Mauritania is a developing country in northwestern Africa. It is a Muslim country in which people dress modestly. Sleeved garments are recommended, and shorts should be avoided.
A passport and a visa are required, as is evidence of a yellow fever vaccination. Travelers should obtain the latest information and details from the Embassy of the Republic of Mauritania, 2129 Leroy Place N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 232-5700, or from the Mauritanian Permanent Mission to the U.N., 211 East 43rd Street, Suite 2000, New York, N.Y. 10017, telephone (212) 986-7963 or 8189; e-mail: Mauritania@un.int. Overseas inquiries should be made at the nearest Mauritanian Embassy or Consulate.
As a result of a past border conflict between Morocco and Western Sahara, there are reports of unexploded landmines in areas of Mauritania adjacent to Western Sahara. Exploding mines are occasionally reported and have caused death and injury. In addition, groups of tourists have been held up and robbed along the border with Morocco. Surface travel between Mali and Mauritania can be dangerous, since the border region has historically been plagued by banditry. Groups traveling to the Moroccan and Malian borders should check with the U.S. Embassy and/or local authorities to inform them of their itineraries and check the advisability of the planned trip routes.
Due to heightened security concerns, travelers in Nouakchott, the capital, are advised to avoid establishments known to be frequented by Americans. (Check with local friends or the U.S. Embassy.) The beach area around Nouakchott should be avoided at night. During the day, beach-goers should travel in large groups.
Political gatherings and street demonstrations have been known to occur. Due to the potential for violence, U.S. citizens should avoid large crowds and maintain security awareness at all times.
Surface travel between Mauritania and Senegal is restricted to various designated border crossing-points: N'Diago, Diama, Rosso, Jerd El Mohguen, Tekane, Lekseiba, Boghe in the Brakna, M'Bagne and Kaedi in Gorgol, Tifounde Cive, Maghama and Goraye in Guidimaka.
Crime is on the rise. Most incidents involve petty crime, such as pick-pocketing and other crimes of opportunity, often resulting from improperly secured valuables left in vehicles in plain sight. Residential burglaries, robberies, and assaults also occur. Violent crimes and crimes involving use of weapons are rare but are on the rise. In remote areas, hiring a vehicle and driver is advisable. If you rent a vehicle, keep all doors and windows closed and locked while driving.
Although U.S. citizens for the most part are welcomed in Mauritania, there have been some reports of anti-American incidents (threats and stoning of vehicles) following the 1998 U.S. and British intervention in Iraq. Some Muslim extremists have sometimes perceived Christian non-governmental organizations as a threat. However, political violence and religious extremist groups are closely monitored by local authorities and, to date, do not pose a direct threat to U.S. interests in Mauritania.
Medical facilities in Mauritania are limited. Some medicines are difficult to obtain. Travelers are advised to bring their own supplies. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost thousands of dollars or more. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services.
Malaria prophylaxis and vaccination against hepatitis A and B, tetanus, diphtheria, polio, typhoid, and meningococcal meningitis are recommended. Cholera certification may be required for entry. Children’s immunizations should be up-to-date. Further information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s international traveler’s hotline at tel.: 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax: 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or by visiting the CDC Internet home page at http://www.cdc.gov.
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Mauritania is provided for general reference only and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair to Poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor to Nonexistent
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor to Nonexistent
Road conditions in Mauritania are generally poor, particularly in the interior, and overland travel is difficult. The country’s size and harsh climate make road maintenance and repair especially problematic. Mauritania possesses only about 2,070 km of surfaced roads, 710 km of unsurfaced roads and 5,140 km of unimproved tracks. There are four major roads, each of which links important cities in Mauritania: Nouakchott and Rosso; Nouakchott and Akjoujt; Aleg Boghe and Kaedi; and Nouakchott and Nema (the Road of Hope). Americans traveling overland for long distances in Mauritania should be sure to have an appropriate four-wheel drive vehicle, a local guide, adequate supplies of water, and a second fuel reservoir. A second vehicle is recommended in case of breakdown. Visitors are urged not to travel alone into the desert.
Traffic patterns differ considerably from American-style "Rules of the Road." Drivers and passengers should exercise great caution and wear seat belts at all times. Motorcycle and bicycle riders should wear helmets and protective clothing.
U.S. citizens are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy in Nouakchott between the Presidency Building and the Spanish Embassy, and to obtain updated information on travel and security in Mauritania. The postal address is B.P. 222, Nouakchott, tel. (222) 25-26-60, 25-26-63, 25-11-41, or 25-11-45; fax (222) 25-15-92.
As there is no direct commercial air service at present, or economic authority to operate such service, between the U.S. and Mauritania, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Mauritania’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Mauritania’s air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA Internet home page at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/iasa.pdf. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618) 229-4801.