2023 guide for anyone wanting to travel to Mauritania

For anyone traveling to Mauritania in 2023 this is a guide for you since there is really nothing on the internet and the information is either old or spread out in multiple different places. I will allocate all the information into one place.

Documents you will need to enter the country:

  1. Your passport.
  2. Your hotel reservation printed out, or information on who you are staying with. MAKE SURE THIS PERSON ANSWERS THE PHONE EVEN IF ITS 2 AM or 4 AM BECAUSE THEY WILL NOT LET YOU INTO THE COUNTRY.
  3. Negative PCR Test or proof of vaccination. I can't remember if they even checked it or not but make sure to have it incase.
  4. A pen.
  5. You will not need a yellow fever certificate UNLESS if you come from a yellow fever country.

You will land at the airport, and then go through a maze of different places to finally make it to passport control.

First stop is down the stairs which then some officers will check your passport to figure out if your a foreigner or a Mauritanian. If you have a visa from the Mauritanian embassy he will send you straight to passport control. If you don't have a visa he will send you to the visa on arrival section.

At the visa on arrival section you will see a bunch of white glossy papers scattered all over the desk. Get out your pen, and fill this out. It is in french or arabic. If you don't speak either you will have to figure it out because no one there speaks English. Also no one there has pens so make sure to bring your own or else you will have to ask a bunch of people to borrow theirs.

Once it is filled out you will get in line to go into one of the small cubicles with an officer sitting there. There is a paper with the direct visa prices written out. But a 30 day single use visa is 65 USD. A 3 month multi-enter visa is 100 USD. They offer you even more time. You have to ask the officer how long you want. But it is all different prices. Make sure you bring enough USD or Euros.

He will then proceed to copy your passport, get multiple finger prints from you on a digital scanner, and take a picture of you. After that they will print out a visa with your face on it, and personal information, and place it in a visa page on your passport. This will take up a whole entire page.

You will then proceed to passport control. Which then you will present your documents and they will ask you a bunch of random questions, and why you are there. They will try to call your host, and confirm where you are staying. Once all of this is finished. You will go to the bagge area, and grab your checked bags. Then put them on the secruity scanner, and once that is finished you will leave the airport.

BE WARNED: There is a high chance you will be asked for bribes from customs. This less likely happens when you are traveling in a group, and more likely will happen while you are traveling solo. But it can happen to anyone at any time. They will tell you that you can't leave the airport yourself and they will escort you outside which then you will need to pay them bribes, and they will forcefully get you a taxi of their choosing which will be charging you double or more of the price that it actually is to get to town.

Make sure to carry an extra 100 USD for this purpose and try to get them down as low as possible by saying you don't have a lot of money. The taxi is usually 20-25 USD to town. The taxi driver quoted me 40 USD which I had no choice but to agree to, and as soon as we pulled out of the parking lot of the airport, he moved the price up to 50 USD. I told him I only had 40 USD, and argued with him that I would get out of the car, and he eventually accepted 40 USD.

Driving inside of Mauritania:

Extortion warning: Once inside of the city there is only 1 or 2 dedicated checkpoints usually by the police station. These are easily avoidable. But the police also randomly set up checkpoints which will consist of two officers standing in the street and randomly waving people down. This does not always result in paying bribes but be prepared to pay incase if they ask.

Highway warning: When driving on the highway there is police checkpoints every so many KM. They will stop you at every single one, and ask for car documents, passport, and where you are traveling. They will take your passport and photograph it. They may ask for bribes, or they may not. If they do be prepared to pay bribes to them. If not, they can cause you multiple problems by searching your car for hours, or maybe even planting illegal items in your car.

City driving, and highway warning:  Only the downtown area of the capital has paved streets and some other main streets. The rest of the streets are unpaved, and you will be driving in sand. The roads are not well maintained, and many people do not follow the traffic laws at all.

When you drive on the highway it is all paved. But it will be broken in multiple sections which will force you to slow down. It may have multiple objects on the road which you will need to avoid. There is also many wild animals you will have to watch out for. Only drive in the daylight if you want to avoid all risks. Only drive at night time on the highway if you are a highly experienced driver. You also have to watch out when you are nighttime driving in the city because many streets have no lights at all, and people will randomly walk infront of your car without looking, and you will have to brake or swerve quickly to avoid them. Also the same for animals in the city. Cars will randomly pull out of parking spaces without looking and expect you to stop or to swerve to avoid them.

Bus warning: If you decide to take a bus from city to city. Be prepared that none of these buses are new. They are all old, they have bald tires, have cracked windows, and are dirty, and will be packed full of people. They blow old tires all the time which leads to accidents on the highway or dangerous driving conditions. If you took take a bus then do so as your own risk. I saw some newer buses but these are usually traveling from Mauritania to Morocco or Mauritania to Algeria. The ones from city to city will usually be mini buses.

Restaurants in Mauritania: Almost no restaurant in the capital is up to western standards of eating, and many of them are extremely dirty. Do not eat at these unless if you are prepared to get sick, and make sure you have medication with you. Try to stick to restaurants in higher end neighborhoods or near the embassies. It is better to cook at home or your hotel if they have the facilities to cook to avoid getting sick.

Water in Mauritania: Only drink bottled water. No other water is suitable to drink in the country.

Buying items: No items have their prices marked in the majority of stores. Be prepared to ask the price for everything before you buy it.

Currency: The currency is the MRU but everyone quotes you prices in MRO(Old currency). Which means if you go to the store they will say you owe them 3,000. Do not pay them 3,000 MRU. Drop a 0 off, and only pay them 300 MRU. For all purposes always drop the 0 off the end because the old currency has 1 more 0 then the new currency. 1 USD = 36 MRU. 1 USD = 360 MRO(Old currency). Many people are scammers and will not inform you of your mistake and pocket your money. Some may be nice and inform you of your mistake do not rely on people being honest. Keeping dropping the 0 off the end of all your prices unless if someone tells you directly that they are quoiting you in MRU.

They have 5 MRU coins, 10 MRU coins, and 20 MRU coins. They have 20 MRU bank notes, 50 MRU bank notes, 100 MRU bank notes, 200 MRU bank notes, 500 MRU bank notes and 1,000 MRU bank notes. Many stores and people do not have the change to give you if you give them 500 MRU bank notes, or 1,000 MRU bank notes. It is better to get your money broken down into smaller bank notes.

Taxis: Almost all taxis are shared unless if your specfically order them by calling a taxi service, or by using a taxi service app.

Medical care, and hospitals: They are all below standard, and will only be able to treat basic conditions. Most Mauritanians have to leave for France, or Algeria, or other countries for medical treatment.

Malaria: The north of the country (Capital and up) has malaria, and I would suggest taking malaria medication before you go there.

Deung fever, and yellow fever: Deung fever, and yellow fever are present in the South of the country (By Senegal)

Warning for women: Do not take taxis by yourself especially at nighttime. It is well known that many taxicab drivers are predators and if given the chance will drive the woman to an abandoned area and rape her. Dress with long dresses or long pants. Do not take invites to go to random mens home for dinner or tea, etc. Do not go into a room alone with a man.

Scammers: The taxicab drivers will always scam you. The only way to prevent this is by asking for the price beforehand, and this still does not stop them from changing the price once you get there. It is better to use taxi call services, or taxi app services.

Many people will try to scam you all over. It is impossible to escape in Mauritania. Even if they don't scam you, they will charge you a higher price for everything because you are a foreigner, and you will be treated like a walking cash machine. Remember that negotiation is allowed in markets.

Language: They will only speak Hassaniya and French. A few people speak Spanish. And only a few people speak English. If you do not speak Arabic or French I would suggest having a friend with you who can speak it, or a translator.

Getting around: There is no street addresses, the GPS is not accurate, and you will have to use landmarks as a way to get around the city and remember where everything is. The GPS is good only to the point of getting you to a general area of where something is and then you will have to find it on your own. Many villages, streets, and other areas are not marked on any maps or GPS at all.

Mail: No street addresses, and you will never have a package delivered to your home. You will have to go to the post office to pick it up from them. Make sure to bring your ID.

Photography: Be careful what you take pictures or videos of. You can easily find yourself in trouble. Do not take pictures of police, soliders, government buildings, or military bases or any other important buildings or else you may get arrested or have to pay a large amount of bribes.

Drones: Illegal to bring into the country without permission of the government. To get this permission you will need to have contacts inside of the country, it will take months, and will take alot of bribes.

Smoking: Many people smoke cigarettes, and if they are your taxi driver or bus driver, etc they will not ask you if you mind them smoking. They will just light up a cigarette and start smoking. They do the same in peoples homes as well. Be warned about this in advance if you have a problem with smoke or people smoking around you.

Alcohol: Even though it is illegal in the country you will still find many bars, nightclubs, hotels, and an embassy (France) that is willing to sell it to you. DO NOT DRINK. It is very easy for them to call the police on you, and have them test you, and charge you large amounts of bribes when you blow dirty on a Breathalyzer test. Which they have no problem splitting with the bar owner or hotel owner who sold you the alcohol. This is a business for them. Remember that the bar owners or hotels are already paying bribes to the government under the table to be allowed to sell alcohol without getting arrested or shut down.

Dating: Don't try to find a boyfriend or girlfriend in this country unless if you are wanting to date other expats. You will need to be married to rent a hotel room together. Do not do any PDA. Even handholding is frowned upon in the country.

Drugs: Avoid them. They are illegal in the country.