March 19, 2004
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION : Mauritania is a developing country in northwestern Africa. Arabic is the official language, but French and several local languages are also spoken. Tourist facilities in the capital, Nouakchott, are adequate, but limited or non-existent elsewhere.
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: A passport and a visa are required, as is evidence of a yellow fever vaccination. For further information on entry requirements, contact the Embassy of the Republic of Mauritania, 2129 Leroy Place N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, tel. (202) 232-5700, website: www.ambarim-dc.org, or the Mauritanian Permanent Mission to the U.N., 211 East 43rd Street, Suite 2000, New York, N.Y. 10017, telephone (212) 986-7963 or 8189, and e-mail http://Mauritania@un.int. Overseas, inquiries should be made at the nearest Mauritanian embassy or consulate.
In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated additional documentation procedures at entry/exit points for travelers with children. These requirements often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship to the child and permission for the childs travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian, if not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.
DUAL NATIONALITY: In addition to being subject to all Mauritanian laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may also be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on Mauritanian citizens. For additional information, see the Consular Affairs home page on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov for our Dual Nationality flyer.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: Travel is generally safe within most of Mauritania, a vast and truly scenic, fascinating country. However, all travelers must exercise prudence and caution. Travelers should not venture into the Sahara unless accompanied by an experienced guide and even then only if equipped with sturdy vehicles and ample provisions. Moreover, the U.S. Embassy in Nouakchott continues to receive reports of banditry along the border between Mali and Mauritania. Landmines remain a danger along the border with the Western Sahara. Travelers planning surface trips from Mauritania to Morocco, Algeria, Senegal or Mali should check with the U.S. Embassy in Nouakchott before setting out. For more information about travel in Mauritania, please see the section "Traffic Safety and Road Conditions," below.
Political gatherings and street demonstrations have been known to occur periodically. During periods of political unrest, demonstrators frequently throw rocks at passing cars. U.S. citizens should avoid large crowds and maintain security awareness at all times.
Although U.S. citizens are generally welcomed in Mauritania, there were reports of anti-American incidents such as threats and stoning of vehicles, following the 1998 U.S. and British-led intervention in Iraq, and demonstrations outside the Embassy during the 2003 U.S. intervention in Iraq. Some Muslim extremists have occasionally perceived Christian non-governmental organizations as a threat. However, local authorities closely monitor political violence and religious extremist groups.
CRIME: Crime in Mauritania is moderate but is steadily increasing. Most incidents are in the cities and larger towns, and are petty crimes such as pickpocketing and the theft of improperly secured and openly visible valuables left in vehicles. Residential burglaries, robberies, and assaults do occur, but they have rarely involved the American community. Most criminal activity occurs at night, and walking alone at night is not advisable. Violent crimes and crimes involving the use of weapons are also rare, but increasing. In Nouakchott, the beach should be avoided at night. During the day, beach-goers should travel in large groups or stay in popular areas, since a number of thefts and violent incidents have been reported there in the past several years.
Any U.S. citizen who is the victim of a crime while in Mauritania should, besides contacting the local police, also call the U.S. Embassy. Embassy staff can, for example, help U.S. citizens to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends, and explain how money can be transferred to Mauritania. Although the investigation and prosecution of a crime is the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. U.S. citizens also may refer to the Department of State's pamphlets, A Safe Trip Abroad and Tips for Travelers to Sub-Saharan Africa, for ways to promote a trouble-free journey. The pamphlets are available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.gpoaccess.gov, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.
MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical facilities in Mauritania are limited. There are few modern clinics or hospitals beyond the capital and a few major towns. At local pharmacies, some medicines are difficult to obtain; travelers are advised to bring their own supplies.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations.
When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of 50,000 dollars ( US ). Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.
Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of States Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page.
OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747), fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization's website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.
Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease. Chloroquine-resistant P. falciparum malaria is a severe form of the disease that is found in many parts of western Africa, including Mauritania. Because travelers to Mauritania are at high risk for contracting malaria they should take one of the following antimalarial drugs: mefloquine (Lariam), doxycycline, or atovaquone/proguanil (Malarone). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have determined that a traveler who is on an appropriate antimalarial drug has a greatly reduced chance of contracting the disease. In addition, other personal protective measures, such as the use of insect repellents, help to reduce malaria risk. Travelers who become ill with a fever or flu-like illness while traveling in a malaria-risk area and up to one year after returning home should seek prompt medical attention and tell the physician their travel history and what antimalarials they have been taking. For additional information on malaria, protection from insect bites, and antimalarials, visit the CDC Travelers' Health website at: http://www.cdc.gov/travel/malinfo.htm.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Mauritania is provided for general reference only and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance:
Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair to Poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor to Nonexistent
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor to Nonexistent
Road conditions in Mauritania are generally poor, particularly in the interior, and overland travel is difficult. The country's size and harsh climate make road maintenance and repair especially problematic. Mauritania possesses only about 2,070 km (1,286 miles) of surfaced roads, 710 km
(441 miles) of unsurfaced roads and 5,140 km (3,194 miles) of unimproved tracks. There are four major roads, each of which links important cities in Mauritania : Nouakchott and Rosso; Nouakchott and Akjoujt; Aleg Boghe and Kaedi; and Nouakchott and Nema (the Road of Hope). U.S. citizens traveling overland for long distances in Mauritania should be sure to have a suitable four-wheel drive vehicle, a local guide, an adequate supply of water, and a second fuel reservoir. A second vehicle is recommended in case of breakdown. Visitors are urged not to travel alone into the desert.
Driving in Mauritania is treacherous, and hiring a trained local driver is encouraged. Traffic patterns differ considerably from American-style "rules of the road" 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; when combined with the number of untrained drivers and poorly maintained vehicles, heightened caution is imperative at all times. Drivers and passengers should drive defensively and wear seat belts at all times. Motorcycle and bicycle riders should wear helmets and protective clothing. Nighttime driving is discouraged.
For additional information about road travel in Mauritania, see the Department of State, Bureau of Administration's Post Report on Mauritania at http://foia.state.gov/MMS/postrpt/pr_view_all.asp?CntryID=96. For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service at present, or economic authority to operate such service, between the U.S. and Mauritania, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Mauritania's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Mauritania's air carrier operations.
For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAAs Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/index.cfm. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618) 229-4801.
CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: Mauritanian customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary import or export of items such as firearms, narcotics, alcoholic drinks and pork products. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Mauritania in Washington, DC for specific information regarding customs regulations.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Mauritanian law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Mauritania are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.
CURRENCY: The local currency is the ouguiya, and it may not be imported or exported. Credit cards can only be used at a few hotels in the capital, Nouakchott, and the northwestern city of Nouadhibou. ATMs (cash machines) are very rare, even in Nouakchott. Major foreign currencies are otherwise easily changeable in banks and numerous bureaux de change. Credit card fraud is a problem, so it may be advisable to pay hotel bills in cash.
DRESS: Islamic ideals and beliefs in the country encourage conservative dress. Sleeved garments and below-the-knee skirts are recommended, and people should avoid wearing shorts.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone (202) 736-7000.
REGISTRATION/EMBASSY LOCATION: U.S. citizens living in or visiting Mauritania are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Mauritania and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Mauritania. The U.S. Embassy Nouakchott is located between the Presidency building and the Spanish Embassy on Rue Abdallaye. The postal address is B.P. 222, Nouakchott, telephone (222) 525-2660/2663, 525-1141/45, or 525-3038 (ext. 5441), and fax (222) 525-1592. The Consular Section can also be reached by e-mail: consularNKC@state.gov.