MauritaniaOfficial Name: Islamic Republic of Mauritania
Six months remaining validity upon entry
BLANK PASSPORT PAGES:
One page required for entry stamp
TOURIST VISA REQUIRED:
See Health section below
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY:
Local currency may not be imported. See below
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT:
Local currency may not be exported. See below
Embassies and Consulates
The U.S. Embassy is located between the Presidency building and the Spanish Embassy on Rue Abdallaye. The postal address is B.P. 222, Nouakchott, Mauritania.
Telephone: +(222) 4525-2660, 4525-2663, 4525-1145 or 4525-3288
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(222) 3662-8163
Emergency Consular Recording: (to relay messages during emergency situations): +(222) 4525-3701
Fax: (222) 4525-1592
The Islamic Republic of Mauritania is a developing country in northwestern Africa. Arabic is the official language, but French is widely used and several local languages are also spoken. Tourist facilities in the capital, Nouakchott, are adequate, but limited or non-existent elsewhere. Read the Department of State Fact Sheet on Mauritania for additional information.
Entry, Exit & Visa Requirements
A passport and a visa are required, as is evidence of yellow fever vaccination. Mauritanian visas require an invitation or sponsor, can take several months to process, and must be obtained prior to travel. For the most current visa information, contact the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, 2129 Leroy Place NW, Washington, DC 20008, telephone (202) 232-5700, or the Mauritanian Permanent Mission to the United Nations, 211 East 43rd Street, Suite 2000, New York, NY 10017, telephone (212) 986-7963 or 8189. Overseas, inquiries should be made at the nearest Mauritanian embassy or consulate. The U.S. Embassy in Nouakchott cannot provide assistance to private citizens seeking Mauritanian visas.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Mauritania.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.
Safety and Security
The current Travel Warning for Mauritania warns U.S. citizens of the continued risks of traveling to Mauritania, and urges extreme caution due to activities by terrorist groups in the region, including al Qaida in the Lands of Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). As noted in the Department of State's Worldwide Caution dated February 19, current information suggests that al-Qaida, its affiliated organizations, and other terrorist organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks against U.S. interests in multiple regions across Africa. These attacks may employ a wide variety of tactics including suicide operations, assassinations, kidnappings, hijackings, and bombings.
As a result of perceived Western involvement in counterterrorism efforts, terrorist groups have declared their intention to attack Western targets in Mauritania and the region. It is possible that these terrorist groups will attempt retaliatory attacks against Western targets of opportunity. Al-Qaida, its affiliated organizations, and other terrorist organizations have previously conducted kidnapping of Westerners for ransom and suicide bombing attempts. The Mauritanian military continues to engage in action against these elements.
Because of terrorist activities in the vicinity, you should avoid all non-essential travel to:
- the Mali border regions
- the Hodh El Charghi and Hodh El Gharbi regions of southeastern Mauritania
- the eastern half of the Assaba region (east of Kiffa)
- the eastern half of the Tagant region of central Mauritania (east of Tidjika)
- the eastern half of the Adrar region (east of Chinguetti)
- the Tiris-Zemmour region of northern Mauritania.
U.S. Embassy staff members are authorized to travel to these regions only in limited circumstances. Given threats by al-Qaida, its affiliated organizations and other terrorist organizations, and because of indications of a desire to kidnap Westerners for ransom, U.S. citizens are urged to remain vigilant and be alert to surveillance or other risks to their safety. Faith-based organizations, regardless of their location, may also be particularly targeted.
Traveling Safely: You should exercise prudence and caution when traveling in Mauritania. Be particularly vigilant when traveling by road outside of populated areas, even when traveling along main routes and highways. The U.S. Embassy discourages travel outside of urban areas unless in a convoy accompanied by an experienced guide, and even then only if equipped with sturdy vehicles and ample provisions. Driving outside of urban areas after dark is also strongly discouraged. The U.S. Embassy has received reports of banditry and smuggling in the more remote parts of Mauritania.
In Nouakchott and other major cities in Mauritania, there is an increased security presence and additional checkpoints. Police routinely conduct roadblocks at which they may ask for proof of identity and driver’s licenses. You should be prepared for such inquiries by carrying identification at all times. These checkpoints should be respected, even if they appear to be unmanned. Drivers should stop, sound their horn, and pause for an adequate amount of time before proceeding through the checkpoint to avoid any type of confrontation. It is best to drive cautiously and be prepared to stop at short notice.
You should be aware of your surroundings at all times and maintain good personal security practices, including always locking homes and cars, varying routes and times of travel, and maintaining a low profile. When going out, avoid being part of large, highly visible groups of Westerners (but do not travel alone), and avoid sitting in areas that are easily visible from the street when in restaurants or cafes. Be particularly alert when frequenting locales associated with Westerners, including cultural centers, social and recreation clubs, beach areas, and restaurants.
Landmines remain a danger along the border with the Western Sahara and travelers should cross only at designated border posts. Travelers planning overland trips from Mauritania to Morocco, Algeria, Senegal, or Mali should check with the U.S. Embassy in Nouakchott before setting out. For more information about travel in Mauritania, please see the section on Traffic Safety and Road Conditions.
Political Concerns: In early March 2014, thousands of protestors in Nouakchott gathered in anger at local media reports that alleged a Koran desecration incident. In September 2012, many countries around the world, including Mauritania, experienced political demonstrations protesting a controversial YouTube video and cartoon. Although the political rallies are generally calm and peaceful, the possibility of political instability or spontaneous violent protests remains. In addition, deteriorating economic conditions and an upcoming presidential election could cause civil unrest. Some previous protests in Mauritania have turned violent. An anti-government group calling itself the Youth of February 25 Movement held a series of protests in the capital of Nouakchott in 2011 calling for political, economic, and social reform. A separate group, Do Not Touch My Nationality, organized several demonstrations in 2011 over alleged discrimination in a national registration drive in Nouakchott and in smaller towns throughout Mauritania. Most of these demonstrations turned violent and one protestor was fatally shot by security forces during a September 2011 protest in Maghama. The demonstrations were generally announced in advance in the media and on the Internet. The Embassy urges U.S. citizens to avoid political rallies and street demonstrations, and to maintain security awareness at all times. The Embassy also recommends that U.S. citizens check local media sources regularly for information about potential political demonstrations.
Stay up to date by:
- Bookmarking our Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which contains the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution.
- Following us on Foursquare, Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well.
- Calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the United States and Canada, or a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444, from other countries.
- Taking some time before travel to consider personal security. Here are some useful tips for traveling safely abroad.
CRIME: Overall, crime in Mauritania is not unlike crime in any major city in the United States. Though incidents of crime are on the rise, most incidents occur in the cities and larger towns and are petty crimes, such as pick-pocketing and the theft of improperly secured or openly visible valuables left in vehicles. To reduce exposure to theft and increase personal safety, lock up valuable items and keep them out of sight. Walking alone at any time is discouraged, especially for Western women. Residential burglaries and robberies, particularly at the beaches in Nouakchott, are not uncommon. In Nouakchott, travelers should avoid the beach at night.
Violent crimes and crimes involving the use of weapons are rare. Rapes and assaults have occurred and, in some instances, involved U.S. citizens. The majority of sexual assaults have occurred at night in taxi cabs. Combined with the lack of government regulation of taxi fares and poor regular maintenance, Westerners should avoid taxis and public transportation. Foreign tourists, including U.S. citizens, might be targeted for kidnapping in Mauritania.
Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, purchasing them may also be breaking local law.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: Travelers who are victims of a crime abroad should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate (see the Department of State list of embassies and consulates). The Embassy can:
- Replace a stolen passport.
- Help you find appropriate medical care if you are the victim of violent crimes such as assault or rape.
- Put you in contact with the appropriate police authorities, and if you want us to, we can contact family members or friend.
- Help you understand the local criminal justice process and direct you to local attorneys, although it is important to remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime.
There is no local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Mauritania.
Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
Local Laws & Special Circumstances
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While traveling in Mauritania, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own. In some places, you may be taken in for questioning if you don’t have your passport with you. In some places, it is illegal to take pictures of certain buildings. In some places, driving under the influence could land you immediately in jail. These criminal penalties will vary from country to country. There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States, and you can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. If you break local laws in Mauritania, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not where you are going.
Religious Norms: Islamic ideals and beliefs in the country encourage conservative dress and behavior. Sleeved and below-the-knee garments are recommended, particularly when traveling in areas not frequented by Westerners. The Mauritanian government prohibits the printing and distribution of non-Islamic religious materials, although possession of these materials is legal.
The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania recognizes Islam as the sole religion of its citizens and the state. Religious freedom is restricted under the constitution and other laws and policies. The Mauritanian Penal Code criminalizes all affronts against Islamic modesty and morals and penalties may range from fines to the death penalty. Participation in Christian gatherings and activities that have not been authorized by the Mauritanian government is illegal. Apostasy is punishable by death.
Proselytizing in Mauritania is illegal and may lead to deportation, arrest, prosecution, or incarceration.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Mauritanian customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning the temporary import or export of items such as firearms, narcotics, alcoholic drinks, and pork products. Contact the Embassy of Mauritania in Washington, DC, for specific information regarding customs regulations. Please see our Customs Information.
If you are a woman traveling abroad, please review our travel tips for Women Travelers.
Local Currency: The local currency is the ouguiya, and it may not be imported or exported. Credit cards can be used only at a few hotels in the capital, Nouakchott, and in the northwestern city of Nouadhibou. However, credit card fraud is a problem, so travelers are strongly advised to pay hotel bills in cash. ATMs are available in Nouakchott and other large cities, but are not secure. Major foreign currencies are changeable at banks and numerous currency exchanges; however, this service is not always available without advance notice or prior arrangement. There is a risk of receiving fraudulent bank notes even from banks, which often do not have the security means to detect false bank notes.
LGBT Rights: There are no laws that protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons from discrimination. Under sharia law, as applied in the country, consensual same-sex sexual activity between men is punishable by death if witnessed by four individuals, and such activity between women is punishable by three months to two years in prison and a fine of 5,000 to 60,000 ouguiya ($17 to $198). There were no criminal prosecutions during the year. There was no evidence of societal violence, societal discrimination, or systematic acts of government discrimination based on sexual orientation. Members of the LGBT community were rarely identified or discussed, likely because of the severity of the stigma and legal penalties for having been labeled as such. There were no organizations advocating for sexual orientation or gender-identity rights, but there were no legal impediments to the registration of such groups. For more detailed information about LGBT rights in Mauritania, you may review the State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012. For further information on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) travel, please read our LGBT Travel Information page.
ACCESSIBILITY: While in Mauritania, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what you find in the United States.
Medical facilities in Mauritania are limited. There are few modern clinics or hospitals beyond the capital and a few major towns. At local pharmacies, some medicines are difficult to obtain or may be counterfeit; travelers are advised to carry their own medical supplies and medications (over-the-counter and prescription). There are no modern mortuary services available in Mauritania. Procurement of caskets and materials to ship the remains of deceased citizens internationally are not available in Mauritania.
As vaccine preventable illnesses are common in Niger, all routine immunizations recommended by the CDC in the US should be up to date before traveling to Niger.
Yellow fever vaccine is required for travelers over age 1 year of age who are arriving from areas with a risk of Yellow Fever. Yellow Fever vaccine is recommended for those over age 9 months who visit the southern areas of the country but is not needed for visits only to Nouakchott.
Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease. Transmission occurs from July through October in the wilayas of Inchiri and Adrar, and extremely high transmission occurs throughout the year in areas south of the Sahara Desert. Plasmodium falciparum, the most dangerous and potentially fatal strain of malaria is the predominant type found in Mauritania. Due to the high risk of malaria the CDC advises that even short term travelers take anti-malarial drugs. The drugs recommended include: mefloquine (Lariam™), doxycycline, or atovaquone/proguanil (Malarone™). Chloroquine is not effective for most African malaria and should not be used. Appropriate antimalarials should be brought with you to Mauritania as often the drugs sold in local pharmacies are not effective or are counterfeit. The CDC has determined that a traveler who is on an appropriate anti-malarial drug has a greatly reduced chance of contracting the disease. Other personal protective measures, such as the use of insect repellents on the skin and on clothing as well as insecticide treated bednets markedly reduce the malaria risk. Travelers who become ill with a fever or flu-like illness while traveling in a malaria-risk area, and up to one year after returning home, should seek prompt medical attention and tell the physician their travel history and what anti-malarial drugs they have been taking. For additional information on malaria, please visit the CDC travelers’ health website.
Meningococcal meningitis occurs in Mauritania during the dry season (December through June). Travelers should consider immunization with meningococcal vaccine, especially if prolonged contact with the local populace is anticipated, and for all children and health care workers throughout the year. Epidemic activity has been reported primarily in the southern region of the country.
Diarrheal illness is common throughout Mauritania. Avoid raw fruit and vegetables (especially salads) as they are frequently contaminated with diarrhea causing organisms. They should be cooked thoroughly before eating. Fruits that you can peel such as bananas or oranges are safer than leafy vegetables like lettuce and spinach which are exceptionally hard to adequately clean. Tap water is unsafe to drink throughout Mauritania. Bottled water and beverages are safe, although visitors should be aware that many restaurants and hotels serve tap water. Ice made from tap water is unsafe in drinks.
Schistosomiasis, a worm transmitted to humans through fresh water, is common in areas south of the Sahara. The larval stages of this worm can penetrate intact skin with even wading in infected waters. Travelers should avoid freshwater exposure in these areas.
The latest outbreak of Rift Valley Fever occurred in October 2012 in the Tagant region of Mauritania. Rift Valley Fever is a mosquito-borne viral illness that occasionally causes outbreaks in Mauritania but is of minimal risk to travelers on usual itineraries. The first outbreak was recorded in December 2010 and subsequently detected in the Adrar and Inchiri regions of Mauritania. According to the CDC, Rift Valley Fever is a viral disease that primarily affects animals, but also has the capacity to infect humans. Infection can cause severe disease and death in both animals and humans. Humans usually get Rift Valley Fever through bites from infected mosquitoes and other insects. Humans can also get the disease if they are exposed to the blood, body fluids, or tissues of infected animals. To learn more about Rift Valley Fever and preventive measures, U.S. citizens are advised to review the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Rift Valley Fever Fact Sheet.
Travelers can obtain information on vaccinations, including those recommended for Mauritania, and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) website. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
Travel & Transportation
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, visitors may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Mauritania is provided for general reference only and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Public transportation is not safe and road conditions in Mauritania are generally poor, particularly in the interior. Overland travel is difficult and roadside assistance is non-existent. The country’s size (larger than Texas and New Mexico combined) and harsh climate make road maintenance and repair especially problematic. Mauritania has only about 2,070 km (1,286 miles) of surfaced roads, 710 km (441 miles) of unsurfaced roads, and 5,140 km (3,194 miles) of unimproved tracks. Even small amounts of rain can make paved roads in Nouakchott impassable for cars without suitably high clearance. Unpaved roads present greater challenges during and after rain for automobiles with low clearance without four-wheel drive. Travelers should not offer rides to hitchhikers, nor should visitors to Mauritania accept rides offered by strangers. Taxis and public transportation and are not considered to be secure forms of transportation for western visitors to Mauritania, and Embassy personnel are directed not to use them.
The traditional route to Nouadhibou, prior to the completion of a paved road, was along the beach during low tide. Some travelers continue to use this route, as do visitors to coastal fishing villages and other points of interest, as well as smugglers and others who try to avoid the security checkpoints that are often established along the asphalt roads. Pedestrian visitors to the beach should exercise caution because of the beach’s use as a route for motorized vehicles.
U.S. citizens traveling overland for long distances in Mauritania should travel in convoys, and be sure to have suitable four-wheel drive vehicles, a local guide, an adequate supply of water and food, and a second fuel reservoir. Multiple vehicles are recommended in case of breakdown. A Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver and satellite phone are essential when traveling in remote areas. Visitors are urged not to travel alone into the desert or after dark when outside of major urban areas.
Driving in Mauritania can be treacherous, and we encourage travelers to hire a trained local driver. Traffic patterns differ considerably from those in the United States and many Mauritanians drive without regard to traffic signs or rules. Roadway obstructions and hazards caused by drifting sand, animals, and poor roads often plague motorists. These hazards, when combined with the number of untrained drivers and poorly maintained vehicles, make heightened caution imperative at all times. Drivers should be extremely vigilant and all vehicle occupants should always wear their seat belts. Motorcycle and bicycle riders should wear helmets and protective clothing. Nighttime driving is discouraged.
The telecommunications infrastructure, including cellular telephone coverage, is limited. For those traveling outside the major urban areas, it is recommended to have a satellite telephone readily available.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Mauritania, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Mauritania’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.
Assistance for U.S. Citizens
U.S. Embassy Nouakchott
The U.S. Embassy is located between the Presidency building and the Spanish Embassy on Rue Abdallaye. The postal address is B.P. 222, Nouakchott, Mauritania.