The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also 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. In the event of a crisis situation that requires evacuation, the Government of Canada’s policy is to provide safe transportation to the closest safe location. The Government of Canada will assist you in leaving a country or a region as a last resort, when all means of commercial or personal transportation have been exhausted. This service is provided on a cost-recovery basis. Onward travel is at your personal expense. Situations vary from one location to another, and there may be constraints on government resources that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide assistance, particularly in countries or regions where the potential for violent conflict or political instability is high.
Increased threat of attacks and kidnappings
In 2013, the French military assisted the Malian government in efforts to repel armed rebels. Terrorist groups in the region declared their intention to increase attacks and kidnappings targeting Westerners. While the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali has been supporting the transitional authorities in stabilizing the region since July 2013, citizens of countries supporting the intervention are still at particular risk, but all travellers should exercise increased vigilance in the region.
Northern and eastern parts of the country especially the desert areas north of the Oualata-Tichit-Ouadane-Zouérat line, and the border areas with Algeria, Mali and Morocco (see Advisory)
Extremist groups and armed smugglers are active in these areas and there is a risk of banditry and kidnap. 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.
Seek the advice of local authorities when planning land trips if you choose to travel to these regions despite this warning. Leave a detailed itinerary with family or friends and register with the Registration of Canadians Abroad (ROCA) service.
The threat of terrorism, which is present throughout the country, is heightened by the regional instability. The risk is high outside major urban centres. Maintain a high level of vigilance at all times.
There is a high risk of kidnapping in Mauritania, and Westerners are a favourite target. In past instances, hostages have been detained for several months before being released. Be particularly cautious in the region of Inchiri (Akjoujt is the capital) as well as in areas bordering Morocco and Mali.
Arrange for a trustworthy escort familiar with the country. Use varied and unpredictable routes and schedules when moving from one place to another. Exercise a high awareness of your personal security at all times, monitor local developments and contact the Consulate of Canada in Nouakchott for advice and assistance.
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 “le Cinquième” 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 turn violent suddenly. They can significantly disrupt traffic and public transportation. Avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings, follow the advice of local authorities and monitor local media.
Be aware of the extreme conditions you may face if you choose to travel to the 20-30 km wide “no man’s land” that separates Mauritania and Western Sahara. Unexploded landmines have been laid in these areas and can shift with the movement of sand and dunes. You are isolated after crossing police checkpoints located on either side of this zone. If you choose to travel to this area, travel in convoys, be accompanied by an experienced guide, remain on well-used tracks and carry sufficient supplies. You should also seek the advice of local authorities and leave an itinerary with family and friends.
Road conditions are generally fair to poor. There are four major roads in the country. Three run between Nouakchott and Rosso, Nouakchott and Atar (through Akjoujt), and Nouakchott and Néma. The road between Nouakchott and Néma leads to the border with Mali. Trucks use this road to transport containers from Mauritanian seaports. A new road connects the cities of Nouakchott and Nouadhibou. Most other roads are unpaved sand tracks.
Driving can be treacherous in Mauritania. Traffic laws and regulations are rarely respected. Vehicles may occasionally be forced off the roads by drifting sand and dunes. 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.
Sailing in the port at Nouadhibou can be dangerous because of the significant number of shallow shipwrecks.
See Transportation Safety in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.
There are two official land border crossings into Senegal: Diama and Rosso. Pedestrians and vehicles are permitted to 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 as it is illegal and dangerous.
Reports indicate that some southern border crossings are closed until further notice in an attempt to contain the Ebola outbreak.
See our Overseas Fraud page for more information on scams abroad.