Fire and rescue services
We haven't changed our level of advice:
Reconsider your need to travel to Mauritania due to the high risk of terrorist attack, kidnapping and violent crime.
Higher levels apply in some parts of the country.
Do not travel to the provinces of Tiris Zemmour, Adrar, Tagant, Hidh ech Chargui, Hodh El Gharbi, Assaba and Guidimaka.
Do not travel to:
Tiris Zemmour province
Hidh ech Chargui province
Hodh El Gharbi province
These regions have a high risk of kidnapping.
Terrorists could attack places popular with foreigners or linked to the government. Avoid places visited by foreigners. Don't sit in open terraces or cafes.
Kidnapping is a threat across the country. Westerners are mainly kidnapped from remote or desert areas. If, despite our advice, you decide to travel to Mauritania, get professional security advice. Avoid unnecessary travel to remote areas. Arrange personal security measures.
Armed thieves often attack people in cars and beach areas. Carjackings by people smugglers are increasing. Keep car doors locked and windows up, even when moving.
Pickpocketing and other petty crimes are common. Keep valuables out of sight. Pay close attention to your personal safety.
Fake internet friendship, dating and marriage schemes operate from West African countries. Be wary of requests to send money or travel to Mauritania from someone you met online.
Protests have happened across Mauritania since 2012, including in the capital, Nouakchott. These can turn violent. Avoid large public gatherings.
Full travel advice: Safety
Get full travel insurance before you leave, including medical costs and evacuation. You'll likely need a special policy that covers travel to high-risk places. Most Australian policies won't cover you for travel to Mauritania.
Malaria is a risk year-round in most areas. Consider taking anti-malarial medication.
Other insect-borne diseases include dengue, Rift Valley fever and yellow fever. Ensure your accommodation is insect-proof. Use insect repellent. Get vaccinated against yellow fever before you travel.
HIV/AIDS is a risk. Take precautions if you engage in high-risk activities.
Waterborne, foodborne, parasitic and other infectious diseases are common. They include cholera, typhoid and hepatitis. Drink only boiled or bottled water. Avoid raw or undercooked food. Don't swim in fresh water.
Medical facilities are limited, particularly outside Nouakchott. If you're seriously ill or injured, you'll need medical evacuation. Make sure your insurance covers this.
Full travel advice: Health
Don't use or carry illegal drugs. Penalties can include heavy fines or prison sentences, including for possessing small amounts of drugs.
Same-sex sexual activity is illegal.
Be careful when taking photos. It's illegal to photograph military sites, airports, and government and religious buildings without permission.
Mauritania has strict religious laws. It's illegal to import non-Islamic religious materials or preach non-Islamic religion.
Importing alcohol, pork products or firearms is against the law. It's also illegal for anyone to transport any form of alcohol, unless authorised.
Dress and behaviour standards are conservative, especially for women. Avoid physical contact between men and women in public. Take care not to offend.
Full travel advice: Local laws
Contact your nearest Mauritanian embassy for visa details.
Carry your yellow fever vaccination certificate. You'll need it to enter the country.
The local currency is the Mauritanian Ouguiya (UM). Some businesses that serve foreigners may accept euros, but most shops and restaurants prefer ouguiyas.
Mauritania is a mainly cash economy. Not many places accept credit cards. You can't exchange traveller's cheques. Some ATMs in Nouakchott accept foreign cards.
If you're travelling beyond Nouakchott, despite our advice, register your plans with the local police or gendarmes. All travel outside of Nouakchott should be in a convoy with proper security. Check the credentials and references of desert guides.
Unexploded landmines near the Western Sahara border can shift in sandstorms. Stick to well-travelled roads.
Full travel advice: Travel
Terrorists are active in Mauritania.
In October 2016, the US Embassy warned that terrorists may attack places where US citizens gather in Nouakchott.
Terrorists could target places visited by foreigners or places connected to the Government of Mauritania.
Possible targets include:
clubs, restaurants and hotels
embassies and consulates
international schools and expatriate housing
churches and places of worship
shopping centres, transport hubs and outdoor events
Western interests and businesses
To reduce your risk of being involved in an attack:
avoid travelling to remote areas
avoid places visited by foreigners
avoid sitting in open terraces or cafes
arrange personal security measures
watch for suspicious activity
think about the level of security before you visit a location
Terrorism is a threat worldwide.
Kidnapping is a risk across Mauritania.
Westerners are mostly kidnapped from remote and desert areas. Some have been killed. Several western hostages are still held in the Sahel region.
Kidnappings happen in the Sahel region, even across national borders.
Kidnappers are particularly active within 25km of the northern border with Western Sahara, and in the eastern provinces.
Foreigners travelling alone or without security are easy targets.
Terrorists and criminal groups carry out kidnappings. Criminals sell their victims to terrorist groups.
The Australian Government's longstanding policy is that it doesn’t make payments or concessions to kidnappers.
If you decide to travel to Mauritania despite our advice:
get professional security advice
vary your daily routines
avoid places popular with foreigners
avoid unnecessary travel in remote areas
arrange personal security measures
Armed thieves are active across Mauritania. They've attacked:
beach areas of Nouakchott at night
deserted beach areas during the day
cars on roads between Mali and Mauritania
cars in the north of Mauritania
Reports of carjackings and theft by people smugglers are increasing. They use Mauritania as a transit point for illegal travel to the Canary Islands.
Pickpocketing and other petty crime occur often.
To avoid petty theft:
arrange personal security measures
keep car doors locked and windows up, even when moving
always pay attention to your personal security
Commercial and internet fraud often starts in West African countries, including Mauritania.
If you're a victim of a scam, you could lose your money. Victims who travel to the country where the scam started can be in serious danger. People have been killed.
ask for details of a bank account to transfer large amounts of money — they may offer a fee or donation
provide fake cashier cheques for urgent shipments of large quantities of goods
ask for large fees for a fake government contract
steal money from people they have invited to Africa for a business opportunity
Fake internet friendship, dating and marriage schemes operate from West African countries. These scams usually start via internet dating sites or chat rooms. Scammers build a virtual relationship with you, then ask for money so they can travel to Australia. People have been defrauded or put in danger.
In some cases the relationship ends and your money is gone. In other situations, if you travel to Africa to meet your friend or prospective marriage partner, you may be:
To protect yourself from scams:
be wary of online contact from people you don't know
don't send money to anyone until you've thoroughly checked them
If you suspect a scam, get legal advice.
Don't travel to Mauritania to get your money back or to get revenge. You could be in danger.
Demonstrations have happened across Mauritania since 2012, including in Nouakchott.
Public protests and events that draw large groups of people can turn violent.
To reduce your risk during periods of unrest:
avoid protests, rallies and large public gatherings
monitor the media and other sources
Severe weather may affect your travel.
Monitor local media for updates.
If you're visiting an area affected by severe weather:
confirm your plans with your tour operator or travel provider
check the condition of infrastructure with local operators and hotels
Get comprehensive travel insurance before you leave. Your policy needs to cover all overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. The Australian Government won't pay for these costs.
You'll probably need a special insurance policy that covers travel to high-risk destinations. Most Australian policies won't cover you for travel to Mauritania.
If you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. This applies to everyone, no matter how healthy and fit you are.
If you're not insured, you may have to pay many 1000s of dollars up-front for medical care.
what activities and care your policy covers
that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away
Consider your physical and mental health before you travel, especially if you have an existing medical condition.
See your doctor or travel clinic to:
have a basic health check-up
ask if your travel plans may affect your health
plan any vaccinations you need
Do this at least 8 weeks before you leave.
Not all medication available over the counter or by prescription in Australia is available in other countries. Some may even be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.
If you plan to bring medication, check if it's legal in Mauritania. Take enough legal medication for your trip.
Malaria is a year-round risk in most areas, except in the northern regions of Dakhlet-Nouadhibou and Tiris-Zemmour.
There's no vaccination or specific treatment for dengue.
Yellow fever is widespread in Mauritania. Yellow fever is a potentially fatal virus spread by mosquitoes. It's prevented by vaccination. Get vaccinated for before you travel.
To protect yourself from disease:
make sure your accommodation is insect-proof
use insect repellent
wear long, loose, light-coloured clothing
consider taking medication to prevent malaria
Get medical advice if you have a fever, muscle pain, rash or severe headache.
HIV/AIDS is a risk. Take precautions if you engage in activities that expose you to the virus.
Waterborne, foodborne, parasitic and other infectious diseases are common, including:
Serious outbreaks can occur.
To protect yourself from illness:
drink boiled water or bottled water with sealed lids
avoid uncooked and undercooked food, such as salads
don't swim in fresh water sources
avoid contact with dogs and other mammals
If you're bitten or scratched by an animal, seek medical help straight away.
Get urgent medical attention if you suspect food poisoning or have a fever or diarrhoea.
Medical facilities are limited, particularly outside Nouakchott.
You'll likely have to pay up-front for medical services.
If you become seriously ill or injured, you'll need to be evacuated to a location with better facilities. Medical evacuation can be very expensive.
You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that may appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling.
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.
Penalties for all drug offences can include heavy fines or jail. This includes possessing small amounts of illegal drugs.
The death penalty can apply for treason and murder.
In Mauritania, it's illegal to:
engage in same-sex sexual activity
take unauthorised photos of military facilities, airports, government buildings or religious buildings
import non-Islamic religious materials
preach a non-Islamic religion
import alcohol, firearms or pork products
transport any form of alcohol as a private citizen
Some Australian criminal laws still apply when you're overseas. If you break these laws, you may face prosecution in Australia.
The Mauritanian Government doesn't recognise dual nationality.
If you're a dual national, this limits the consular services we can give if you're arrested or detained.
Always travel on your Australian passport.
The Islamic holiday month of Ramadan will be from late April to late May in 2020. Respect religious and cultural customs and laws at this time.
Avoid eating, drinking and smoking in public or in front of people who are fasting.
Standards of dress and behaviour are conservative, particularly for women. Dress modestly in public and ensure your legs are covered. Women should also cover their arms, while men may wear short-sleeved shirts.
Take care not to offend.
Avoid physical contact between men and women in public.
Public displays of affection can cause offence, particularly:
in rural and traditional areas
near mosques, shrines and religious educational institutions
Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders.
Make sure you meet all entry and exit conditions. If you don't, the Australian Government can't help you.
You can get a visa on arrival. You must show your hotel booking or a letter from your local host. If you're travelling for business, you must have a letter of invitation.
Entry and exit conditions may change. Contact the nearest Embassy of Mauritania for details about visas, currency, customs and quarantine rules.
Some countries won't let you enter unless your passport is valid for 6 months after you plan to leave that country. This can apply even if you're just transiting or stopping over.
Some foreign governments and airlines apply the rule inconsistently. Travellers can receive conflicting advice from different sources.
You can end up stranded if your passport is not valid for more than 6 months.
The Australian Government does not set these rules. Check your passport's expiry date before you travel. If you're not sure it'll be valid for long enough, consider getting a new passport.
Your passport is a valuable document. It's attractive to people who may try to use your identity to commit crimes.
Some people may try to trick you into giving them your passport. Always keep it in a safe place.
If your passport is lost or stolen, tell the Australian Government as soon as possible:
The local currency is the Mauritanian Ouguiya (MRU). You can't import or export ouguiyas.
You must declare any foreign currency on arrival, but there are no limits on how much you can import.
When you leave Mauritania, you can't have more foreign currency with you than the amount you declared on arrival.
Some businesses providing services to foreigners may accept euros.
Most places only accept cash. Most shops and restaurants prefer ouguiyas.
Credit cards aren't widely used. Traveller's cheques aren't accepted.
Several banks in Nouakchott have ATMs. Some ATMs accept foreign credit cards.
Check ATM locations with your bank before you travel.
Only exchange currency at official centres. Avoid exchanging money with street hustlers.
Organise travel with a reputable local company.
If you're travelling beyond Nouakchott, register your plans with the local police or gendarmes.
All travel outside of Nouakchott should be in a convoy with proper security.
Unexploded landmines are a risk near the border with the Western Sahara region. Mines can shift in sandstorms.
If you travel to this area despite our advice, stay on well-travelled roads.
Driving can be dangerous.
The major roads linking Nouakchott with Nouadhibou to the north and Bamako (Mali) to the west are in good condition.
Other roads in Mauritania are in poor condition.
Accident risks include:
poor vehicle maintenance
poor local driving standards
animals on roads
shifting sand dunes
If you plan to drive in Mauritania:
avoid driving at night
carry enough food, water and fuel
make sure your car is roadworthy
only travel in the desert if you're familiar with the area
check the credentials and references of desert guides
DFAT doesn't provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths.
Check Mauritania's air safety profile with the Aviation Safety Network.
Depending on what you need, contact your:
family and friends
Most hospitals don't have ambulances for emergency care.
Always get a police report when you report a crime.
Your insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.
Contact your provider with any complaints about tourist services or products.
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 Mauritania.
You can get consular assistance from the Australian Embassy in Paris.
4 Rue Jean Rey
75724 Cedex 15
Phone: +33 1 4059 3300
Website: france.embassy.gov.au (French)
Facebook: Australian Embassy, France
Check the Embassy website for details about opening hours and any temporary closures.
In a consular emergency, if you can't contact an embassy, call the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on:
+61 2 6261 3305 from overseas
1300 555 135 in Australia
Be the first to know official government advice when travelling.