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Mauritania
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Latest travel advice for Mauritania including safety and security, entry requirements, travel warnings and health

2017-01-20T12:53:22.230+00:00: Latest update: Local laws and customs section - there have been incidences of visitors receiving large fines at the airport and having their passports confiscated for trying to import pork products such as chorizo, ham and bacon

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to:

The FCO advise against all but essential travel to the rest of the country, including the Nouakchott - Nouadhibou corridor.

There is a high threat from terrorism, including kidnapping. On 27 October, 2016, the U.S. Embassy warned that the U.S. government has received information that terrorists are planning to carry out attacks imminently against places where U.S. citizens congregate in Nouakchott. You should be especially vigilant in public places, avoid places visited by foreigners, and monitor local media. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by foreigners. See Terrorism

Demonstrations have taken place in the capital Nouakchott. Some have involved clashes between police and demonstrators resulting in the use of tear gas. You should avoid all demonstrations. See Political situation

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.

Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel.

Safety and security

Political situation

Demonstrations are generally peaceful, but some have involved clashes with police and the use of tear gas. On 3 March 2014 one person died and at least 15 were injured in Nouakchott during a demonstration over an alleged case of apostasy. You should avoid political gatherings and demonstrations and take local advice about places to avoid. Always observe instructions given by the local security forces.

Crime

Crime levels are moderate but steadily increasing. You should avoid the unlit and isolated beach at Nouakchott and ‘Le Cinquième’ district after dark. A number of thefts and violent incidents have been reported there in recent years.

Local travel

Crossing the border into Mauritania can be time-consuming and officials may ask for payments before they allow you to cross. There have been reports that some southern border crossings were closed at the height of the Ebola virus outbreak in Guinea and neighbouring countries. You should check local advice before travelling.

Road travel

The conditions of paved roads in Mauritania are generally poor, and overland travel is difficult. Use four wheel drive vehicles, check the tide times on coastal roads, travel in convoy and make sure you have adequate supplies of water and fuel. Driving standards can also be poor.

Sea travel

Sailing in the port at Nouadhibou can be dangerous because of the number of shallow shipwrecks.

Consular assistance

There is no British Embassy in Mauritania. If you need consular assistance, you can contact the British Embassy in Rabat, Morocco or any EU accredited diplomatic representation (i.e. Embassy) in Nouakchott. Details for the French, German and Spanish Embassies are as follows:

Embassy of France in Mauritania Telephone: +222 529 96 99

German Embassy in Mauritania Telephone: +222 525 17 29 / +222 525 10 32

Spanish Embassy in Mauritania Telephone: +222 529 86 50 / +222 525 20 80 / +222 525 25 79

Terrorism

There is a high threat from terrorism in Mauritania, including kidnapping. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.

The porous nature of bord ers in the Sahel region - of which Mauritania is a part - means terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQ-M) and other regional Islamist groups like Al Murabitun are able to operate across borders and carry out attacks anywhere in the region.

As seen in Mali, Cote d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso, terrorist groups continue to mount attacks on beach resorts, hotels, cafes and restaurants visited by foreigners. Be especially vigilant in these locations.

There is a high threat of kidnap throughout Mauritania from these terrorist groups. There are currently several hostages being held in the region, some of whom have been held for over 3 years.

AQ-M operates directly or through criminal gangs who carry out kidnappings on their behalf or pass on their kidnap victims in return for payment. The long-standing policy of the British government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage-takers. The British government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners increases the risk of further hostage-taking.

When travelling in Mauritania you should take sensible safety precautions. Keep a low profile and maintain a high level of vigilance, particularly in public places and where there are large gatherings of people.

There is considered to be a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.

Sahel Region

There’s a very real threat of kidnap in the Sahel and surrounding region. The Sahel region includes Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. The kidnap threat extends to other countries including Algeria, Cameroon, Libya and Nigeria. There is a continuing threat of kidnap following the military intervention in Mali which began in January 2013. Further attacks are highly likely.

There are several hostages still being held in the Sahel and surrounding region, some of whom have been held for 3 years. Victims in the region have included construction workers, NGO workers, tourists and diplomats of various nationalities, primarily European. Some hostages have been killed, including 9 British nationals since 2009.

The long-standing policy of the British government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The British government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners increases the risk of further hostage-taking and finances terrorist activity. The Terrorism Act (2000) also makes payments to terrorists illegal.

Who are the terrorists?

The terrorist threat in the Sahel and surrounding region comes from a number of groups, including Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQ-M) and Al Murabitun. These terrorist groups aspire to establish Islamic law in the region and to attack Western interests.

The groups carry out kidnappings of Westerners for financial gain, prisoner exchange and to exert political pressure on governments. Kidnapping for ransom is AQ-M’s primary source of finance.

AQ-M and regional Islamist groups operate in the border areas of northern Mali, Niger and Algeria. They have proven capability of travelling long distances to carry out attacks, including in Algeria, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. Criminal gangs also carry out kidnappings for terrorist groups in return for financial payment.

Since 2013 terrorist groups in the region have also kidnapped westerners in Cameroon and Nigeria. The main terrorist threat in this region comes from Boko Haram and Ansaru.

Boko Haram is an Islamist extremist group in Nigeria that has been proscribed by the UK as a terrorist organisation.

Boko Haram regularly mounts attacks in northern Nigeria. Most attacks occur in the north east, particularly in Borno and Yobe states where Boko Haram has its operating base. There have, however, been a large number of attacks in other Nigerian states and further attacks could occur anywhere.

Ansaru is an Islamist terrorist organisation based in northern Nigeria, and is proscribed by the UK.

Ansaru have carried out a number of kidnap attacks in Nigeria. Boko Haram have taken hostages from neighbouring Cameroon and are consistently kidnapping local nationals and Cameroonians.

Working in the region

If you do choose to work in an area where the FCO advise against travel due to the high threat of kidnapping, you will need a high level of security. Make sure you:

Festivals

A number of festivals take place in the Sahel region every year, although few in Mauritania. If you’re planning to attend a festival in the region, you should consult the country travel advice and check whether it is in an area where the FCO advise against travel.

Rally racing

If you’re taking part in a cross-country rally that travels through the Sahel and surrounding region, you should be aware of the high risk of kidnapping in parts of the region.

Some rallies in recent years have been cancelled or rerouted because of the risk. One of the most famous rallies in the region, the Paris-Dakar Rally, now takes place in South America. However, other rallies may go through areas where the FCO advise against travel. You should consult our country travel advice when planning your route.

If you do choose to take part in a rally that travels through areas where the FCO advise against travel, make sure you:

You should have adequate insurance cover; medical evacuation from a remote location could cost you thousands of pounds if you’re not covered

You should also be aware that the ability of the FCO to provide consular assistance in some countries in the region is limited.

Local laws and customs

Local laws reflect the fact that Mauritania is an Islamic country. You should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times and be aware of your actions to ensure that they do not offend other cultures or religious beliefs, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas.

Importing goods

There have been incidences of visitors receiving large fines at the airport and having their passports confiscated for trying to import pork products such as chorizo, ham and bacon.

In 2017, the holy month of Ramadan is expected to start on 27 May and finish on 25 June. See Travelling during Ramadan.

You should dress modestly. Sale and consumption of alcohol is against the law. Police sometimes object to photography without prior permission.

Carry ID, especially when travelling outside Nouakchott (where you may encounter many police road checks). You should comply promptly with directions from the police and other Mauritanian security forces.

Homosexuality is a punishable offence in Mauritania.

Drugs laws are severe. Those found in the possession of any illegal drug may receive a prison sentence.

Entry requirements

The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.

The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.

Visas

You need a visa to enter Mauritania. Check visa requirements with the Mauritanian Embassy in London before you travel. The Mauritanian Embassy is located at 235-237 Vauxhall Bridge Road, Victoria, London, SW1V 1EJ, Telephone: 020 7233 6158.

You may be able to get a visa on arrival. The current cost is €120 (euros) in cash only. The visa issuing process at the border can take several hours.

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of three months from the date of entry into Mauritania.

Yellow fever certificate requirements

Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK ETDs are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Mauritania. A valid entry visa would still be required for entry to Mauritania using an ETD.

Health

Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.

Medical facilities are extremely limited, particularly outside Nouakchott and Nouadhibou, where lack of communications makes dealing with an emergency very difficult. Clinics in Nouakchott and Nouadhibou charge for medical care (sometimes in euros or US dollars), and may not accept foreign insurance cards. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.

The weather can be very hot and dry. Fluid intake should be kept high, making sure enough salts are included.

Money

Local currency (Ouguiya) is not convertible and can’t be exported. US dollars and euros can be changed for Ouguiyas at banks, some hotels and official bureaux de change. The sterling rate is very poor. Credit cards can be used at a few hotels in Nouakchott and Nouadhibou; some hotels only accept Visa cards. Some ATMs accept foreign credit or debit cards.

Travel advice help and support

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).

Foreign travel checklist

Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.

Travel safety

The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.

When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.

Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.

Refunds and cancellations

If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.

For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Registering your travel details with us

We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.

Previous versions of FCO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send us a request.

Further help

If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.

See also

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  • British Embassy Rabat

    Title:British Embassy Rabat
    Email:rabat.consular@fco.gov.uk
    Address:

    Address:
    28 Avenue S.A.R. Sidi Mohammed
    Souissi 10105 (BP 45),
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    Contact: Telephone:: +212 (0) 537 633 333
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    Visiting:Office hours: Monday to Thursday, 0800-1615; Friday 0800-1300

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    Ramadan Opening Hours: Monday to Thursday, 0800-1400; Friday 0800-1300


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