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Mauritania - AVOID NON-ESSENTIAL TRAVEL
Avoid non-essential travel to Mauritania due to the threat of terrorism, particularly against Western interests.
Northern and eastern Mauritania - Avoid all travel
Avoid all travel to northern and eastern Mauritania due to the risk of banditry and kidnapping. This includes the area east of the Zouérat–Ouadane–Tidjikja–Kiffa–Sélibali line, the entire region of Tiris Zemmour, areas within 25 km of the borders with Algeria, Mali and Western Sahara and a military zone with restricted civilian access.
Safety and security
Northern and eastern Mauritania
Extremist groups and armed smugglers are active in Mauritania’s northern and eastern areas and there is a high risk of banditry and kidnapping. Armed rebels are active in the northern area beyond the Oualata–Tichit–Ouadane–Zouérat line. Attacks and thefts of personal belongings and vehicles have occurred.
The Defense Ministry of Mauritania has established a military zone in the north-east of the country where civilian access is forbidden. The military zone is located between Cheggat in the north-east, Ain Bentili in the north-west, Dhar Tichitt in the south-west and Lemreyye in the south-east. The Mauritanian Minister of Defense has publicly warned that any individual who enters the area will be treated as a military target.
There is a threat of terrorism. Targets could include:
- government buildings, including schools
- places of worship
- airports and other transportation hubs and networks
- public areas such as tourist attractions, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, shopping centres, markets, hotels and other sites frequented by foreigners
Western interests may be particularly targeted.
Always be aware of your surroundings when in public places.
Stay at hotels that have robust security measures, however, keep in mind that even the most secure locations can’t be considered completely free of risk.
Mauritania’s borders in the Sahel region are porous, and terrorists operate in those border regions and the interior.
There is a high risk of kidnapping in Mauritania, and Westerners are a preferred target. Hostages have been detained for several months before being released. Be particularly cautious in areas bordering Western Sahara and Mali.
To lessen your risk of being kidnapped, travel with a reputable escort familiar with the country. Use varied and unpredictable routes and schedules when moving from one place to another. Exercise high personal security awareness at all times, and monitor local developments.
Petty crimes such as pickpocketing, theft and residential break-ins occur.
Car theft and assaults also occur.
- Avoid unpatrolled beaches at all times because of the risk of banditry and carjacking
- Avoid the Cinquième (fifth) district in Nouakchott after dark
- Travel in groups
- Remain alert
- Ensure that your personal belongings, passports and other travel documents are secure at all times.
Demonstrations occur from time to time, particularly on Fridays between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m, after the afternoon prayer.
Even peaceful demonstrations can turn violent at any time. They can also lead to disruptions to traffic and public transportation.
- Avoid areas where demonstrations and large gatherings are taking place, particularly mosques, around prayers on Fridays
- Follow the instructions of local authorities
- Monitor local media for information on ongoing demonstrations
More about mass gatherings (large-scale events)
Women travelling alone may be subject to some forms of harassment, verbal abuse and physical assault. Women should travel in groups and avoid travelling alone at night.
Women have been detained when reporting sexual assault, as they must prove that the sex was not consensual to avoid being charged. Mauritania’s laws criminalize extramarital sex.
If you must travel to remote desert areas, you will experience extreme climate and isolation.
- Travel in convoys
- Be accompanied by an experienced guide
- Remain on well-used tracks
- Carry sufficient supplies
- Seek the advice of local authorities before travelling
- Leave an itinerary with family or friends
There are two main border areas in Mauritania: at the northeastern border with Western Sahara and the southwestern border with Senegal.
The border crossing into Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara leads into a buffer zone, and there is no paved or well-marked road between the two border controls. There are unexploded landmines in the 20-30 km-wide area between Mauritania and Western Sahara. Landmines can shift with the movement of sand and dunes.
The two main land border crossings into Senegal are located at Diama and Rosso. Pedestrians and vehicles cross over the dam at Diama and by ferry at Rosso. The road leading to Diama may be impassable during the rainy season. Long delays at the border are common. Ferry crossings at Rosso are available only between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Don’t cross the Senegal River by pirogue (small boat) because it is illegal and dangerous.
Road conditions are generally fair to poor. There are four major roads in the country from Nouakchott:
- N1 toward Atar
- N2 along the coast toward the north (Nouadhibou, Western Sahara and Morocco)
- N3 toward Néma
- N4 along the coast toward the south (Rosso and Senegal)
Most other roads are unpaved sand tracks.
Drivers don’t respect traffic laws and regulations. Drifting sand and dunes may occasionally force vehicles off the roads. Roaming animals, bush taxis and poorly maintained vehicles frequently cause accidents. Roadside assistance is non-existent. Wear seatbelts at all times. Avoid driving at night.
Rent vehicles with drivers. In the event of an accident or vehicle breakdown, the driver and rental company will be held responsible. If the vehicle is rented without a driver, the person renting the vehicle will be held responsible.
In the event of an accident, a police report must be filed. Should an accident result in injury or death, drivers are detained until a judge determines responsibility.
Police conduct routine roadblocks in major cities such as Nouakchott. They may ask for proof of identity and a driver’s licence.
Public transportation is generally unsafe and unreliable.
We do not make assessments on the compliance of foreign domestic airlines with international safety standards.
General information about foreign domestic airlines
Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders. The Government of Canada cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet your destination’s entry or exit requirements.
We have obtained the information on this page from the authorities of Mauritania. It can, however, change at any time.
Verify this information with foreign diplomatic missions and consulates in Canada.
Entry requirements vary depending on the type of passport you use for travel.
Before you travel, check with your transportation company about passport requirements. Its rules on passport validity may be more stringent than the country’s entry rules.
Regular Canadian passport
Your passport must be valid when you enter Mauritania.
Passport for official travel
Different entry rules may apply.
Other travel documents
Different entry rules may apply when travelling with a temporary passport or an emergency travel document. Before you leave, check with the closest diplomatic mission for your destination.
Canadians can obtain a visa prior to or upon arriving in Mauritania.
Tourist visa: Required
Business visa: Required
Student visa: Required
Children and travel
Learn about travel with children.
Learn about potential entry requirements related to yellow fever (vaccines section).
- There are no updates at this time.
Be sure that your routine vaccines, as per your province or territory, are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
Some of these vaccines include: measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, varicella (chickenpox), influenza and others.
Vaccines to Consider
You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health professional about which ones are right for you.
Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread through contaminated food and water or contact with an infected person. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.
Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment, sharing needles, tattooing, acupuncture or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.
Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or by touching objects and surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus. Get the flu shot.
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease and is common in most parts of the world.
Be sure your measles vaccination is up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
This country is in the African Meningitis Belt, an area where there are many cases of meningococcal disease. Meningococcal disease is a serious and sometimes fatal infection. Travellers who may be at high risk should consider getting vaccinated. High-risk travellers include those living or working with the local population (e.g., health care workers) or those travelling to crowded areas or taking part in large gatherings.
Rabies is a deadly illness spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from an infected animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (e.g., are children, have an occupational risk, or in close contact with animals, including free roaming dogs in communities).
Yellow Fever - Country Entry Requirements
Yellow fever is a disease caused by a flavivirus from the bite of an infected mosquito.
Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.
- There is a risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
- Proof of vaccination is required if you are coming from a country where yellow fever occurs.
- Vaccination is recommended depending on your itinerary.
- There is currently a shortage of the yellow fever vaccine in Canada. It is important for travellers to contact a designated Yellow Fever Vaccination Centre well in advance of their trip to ensure that the vaccine is available.
- Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care professional.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites.
About Yellow Fever
Yellow Fever Vaccination Centres in Canada
* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Food and Water-borne Diseases
Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.
In some areas in West Africa, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in West Africa. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!
Schistosomiasis can be spread to humans through freshwater sources contaminated by blood flukes (tiny worms). The eggs of the worms can cause stomach illnesses like diarrhea and cramps or urinary problems. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Avoid swimming in freshwater sources (lakes, rivers, ponds). There is no vaccine available for schistosomiasis.
- Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
- Risk of developing travellers' diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor standards of hygiene and sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
- The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.
Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among children, travellers going to rural areas, travellers visiting friends and relatives or those travelling for a long period of time.
Travellers visiting regions with a risk typhoid, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should speak to a health care professional about vaccination.
Insects and Illness
In some areas in West Africa, certain insects carry and spread diseases like African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), chikungunya, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, dengue fever, leishmaniasis, lymphatic filariasis, malaria, onchocerciasis, Rift Valley fever, West Nile virus, yellow fever and Zika virus.
Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.
There is currently a risk of chikungunya in this country. Chikungunya is a virus spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. Chikungunya can cause a viral disease that typically causes fever and pain in the joints. In some cases, the joint pain can be severe and last for months or years.
Protect yourself from mosquito bites at all times. There is no vaccine available for chikungunya.
Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever
Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever is a viral disease that typically causes fever, bleeding under the skin, and pain. Risk is generally low for most travellers. It is spread to humans though contact with infected animal blood or bodily fluids, or from a tick bite. Protect yourself from tick bites and avoid animals. There is no vaccine available for Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever.
- Dengue fever occurs in this country. Dengue fever is a viral disease that can cause severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases it leads to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.
- Mosquitoes carrying dengue typically bite during the daytime, particularly around sunrise and sunset.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine or medication that protects against dengue fever.
Rift Valley fever
Rift Valley fever is a viral disease that can cause severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases, it can be fatal. It is spread to humans through contact with infected animal blood or tissues, from the bite of an infected mosquito, or eating or drinking unpasteurized dairy. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Protect yourself from bites and avoid infected animals and unpasteurized dairy. There is no vaccine available for Rift Valley fever.
- There is a risk of malaria in certain areas and/or during a certain time of year in this country.
- Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no vaccine against malaria.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in enclosed air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider pre-treating clothing and travel gear with insecticides and sleeping under an insecticide-treated bednet.
- Antimalarial medication may be recommended depending on your itinerary and the time of year you are travelling. See a health care professional or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss your options.
Animals and Illness
Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. Certain infections found in some areas in West Africa, like avian influenza, ebola, and rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.
Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.
Tuberculosis is an infection caused by bacteria and usually affects the lungs.
For most travellers the risk of tuberculosis is low.
Travellers who may be at high risk while travelling in regions with risk of tuberculosis should discuss pre- and post-travel options with a health care professional.
High-risk travellers include those visiting or working in prisons, refugee camps, homeless shelters, or hospitals, or travellers visiting friends and relatives.
Medical services and facilities
Medical facilities and supplies are extremely limited. Medical services usually require immediate cash payment.
Make sure you get travel insurance that includes coverage for medical evacuation and hospital stays.
Travel health and safety
Keep in Mind...
The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.
Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.
Laws and culture
You must abide by local laws.
Learn about what you should do and how we can help if you are arrested or detained abroad.
Adultery, extra-marital sexual relations and prostitution are illegal. Offenders may face strict penalties, including imprisonment.
Photographing military installations, airports, government buildings and religious buildings is forbidden.
Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are severe.
The laws of Mauritania prohibit sexual acts between individuals of the same sex.
Convicted male offenders can face the death penalty. Female offenders can be punished by 3 months to 2 years in prison and a large fine.
LGBTQ2 travellers should carefully consider the risks of travelling to Mauritania.
General safety information and advice for LGBTQ2 travellers abroad
Dual citizenship is not legally recognized in Mauritania.
If local authorities consider you a citizen of Mauritania, they may refuse to grant you access to Canadian consular services. This will prevent us from providing you with those services.
General information for travellers with dual citizenship
You should carry an international driving permit
More about the International Driving Permit
It is illegal to import alcoholic beverages, firearms and pork products.
Children of Mauritanian fathers automatically acquire Mauritanian citizenship at birth, regardless of where they were born. The father’s permission is required for any child to travel, even if the child is travelling on a foreign passport.
Islamic practices and beliefs are closely adhered to in the country’s customs, laws and regulations. Dress conservatively, behave discreetly and respect religious and social traditions to avoid offending local sensitivities. It would be prudent for women to wear a headscarf and cover their arms and legs.
During the lunar month of Ramadan (the ninth month of the Muslim calendar), refrain from drinking, eating, and smoking in public between sunrise and sunset. In 2019, Ramadan is expected to begin on or around May 5.
The currency is the ouguiya (MRO), which is non-convertible and can’t be taken out of the country. Mauritania is a cash-based economy. There is no limit on the importation of foreign currency but it should be declared on arrival. The exportation of foreign currency is limited to the amount declared on arrival. Exchanges will only accept U.S. dollars and euros. Some hotels in Nouakchott and Nouadhibou accept credit cards.
Natural disasters and climate
The climate in Mauritania is very hot and dry.
The rainy season extends from July to October. Seasonal flooding can hamper overland travel and reduce the provision of essential services. Power and telecommunications may be affected in some areas. Roads may become impassable and bridges damaged.
Exercise caution, monitor local media and follow the instructions of local authorities.
More about hurricanes, typhoons, cyclones and monsoons
In case of emergency, dial:
- police: 17
- firefighters: 18
Nouakchott - Consulate of Canada
Rabat-Souissi - Embassy of Canada
For emergency consular assistance, call the Embassy of Canada to Morocco in Rabat and follow the instructions. At any time, you may also contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa.
The decision to travel is your choice and you are responsible for your personal safety abroad. The Government of Canada takes the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provides credible and timely information in its Travel Advice to enable you to make well-informed decisions regarding your travel abroad. In the event of a large-scale emergency, every effort will be made to provide assistance. However, there may be constraints that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide services.
See Large-scale emergencies abroad for more information.
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