Safety and security
There is a high threat from terrorism throughout Mauritania. Attacks cannot be ruled out and could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.
On 1 February 2008, a group of armed men attacked the Israeli Embassy in Nouakchott.
In December 2007 a family of French tourists was attacked by armed men in the Aleg region of southern Mauritania, in what was believed to be a kidnap attempt. Four were killed and one was seriously injured.
When travelling in Mauritania you should take all necessary steps to protect your safety and should make sure you have confidence in your individual security arrangements. You should maintain a high level of vigilance, particularly in public places. You should take sensible precautions for your personal and vehicle safety.
There is a high risk of kidnap in Mauritania. You should be aware that the long-standing policy of the British Government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The British Government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners increases the risk of further hostage taking.
There is the risk of banditry, and armed smugglers and extremist groups are active in the regions east of Zouerate, Ouadane, Tichit, and Amourj. A terrorist group, which attacked a Mauritanian army unit in June 2005, and was accused of kidnapping tourists in Algeria in 2003, remains active in the region and continues to pose a security threat. Armed groups also attacked Mauritanian army patrols in December 2007; four soldiers were killed, and in September 2008 a dozen soldiers and their guide were killed.
Unexploded landmines remain a danger along Mauritania’s border with Western Sahara. Travellers should exercise caution, particularly if travelling off road.
For more general information see Terrorism Abroad.
Crime levels are moderate but steadily increasing. There have been several incidents of car jacking involving foreigners in the capital as well as reports of robbery, rape and assault. For more general information see Rape and Sexual Assault Abroad. You should avoid the unlit and isolated beach at Nouakchott and ‘Le Cinquième’ district after dark as a number of thefts and violent incidents have been reported there in recent years.
For more general information see Victims of Crime Abroad.
Mauritania Country Profile
A bloodless coup took place in Mauritania in August 2008 that overthrew Mauritania's first democratically elected President. A 'High State Council' consisting of several military officers is now running the country in tandem with the interim Government it appointed on 1 September 2008.
Mauritania is calm but further instability cannot be ruled out. Travellers to Mauritania should be aware of the impact that the situation in Iraq, as well as the violence between Israelis and Palestinians, has had across the Arab world and the risk of public disturbance in response. You should follow news reports and be alert to developments in the Middle East that might trigger public disturbances. You should take sensible precautions for your personal safety and avoid public gatherings and demonstrations. Any increase in regional tension might affect Travel Advice.
You should be prepared to adjust travel plans at short notice in light of developments.
You should inform the Honorary Consul in Nouakchott if you intend to travel to areas outside the main cities of Nouakchott and Nouadhibou.
Crossing the border from Senegal can be time-consuming and officials may request payments to cross the border.
Should you experience any difficulties, you should seek advice from the British Honorary Consul. Contact details are:
Mr Sid’ Ahmed Ould Abeidna
Tel: +222 525 8331
Mob: +222 630 1217/+33 6800 19567
Fax: +222 525 3903
There is a reasonably good tarmac/asphalt single carriageway between Nouakchott and Nouadhibou. The drive takes 4-5 hours and is about 470km with no petrol stations or services, so take water, food and petrol. There are basic huts/shacks with water and dried snacks. Do not drive at night as many cars have one or no lights. Also beware at all times of small dunes of sand in the road, resulting from sand storms.
Of the other paved roads, conditions are generally poor, and overland travel is difficult. You are advised to use four wheel drive vehicles, check the tide times, travel in convoy and ensure you bring adequate supplies of water and fuel.
For more information see Driving Abroad.
The national mining company, SNIM, runs a train service for both people and vehicles between Nouadhibou and Atar (80km from Choum). It is essential to book in advance.
You should reconfirm all flights.
Mauritania Airways runs flights linking Nouakchott to Nouadhibou (daily), Zouerate, Atar, Kaedi