Is It Safe To Travel To Mauritania?

Is it safe to travel to Mauritania? This gem of a country, nestled in Northwest Africa, is famous for its vibrant culture, unique landscapes, and super welcoming locals. Think vast stretches of the Sahara Desert and pristine beaches along the Atlantic coast – sounds dreamy, right?

Mauritania is a treasure trove of history and natural beauty. But, let’s be real, some of you might be having second thoughts about visiting due to concerns about safety. The country has faced its fair share of challenges, from political ups and downs, concerns about terrorism, to issues related to crime.

camels in mauritania

We’re going to take a close look at what’s happening in Mauritania right now and give you all the advice you need to make a decision about your trip. Plus, we’ve got some handy safety tips to share, making sure you’re all set for an amazing journey if you decide to go.

Is it safe to travel to Mauritania? Current situation in Mauritania

This country has had its ups and downs since it became independent back in 1960, dealing with political shake-ups and the occasional change in leadership. But hey, things have been looking up! In 2019, they had a presidential election that was actually pretty cool, with everyone agreeing it was fair and the power shifting peacefully from one leader to the next. Thumbs up for democracy, right?

Now, let’s keep it real. Even though the folks in charge are working hard to make things safe and sound in Mauritania, there’s still some stuff to watch out for. Terrorism and crimes, yeah, they’re still around. The neighboring country, Mali, has been dealing with a lot of terrorist activities lately, and some of that has been linked back to a group called Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). So, it’s super important to stay alert and be careful, even though the government is doing its best to keep everyone safe.

When it comes to crime, the cities in Mauritania are where you need to keep your eyes peeled. Pickpocketing, stuff getting swiped, and even armed robbery can happen, especially when it’s dark or if you find yourself in a not-so-busy place.

nuakchott mauritania

First off, it’s a great idea to talk to your doctor before the trip and get some medicine to prevent malaria. And when you’re there, using mosquito nets when you sleep is a smart move to keep those little biters away.

But wait, there’s more! There are a few other health things to keep in mind, like typhoid, hepatitis A and B, and yellow fever. Yikes, right? But here’s the good news: you can get vaccinated for these before your trip. Just make a quick visit to your doctor or a travel clinic, and they’ll hook you up with what you need to stay healthy and enjoy your adventure in Mauritania!

Regions to visit and avoid

Now, even though there are some spots in Mauritania that you might want to skip for safety reasons, there’s still a whole bunch of amazing and unique places that are totally worth checking out.

So, let’s talk about where you can go:

  • First up, Nouakchott – it’s the capital and it’s packed with cool places to stay, yummy spots to eat, and lots of cool things to see. Just keep an eye on your stuff because, like in any big city, pickpockets can be sneaky.
  • Next, you’ve got to check out Banc d’Arguin National Park. It’s on the UNESCO World Heritage List (which is a pretty big deal, by the way) and it’s like a big outdoor zoo, but cooler! There are birds flying in from all over the place, dolphins splashing around, and even seals.
  • If you’re into history and old buildings, Atar is the place for you. It’s right in the middle of the Adrar region and has this super old mosque called Chinguetti Mosque, plus some really ancient libraries. How cool is that?
  • And last but not least, make sure to hit up Nouadhibou. It’s the country’s second-biggest city, right on the coast, and the beaches are awesome. Plus, they’ve got a big fishing scene, so you know the seafood is going to be amazing.
port mauritania

Regions to avoid due to safety concerns include:

  • So, you know the border with Mali? Yeah, it’s had some issues. There’ve been times when not-so-great folks have slipped across, especially up north. But here’s the thing: that area is really, really remote. It’s so out there that getting to it is pretty darn tricky. And even if you manage to make it close, the army is likely to be like, “Nope, not today,” and turn you around. And honestly, that’s for the best.
  • Now, the border with Algeria? That’s a bit of a mystery. Some people in Mauritania think it’s this secret spot where the army goes to train and get all ninja-like. Others say there might be some scuffles happening from time to time. Then there are those who swear up and down that everything’s cool and it’s safe as can be. Whatever’s going on there, it’s probably a good idea to just leave it be and not go exploring.
  • Over in the eastern part of Hodh El Gharbi, things have been a little tense due to some tribal issues. It’s not the best spot for travelers, so you might want to skip that part.
  • And then there’s Tiris Zemmour up north. Because of the Western Sahara conflict, there might still be landmines hanging around, and that’s obviously not good. Plus, it’s mostly empty and can be dangerous. So, it’s a good idea to just stay away from there.

Safety In Nouakchott

When you’re wandering around Nouakchott, keeping safe should be at the top of your list, especially in popular spots like the Port du Pêche, or the fishing port. This place is absolutely bustling with energy and filled with colorful fishing boats—it’s a scene you won’t want to miss! However, it’s got a bit of a reputation for pickpockets. I actually had some locals give me a heads-up about this when I was there.

To make sure your visit is nothing but good vibes, just keep a tight grip on your stuff, watch those pockets, and don’t leave your belongings hanging around unattended. A little bit of caution goes a long way, and you’ll still be able to soak up the lively scene and snap some awesome photos without any unwanted drama.

Now, if you compare it to a lot of places in the Middle East, Nouakchott—and Mauritania in general—is pretty chill when you’re away from the Port du Pêche. Crime isn’t a big problem, so you can really relax and dive into the incredible Mauritanian culture, discover all sorts of cool places, and make memories that’ll last a lifetime. Just remember, no matter where you are, it’s always smart to keep your wits about you and stay safe.

nouakchott boat

Safety In Walata

Tucked away deep in the Sahara, the enchanting oasis town of Oualata, or Walata as some folks call it, is like a secret waiting to be discovered for those who love a bit of adventure and straying from the beaten path. This hidden gem is famous for its vibrant, traditional homes and it’s like stepping back in time when you visit.

But hey, there’s something you need to know because of its location close to the Malian border. Local authorities give a big thumbs down to visiting this area due to safety reasons. However, a lot of travelers have shared that the main hiccup they faced was at Néma, the village where you can catch direct transport to Walata. Here, you might have to chill at the police station for a bit while waiting for the local pick-up to get ready to roll.

Just a heads up, the journey from Nouakchott to Walata is quite a marathon, clocking in at around 24 hours. But let me tell you, for those brave souls who decide to take the plunge, Oualata offers an experience of the Sahara that’s as authentic and memorable as they come.

Women Traveling Alone

Mauritania has a strong Muslim tradition and is pretty much a male-dominated society, so just a heads-up, if you’re a solo female traveler, things might feel a bit different here compared to what guys might experience.

Alright, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. When you’re out and about in Mauritania on your own, you might run into a bit of harassment here and there. But you know what? This isn’t anything out of the ordinary, and you might find similar situations even in popular spots like Jordan. So keep your head high and stay sharp! Trust what your gut is telling you, and don’t let a couple of not-so-great moments steal your thunder and put a damper on your adventure.

chinguetti mauritania

If you’re new to the solo travel game in Muslim countries, no worries at all! Kicking off your adventures in places that are super tourist-friendly, like Morocco or Egypt, could be a really great move. These spots are just perfect for getting a feel of what it’s like to travel alone as a woman in Muslim countries, and they’ll definitely help you build up your travel confidence step by step.

Cultural considerations and respect

When you’re planning a trip to Mauritania, it’s super important to understand and show respect for the local ways of life and traditions. This country is home to a lot of folks who follow Islam, and being mindful of their religious customs and practices is key. So here are some friendly tips to help you be respectful and considerate during your visit:

  1. If you’re dropping by some holy spots in Mauritania, it’s all about dressing respectfully. Ladies, that means picking out outfits that are modest and popping on a headscarf. Fellas, long pants and a shirt should do the trick for you too. When you’re out and about, keeping it conservative is the way to go. Skip the super tight or showy clothes.
  2. Now, onto behavior. This one’s pretty important: stick to the local customs and traditions. For example, if you happen to visit during Ramadan, avoid eating or drinking in public, and keep the PDA to a minimum. Just a heads-up, you won’t find alcohol here, except in a few international hotels.
  3. Greetings are big in Mauritania! A friendly handshake and a “how are you?” can go a long way. It’s a really nice way to show respect.
  4. About the language: Arabic is what most people speak here, but you’ll hear plenty of French too. It might be fun to learn a couple of basic Arabic phrases before you come—it’s a cool way to connect with people.
  5. And when it comes to taking photos, always ask for permission first, especially if you want to snap a pic of a local lady. Oh, and watch out—some military spots and places of worship have a big “no photography” rule.

Showing respect for the way things are done in Mauritania really goes a long way. It’s like saying “thanks” for letting us be a part of their world, even if it’s just for a little while. Plus, when we embrace their culture, it opens the door for some awesome and friendly moments with the locals. And let’s be real, no one wants any awkward mix-ups or arguments while they’re on a trip, right? So, by tuning into their customs and traditions, we’re pretty much setting ourselves up for a smoother and way more fun adventure!


How To Move Around Mauritania Safely?

Alright, so let’s talk about some of the places in Mauritania that are kind of tricky to visit. First off, you really want to stay away from the borders, especially near the Western Sahara region. Why? Well, there are these old landmines scattered around, and they can be super dangerous. What’s even crazier is that they can actually move around during sandstorms! So, it’s a big no-no to wander off the main roads – stick to the paths that people travel on all the time.

But hey, landmines aren’t the only thing you need to watch out for when you’re on the road. A lot of the roads in Mauritania are in pretty rough shape, and not all cars are kept in the best condition. Plus, some folks there have a driving style that might be a bit different from what you’re used to. This all adds up to make car accidents something that happens quite a bit. And if you’re thinking about driving at night, you might want to think again. Between the chance of running into shifting sand dunes, other vehicles, or even animals, it’s pretty risky.

Now, when it comes to getting around, you might be wondering about taxis or buses. But here’s the deal: for Western visitors, these aren’t the safest options. There’s a risk of kidnapping and terrorist attacks, so it’s way better to play it safe and find a more secure way to travel.

Bottom Line

Even though there are a few safety things to keep in mind, Mauritania is like a treasure chest of awesome sights, cool cultural spots, and one-of-a-kind adventures waiting to be discovered. As long as you stay sharp, plan ahead, and show loads of respect for the way things are done around there, you’re in for a trip that’s going to stick with you forever.

Wrapping it up, it’s super important to stay safe and keep your wits about you when you travel, but don’t let the jitters stop you from having fun and checking out new places. With the right prep and a careful approach, diving into the amazing experiences Mauritania has to offer can be both super rewarding and totally cool. So, don’t hold back – go out there and soak up the adventure!

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