Travel.State.Gov > International Travel > Country Information > Mauritania International Travel Information
See the Department of State’s Fact Sheet on Mauritania for information on U.S. - Mauritanian relations.
Basic passport, visa and immunization information for tourist and business travelers can be found here.
A passport, visa, and evidence of yellow fever vaccination are required. Mauritanian visas can be obtained at most Mauritanian Embassies or at the Nouakchott airport on arrival. Note that travelers who do not have at least six months’ validity remaining on their passport may be denied entry, regardless of the length of their intended stay.
For the most current visa information, visit the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, 2129 Leroy Place NW, Washington, DC 20008, telephone (202) 232-5700, or the Mauritanian Permanent Mission to the United Nations, 116 East 38th Street, New York, NY 10016, telephone (212) 252-0113.
Overseas inquiries should be made at the nearest Mauritanian embassy or consulate. The U.S. Embassy in Nouakchott cannot provide assistance to private citizens seeking Mauritanian visas.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Mauritania.
Travel Warning: The current Travel Warning for Mauritania warns U.S. citizens of the risks of traveling to Mauritania, particularly the easternmost region, due to activities by terrorist groups including al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which are active in the neighboring regions of Mali.
Traveling safely within Mauritania: You should exercise prudence and caution when traveling in Mauritania. Be particularly vigilant when traveling by road outside of populated areas. The U.S. Embassy discourages travel outside of urban areas unless in a convoy accompanied by an experienced guide, and even then only if equipped with sturdy vehicles and ample provisions. Driving outside of urban areas after dark is also strongly discouraged. Landmines remain a danger along the border with the Western Sahara and travelers should cross only at designated border posts.
Political concerns: Protests and political rallies occur frequently in Mauritania, and can sometimes turn violent. The U.S. Embassy urges U.S. citizens to avoid political rallies and street demonstrations.
Crime: Criminal activity in Nouakchott continues to rise. A number of homes and private individuals, including U.S. citizens, have recently been targeted by violent criminals. In Nouakchott, armed robberies and burglaries are occurring at homes as well as on busy streets in broad daylight. Some of these incidents have been violent, and the use of knives and other weapons is becoming more common.
Because of the increase in criminal activity, the U.S. Embassy has directed its official staff not to walk to and from work and to avoid walking in general, especially if doing so alone. U.S. citizens have been the victims rapes and assaults. Combined with the lack of government regulation of taxi fares and poor regular maintenance, U.S. citizens should avoid taxis and public transportation.
Victims of Crime:
U.S. citizen victims of sexual assault should first contact the U.S. Embassy.
Report crimes to the local police at 117 and contact the U.S. Embassy at 4525-2660 or after hours at 3662-8163.
Remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime.
See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas.
Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence may contact the Embassy for assistance.
For further information:
Criminal Penalties: While traveling in Mauritania, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. If you break local laws in Mauritania, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not where you are going.
Arrest Notification: If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy immediately. See our webpage for further information.
Faith-Based Travelers: See our following webpages for details:
Religious norms: Islamic ideals and beliefs in the country encourage conservative dress and behavior. Mauritania recognizes Islam as the sole religion of its citizens and the state. Religious freedom is restricted and affronts against Islamic modesty and morals carry penalties which range from fines to the death penalty. Participation in Christian gatherings and activities that have not been authorized by the Mauritanian government is illegal. Apostasy is punishable by death. Proselytizing in Mauritania is illegal and may lead to deportation, arrest, prosecution, or incarceration.
Importation of alcohol and pork: Passengers caught attempting to bring alcoholic drinks or pork products into Nouakchott International Airport, including alcohol bought duty free on an inbound flight, may be subject to immediate fines, confiscation, and/or incarceration.
Interactions with Police: Persons of Black African appearance may be subject to prejudicial treatment by the Mauritanian authorities. If you are detained or arrested by the Mauritanian authorities, insist to be put in contact with the U.S. Embassy so that we may assist you.
Local currency: The local currency is the ouguiya, and it may not be imported or exported. Credit cards can be used only at a few hotels in the capital, Nouakchott, and in the northwestern city of Nouadhibou. However, travelers are strongly advised to pay hotel bills in cash. ATMs are available in Nouakchott and other large cities, but are also not secure.
LGBTI Travelers: There are no laws that protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons from discrimination. Under Mauritanian law, consensual same-sex sexual activity between men is punishable by death, and such activity between women is punishable by three months to two years in prison and a monetary fine. There are no organizations advocating for sexual orientation or gender-identity rights in the country.
Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance: While in Mauritania, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what you find in the United States. There are very few sidewalks or paved roads and few buildings are wheelchair accessible.
Women Travelers: See our travel tips for Women Travelers.
Medical and dental facilities in Mauritania are extremely limited and do not approach Western standards. Local pharmacies are to be used with caution. Many medicines are difficult to obtain or may be counterfeit. Travelers are advised to carry their own medical supplies, medications, and prescription eyewear. There are no Western mortuary services available in Mauritania.
We do not pay medical bills. Be aware that U.S. Medicare does not apply overseas.
Medical Insurance: Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers overseas only accept cash payments. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.
We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation.
Vaccinations: Be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Further health information:
Road Conditions and Safety: While in a foreign country, visitors may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. Overland travel is difficult and roadside assistance is non-existent. The country’s size (larger than Texas and New Mexico combined) and harsh climate make road maintenance and repair especially problematic. Even small amounts of rain can make paved roads in Nouakchott impassable for cars without high clearance.
U.S. citizens traveling overland for long distances in Mauritania should travel in convoys, and be sure to have suitable four-wheel drive vehicles, a local guide, an adequate supply of water and food, and a second fuel reservoir. Multiple vehicles are recommended in case of breakdown. A Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver and satellite phone are essential when traveling in remote areas. Visitors are urged not to travel alone into the desert or after dark when outside of major urban areas.
The telecommunications infrastructure, including cellular telephone coverage, is limited. For those traveling outside the major urban areas, it is recommended to have a satellite telephone readily available.
Traffic Laws: Driving in Mauritania can be treacherous, and we encourage travelers to hire a trained local driver. Traffic patterns differ considerably from those in the United States and many Mauritanians drive without regard to traffic signs or rules. Roadway obstructions and hazards caused by drifting sand, animals, and poor roads often plague motorists. These hazards, when combined with the number of untrained drivers and poorly maintained vehicles, make heightened caution imperative at all times. Drivers should be extremely vigilant and all vehicle occupants should always wear their seat belts. Motorcycle and bicycle riders should wear helmets and protective clothing. Nighttime driving should be avoided. Travel at night between cities in Mauritania is prohibited for U.S. Embassy staff and all driving outside of the capital of Nouakchott requires a minimum two vehicle convoy
Public Transportation: Public transportation is not safe in Mauritania, particularly in the interior. Taxis and public transportation are not considered to be secure forms of transportation for western visitors to Mauritania, and U.S. Embassy personnel are directed not to use them.
For more information, please visit our Road Safety page.
Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Mauritania, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Mauritania’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.