Mali travel guide
With a history blighted by political instability, it's hardly surprising that Mali is missing from most people’s bucket lists. But as peace slowly returns to this dusty land, travellers are trickling back to unearth the country’s cultural treasures – of which there are many.
Though it’s hard to see how one of the most remote nations in the world, located deep within the Sahara Desert, ever became a centre of world learning, Timbuktu is not only a byword for long distances, but also an internationally recognised centre of knowledge: its libraries contain seminal notes on astronomy, mathematics and philosophy dating back to the 16th century.
Closely linked to Timbuktu by the Saharan trade in gold, salt and slaves, Djenné is known the world over for its adobe architecture, in particular the Grand Mosque, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest mud-brick building in the world.
Bamako, Mali’s capital, may not have the cultural attractions of Timbuktu or Djenné, but it has a fascinating collection of architectural styles and an elegant location on the banks of the River Niger. What’s more, it is the centre of the country’s traditional music scene and Malians of all ethnicities throng to the nightclubs of Bamako to dance the night away to the sound of the kora, a lute-like instrument.
The most distinct of Mali’s people are the Dogon, whose secluded, cliff-side villages cling to sheer rock faces. Deliberately isolating themselves from the influences of neighbouring tribes they have developed a culture with no similarity in the region.
A land of faraway cities, intriguing civilisations and architecture like nowhere else on Earth, Mali’s position as a cultural juggernaut is well founded and its tentative steps towards stability have opened up an avenue of discovery for intrepid travellers.
1,240,192 sq km (478,841 sq miles).
18,134,835 (UN estimate 2016).
13.7 per sq km.
Transitional president: Assimi Goita since May 2021.
Interim prime minister: Choguel Maïga since 2021.
Coronavirus travel health
Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Mali on the TravelHealthPro website
See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Regional borders are open and commercial flights are available. You should check with your travel company for the latest information on flights to and from Mali.
Entry and borders
See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in Mali.
Returning to the UK
When you return, you must follow the rules for entering the UK.
Be prepared for your plans to change
No travel is risk-free during COVID. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.
If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.
Plan ahead and make sure you:
- can access money
- understand what your insurance will cover
- can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned
Travel in Mali
Regional and international borders are open.
Hotels are open.
Public spaces and services
You should check the Ministry of Health’s website for the latest information on measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Healthcare in Mali
For contact details for English speaking doctors visit our list of healthcare providers.
You can get a COVID-19 test, including if required for departing from Mali, at a cost of 35,000 CFA at L’Institut National de Santé Publique (INSP), Hippodrome Route de Koulikoro, Rue 235 Porte 52, Commune I, BP 1771. Telephone : +223 20 21 42 31; +223 20 21 43 20 . INSP is open for testing from 0730 – 1400 every day. Collection time for the results certificate is from 1500-1630 every day.
Some private hospitals are also offering testing.
If you have any questions concerning coronavirus in Mali, the government of Mali has a hotline you can call on 36061.
Your emotional and mental wellbeing is important. Read guidance on how to look after your mental wellbeing and mental health.
View Health for further details on healthcare in Mali.
See also the guidance on healthcare if you’re waiting to return to the UK.
COVID-19 vaccines if you live in Mali
Wherever possible British nationals should aim to be vaccinated in the country where they live. We will update this page when the Government of Mali announces new information on the national vaccination programme. You can sign up to get email notifications when this page is updated.
The Mali national vaccination programme started in April 2021 and is using the AstraZeneca vaccine. British nationals resident in Mali are eligible for vaccination. The first phase of Mali’s vaccination programme is now complete with the next phase commencing when further deliveries of vaccines allow. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will be used for the next phase. Further information on the vaccination programme is available on the Government of Mali’s Ministry of Health website.
Find out more, including about vaccines that are authorised in the UK or approved by the World Health Organisation, on the COVID-19 vaccines if you live abroad.
If you’re a British national living in Mali, you should seek medical advice from your local healthcare provider. Information about COVID-19 vaccines used in the national programme where you live, including regulatory status, should be available from local authorities.
For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.
If you need urgent consular assistance, contact your nearest British embassy, high commission or consulate. All telephone numbers are available 24/7.
There have been incidents of armed banditry, car-jacking and kidnap in northern and central Mali. Bandits and smugglers are present along Mali’s northern borders and pose a risk to travellers, especially after dark.
In case of emergency, you can contact the Malian authorities on +223 80 00 11 15 or +223 20 23 95 11.
The FCDO advise against all travel to the provinces of Tombouctou, Kidal, Gao and Mopti, as well as parts of the provinces of Kayes, Koulikoro, Sikasso and Segou. The FCDO advise against all but essential travel to the rest of Mali, including Bamako.
Following the military coup on 18 August 2020, the situation in Bamako is calm. You should remain vigilant and monitor local media for any developments.
Inter and intra-communal security incidents persist in many parts of the country, most notably in Mopti and Segou regions. In some instances, terrorist groups have become involved in these conflicts In March 2019, 160 villagers were killed by masked gunmen in a single attack in Ogossagou in central Mali. Landmines are used by groups operating in Centre, North and North East Mali.
The security situation in Segou and Sikasso has sharply declined since 2020 with a string of notable attacks in Segou region and increasing levels of terrorist related activity in Sikasso region.
Travel in Mali can be difficult and conditions are poor for overland travel. You should take all necessary safety precautions, especially outside of main urban areas, have confidence in your security arrangements and maintain a high level of vigilance.
On 24 May 2021, a second military coup resulted in the arrests and resignation of the former transitional President Bah N’Daw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane. Colonel Assimi Goïta, former Vice President, has assumed control and appointed a government for the rest of the transition period, until March 2022.
Large-scale political protests have taken place in Bamako and some other regional towns. These have sometimes turned violent resulting in burning of tires, clashes with the police, blockage on the roads and bridges, the deployment of tear gas, and small arms fire. There have been reports of several deaths and injuries. Protests and civil disobedience have increased in frequency. You should avoid large gatherings, remain vigilant and monitor local news.
Protests, marches and demonstrations can occur with little prior notice and may see a heavy police and security presence. Protests have taken place recently in Bamako and other cities across Mali. If you become aware of any nearby protests, marches or demonstrations, you should leave the area immediately, remain vigilant, and follow the local news as the atmosphere can change quickly and without warning. You should stay away from any blockades set up by the police and security forces.
Following the announcement of a cabinet reshuffle on 24 May 2021, there are reports of heightened tensions in Bamako. You should remain vigilant and monitor local media and travel advice for any developments.
There was a coup in Mali in 2012 following armed conflict in the north. Following a French-led military intervention, democracy was restored in 2013. A peace agreement has been signed by most parties to the earlier conflict and a process of reconciliation is continuing.
Night-time checkpoints operate in Bamako at various locations. Checkpoints are in place from approximately 9pm until dawn.
Keep vehicle and personal identification documents with you at all times while travelling by road. Approach security checkpoints slowly and comply with instructions given. There have been incidents late at night where people dressed as policemen have demanded money from drivers in Bamako. Ask to see identification. Don’t resist if the person is armed.
Road conditions off the main roads are often poor, especially in the rainy season (June to October). Other road users may drive dangerously. You should take particular care and attention when driving in urban centres.
In the case of a vehicle accident, go to the nearest police station to file a report immediately. If you remain on the spot you may be vulnerable. Medical help in the event of an accident is likely to be limited.
Regional and international borders have re-opened. For latest information, check with your travel provider before going to the airport.
The FCDO can’t offer advice on the safety of individual airlines. However, the International Air Transport Association publishes lists of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices. This list isn’t exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s unsafe.
You can find a list of recent incidents and accidents on the website of the Aviation Safety network.
Foreign nationals are targets for online scams. Treat with considerable caution any requests for funds, a job offer, a business venture or a face to face meeting from someone you have been in correspondence with over the internet who operates in West Africa.
Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Mali, including in the capital Bamako.
Attacks could be indiscriminate and occur without warning, including in places visited by foreigners. You should be especially vigilant and where possible avoid places frequented by foreigners, including diplomatic premises, hotels, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, shopping areas, markets, public areas such as tourist attractions, airports and other transport hubs, places of worship and businesses with western interests. Foreign, national or local government facilities and large crowds may also be a target. You should be vigilant, be alert to announcements, monitor local media and follow the advice of the local authorities. Take particular care during festivities, and religious and public holiday periods. Avoid all large gatherings, including during national day celebrations and public holidays. Large gatherings can also include music festivals, sporting events and any public marches or demonstrations. The Festival au Désert in Timbuktu was cancelled in January 2017 and has not taken place since due to security concerns. Festivals in other parts of the country are also vulnerable to attack. There may be a heightened risk of attack during election periods and religious festivals including the month of Ramadan.
During public holidays and festivals, including New Year celebrations, security measures in Mali can be heightened due to the ongoing threat posed by terrorist organisations. During such periods you should exercise increased vigilance, limit your movements and continue to avoid large gatherings. If you think a particular venue would present a good target for terrorist activities then you should avoid it.
Notable attacks include:
- On 2 April 2021, terrorists attacked the MINUSMA camp in Aguelhok, which resulted in the death of four peacekeepers.
On 15 March 2021, terrorists attacks a Malian Army security post in Tessit, killing 33 soldiers.
- On 14 June 2020, terrorists attacked a Malian military convey approximately 160km north of Segou town, killing 24 soldiers.
- On 6 June 2020, terrorists conducted an attack in the area of Sarakala, Segou region, resulting in Malian Army vehicles and weapons being stolen.
- On 6 April 2020, terrorists attacked a Malian military base in Bamba, Gao region, killing 25 soldiers.
- On 26 January 2020, terrorists attacked a Malian military camp in Sokolo, Segou region, killing 20 soldiers
- On 24 February 2019, insurgents attacked the Koulikoro Training Centre, the main training base in Mali for the European Union Training Mission, approximately 55km northeast of Bamako. Four Malian military personnel were injured
- In June 2017, terrorists attacked Le Campement resort in Kangaba, on the outskirts of Bamako, which resulted in a number of deaths
- In March 2016, gunmen attacked the headquarters of the European Union Training Mission in the centre of Bamako
- In November 2015, terrorists attacked the Radisson Hotel in Bamako, killing a number of hostages including foreign nationals.
Following French/African military intervention in Mali in January 2013, there’s a high threat of retaliatory kidnap or attack against western interests. There have been a number of recent bomb attacks in Gao, Kidal, Timbuktu and in Khalil. Methods of attack have included complex attacks by militants, vehicle ambushes, small arms fire and the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Malian, MINUSMA (the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Mali) and international security forces are regularly targeted, particularly in the regions of Kidal, Mopti, Timbuktu, Gao and Menaka, and attacks are frequent.
In early 2017 the government of Mali joined Chad, Burkina Faso, Niger and Mauritania (G5 Sahel countries) in announcing an agreement to set up a joint counter-terrorism force to tackle the jihadist threat, named the G5 Sahel Joint Force. The Joint Force has also been targeted by extremists.
The threat is likely to continue as groups remain intent on demonstrating capability and increasing influence across the region. The threat to western interests in the region remains. Read more about the threat from terrorism in the Sahel region.
There’s a very high threat of kidnapping by AQ-affiliated and other regional Islamist groups. These include Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM) and Islamic State Greater Sahara (ISGS). These groups operate throughout Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. The kidnap threat is most significant in Northern Mali and increasingly in the centre. However there is a risk of kidnap in all parts of the country including the capital Bamako and areas in the south of Mali where the FCDO advises against all but essential travel. Westerners have been kidnapped in Mali, including in Kidal, Kayes, Timbuktu, Gao and Hombori, and the wider Sahel region.
Recent kidnap incidents include:
- A French national was kidnapped from Gao in April 2021.
- Four hostages, including French and Italian nationals, were released in October 2020.
- An Italian and Canadian national were kidnapped in December 2018 in Burkina Faso and were found alive by UN peacekeepers in March 2020 in northeast Mali after reportedly escaping.
- In May 2019, 2 French tourists and their Beninese guide were kidnapped in northern Benin by an armed group. The guide was found dead and the hostages were later rescued in northern Burkina Faso whilst reportedly on their way to Mali.
- In January 2019, a Canadian citizen was kidnapped in northern Burkina Faso and subsequently found dead.
- Several foreign nationals were kidnapped in from the northeastern region of neighbouring Burkina Faso in September 2018.
- In February 2017 a Colombian nun was kidnapped in Sikasso region, in the south of Mali.
If you’re working or travelling in Mali, you should be aware of the risk of terrorist kidnapping. You should maintain a high level of vigilance at all times, including when travelling and in crowded public places, including camps for displaced people, religious gatherings and insecure spaces like places of worship, markets, shopping areas, hotels, bars, nightclubs, restaurants and transport hubs. You should make sure you have carefully considered the threat and have reasonable, proportionate mitigation measures in place.
British nationals are viewed as legitimate targets, including those engaged in tourism, humanitarian aid work, journalism or business sectors. If you’re kidnapped, the reason for your presence is unlikely to serve as a protection or secure your safe release.
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 builds the capability of terrorist groups and finances their activities. This can, in turn, increase the risk of further hostage-taking. The Terrorism Act (2000) makes payments to terrorists illegal.
The terrorist threat in the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin
There are a number of terrorist groups active in the region. These include JNIM, Islamic State West Africa (ISWA), Islamic State Greater Sahara (ISGS), Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Al Murabitoun, Ansar Dine, Katiba Macina and Boko Haram. These groups are capable of carrying out attacks and kidnaps over long distances. Kidnapping for ransom is the primary source of finance for JNIM. Criminal gangs also carry out kidnapping for terrorist groups in return for financial rewards.
There’s 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.
French is the official language in Mali. It’s widely spoken and understood in the major towns and cities, whereas English is not. Elsewhere in the country, local languages are normally used.
Mali is a secular country, but predominantly a Muslim country and the country’s laws and customs are very different to those in the UK. 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. See Travelling during Ramadan
Don’t photograph military or government installations; ask permission before taking photographs.
Carry some form of identification at all times. This would normally mean your passport or residence permit. If you drive outside the main towns, the likelihood of having to produce some form of identification is high.
Women are expected to dress modestly.
Homosexuality is not illegal in Mali, but discrimination is widespread. Arrests have been made for ‘immoral behaviour’. LGBTI individuals have experienced physical, psychological, and sexual violence, which society views as corrective punishment and police frequently refuse to intervene. There have been incidences of homophobic attacks, and arrests targeting the LGBT community in Bamako. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.
This page reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British Citizen’ passport, for the most common types of travel.
The authorities in Mali set and enforce entry rules. For further information 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.
Entry rules in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)
Entry to Mali
You should check with your travel provider before going to the airport.
You need a visa to enter Mali. You can apply for single and multiple entry visas from the Embassy in Paris. There is no consulate in London.
Testing on arrival
To enter Mali you will either need to present a negative COVID test certificate less than 72 hours old or be tested on arrival at the airport. While waiting for the test results, you will either have to quarantine at home or in a hotel. If you test positive, you will be made to go to a government designated facility. Even if a negative test is presented on arrival but you show symptoms, you will be made to quarantine until a negative result is obtained.
You should not use the NHS testing service to get a test in order to facilitate your travel to another country. You should arrange to take a private test.
If you do not present a negative test that is less than 72 hours old on arrival, you will be tested and will be made to quarantine at home or in a hotel while waiting for the test results. If you are showing symptoms, or test positive on arrival, you will be made to go to a government designated facility, until a negative result is obtained.
Testing on departure
You are required to present a negative COVID test certificate less than 72 hours old to exit Mali. It is likely that the Government will implement temperature checks on departure.
Regular entry requirements
British citizens need a visa to enter Mali, available from the nearest Malian Embassy or Consulate. There is a Malian Honorary Consulate in London.
Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay. No additional period of validity beyond this is required.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents are not valid for entry into, or transit through, Mali.
Yellow fever certificate requirements
Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website. There are often checks in Bamako airport for evidence of Yellow Fever vaccination.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Mali on the TravelHealthPro website
See the healthcare information in the Coronavirus section for information on what to do if you think you have coronavirus while in Mali.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.
General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).
Pharmacies are easily identifiable throughout Bamako. The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
Medical facilities in Mali are very limited. Private hospitals include Golden Life American Hospital (Badalabougou, rue 50 porte 734; telephone: (+223) 20 22 11 11; (+223) 20 22 99 99; contactglahospital.com), Polyclinique Internationale Bamako (Polyclinic Guindo) (Badalabougou Est rue 18 porte 19; telephone: (+223) 20 22 22 07; firstname.lastname@example.org) and Polyclinique Pasteur (Hamdallaye ACI 2000, Bamako BPE 4794; telephone: +223 20 29 10 10).
Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
Cholera, malaria and other tropical diseases are common to Mali. Outbreaks of meningitis also occur, usually from the end of February to mid-April. An outbreak of cholera was reported in late May 2013 near the Nigerien border with Gao province. See information on cholera.
You should drink or use only boiled or bottled water and avoid ice in drinks.
The rainy season in Mali is from June to October. Torrential rains can cause floods and landslides. You should monitor local weather reports and expect difficulties when travelling to affected areas during this season.
Major banks and hotels accept credit cards and travellers cheques, but few other establishments. Check before travel if this is the case.. Access to money from ATMs and banks may be limited if the political situation deteriorates.
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, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in London on 020 7008 5000 (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.
The FCDO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we cannot 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.
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 - as is the case for all of Mali. Read more about how the FCDO 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 FCDO travel advice
If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice Team a request
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.