Situated in the north-western part of Africa, Mauritania bridges the Arab Maghreb and the western sub-Saharan Africa- an interesting combination which attracts every potential tourist of Africa’s attention with the diverse culture and landscapes.
You might want to experience the beauties this African country has to offer, but you should not forget that in order to have a safe and enjoyable trip, one of the basic steps you can take is getting informed. Safety should be a priority when planning a trip to another continent or country. This is when our Mauritania safety travel guide comes useful for you. Not only will we provide the information required for you to travel safe to Mauritania, but also advice on how to prevent yourself and your loved ones from unfortunate events that could alter the quality of your trip.
Because of the economic turmoil present in Mauritania, you might want to know that this country struggles with poverty, escalating crime rates and terrorism. What is more, the border areas are heavily mined and therefore, they come with high risks for the visitors’ safety.
Even though Mauritania figures on your must-visit African countries and its beautiful deserted areas and coastlines are undeniable, you should read our Mauritania safety tips and decide for yourself whether this country is a safe destination for you. Read on to find out how safe is Mauritania for tourists:
Highest Risks You Expose Yourself to When Visiting Mauritania
Overall Risks in Mauritania: MEDIUM to HIGH
Because of the economic and political turmoil Mauritania is characterized by, authorities advise against travelling to Mauritania for pleasure, as the trip could turn into a dangerous adventure. From terrorist attacks to violent acts, you and your travel partners risk to get involved in unpleasant events that could ruin your holiday. Therefore, read our Mauritania safety guide and decide for yourself whether a trip to this country is worth being done in this period and, if the risks do not seem threatening to you, find out our safety advice on how to avoid encountering these risks during your stay in Mauritania.
In order to stay safe in Mauritania, you should take into account some important safety tips that will be provided in this Mauritania safety guide. As general advice, you should be very attentive to the people around you, avoid getting involved in large gatherings or situations that could harm your health and do not let any valuable goods unattended. Any unpleasant event can be solved with common sense and extra caution. Read on to get informed about how to stay safe in Mauritania, irrespective of the unpleasant situation encountered.
Violence Risk in Mauritania: HIGH
Violence in Mauritania is usually connected to the petty crimes mentioned above. Political gatherings might turn violent and attackers could take advantage of your poor knowledge of the area to lure you into going in isolated places. Nevertheless, scams and violent attackers have been registered and along with the terrorist groups who activate in this country, the risk of being a victim is high.
What is more, religious and ethnic violence is also common here: as a Muslim country, local people seem to have a low tolerance towards other religions and therefore, making religious statements is not advisable to be done when visiting this country.
- How to Avoid Violence in Mauritania?
In order to avoid getting involved in such unpleasant events, you should avoid leaving any goods unattended and be skeptical about the people around you. Trusting everyone you have just met is one of the basic mistakes that you can avoid. In case you are accompanied by a travel partner, make sure you stay together during the visits you make in cities or villages and keep an eye on your luggage all the time.
In case you are involved in an attack, try not to resist the attacker and contact the right authorities. They will for sure be willing to help you recover your goods and stay safe.
Pickpocketing and Theft Risks in Mauritania: HIGH
The level of crime in Mauritania has increased significantly during the last years, especially because the country is characterized by poverty and terrorist attacks. From robbery to petty thefts and rape, this country can be a challenge for any visitor. Violent assaults and armed bandits are pretty common in this area, especially in places such as beaches, deserted areas or isolated roads.
- How to avoid pickpocketing and theft in Mauritania?
It is very important to get equipped with the right Mauritania safety tips before deciding to embark on a journey there. Try to avoid exploring isolated parts of the cities and, if you are forced to walk or drive at night, do not leave your valuable goods unattended. Expensive phones, pieces of jewelry and valuable gadgets or money can attract the criminals’ attention and they may see you as a target victim. Take extra caution to the people around you and do not stray from well-traveled roads.
Scam Risk in Mauritania: MEDIUM
At the moment, the only scam that's worrying people all around the world - and which originates from Mauritania - involves a call from a number registered with this country. Reportedly, you receive a call during the night and, if you answer your phone, you will later face quite a costly callback. Obviously, it is unlikely that you'll answer unknown numbers while on your trip and you may also buy a country-specific number in order to make communication easier while traveling.
Therefore, you should not be worried too much about this particular scam.
However, keep in mind that you are subject to other scams! Street vendors, clerks, restaurant/ bar waiters can always take advantage of the fact that you are a tourist and overprice some of the things you're buying from them. This is why you should always be on your toes when interacting with strangers or locals, as you may never know their true intentions.
- How to avoid getting scammed in Mauritania?
As mentioned before, you should always keep an eye out for anything suspicious when traveling. First of all, it is important that you get familiar with the country's currency, as well as with local laws and customs. Then, whenever you think of ordering something, in a restaurant or bar, you should check the menu beforehand and memorize the prices of the things you want to buy.
Even though the waiters try to recommend you certain beverages/ dishes - which are, conveniently enough for them, not on the menu -, you should still settle only for the things you can see the price of.
It is recommended that you limit the time you spend in the company of strangers or locals that try to sell you something or to draw your attention too hard. If they're trying too hard, it means that they have a plan of scamming/ robbing you.
Kidnapping Risk in Mauritania: MEDIUM to HIGH
Kidnapping seems to be a serious threat/ risk throughout Mauritania. First of all, most governments advise travelers/ tourists to avoid traveling to the northern and eastern regions of Mauritania, as well as to Mauritania's border areas with Western Sahara, Mali, and Algeria, mainly due to the risk of military activities.
Besides military activities, here are known to operate extremist groups as well, responsible for several cases of kidnapping and armed banditry. Moreover, if you enter the military area, you may be considered a legitimate target.
Furthermore, there is a serious threat of kidnapping throughout Mauritania as well, mainly because Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and several other groups are known to operate in some parts of North Africa and may be seen as a threat in Mauritania as well. These groups have kidnapped foreigners/ tourists, mostly those that were in border, remote, and desert areas of North Africa.
Therefore, you should think twice before traveling to a certain location!
- How to avoid getting kidnapped in Mauritania?
The first and most important rule is to stick to the areas that are meant for tourists. It is imperative that you avoid dangerous and remote areas at all costs. Naturally, traveling alone is not recommended - you should either employ a travel guide or have friends or family with you. In the latter case, a personal protection team is recommended in order to ensure your safety during your trip, especially if it is a long distance one.
You should stay within the areas surrounding your accommodation and never embark on long journeys without a proper, registered tour guide and without any means of protection. It is highly recommended that you consult with either the authorities or with the embassy before leaving for any sort of trip.
Terrorism Risk in Mauritania: HIGH
The north-western part of Africa is well-known for the indiscriminate terrorist attacks that happened there, especially in areas commonly visited by foreigners. Public places such as embassies, restaurants, hotels and shopping centers, followed by Government buildings and crowded streets in the centers of the town are target areas for terrorist groups.
From car bombing to kidnappings and attempted suicide bombings, events related to the terrorist group AQIM have been registered in 2010 and 211, imposing high threats for any visitors who is not informed about how to stay safe in Mauritania in such unfortunate cases.
- How to avoid terrorism in Mauritania?
In order to stay safe in Mauritania during a terrorist attack, you should know a few safety tips. First of all, avoid staying in crowded places for too long, as they may be target areas for terrorists. It is advisable to avoid open terraces, cafes and tourist areas and leave as soon as possible in cases in which the gatherings become agitated.
Risks of Women Traveling Alone in Mauritania: HIGH
Solo travelers in Mauritania, especially if we are speaking of women traveling to Mauritania, can encounter a lot or risks during their journey. As seen above, the crime risk is pretty high, with common violent acts such as robbery, rapes and assaults on the increase. When traveling solo, women can be perceived as target victims by attackers and this is why traveling to Mauritania alone is not advisable.
- How to crime as a solo woman traveler in Mauritania?
If traveling to Mauritania is a necessity for you, as a woman, you should keep in mind a few simple rules. First of all, the best way in which you can avoid being a target victim of attackers is to dress neutral and decent, not leave valuable objects at sight and not leave doors or windows open at the accommodation.
In order to make sure you get to see everything Mauritania has to offer and have a trouble-free journey, try to hire a guide who is really well-informed about the surroundings. This way you will always be accompanied and you will know what areas are safe for you to visit and enjoy.
Get informed about the telephone numbers of the authorities and keep your common sense during the journey. You should also know some important aspects about the local customs and laws in order not to get noticed as a foreigner by the local people. Every unfortunate situation can be avoided if you pay extra caution to everything around you.
Rape Risk in Mauritania: MEDIUM to HIGH
Even though there are little to no reports regarding this type of crime in Mauritania, evidence that sexual assault happens does exist. However, it is most likely not reported to the authorities - it is known that some women that reported cases of rape now face jail time for doing so. This is because the local women are at risk of being jailed because they had intercourse outside of marriage.
Therefore, if something bad happens to you, you might be frowned upon and your case dismissed. However, there are little to no cases of foreign women being victims of sexual violence. It is very likely that such things happen mostly in the country's remote areas and less in any major cities.
Still, you should learn how to protect yourself and how to avoid such things from happening to you.
- How to avoid getting raped in Mauritania?
First of all, you should avoid the areas that are deemed as dangerous - Tiris Zemmour province, Adrar province, within 25km of the Western Sahara border -, as well as any remote areas/ villages. As mentioned a couple of times before, you should not be traveling alone and you should not engage in long-distance trips if you don't have personal protection.
Then, it is important that you get acquainted with the locals laws and customs so that you don't end up offending any locals. Naturally, you should approach a decent outfit when you leave your accommodation and try to blend in with the locals as much as possible. You should not try to draw attention towards you, especially when you are traveling outside of the city you are accommodated in.
Do not travel during the night, even if you are not alone. Avoid any shady alleys, bad-reputed neighborhoods, as well as the city slums and outskirts. Keep yourself safe by staying within the tourist-recommended areas/ locations.
Risks for People Traveling with Children in Mauritania: HIGH
Given everything we have mentioned so far, it goes without saying that Mauritania might not be the best place to visit with your children. The FCO advises against all travel in about 80% of the country, while the rest of the 20% is recommended for essential travel only. There are already too many risks and threats to take into account when you are traveling alone - if you were to bring your children with you as well, you'd have one or more things to consider as well.
Moreover, given the increased risk of kidnapping, you should do your best not to expose your children to such danger.
However, if you decide to bring your children with you, keep in mind that the weather in Mauritania is usually very hot and dry. Thus, fluid intake with enough salts included is recommended to be kept at a high level - meaning that you have to make sure that the little ones stay hydrated.
It is also worth mentioning that you may not be able to rely on the country's medical facilities in case something happens, as they are extremely limited. If you are not in Nouadhibou or Nouakchott, you or your children may not be treated in time in case of a medical emergency.
- How to avoid unwanted scenarios?
When traveling with your children, you must keep in mind that you'll have to protect and care for them at all times, especially in this country. Besides keeping them hydrated and out of harm's way, you'll also have to make sure that no one around you is trying to do or doing anything suspicious.
In short, it is highly recommended that you reconsider your traveling location if you plan to bring your children with you.
Natural Disaster Risks in Mauritania: MEDIUM
Natural disasters are not common here, but flooding might appear during the rain storms which take place from August to November. This might make road transportation difficult, as well as the supply of water poor.
Apart from that, Mauritania is visited by sandstorms, especially during the winter, and these can affect your health significantly. Not only do they make breathing a real challenge, but they can also alter the air quality for longer periods and alter machinery.
Try to avoid traveling there in the above-mentioned months and carry water with you every time you travel (if possible). The water system is poorly maintained and cannot be trusted. In case you encounter a sandstorm, it is recommended to take shelter in the nearest building you can find or in a vehicle with the doors and windows closed.
Transportation Risks in Mauritania: MEDIUM to HIGH
Because the road conditions and the driving standards in Mauritania are poor, driving there can be a challenge. Isolated areas can be target locations for attackers, as well as carjackers and this is why extra caution is definitely needed when driving on the roads of Mauritania.
In what concerns the public transportation, you should know that many sexual assaults have taken place in public transports such as buses or taxis. Poor maintenance of the means of transport, combined with the poor conditions of the roads can cause problems during your trip.
If you want to stay safe in Mauritania when driving, try to avoid doing it at night or in isolated areas. The signal, the gas stations and the road signs here are difficult to find, so any unnecessary travel will cost you time and will be dangerous.
Travelling from one place to another in Mauritania can be a challenge, so make sure you have a well-organized plan before visiting this country and try to use the transport as rarely as possible.
Night-Clubs, Pubs, and Bar Risks in Mauritania: MEDIUM
There have been reports of various incidents taking place on and around unlit beaches, as well as in the Le Cinquieme district, especially after dark. Moreover, statistics show that several other violent incidents, as well as theft have been reported there in the past couple of years.
Therefore, it is safe to say that most night-clubs, pubs, and bars are not safe to visit in Mauritania. Even though there are no clear reports telling of incidents taking place inside such facilities, we can only assume that tourists either don't visit them or stick to the ones close to or located inside their accommodation.
Keep in mind that alcohol is illegal in Mauritania, both its sale and consumption. So, if you planned on having a wild night there during your trip, you should avoid keeping your promise, so to say, at all costs. Before visiting any type of location/ building, it is recommended that you have a basic understanding over the country's local laws and customs - for example, police officers usually don't like being taken photos without their permission.
Be extremely careful on your way to night-clubs, pubs, bars, as well as on your way back - use only reputable taxi services. Obviously, you should not visit the aforementioned locations alone.
Health Risks in Mauritania
As mentioned before, Mauritania comes with extremely limited medical facilities, especially outside of Nouadhibou and Nouakchott. Emergency services take too long to respond to critical situations and, in some cases, they may not even be able to provide the victims/ injured with on-site treatment.
If you are taken to a clinic in the two aforementioned cities, you will probably be charged for medical care - in either US dollars or Euros. Keep in mind that foreign insurance cards may not be accepted.
The bright side is that there are no viruses, diseases, or outbreaks that you should worry about while visiting Mauritania. The only thing you have to do is to keep yourself hydrated - high fluid intake, including enough salts.
As always, you should travel only with proper travel health insurance and with enough funds to cover the costs of any medicine, treatment, or emergency evacuation that you may be subject to. It is important that you always have some cash on you in case of an emergency.
List of Vaccines You Need in Mauritania
Because medical facilities are limited in this part of the continent, you must take extra caution before embarking on a journey to Mauritania. Pay a visit to your medical care provider and do not forget to be equipped with the right health assurance. What is also vital in order to stay safe in Mauritania is to have the right vaccination. Diseases such as Malaria, Meningococcus, Typhoid, Hepatitis A&B, Yellow fever and Filiariasis are common in Mauritania and therefore you should make sure the risk of encountering them is low by taking the right precautions.
Most Dangerous Areas in Mauritania
As a whole, Mauritania as a country poses many dangers to its visitors, as you could see above. Nevertheless, there are places which are more dangerous than others and therefore, in order to stay safe in Mauritania, you should know what areas to avoid and what risks do they come with:
- The area near the Western Sahara- due to the fact that it’s heavily mined;
- Borders between Algeria and Mali- notorious for terrorist groups and banditry;
- Nouakchott and Atar- where many kidnaps and violent attacks have been registered;
- Northern provinces of Mauritania- Tiris Zemmour, Tagant, Adrar, Hodh el Chargui- due to the terrorist attacks registered here.
Concluding Remarks: Is Mauritania Safe to Visit?
Due to the poverty, slavery and poor facilities Mauritania is characterized by, this country tends to pose many risks to each visitor. It can be a challenge and it should be visited with extra caution taken during your stay in Mauritania. With this Mauritania safety travel guide in your pocket, your trip could be enjoyable and trouble-free. All you need to do is make sure you keep a high level of vigilance and follow the few Mauritania safety tips we presented:
- Keep an eye on your travel partners;
- Avoid staying in public places very much;
- Leave valuable objects such as phones and jewelry at the accommodation;
- Do not forget to close windows and doors to your accommodation or car;
- Be skeptical about the people you have just met;
- Avoid isolated areas and roads as much as possible;
- Do not walk at night, especially alone;
- Take the right measures in what concerns your health assurance, vaccines and guides.
With these Mauritania safety tips in your mind, your journey to this African country will for sure be trouble-free and enjoyable. Be responsible and think twice whether this country will prove to be a nice experience for you and your travel comrades. The decision is only yours.