Foreign travel advice

Mali

Summary

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

  • the provinces of Tombouctou, Kidal, Gao and Mopti
  • parts of the provinces of Kayes, Koulikoro and Segou, as shown on the map

The FCO advise against all but essential travel to the rest of Mali, including Bamako.

Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Mali, including kidnaps. There is a heightened risk of attack in Bamako. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners. Terrorist attacks against a hotel in Bamako in November 2015 and the Le Campement Resort in Kangaba, on the outskirts of Bamako, in June 2017 resulted in multiple casualties, including foreign nationals and tourists.

You should be vigilant, especially in places such as hotels, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, shopping areas, markets, transport hubs, places of worship and businesses with western interests. You should keep a low profile and follow the advice of local authorities. Avoid all large gatherings, including music festivals and sporting events. 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, such as the Festival sur le Niger in Segou, are also vulnerable to attack.

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 and avoid large gatherings. If you think a particular venue would present a good target for terrorist activities then you should consider whether you need to visit it. You should exercise caution and limit your movements during holiday and festival periods.

A nationwide state of emergency in place since November 2015 has been extended several times, most recently in October 2018 by one year until 31 October 2019. You should expect a robust security presence including police patrols and possible police security checks on restaurants and hotels. There are likely to be more vehicle and personal security checks during this time and nobody will be exempt.

Recent public demonstrations in Bamako have encountered a strong police and security force presence. You should stay away from all political demonstrations and any blockades set up by the police and security forces.

You should maintain several days’ stock of food and water in case disturbances take place. You can monitor daily developments in English through the BBC World Service (88.9 FM in Bamako).

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. Consular support is severely limited in parts of Mali, especially outside Bamako.

Safety and security

Crime

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.

The Malian authorities have provided the following numbers in case of emergencies:

  • +223 80 00 11 15
  • +223 20 23 95 11

Local travel

The FCO advise against all travel to:

  • the provinces of Tombouctou, Kidal, Gao and Mopti
  • parts of the provinces of Kayes, Koulikoro and Segou, as shown on the map

The FCO advise against all but essential travel to the rest of Mali, including Bamako.

There are an increasing number of inter and intra-communal security incidents in parts of the country, notably in Mopti region. 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.

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.

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 risk being taken to task, sometimes violently, by the local population. Medical help in the event of an accident is likely to be limited.

Political situation

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. President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta (IBK) took office in September 2013, following national elections.

Political demonstrations taking place during the electoral period encountered a heavy police and security force presence. Protests, marches and demonstrations can occur with little prior notice. 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.

Road travel

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 September). Other road users may drive dangerously. You should take particular care and attention when driving in urban centres.

Air travel

The FCO 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.

Scams

British nationals are increasingly being targeted by 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.

Terrorism

Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Mali, including in the capital Bamako.

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out more about the global threat from terrorism.

Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners. You should be especially vigilant in places such as hotels, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, shopping areas, markets, transport hubs, places of worship and businesses with western interests. Music festivals, such as the Festival sur le Niger in Segou, are also vulnerable to attack. There may be a heightened risk of attack during election periods. You should always avoid large crowds and areas where public marches and demonstrations are taking place.

Following French/African military intervention in Mali in January 2013, there’s a high threat of retaliatory kidnap or attack against western interests, especially in areas north of Mopti, though the threat exists throughout the country. 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, small arms fire and the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Malian, MINUSMA and international security forces are regularly targeted, particularly in the regions of Kidal, Mopti, Timbuktu, Gao and Menaka, and further attacks are likely.

Notable attacks include:

  • 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.

  • On 20 January 2019, a well-coordinated attack against a MINUSMA camp in Aguelhok, Kidal region killed 10 peacekeepers and injured several more.

  • On 12 November 2018, a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device was detonated close to a residential area in the city of Gao, killing 3 people.

  • In June 2017, there was a terrorist attack against 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, there was a terrorist attack against the Radisson Hotel in Bamako in which a number of hostages were killed, including foreign nationals.

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. G5 security forces can also be targeted by extremists.

The threat is likely to continue as groups remain intent on demonstrating capability and increasing influence across the region. This threat has been demonstrated by the March 2017 merger of AQ-M Sahel, Ansar al-Dine and al-Murabitun into the new group ‘Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen’. The threat to western interests in the region remains. Read more about the threat from terrorism in the Sahel region.

Kidnap

There’s a very high threat of kidnapping by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQ-M) and other regional Islamist groups These groups operate in the border areas of northern Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Algeria and Libya. Although the kidnap threat is most significant in Northern Mali, there’s a risk of kidnap in all areas of Mali including the capital Bamako and areas in the south of Mali where the FCO advises against all but essential travel. Westerners have been kidnapped in Mali and the wider Sahel region, including in Kidal, Kayes, Timbuktu, Gao and Hombori.

The kidnap threat isn’t limited to northern Mali as AQ-IM and other terrorist groups have a proven capability to carry out kidnaps in neighbouring countries as well as over longer distances. In February 2017 a Colombian nun was kidnapped in Sikasso region, in the south of Mali. Western nationals were kidnapped in neighbouring Burkina Faso in September and December 2018. In January 2019, a Canadian citizen was kidnapped in northern Burkina Faso and subsequently found dead. 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.

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.

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. The Terrorism Act (2000) also makes payments to terrorists illegal.

The terrorist threat in the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin

There is a very high threat of kidnapping by terrorist groups operating in the Sahel region. A number of western nationals including tourists, NGO workers and diplomats have been kidnapped in the Sahel over the last ten years, and several are still being held. Some, including several British nationals, have been killed by their captors. Those engaged in humanitarian aid work, journalism or business sectors are viewed as legitimate targets. If you’re kidnapped, the reason for your presence is unlikely to serve as a protection or secure your safe release.

There are a number of terrorist groups active in the region. These include Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM), Islamic State West Africa (ISWA), Islamic State Greater Sahara (ISGS), Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Al Murabitoun, Ansar Dine 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 Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM). Criminal gangs also carry out kidnapping for terrorist groups in return for financial rewards.

Read more about the threat from terrorism in the Sahel region.

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. The Terrorism Act (2000) also makes payments to terrorists illegal.

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.

Local laws and customs

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 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.

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 legal in Mali, but Mali is a very traditional society and public displays of affection are frowned upon. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.

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

British citizens need a visa to enter Mali. You can get one from the nearest Malian Embassy or Consulate. There is a Malian Honorary Consulate in London.

Yellow fever certificate requirements

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

Passport Validity

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.

Health

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).

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 Polyclinique Internationale Bamako (Polyclinic Guindo) (Badalabougou Est rue 18 porte 19; telephone: (+223) 20 22 22 07; clinique@pib-mali.com) 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.

You should drink or use only boiled or bottled water and avoid ice in drinks.

Natural disasters

The rainy season in Mali is from May 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.

Money

Major banks and hotels accept credit cards and travellers cheques. Access to money from ATMs and banks may be limited if the political situation deteriorates.

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 the Travel Advice Team 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.