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.
On 3 July, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) announced the reopening of land and air borders between Mali and ECOWAS countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Côte D’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo), which had been closed since January. Whilst direct flights have resumed on some of these routes, others have not due to operational capacity issues. You should check with your airline before travelling.
Travellers providing proof of a “complete COVID vaccination” (i.e. usually at least two doses) do not require a negative COVID test (PCR), as long as it is not a requirement for the country of their destination. If you do not have proof of a complete vaccination, you need to present a negative COVID test (PCR) certificate less than 72 hours old.
Entry and borders
See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in Mali.
Be prepared for your plans to change
No travel is risk-free during COVID-19. 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
On 3 July, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) announced the reopening of land and air borders between Mali and ECOWAS countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Côte D’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo), which had been closed since January.
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.
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 across the country. Bandits and smugglers are present along Mali’s northern borders and pose a risk to travellers, especially after dark.
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.
Political unrest is an ongoing risk. 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. See Terrorism
On 1 June 2022, gunmen targeted and killed three aid workers in the Kayes region (bordering Senegal and Mauritania). There have been other known attacks on aid workers across the country.
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.
Political unrest is ongoing. Regular, large and at times violent protests have taken place in Bamako, resulting in burning of tyres, clashes with the police, blockage on the roads and bridges, the deployment of tear gas, and small arms fire. There have previously been reports of several deaths and injuries. You should avoid large gatherings, remain vigilant and monitor local social media/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. 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.
Public demonstrations in and around Bamako have encountered a strong police and security force presence. You should stay away from all political demonstrations. 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).
Night-time checkpoints operate in Bamako at various locations. Checkpoints are in place from approximately 9pm until dawn.
The use of taxi services in Bamako is not recommended due to low standards of vehicle maintenance.
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.
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. In July 2022 JNIM made public statements setting out their intention to conduct attacks in Bamako. A series of recent attacks in central and southern Mali, including at the Kati military camp just 15km from the centre of Bamako, demonstrate a deteriorating security situation and heightened risk of attacks in the capital.
On 29 July, the US government issued a security notice ordering the departure of non-emergency US government employees and family members due to the heightened risk of terrorist attacks in areas frequented by westerners.
Attacks could be indiscriminate and occur without warning. You should be especially vigilant and where possible avoid national or local government facilities, including those belonging to the defence and security forces, as these are likely to be targets. Places frequented by foreigners, including diplomatic premises, hotels, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, stadiums, concert halls, shopping areas, markets, national infrastructure, airports and other transport hubs, places of worship, and businesses with western interests may also be targets of attack.
During public holidays and festivals, including New Year and Eid 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.
Large gatherings can also include music festivals, shows, concerts, 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.
Notable attacks include:
- On 22 July 2022, there was an attack on the Kati military base, 15km from Bamako city centre, killing one soldier. Seven attackers were also killed.
- On 21 July 2022, there were six attacks across central and southern Mali targeting Malian armed forces targets, including Kolokani, Kono, Douentza, Bapho, Segou and Sévaré.
On 16 July 2022, terrorists attacked a security post at Zantiguila, approximately 70km from Bamako on the road to Segou, killing six.
- On 18 June 2022, terrorists attacked the villages of Diallassagou, Dianweli and Deguessagou, killing at least 132 civilians.
- On 22 January 2022, terrorists attacked the BARKHANE camp in Gao, resulting in the death of one French soldier.
- 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 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 is a high threat of retaliatory kidnap or attack against western interests. There have been a number of bomb attacks in Gao, Kidal, Timbuktu and in Khalil in recent years. 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.
The threat of terrorism 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 is 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 Sahel Province (ISSP). 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:
- In May 2022, three Italian nationals and a Togolese national were kidnapped by armed men in Sincina, near the southern border with Burkina Faso
- 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, two 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, and has since been released in October 2021
If you are 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 are 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
There are a number of terrorist groups active in the region. These include JNIM, Islamic State West Africa (ISWA), Islamic State Sahel Province (ISSP), 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’. LGBT individuals have experienced physical, psychological, and sexual violence and police may 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 has information on travelling to Mali.
This page reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British Citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.
The authorities in Mali set and enforce entry rules. If you’re unsure how Mali’s entry requirements apply to you, contact its UK embassy, high commission or consulate.
You need a visa to enter Mali. You can apply for single and multiple entry visas from the Embassy in Brussels or via the Malian Honorary Consulate in London.
To enter Mali you will need proof of a “complete COVID vaccination” (i.e. usually at least two doses). If you do not have proof of a complete vaccination, you need to present a negative COVID test (PCR) certificate less than 72 hours old.
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.
Provided you meet the above requirements, you are not required to quarantine on arrival.
If you test positive whilst you are in Mali, you are expected to self-isolate for 14 days.
Children and young people
British Embassy Bamako has been informed that children under 5 are not required to provide a negative Covid test on arrival at Bamako airport. You should check with your airline before travelling for the most up to date guidance.
If you’re transiting through Mali
Transiting is when you pass through one country on the way to your final destination.
Check with your airline before departing.
There are no exemptions to Mali’s entry requirements.
Check your passport and travel documents before you travel
You need a visa to enter Mali. You can apply for single and multiple entry visas from the Embassy in Brussels or via the 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
You must have evidence of a valid Yellow Fever vaccination certification on arrival in Mali. You will likely need to present this to health officials at the airport/border crossing.
If you have a health condition, or you are pregnant, you may need specialist healthcare abroad. Check whether your destination country can provide the healthcare you may need and ensure you have appropriate travel insurance for unexpected medical evacuation or local treatment.
See the Coronavirus travel health and Healthcare sections in the Coronavirus page for COVID-19 health information.
You should be aware of cases of Lassa fever diagnosed in England, following travel to Mali. Further information can be found on the TravelHealthPro website.
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.
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 do. 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.
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, or contact us on Twitter or Facebook. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.