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Mauritania Travel Information

The Basics

Time

No GMT offset.

Electricity

Electrical outlets in Mauritania usually supply electricity at between 220 and 240 volts. European two-pin plugs with round pins are standard.

Language

Arabic is the official language of Mauritania and Hassaniyya is the local form of Arabic spoken by the majority of the population. French is also widely spoken.

Travel Health

Malaria is a problem in the southern provinces and some form of prophylaxis is recommended for all travellers in the south; however, there is no malaria risk in the provinces of Adrar, Dakhlet-Nouadhibou, Inchiri and Tiris Zemmour. A yellow fever vaccination is required for travellers arriving from countries with a risk of yellow fever transmission, and is recommended for all travellers. A vaccination for meningococcus is recommended for all travellers during the dry season, between November and June. Vaccinations are also recommended for hepatitis A, hepatitis B and typhoid, and travellers are generally advised to be up to date on vaccinations for polio, MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) and tetanus-diphtheria. Travellers who will be coming into contact with bats, or may be at risk of animal bites, should consider a rabies vaccination.

Travellers should not drink tap water in Mauritania unless it has been boiled, filtered or chemically disinfected, and should avoid ice in beverages. Don't eat fruit and vegetables unless they have been cooked or peeled, and eat all cooked meals while still hot.

Medical facilities in Mauritania are limited and visitors should ensure that they have comprehensive travel and health insurance. Basic medical care is available in the capital, but nonexistent elsewhere. Most doctors and hospitals will expect payment in cash, regardless of whether you have travel health insurance. Visitors should take along any medication they may need, in its original packaging and accompanied by a signed and dated letter from a doctor detailing what the medicine is and why it is needed.

Tipping

A tip of 12 to 15 percent is expected in restaurants in Mauritania, if no service fee has been added to the bill. Hotel service staff and taxi drivers welcome small tips.

Safety Information

Although crime levels are not too high in Mauritania, terrorism is an ongoing concern. The UK Foreign Office advises against all travel to the provinces of Tiris Zemmour, Adrar, Tagant, Hodh el Chargui, Dakhlet-Nouadhibou and Inchiri due to a high threat from terrorism. They advise against all but essential travel to the rest of the country, including the capital, Nouakchott. Since 2008 more than 25 foreigners have been kidnapped by terrorist groups in the Sahel region, which includes Mauritania. The US Department of State also warns its citizens of the risk from terrorism in Mauritania, advising against all non-essential travel to the border regions of southeastern Mauritania, the eastern half of the Assaba region, the eastern half of the Tagant region, the eastern half of the Adrar region, and the Zemmour region of northern Mauritania because of the security risk. They advise foreigners travelling outside of urban areas to move only in a convoy with an experienced guide and reliable vehicles. No travel should be undertaken after dark.

In urban areas crime levels are moderate but steadily increasing. There have been incidents of carjacking, robbery, rape and assault involving foreigners. Travellers should keep a low profile, stay vigilant, and take every precaution to ensure personal safety. Protests are fairly common in Nouakchott and violent clashes between police and demonstrators do occur. All street protests and political gatherings should be avoided. Military and police roadblocks are common in urban areas and identification should be carried at all times.

Local Customs

Since Mauritania is an Islamic state, governed by Islamic law, visitors should at all times be respectful of the social mores that have been entrenched in the country by the teachings of the Koran. Visitors are encouraged particularly to be observant during the month of Ramadan, when eating, smoking or drinking in public is severely frowned upon. Conservative dress (covering the arms and legs) and reserved public behaviour are the norms, especially for women. Be sure to remove your shoes before entering people's homes and mosques. Note that Mauritania is a dry country, and although there are restaurants that will sell alcohol to foreigners, drinking with locals is strictly prohibited. Note also that it is considered taboo for women to lie on their backs, and for men to lie on their stomachs, in public places. Public displays of affection are totally out of the question: in Mauritania, not even married couples are allowed to hold hands in public. It is also worth bearing in mind that Mauritanians are extremely direct communicators, and may eschew normal pleasantries such as "Please" and "Thank-you." Finally, it is considered extremely rude to ignore people who greet you in public places.

Business

Mauritania is a very poor country. Mining is the principal industry and some offshore drilling for oil and gas has begun. French is the language of business and very few executives speak English. Business etiquette is fairly formal and dress should be conservative, especially for women. Office hours are generally 8am to 3pm Sunday to Thursday.

Communications

The international dialling code for Mauritania is 222. Landline infrastructure is limited, but mobile phone usage is fairly high and roaming agreements exist with some international mobile phone operators; however, coverage is limited to urban areas. There are some internet cafes in Nouakchott and other big cities and some hotels provide internet access.

Duty Free

Those travelling to Mauritania over the age of 18 may import the following goods duty-free: 200 cigarettes/25 cigars/450g of tobacco, 50ml of perfume and 250ml eau de toilette. Alcohol is prohibited, and firearms require an import and gun license prior to arrival.

Become our Mauritania Travel Expert

We are looking for contributors for our Mauritania travel guide. If you are a local, a regular traveller to Mauritania or a travel professional with time to contribute and answer occasional forum questions, please contact us.

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