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Mauritania - AVOID NON-ESSENTIAL TRAVEL
Global Affairs Canada advises against non-essential travel to Mauritania due to the threat of terrorism, particularly against Western interests..
Northern and eastern Mauritania - Avoid all travel
Global Affairs Canada advises against all travel to northern and eastern Mauritania, particularly the desert areas north of the Oualata–Tichit–Ouadane–Zouérat line, as well as to within 25 km of the borders with Algeria, Mali and Western Sahara, due to the risk of banditry and kidnapping.
See Safety and security for more information.
Safety and security
Safety and security
Northern and eastern Mauritania (see Advisory)
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 Tuareg rebels are active in the northern area beyond the Oualata–Tichit–Ouadane–Zouérat line. Attacks and thefts of personal belongings and vehicles have occurred.
There is a threat of terrorism. Targets could include:
- government buildings
- places of worship
- transportation hubs
- public areas such as restaurants, shopping centres, markets, hotels and sites frequented by foreigners.
Western interests may be particularly targeted. Be aware of your surroundings at all times in public places. Stay at hotels that have robust security measures; however, keep in mind that even the most secure locations cannot 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 crime such as pickpocketing, theft and residential and vehicle break-ins occurs, as does assault. Avoid unpatrolled beaches at all times because of the risk of banditry and carjacking. Avoid beaches and the Cinquième (fifth) district in Nouakchott after dark.
Travel in groups, remain alert and ensure that your personal belongings, passports and other travel documents are secure at all times.
Demonstrations occur, particularly on Fridays, and have the potential to suddenly turn violent. They can significantly disrupt traffic and public transportation. Avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings, follow the instructions of local authorities and monitor local media.
A public referendum on proposed amendments to the constitution is scheduled for August 5, 2017. There could be demonstrations leading up to and following the referendum.
Women have been verbally harassed and physically assaulted. Women should travel in groups and avoid travelling alone at night. Consult our publication entitled Her Own Way: A Woman’s Safe-Travel Guide for travel safety information for Canadian women.
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 (see Laws and customs).
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 and carry sufficient supplies. Seek the advice of local authorities before travelling, and leave an itinerary with family and 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. Global Affairs Canada advises against all travel to the border regions of Western Sahara.
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. Do not cross the Senegal River by pirogue (small boat) as 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 (Nouadibou, Western Sahara and Morocco), N3 toward Néma and N4 along the coast toward the South (Rosso and Senegal). Most other roads are unpaved sand tracks.
Drivers rarely respect traffic laws and regulations. Drifting sand and dunes may occasionally force vehicles off the roads. Roaming animals, bush taxis, poor driving habits 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.
Passenger rail service operates between Nouadhibou and Zouérat. Book in advance.
The Government of Canada does not assess foreign domestic airlines’ compliance with international aviation safety standards. See Foreign domestic airlines for more information.
It is the sole prerogative of every country or territory to determine who is allowed to enter or exit. Canadian consular officials cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet entry or exit requirements. The following information has been obtained from the authorities of Mauritania and is subject to change at any time. The country- or territory-specific entry/exit requirements are provided on this page for information purposes only. While every effort is made to provide accurate information, information contained here is provided on an "as is" basis without warranty of any kind, express or implied. The Government of Canada assumes no responsibility, and shall not be liable for any damages in connection to the information provided. It is your responsibility to check with the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania for up-to-date information.
Canadians must present a passport to visit Mauritania. Prior to travelling, ask your transportation company about its requirements related to passport validity, which may be more stringent than the country’s entry rules.
Temporary passport holders may be subject to different entry requirements. Check with diplomatic representatives for up-to-date information.
Official (special and diplomatic) passport holders must consult the Official Travel page, as they may be subject to different entry requirements.
Canadians can obtain a visa prior to or upon arriving in Mauritania.
Tourist visa: Required
Business visa: Required
Student visa: Required
Children and travel
Children need special documentation to visit certain countries. See Children for more information.
See Health to obtain information on this country’s vaccination requirements.
- Measles: Global Update - May 2, 2017 00:00 EDT
Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
Vaccines to Consider
You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider 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 (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).
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 provider.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites.
* 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 for children, travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives or travelling for a long period of time. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should speak to a health care provider 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.
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, eating or drinking unpasteurized dairy, or from a mosquito bite. 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 provider 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.
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 provider.
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.
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
Laws & culture
You are subject to local laws. See Arrest and detention for more information.
Illegal or restricted activities
The use of drugs and alcohol is prohibited.
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.
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 three months to two years in prison and a large fine.
Dual citizenship is not legally recognized in in Mauritania. If local authorities consider you a Mauritanian citizen, they may refuse to grant you access to Canadian consular services, thereby preventing Canadian consular officials from providing you with those services. You should always travel using your valid Canadian passport and present yourself as Canadian to foreign authorities at all times to minimize this risk. You may also need to carry and present a Mauritanian passport for legal reasons, for example to enter and exit the country (see Entry/exit requirements to determine passport requirements). Citizenship is determined solely by national laws, and the decision to recognize dual citizenship rests completely with the country in which you are located when seeking consular assistance. See Travelling as a dual citizen for more information.
An International Driving Permit is recommended.
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 2018, Ramadan is expected to begin on or around May 15.
The currency is the ouguiya (MRO), which is non-convertible and cannot 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. Traveller’s cheques are not accepted.
Natural disasters and climate
Natural disasters & climate
The climate in Mauritania is very hot and dry.
The rainy season extends from July to October. Transportation routes, power and telecommunications systems may be affected in some areas, and some roads may be impassable due to flooding. Exercise caution, monitor local media and follow the instructions of local authorities.
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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