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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


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


4,166,463 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density:

3.5 per sq km.




Islamic Republic.

Head of state:

President Mohamed Cheikh El Ghazouani since 2019.

Head of government:

Prime Minister Mohamed Ould Bilal since 2020.

Travel Advice

Your travel insurance could be invalidated if you travel against Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) advice.

Areas where FCDO advises against travel 

Eastern Mauritania

FCDO advises against all travel to areas east of a line drawn between but excluding the towns of Kankossa, Tichit and Ghallaouia and then west to the Western Sahara border (except for the town of Zouerat in Tiris Zemmour).

Mauritania-Western Sahara border

FCDO advises against all travel to areas within 25km of the Western Sahara border (except the section of the Nouakchott-Nouadhibou road within 25km of the Western Sahara border and the city of Nouadhibou).

FCDO advises against all travel to the rest of the Ras Nouadhibou peninsula.

Tiris Zemmour, Adrar, Tagant, Hodh el Gharbi, Assaba and Guidimaka provinces

FCDO advises against all but essential travel to areas of the provinces of Tiris Zemmour, Adrar, Tagant, Hodh el Gharbi, Assaba and Guidimaka west of a line drawn between the towns of Ghallaouia, Tichit and Kankossa.  

Nouakchott-Nouadhibou road

FCDO advises against all but essential travel to the section of the Nouakchott-Nouadhibou road within 25km of the Western Sahara border and the city of Nouadhibou.

Zouerat in Tiris Zemmour Province

FCDO advises against all but essential travel to the town of Zouerat in Tiris Zemmour Province. 

Find out more about why FCDO advises against travel.

UK government support

The British Embassy in Nouakchott cannot provide consular services in person. British nationals in Mauritania should contact the British Embassy in Dakar, Senegal, for support.

Before you travel

No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide and any specific travel advice that applies to you:

Travel insurance

If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.

About FCDO travel advice

FCDO provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this advice is updated.

This information is for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK, who choose to travel despite FCDO advice. It is based on the UK government’s understanding of the current rules for the most common types of travel.

The authorities in Mauritania set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact the Mauritanian Embassy in the UK.

COVID-19 rules

There are no COVID-19 testing or vaccination requirements for travellers entering Mauritania.

Passport validity requirements

To enter Mauritania, your passport must have an ‘expiry date’ at least 6 months after the date you arrive.

Check with your travel provider that your passport and other travel documents meet requirements. Renew your passport if you need to.

You will be denied entry if you do not have a valid travel document or try to use a passport that has been reported lost or stolen.

Visa requirements

You must get a visa when you arrive in Mauritania. Visas cost 55 euros or 60 US dollars, and you must pay in cash (no change given). The Mauritanian Embassy in London does not issue visas.

Vaccine requirements

To enter Mauritania, you must have a certificate to prove you’ve had a yellow fever vaccination if you’re coming from a country listed as a transmission risk.

For more details about health entry requirements and recommended vaccinations, including yellow fever, see TravelHealthPro’s Mauritania guide.

Customs rules

There are strict rules about goods you can take into or out of Mauritania. You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty.


There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times.    

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 how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.

Terrorism in Mauritania

Terrorist attacks in Mauritania cannot be ruled out.

Terrorism attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreign nationals. Stay aware of your surroundings, keep up to date with local media reports and follow the advice of local authorities.

Political situation

Presidential elections are scheduled for 22 June 2024. Demonstrations happen in Nouakchott. You should avoid political gatherings and demonstrations and follow the advice of local authorities and security forces.


Crime levels are moderate but steadily increasing.

There have been burglaries in areas where foreign nationals live.

There have been thefts and robberies at knifepoint after dark on the unlit and isolated beaches at Nouakchott and in the ‘Le Cinquième’ district. Be particularly careful in these places.

Report crime to the police by dialling 117 or visiting a police station.

Laws and cultural differences

Personal ID

You should always carry copies of your photo ID, especially outside Nouakchott where there are police checkpoints. Follow any directions from the police or other Mauritanian security forces.


Mauritania recognises Islam as the only religion of its citizens and the state. It is illegal to participate in non-Islamic gatherings and activities that have not been authorised by the Mauritanian authorities. Attempting to convert people to other religions is illegal – those caught doing this can be arrested or deported.


Ramadan is a holy month for Muslims. The dates vary by year and country. During this time, do not eat, drink, smoke or chew gum in public in the daytime, including in your car.

Get more advice when you arrive from your tour guide, hotel or business contacts.

You should also:

  • check opening hours of shops and restaurants
  • follow local dress codes – clothing that does not meet local dress codes may cause more offence at this time
  • be aware that driving may be more erratic, particularly when people are trying to get home at dusk

Alcohol and pork products ban

It is illegal for Muslims and non-Muslims to import or consume alcohol and pork products in Mauritania. The Mauritanian authorities scan all baggage on arrival at Nouakchott International Airport and may search vehicles at land borders. They will confiscate alcohol or pork products and arrest or fine people found carrying them.

Illegal drugs and prison sentences

Drug laws in Mauritania are severe. The penalties for possessing illegal drugs include imprisonment.

Dress code

You should dress modestly when not on the beach. Women should cover their shoulders and not wear short skirts. Men should not wear sleeveless tops or shorts.

Using cameras

Police and members of the public can object to photography or filming if you do not get their permission. Do not photograph or film government and military sites or members of the security forces.  

LGBT+ travellers

There are no laws in Mauritania to protect LGBT+ people from discrimination.

Under Mauritanian law, the maximum penalty for sexual activity between men is death. Penalties for women include a prison sentence ranging from 3 months to 2 years and a fine.

Read more advice for LGBT+ travellers.

Accessing money

It is illegal to take Mauritanian currency (ougiyas) out of the country. The Mauritanian authorities may confiscate money from people trying to do so.

You can exchange US dollars and euros for Mauritanian ouguiyas at banks, some hotels and official bureau de change. You can exchange British pounds at some official bureau de change, but the exchange rate is very poor.

Mauritania is mainly a cash-based society. A few hotels in Nouakchott and Nouadhibou accept credit cards – some hotels only accept Visa cards. Some ATMs accept foreign credit or debit cards.

Transport risks

Road travel

If you are planning to drive in Mauritania, see information on driving abroad.

You can use a UK photocard driving licence to drive in Mauritania. If you still have a paper driving licence, you may need to update it to a photocard licence.    

Driving standards

Driving standards can be poor in Mauritania, traffic rules are rarely respected and paved roads are generally in poor condition.

Overland travel is difficult, and you should use a 4-wheel-drive vehicle. Check the tide times on coastal roads and travel in convoy if possible. Carry out a maintenance check before you travel and make sure you have enough water and fuel on long journeys.

Public transport vehicles are poorly maintained, especially in the interior of the country. 

Crossing borders

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

Before you travel check that:

  • your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
  • you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation

This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.

Emergency medical number

Call 101 and ask for an ambulance. 

The Mauritania authorities may not answer calls to this number.

Contact your insurance company quickly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Vaccine recommendations and health risks 

At least 8 weeks before your trip:  

See what health risks you’ll face in Mauritania, including:  

  • dengue 
  • yellow fever
  • biting insects


Many medicines may be fake or hard to find in Mauritania. Carry enough of your prescription medication for your stay. The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.

Read best practice when travelling with medicines on TravelHealthPro.

Healthcare facilities in Mauritania

Medical facilities are extremely limited in Mauritania, 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.

FCDO has a list of medical providers in Mauritania where some staff will speak English. 

There is also guidance on healthcare if you’re living in Mauritania.

Travel and mental health

Read FCDO guidance on travel and mental health. There is also mental health guidance on TravelHealthPro.

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.

Emergency services in Mauritania

Ambulance: 101

Fire: 118

Police: 117

The Mauritania authorities may not answer calls to these numbers.  

Contact your travel provider and insurer

Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.

Refunds and changes to travel

For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.

Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:

  • where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
  • how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim

Support from FCDO

FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:

Contacting FCDO

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this travel advice is updated.

You can also contact FCDO online.

Help abroad in an emergency

If you are in Mauritania and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the British Embassy in Dakar, Senegal who provide consular assistance for Mauritania.

FCDO in London

You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.

Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)

Find out about call charges

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