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Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet for Mauritania

Mauritania - Consular Information Sheet
August 21, 2001

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Mauritania is a developing country in northwest Africa. Islamic ideals and beliefs in the country encourage conservative dress; sleeved garments are recommended and people should avoid wearing shorts.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A passport and a visa are required, as is evidence of a yellow fever vaccination. Travelers should obtain the latest information and details from the Embassy of the Republic of Mauritania, 2129 Leroy Place N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 232-5700, or from 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 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 procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

SAFETY AND SECURITY: As a result of a past border conflict between Morocco and Western Sahara, there are reports of unexploded landmines in areas of Mauritania adjacent to Western Sahara. Exploding mines are occasionally reported and have caused death and injury. In addition, groups of tourists have been held up and robbed along the borders with Morocco and Algeria. Surface travel between Mali and Mauritania can be dangerous, as the border region has historically been plagued by banditry. In 1999, thirteen Mauritanians and Malians were killed in a border clash, prompting the establishment of a special Mauritanian-Malian-Senegalese police coordination program force to provide greater border security. Groups traveling to the Moroccan, Algerian, or Malian borders should check with the U.S. Embassy and/or local authorities to inform them of their itineraries and check the advisability of the planned trip routes.

The beach area around Nouakchott should be avoided at night. During the day, beach-goers should travel in large groups or stay in popular areas, as there have been a number of incidents of theft and violence in the past two years.

Political gatherings and street demonstrations have been known to occur periodically. During periods of political unrest, students frequently throw rocks at passing cars. Due to the potential for violence, U.S. citizens should avoid crowds, political rallies and marches, as well as the University and other schools.

Surface travel between Mauritania and Senegal is restricted to various designated border crossing-points: N'Diago, Diama, Rosso, Jerd El Mohguen, Tekane, Lekseiba, Boghe, M'Bagne, Kaedi, Tifounde Cive, Maghama, and Goraye.

CRIME: Crime in Mauritania is on the rise. Most incidents involve petty crime, such as pick-pocketing and crimes of opportunity which often result from improperly secured valuables left in plain sight inside a vehicle. Residential burglaries, robberies, and assaults also occur. Violent crimes and crimes involving the use of weapons are rare, but increasing. In remote areas, renting a vehicle and hiring a driver is advisable. When renting a vehicle, keep all doors and windows closed and locked while driving.

Although U.S. citizens are generally welcomed in Mauritania, there were reports of anti-American incidents (threats and stoning of vehicles) following the 1998 U.S. and British-led intervention in Iraq. Some Muslim extremists have occasionally perceived Christian non-governmental organizations as a threat. However, political violence and religious extremist groups are closely monitored by local authorities and, to date, have not posed a direct threat to U.S. interests in Mauritania.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlet, A Safe Trip Abroad, for ways to promote a trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, .

MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical facilities in Mauritania are limited. 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 State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, or autofax: (202) 647-3000.

OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Malaria prophylaxis and vaccination against hepatitis A and B, tetanus, diphtheria, polio, typhoid, and meningococcal meningitis are recommended. Cholera certification may be required for entry. Children's immunizations should be up-to-date.

Further information on vaccinations and other health precautions 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 CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.

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). Americans traveling overland for long distances in Mauritania should be sure to have an 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.

Traffic patterns differ considerably from American-style "Rules of the Road" and many Mauritanians drive without any regard to traffic signs or rules. Drivers and passengers should exercise great caution and wear seat belts at all times. Motorcycle and bicycle riders should wear helmets and protective clothing.

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.

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 REGULATIONS: Local currency may not be imported or exported. Credit cards, primarily American Express, can only be used at a few hotels in Nouakchott and Nouadhibou.

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 FAA's Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa. 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.

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_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 obtain updated information on travel and security within Mauritania. The U.S. Embassy Nouakchott is located between the Presidency building and the Spanish Embassy. The postal address is B.P. 222, Nouakchott, telephone (222) 25-26-60, 25-26-63, 25-11-41, or 25-11-45, and fax (222) 25-15-92.


This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated May 25, 2000 to update information on Entry/Exit Requirements, Safety and Security, Medical Facilities, Medical Insurance, and Traffic Safety and Road Conditions.

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