.
There is also a high risk of kidnapping and terrorism across the West African Sahel region.
You should maintain a high level of vigilance at all times when travelling in Mauritania and avoid unnecessary travel in remote areas.
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.
Al-Qaida is active in North Africa and has, in the past, claimed responsibility for terrorist acts in Mauritania.
Past terrorist and kidnapping incidents include:
- On 25 December 2011, Mauritania military police were attacked near the Mali Border, at Adel Bagrou. One officer kidnapped during the attack was released in March 2012 in Mali.
- On 2 February 2011, Mauritanian security forces prevented a bomb attack in Nouakchott.
- On 25 August 2010, three individuals were wounded in an attempted suicide bomb attack in the city of Nema, in eastern Mauritania.
- On 23 August 2010, two of three Spanish nationals kidnapped on 29 November 2009 while travelling from Nouakchott to the port of Nouadhibou were released in Mali. The third hostage was released in March 2010.
- On 26 July 2010, the French Government confirmed that a French national kidnapped in April 2010, had been executed in retaliation for a joint Mauritanian-French operation in Mali.
- On 18 December 2009 an Italian couple was kidnapped by an armed group in south eastern Mauritania, on the road to Mali near Kobonni.
- On 8 August 2009 a suicide bomb attack occurred outside the French Embassy in Nouakchott. AQIM claimed responsibility for the attack. Three people were wounded by the blast.
- A US citizen was killed on 23 June 2009 in Nouakchott. AQIM claimed responsibility for the murder.
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. In planning your activities, consider the kinds of places known to be terrorist targets and the level of security provided. 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.
Australians should take increased security precautions when in their homes and watch for any suspicious or unusual activity. In Nouakchott, Australians are advised to avoid sitting in the open terraces of cafes and to change frequently daily routines to avoid predictable behaviour.
Border areas with Mali, Algeria and Western Sahara:
We strongly advise you not to travel to the border areas with Mali, Algeria and Western Sahara because of the risk of terrorist groups, banditry and the activities of armed smugglers. There are continuing reports that AQIM, the terrorist group responsible for the kidnapping of foreigners in North Africa, is active throughout this region and pose a significant security threat.
If after reading our advice you still decide to travel to these areas, you should ensure you have adequate and continuous close personal protection.
Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General Advice to Australian Travellers.
Civil unrest/Political tension
We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Mauritania at this time due to the unpredictable security situation. If you do decide to travel to Mauritania, you should exercise extreme caution. If you are in Mauritania, avoid unnecessary local travel and monitor the media and other local information sources for information about possible new safety or security risks.
You should avoid protests and demonstrations as they may turn violent. Protests and demonstrations have turned violent in Mauritania in the past. There have been demonstrations in a number of locations across Mauritania in 2012, including in Nouakchott and there is a possibility of further demonstrations.
Demonstrations occurred outside embassies in Nouakchott in September 2012 to protest against the making of an Islamic video in the US and the publication of anti-Islamic cartoons by a French magazine.
Bandits are active across Mauritania. Bandit attacks have occurred at night in beach areas of Nouakchott (including the district of Le Cinquieme), 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. Pickpocketing and other theft also occur. There are increasing reports of carjackings and theft associated with organised people smugglers who are using Mauritania as a transit point for illegal travel by sea to the Canary Islands. When travelling by car, you should keep the doors locked, the windows up and keep valuables out of sight.
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 information on International Financial Scams provides more detail on these types of scams.
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. Once the money has been received, the relationship is usually terminated and any chance of recovering the funds is highly unlikely. In some instances, foreigners who have travelled to Africa to meet their friend or prospective marriage partner have been kidnapped and held to ransom.
Money and valuables
The local currency is the ouguiya which cannot be imported or exported. Foreign currency on departure cannot be more than that declared on arrival.
Before you go, organise a variety of ways of accessing your money overseas, such as credit cards, and Euros or US dollars cash. Australian currency and travellers' cheques are not accepted in Mauritania. Consult with your bank to find out the most appropriate currency to carry and whether your ATM card will work overseas. There are ATMs available in several banks in Nouakchott and some of these may accept foreign credit cards.
Credit cards are not widely used and only local currency is accepted payment in most restaurants and stores. Restaurants or firms which cater principally to foreigners may accept Euros.
Make two photocopies of valuables such as your passport, tickets and visas. 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 and 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, dry 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.
Australians are required to pay an additional fee to have their passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.
Travel within Mauritania should be carefully prepared and organised with a competent local company. Any travel beyond Nouakchott should be registered in advance with the local police/gendarmes. Tourist facilities are non-existent outside of Nouakchott. All travel outside of Nouakchott should be in a convoy with adequate security.
It is advisable to be met on arrival at the airport in Mauritania and to have confirmed, prearranged transport waiting for you. Some respected local transport companies can assist with airport formalities.
Due to the risk of crime and kidnapping in Mauritania it is strongly recommend you do not use taxis.
There are reports of unexploded landmines in the area of Mauritania bordering the Western Sahara region. Mines have been known to shift in sandstorms. You should keep to well-travelled roads.
If you decide to travel to the Western Sahara you should be aware that travel from Morocco is restricted by the Moroccan Government and you will need to obtain permission from Moroccan authorities.
Driving can be dangerous. Poor road conditions, lack of vehicle maintenance and poor local driving standards increase the risk of accidents. Because of the risk of shifting sand dunes and accidents with other vehicles and animals, you are advised to avoid driving at night. Travel in the desert is dangerous for travellers not familiar with the area and who do not have a roadworthy vehicle and adequate supplies of food, water and fuel. Travellers should check the credentials and references of desert guides.
For further advice on road safety, see our road travel page.
Please refer to our air travel page for information about aviation safety and security.
When you are in Mauritania, 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.
Drug penalties are severe and possession of even small amounts of 'soft drugs' can lead to prison sentences.
Penalties for treason and murder include the death sentence.
Homosexual activity between men is illegal in Mauritania and is punishable by prison sentences of up to three years.
Unauthorised photography of military installations, airports, government buildings and religious buildings is prohibited.
Importation of non-Islamic religious materials is prohibited. Non-Islamic preaching is also banned.
Importation of alcohol, firearms and pork products is prohibited. The transportation of any form of alcohol by private citizens is prohibited by law, and alcoholic drinks are not available in restaurants and bars, including in major hotels.
Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, 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.
There are conservative standards of dress and behaviour in Mauritania, particularly for women, and you should take care not to offend.
During Ramadan, eating, drinking and smoking between sunrise and sunset is forbidden for Muslims.
Physical contact between men and women in public should be avoided. Public displays of affection can cause offence, particularly in rural and traditional areas and near mosques, religious shrines and religious educational institutions.
Information for dual nationals
Our Dual Nationals brochure provides further information.
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.
Your doctor or travel clinic is the best source of information about preventive measures, immunisations (including booster doses of childhood vaccinations) and disease outbreaks overseas. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our Travelling Well brochure also provides useful tips for travelling with medicines and staying healthy while overseas.
Medical facilities in Mauritania are limited, particularly outside Nouakchott. Medicines may be difficult to obtain in local pharmacies so you should carry all your own medications. Most doctors and private hospitals will require up-front payment regardless of whether you have travel health insurance. In the event of a serious accident or illness, medical evacuation to a destination with appropriate facilities may be necessary. Medical evacuation could cost up to $A50,000 depending on circumstances.
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, rift valley fever, and yellow fever) also occur in the region. We encourage you to consider taking prophylaxis against malaria and to take precautions against being bitten by mosquitoes, including using insect repellent at all times, wear long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof.
Water-borne, food-borne, parasitic and other infectious diseases (including HIV/AIDS, cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, bilharzia, leptospirosis, meningitis, tuberculosis and rabies) are prevalent with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before travelling. We advise you to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water and avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food. 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 Mauritania. You can obtain consular assistance from the Australian Embassy in Paris:
Australian Embassy, Paris
4 Rue Jean Rey
75724 Cedex 15
Telephone +33 1 4059 3300
Facsimile +33 1 4059 3315
If you are travelling to Mauritania, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we 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 Australian Embassy 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.
Australians are advised to respect wildlife laws and to maintain a safe and legal distance when observing wildlife, including marine animals and birds. You should only use reputable and professional guides or tour operators and closely follow park regulations and wardens' advice.
For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling with Children page.