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Is Mauritania Safe?

Mauritania's safety is a concern due to terrorism threats, particularly in border regions, and violent crime like carjackings. Civil unrest stemming from ethnic tensions poses risks. Adequate medical facilities are lacking, necessitating vaccinations and travel insurance. Extreme heat and sandstorms can disrupt travel plans. Respecting cultural norms, like modest dress, is crucial to avoid conflicts.

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Safety & Security

Mauritania is generally considered safe for travelers, but there are some risks to be aware of. The country has a low crime rate, but petty crimes like pickpocketing and bag snatching can occur, especially in crowded areas. Violent crime against foreigners is rare, but disputes and scams targeting tourists have been reported.

  • Terrorism: There is a risk of terrorist attacks, particularly in border regions near Mali, Algeria, and Western Sahara. Attacks have occurred in the past, and the threat remains present.

  • Civil Unrest: Mauritania has experienced political tensions and civil unrest in recent years, with occasional protests and demonstrations. These events can turn violent, and travelers should avoid large gatherings.

  • Robbery: While not common, armed robbery has been reported, especially in remote areas and along certain roads. Travelers should exercise caution and avoid isolated areas, particularly at night.

  • Scams: Tourists may encounter scams and overcharging by touts, guides, or taxi drivers. It's advisable to negotiate prices beforehand and be cautious of unsolicited offers or services.

Travelers should remain vigilant, avoid displaying valuables, and follow the advice of local authorities and their embassy or consulate. Consulting travel advisories and registering with embassies is recommended for the latest security updates.

Health & Medical

Travelers to Mauritania should be aware of potential health risks and take necessary precautions. While the country has made progress in improving healthcare facilities, challenges remain.

  • Vaccinations: Routine vaccinations like hepatitis A, typhoid, and yellow fever are recommended. Consult a travel health professional for personalized advice based on your travel plans.

  • Insect-Borne Diseases: Malaria and dengue fever are present in some areas. Use insect repellent, wear long sleeves/pants, and consider antimalarial medication.

  • Water and Food Safety: Drink only bottled or purified water and avoid undercooked meat, raw vegetables, and unpasteurized dairy products to prevent waterborne and foodborne illnesses.

  • Medical Facilities: Healthcare facilities in major cities like Nouakchott are improving but may still lack resources. Serious medical emergencies may require evacuation. Comprehensive travel health insurance is advisable.

  • Air Pollution: Air quality in urban areas can be poor, posing risks for respiratory conditions. Those with breathing issues should monitor air quality reports.

Natural Disasters

Mauritania is a vast desert country located in northwest Africa, and while natural disasters are relatively rare, travelers should be aware of certain risks. The country's arid climate and location in the Sahara Desert make it susceptible to sandstorms and dust storms, which can disrupt transportation and outdoor activities. Additionally, flash floods can occur during the rainy season, particularly in the southern regions, posing a risk to travelers in remote areas.

  • Sandstorms and Dust Storms: These events can reduce visibility significantly, making travel hazardous. Travelers should monitor weather conditions and avoid unnecessary travel during these events.

  • Flash Floods: While infrequent, flash floods can occur during the rainy season (July to September) in the southern regions, such as the Assaba and Hodh El Gharbi regions. Travelers should exercise caution when exploring wadis (dry riverbeds) and avoid camping in low-lying areas.

  • Extreme Heat: Mauritania's desert climate can bring extreme heat, especially during the summer months. Travelers should take precautions to avoid heat-related illnesses, such as staying hydrated and limiting outdoor activities during the hottest parts of the day.

It's important to note that while natural disasters are relatively uncommon in Mauritania, travelers should still exercise caution and stay informed about weather conditions and potential risks during their visit.


Transportation in Mauritania can be challenging for travelers. While major cities have public transportation options like buses and taxis, services are often unreliable and road conditions can be poor, especially in rural areas.

  • Road Safety is a significant concern due to poorly maintained roads, lack of proper signage, and reckless driving practices. Rental cars are available but self-driving is not recommended for inexperienced drivers.

  • Public Transportation in cities like Nouakchott and Nouadhibou consists of shared taxis and bus networks, but services can be irregular and overcrowded. Travelers should exercise caution when using these modes of transport.

  • For long-distance travel, domestic flights are available but can be expensive. Trains are an alternative for some routes, but services are limited.

  • Off-road Driving is popular for exploring remote areas, but travelers should only attempt this with experienced guides and proper equipment due to the harsh terrain and lack of infrastructure.

Travelers are advised to carefully plan transportation routes and methods, and consider hiring a private driver or joining a guided tour, especially when venturing outside major cities or into remote regions.

Cultural Norms

Mauritania is a predominantly Muslim country, and respecting local customs and traditions is essential for travelers. Here are some important cultural considerations:

  • Dress Modestly: Both men and women should dress conservatively, covering their shoulders and knees. Women are advised to wear loose-fitting clothing and cover their heads in some areas.

  • Ramadan Observances: During the holy month of Ramadan, avoid eating, drinking, or smoking in public during daylight hours out of respect for those fasting. Many businesses may have reduced hours or be closed.

  • Gender Norms: Mauritanian society is quite traditional, with defined gender roles. Women should avoid physical contact with men in public and be mindful of their behavior.

  • Religious Customs: Remove your shoes before entering mosques or homes. Avoid photographing people without permission, especially women. Respect calls to prayer and religious ceremonies.

  • Greetings: Greet elders and those in positions of authority first. Handshakes are common among men, but wait for a woman to extend her hand first.

  • Hospitality: Mauritanians are known for their hospitality. Accept offers of food or drink graciously, even if you decline politely.

  • Language: While French and Arabic are widely spoken, learning a few basic greetings in Hassaniya Arabic can go a long way in showing respect for the local culture.

By being mindful of these cultural norms and customs, travelers can demonstrate respect for Mauritanian traditions and have a more enriching experience.

Emergency Services

Emergency services in Mauritania are limited, especially outside the capital city of Nouakchott. While police and ambulance services exist, their response times can be slow and their capabilities may be lacking, particularly in remote areas.

  • Medical Facilities: Mauritania has few adequate medical facilities, with the best hospitals located in Nouakchott. However, even these hospitals often lack advanced medical equipment and specialized care.

  • Ambulance Services: Ambulance services are available in major cities but may be unreliable or slow to respond, especially in rural areas. Travelers should have contingency plans for medical emergencies.

  • Police and Security: The police force in Mauritania is underfunded and undertrained. Their ability to respond to emergencies or provide assistance to travelers may be limited, particularly outside major cities.

  • Tourist Assistance: There are no dedicated tourist assistance services or hotlines in Mauritania. Travelers should rely on their embassy or consulate for emergency support.

  • Self-Reliance: Due to the limitations of emergency services, travelers to Mauritania should be prepared to be self-reliant in case of emergencies. Having a well-stocked first-aid kit, emergency contacts, and a contingency plan is highly recommended.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Is Mauritania safe for tourists?

Mauritania is generally safe for tourists, but caution is advised. Avoid remote areas near the borders with Mali and Western Sahara due to the risk of terrorism and kidnapping. Stick to major cities and tourist sites, and travel with a reputable tour company. Petty crime occurs, so take precautions with valuables.

Is Mauritania safe for solo female travelers?

Solo female travelers should exercise caution in Mauritania. While not overly dangerous, it's a conservative Islamic society where women are expected to dress modestly and avoid going out alone at night. Harassment can occur, so it's advisable to join a tour group or hire a local guide.

Is Mauritania safe for families?

Mauritania can be a challenging destination for families with children. The infrastructure is basic, and amenities for kids are limited. However, major cities like Nouakchott and Atar are relatively safe. Families should take precautions against dehydration, heat exhaustion, and food-borne illnesses.

Is Mauritania LGBTQ+ friendly?

Mauritania is not LGBTQ+-friendly. Same-sex sexual activity is illegal and punishable by fines or imprisonment. Public displays of affection between same-sex couples are socially unacceptable and can lead to harassment or legal consequences. LGBTQ+ travelers should exercise extreme caution.

Do you need a visa to go to Mauritania?

Most visitors require a visa to enter Mauritania. Citizens of the United States, Canada, and the European Union can obtain a visa on arrival for stays up to 3 months. However, it's recommended to check the latest visa requirements with the Mauritanian embassy or consulate before traveling, as regulations may change.

Can you drink tap water in Mauritania?

Tap water is not safe to drink in Mauritania. It's recommended to drink bottled or purified water to avoid waterborne illnesses. Avoid ice cubes, and be cautious when consuming food or beverages that may have been prepared with contaminated water.

What is the currency in Mauritania?

The official currency of Mauritania is the Ouguiya (MRU). While credit cards are accepted in some hotels and restaurants in major cities, cash is widely preferred. It's advisable to carry enough cash in small denominations for daily expenses.

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