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Mauritania travel guide

About Mauritania

Mauritania’s is a lonely beauty. A land of endless deserts, empty coastlines and spectacular birdlife, it is lays claim to some of the most spectacular scenery in Africa and a fascinating population comprised of Arab-Berbers and black Africans.

Arguably the jewel in Mauritania’s crown is the Banc d’Arguin, where the Sahara Desert slips silently into the Atlantic Ocean. This is nirvana for twitchers, particularly during the European winter, when more than two million migratory birds descend on the national park. The Banc d’Arguin is also home to the Imraguen fishermen, who catch their quarry with a little help from local dolphins.

The Mauritanian coastline is a bleak and beautiful place, an empty shore littered with the occasional shipwreck or whale skeleton. Miraculously, one of the last remaining Mediterranean monk seal colonies can be found living around Cap Blanc, where there is a small nature reserve dedicated to protecting this endangered species.

Inland lies the oasis settlement of Ouadâne. Concealed by coloured sand dunes, this ghost town was once a centre for intellectual thinking and its private libraries contain thousands of ancient scholarly manuscripts. It’s also home to the crumbling remains of a 14th century mosque, which dominates this UNESCO-listed town. Nearby Chinguetti, the seventh holiest city of Islam, is also worth a visit.

Nouakchott, the capital, is hot and dusty and doesn’t have very much to recommend it besides a few French restaurants and bustling markets. The best thing to do in town is to watch local fishermen land their catch at Port de Peche, where every evening a colourful mass of people haul nets, carry fish and drag brightly painted boats out of the waves, singing songs as they go. It’s one of Mauritania’s many simple pleasures.

 

Key facts

Area:

1,030,700 sq km (397,955 sq miles).

Population:

4,166,463 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density:

3.5 per sq km.

Capital:

Nouakchott.

Government:

Islamic Republic.

Head of state:

President Mohamed Cheikh El Ghazouani since 2019.

Head of government:

Prime Minister Mohamed Ould Bilal since 2020.

Travel Advice

Coronavirus travel health

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Mauritania 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.

International travel

International flights to and from Mauritania are operating, though may be subject to delays or cancellations. You should check with your travel company for the latest information on flights to and from Mauritania. Land borders are open.

Entry and borders

See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in Mauritania.

Returning to the UK

When you return, you must follow the rules for entering the UK.

You are responsible for organising your own COVID-19 test, in line with UK government testing requirements. You should contact local authorities for information on testing facilities. See information above in Getting a test in Mauritania.

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 should immediately isolate in your accommodation for 10 days. You will need to make your own arrangements if you cannot stay in your accommodation for the full isolation period. There are no state-run quarantine facilities in Mauritania. You should take a test after the 10-day period; if this is negative, you may end your isolation.

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

Getting a COVID-19 test in Mauritania

A negative COVID-19 PCR test is required before arrival in Mauritania (see Entry requirements). Should you need to take another test while in Mauritania, for example for onward travel, the Mauritanian Ministry of Health has approved the following institutions to carry out COVID-19 testing within Mauritania:

  • Institut National de Recherche en Santé Publique (INRSP)
  • Institut National d’hépato-Virologie (INHV)

Travel in Mauritania

The Government of Mauritania announced the lifting of restrictions on internal travel on 10 July 2020.

The Mauritanian authorities have implemented the following measures in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic:

  • you must wear a face covering on public transport and in shops
  • social distancing of at least 1.5 metres in public

Accommodation

Hotels are open. You should adhere to any preventative measures put in place by hotels to limit the spread of the virus.

Public places and services

Restaurants and public spaces have reopened. You should adhere to any preventative measures in place in these locations.

Healthcare in Mauritania

Medical facilities are extremely limited, particularly outside Nouakchott and Nouadhibou. Clinics in Nouakchott and Nouadhibou charge for medical care (sometimes in euros or US dollars), and may not accept foreign insurance cards. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.

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 Mauritania.

See also the guidance on healthcare if you’re waiting to return to the UK.

COVID-19 vaccines if you live in Mauritania

We will update this page when the Government of Mauritania announces new information on the national vaccination programme. You can sign up to get email notifications when this page is updated.

The Mauritanian national vaccination programme started in April 2021 and is using the AstraZeneca and Sinopharm vaccines. The Government of Mauritania has stated that British nationals who hold a valid residence permit for Mauritania are eligible for vaccination if they choose to join the programme. You should contact your local healthcare provider for more information.

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 Mauritania, 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.

Finance

For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.

Further information

If you need urgent consular assistance, you should phone the British Embassy in Dakar on +221 33 823 73 92. If you cannot reach us on this number, call +44 1908 516666 (if abroad) or 020 7 008 5000 (if in the UK). Consular officers are available 24/7 to assist with your enquiries.

Political situation

Presidential elections last took place on 22 June 2019 and were won by Mohamed Ould Ghazouani. President Ghazouani was inaugurated on 1 August 2019, marking the first constitutional transfer of power in Mauritania since independence in 1960. You should avoid political gatherings and demonstrations, and follow the advice of local authorities. Always observe instructions given by the local security forces.

Crime

Crime levels are moderate but steadily increasing. You should avoid the unlit and isolated beaches at Nouakchott and ‘Le Cinquième’ district where a number of thefts and violent incidents have taken place after dark.

Local travel

Crossing the border into Mauritania can be time-consuming and officials may ask for payments before they allow you to cross. You should check local advice before travelling towards neighbouring countries in case border crossings are closed or congested.

Road travel

The conditions of paved roads in Mauritania are generally poor, and overland travel is difficult. Use four wheel drive vehicles, check the tide times on coastal roads, travel in convoy and make sure you have adequate supplies of water and fuel on long journeys. Driving standards can also be poor.

You can drive with a valid UK driving licence.

If you’re planning to hire a car, check with your car hire company for information on their requirements before you travel.

Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in Mauritania, including kidnapping.

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. Crowded areas, government installations, transportation networks, businesses with Western interests, and areas where foreign nationals and tourists are known to gather may be at higher risk of attack. You should remain vigilant at all times and follow any specific advice of the local security authorities.

The porous nature of borders in the Sahel region - of which Mauritania is a part - means terrorist groups are able to operate across borders and carry out attacks anywhere in the region.

As seen in Mali, Cote d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso, terrorist groups continue to mount attacks on beach resorts, hotels, cafes and restaurants visited by foreigners. Be especially vigilant in these locations.

The main threat comes from groups associated with Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeer (JNIM). JNIM formed in March 2017 following the merger of Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, Ansar-al-Dine and al-Murabitun. These groups remain intent on demonstrating capability and increasing influence across the wider region. Read more about the threat from terrorism in the Sahel region.

There is 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.

Kidnap

There is a threat of kidnapping in Mauritania by AQ-affiliated and other regional Islamist groups originating in the Sahel particularly in areas along the border with Mali. This includes Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM) and Islamic State Greater Sahara (IS-GS), who may travel across the region’s porous border. Terrorist groups have kidnapped foreigners, government officials and civilians in the Sahel region. Further kidnaps are likely.

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) also makes payments to terrorists illegal.

Local laws reflect the fact that Mauritania is an Islamic country. 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.

There have been incidences of visitors receiving large fines at the airport and having their passports confiscated for trying to import pork products such as chorizo, ham and bacon.

You should dress modestly. Sale and consumption of alcohol is against the law. Police sometimes object to photography without prior permission.

Carry ID, especially when travelling outside Nouakchott (where you may encounter many police road checks). You should comply promptly with directions from the police and other Mauritanian security forces.

Homosexuality is a punishable offence in Mauritania. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.

Drugs laws are severe. Those found in possession of any illegal drug may receive a prison sentence.

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 Mauritania 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 Mauritania

International flights to and from Mauritania are operating.

The Mauritanian authorities have introduced a number of measures to limit the risk of travellers spreading COVID-19 on arrival in Mauritania.

  • You must take a PCR test dated within 3 days before arrival and show evidence of the negative test result, with the date of the test clearly labelled. You should not use the NHS testing service to facilitate your travel to another country. You should take a private test.
  • Non-Mauritanian nationals that arrive without a PCR test will not be allowed to enter the country and will be obliged to immediately return to their country of origin.
  • You must wear a face-mask on arrival.
  • You must complete an individual health declaration on arrival.
  • You will undergo a contactless temperature check on arrival. If you have a temperature upon arrival, you must agree to a PCR or rapid antigen test. While waiting for the test result you must self-isolate at your own expense in a hotel or your place of residence for 10 days. If the test is negative, you can leave self-isolation before the end of the 10-day period.
  • If you are arriving from the UK, South Africa, Brazil, India or another country identified as a source of new COVID-19 variants, you must quarantine at your own expense in a hotel or your place of residence for 10 days. You must then take a PCR test in Mauritania, and if this is negative, you can exit quarantine. See the Coronavirus section for more information.

Screening on arrival

You must present evidence of a negative COVID-19 PCR test, which must be taken within 3 days before your arrival. 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.

You will undergo a contactless temperature check on arrival. If you have a temperature upon arrival, you must agree to a PCR or rapid antigen test. While waiting for the test result you must self-isolate at your own expense in a hotel or your place of residence for 10 days. If the test is negative, you can leave self-isolation before the end of the 10-day period.

Regular entry requirements

Visas

You need a visa to enter Mauritania. Visas are issued on arrival. The current cost is €55 (euros) or $60 (US dollars) in cash only. The visa issuing process at the border can take several hours. The Mauritanian Embassy in London does not issue visas.

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Mauritania.

Yellow fever certificate requirements

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

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK ETDs are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Mauritania. A valid entry visa would still be required for entry to Mauritania using an ETD.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Mauritania 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 Mauritania.

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).

Medical facilities are extremely limited, particularly outside Nouakchott and Nouadhibou, where lack of communications makes dealing with an emergency very difficult. Clinics in Nouakchott and Nouadhibou charge for medical care (sometimes in euros or US dollars), and may not accept foreign insurance cards. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.

The weather can be very hot and dry. Fluid intake should be kept high, making sure enough salts are included.

Local currency (Ouguiya) is not convertible and can’t be exported. US dollars and euros can be changed for Ouguiyas at banks, some hotels and official bureaux de change. The sterling rate is very poor. Credit cards can be used at a few hotels in Nouakchott and Nouadhibou; some hotels only accept Visa cards. Some ATMs accept foreign credit or debit cards.

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.

Travel safety

The FCDO 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 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.

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.

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