Mali Travel Information
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Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. Plugs are most commonly of the round, two-pin variety.
French is the official language in Mali, but Bambara is spoken by 80% of the population. Numerous other African languages are also spoken. Outside the bigger towns few people speak French, and hardly anyone speaks English.
All visitors to Mali are required to have a vaccination certificate for yellow fever. It is also recommended that precautions against meningitis (particularly if travelling between February and April), malaria and cholera be taken. Bottled water is available and food should be thoroughly cooked. Medical facilities are limited, especially outside of Bamako, and basic medicines might not be available. Travellers are advised to bring a personal supply of medicines with them. Comprehensive medical insurance is essential; serious medical problems will require air evacuation outside of the country.
Tipping is not required in Mali, but is an expression of respect as well as for rewarding good service. Tour guides usually receive between 3,000 to 5,000 CFA per day.
All travel in Mali to the regions north, east and west of Timbuktu, as well as travel along the borders with Niger, Algeria and Mauritania should be avoided due to armed banditry and the risk of kidnapping. Increased incidents of armed banditry have been reported in the Sikasso region. The British government reports a high terrorism risk for westerners in the country, especially those attending festivals, and several tourists have been kidnapped. A number of pro-Gaddhafi and anti-western protests have occurred in late 2011, and embassies in Bamako have been forced to close temporarily. Crime levels are generally low, but it is best not to show valuables in public.
Mali is a Muslim country and visitors should respect the local culture by dressing modestly (especially women) and asking people before taking their photographs. Religious customs should be respected, particularly during the month of Ramadan when eating, drinking and smoking during daylight hours should be discreet as it is forbidden by the Muslim culture. Homosexuality is frowned upon.
French is the principal language of business in Mali. Business is conducted somewhat formally, but due to the heat, lightweight suits are worn for important meetings and more casual attire for regular meetings. One should use the French titles of Monsieur and Madame when meeting and greeting. Women, in particular should dress conservatively. Business hours are usually from 7.30am to 4pm Monday to Thursday; 7.30am to 12.30pm and 2.30pm to 5.30pm on Fridays to allow for mosque.
The international dialling code for Mali is +223. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0027 for South Africa). City/area codes are not required. There are three mobile phone operators with GSM-900, UMTS and HSDPA networks. Outgoing international calls are made through an international operator. Internet cafes are common in Bamako, and a few are present in other towns.
There is free import of 1,000 cigarettes or 250 cigars or 2kg of tobacco, 2 bottles of alcohol, and perfume for personal use. Sporting guns are allowed as long as authorisation from the Customs Department in Bamako is acquired within 24 hours of arrival.
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