The situation is returning to normal following Presidential elections on 7 November, but tensions remain. You should exercise particular vigilance and register your presence with the British Honorary Consul in Nouakchott. You should seek specific advice when travelling to areas outside the main cities of Nouakchott and Nouadhibou. There is a general threat to Western, including British, interests from terrorism, as there is in other countries in the region. You should remain vigiliant in public places.
SAFETY AND SECURITY
Although there have been no recent terrorist attacks in Mauritania, there is a general threat to western, including British, interests from terrorism, as there is in other countries in the region. In light of the suicide bomb attacks in Istanbul on 20 November, which were clearly directed against British interests, you should remain vigilant in public places and areas frequented by tourists, and continue to check this Travel Advice regularly. You should read: Risk of Terrorism
and Security and General Tips
The level of crime in Mauritania is very low. However, you should avoid the beach at Nouakchott and 'Le Cinquième' district after dark.
Ba’athist supporters and Islamists within the army led an attempted coup against President Taya on 8-9 June 2003. This was ultimately unsuccessful, although the Chief of Defence Staff was killed in fighting. Presidential elections were held on 7 November 2003, and President Taya was re-elected with 67% of the vote. The final days of the generally peaceful campaign were marred by harassment of the main opposition candidate, who has since been arrested for inflammatory comments after the poll. You should be aware of the possibility of further political unrest. You should exercise particular vigilance and be prepared to adjust travel plans at short notice in light of developments. You should ensure that you register your presence with the British Honorary Consul. You should seek specific advice when travelling to areas outside the main cities of Nouakchott and Nouadhibou.
You should also be aware of the impact that the situation in Iraq, as well as the violence between the Israelis and Palestinians, has had across the Arab world and the risk of public disturbance in response. You should take sensible precautions for your personal safety and avoid political gatherings and demonstrations.
Off the paved roads, conditions are generally poor, and overland travel is difficult. There are three paved roads: one from Rosso to Nouakchott, Akjoujt and Atar; one from Nouakchott to Nema; and the third from Aleg to Boge and Kaeddi. But the route from Nouakchott to Nouadhibou is along the beach only. You are advised to use four wheel drive vehicles, check the tide times, travel in convoy and ensure you bring adequate supplies of water and fuel. Nouakchott and Nouadhibou have several tour companies, which are well equipped and will organise desert trips.
The national mining company, SNIM, runs a train service for both people and vehicles between Nouadhibou and Atar (80km from Choum). It is essential to book in advance.
Air Mauritanie runs flights linking Nouakchott to Nouadhibou (daily), Zouerate, Atar, Kaedi, Kiffa, Tidjikja, Aioun and Nema.
Sailing in the port at Nouadhibou can be dangerous because of the number of shallow shipwrecks.
LOCAL LAWS AND CUSTOMS
You should respect Mauritanian laws and regulations. It is considerate to dress modestly. Sale and consumption of alcohol is against the law, although some restaurants do serve it. Police sometimes object to photography without prior permission.
Visas are required for entry to Mauritania. They can be obtained prior to travel from the Mauritanian Embassy in London. Overland travellers should obtain a visa before leaving the UK. For latest information contact the Mauritania Embassy.
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 US dollars), and may not accept foreign insurance cards. You should seek medical advice on inoculations before travelling and consider taking malaria prophylaxis particularly if travelling south or east of Nouakchott.
The weather can be very hot and dry. Fluid intake should be kept high, making sure enough salts are included.
Comprehensive travel and medical insurance is essential and should include a provision for medical evacuation.
Local currency (Ouguiya) is not convertible and may not be exported. US Dollars or Euros can be changed for Ouguiyas at banks, some hotels and Bureaux de Change. The rate for pounds Sterling is very poor. Credit cards can be used at a few hotels in Nouakchott and Nouadhibou.
Visitors staying more than three months in Mauritania should register with the British Honorary Consul.
There is no British Embassy in Mauritania. The British Ambassador in Rabat, Morocco is accredited to Mauritania. In the case of consular emergency, contact the British Honorary Consul in Nouakchott, Mr Sid’Ahmed Ould Abeidna; (tel: +222 525 6172; mob: +222 630 1217 fax: +222 529 6493.