Electricity

Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. Plugs are most commonly of the round, two-pin variety.

Language

French is the official language in Mali, but Bambara is spoken by 80 percent of the population. Numerous other African languages are also spoken. Outside the bigger towns few people speak French, and hardly anyone speaks English.

Money

The official currency in Mali is the West African CFA Franc (XOF), which is divided into 100 centimes. The CFA franc is tied to the Euro. Foreign currency can be exchanged at banks in Bamako. The Euro is the easiest currency to exchange. Some major credit cards, most reliably Visa, are accepted in some hotels and restaurants in the capital, but credit cards in general are not widely used in Mali.

Tipping

Tipping is not required in Mali, but is an expression of respect as well as for rewarding good service.

Health

All visitors to Mali are required to have a vaccination certificate for yellow fever. It is also recommended that precautions against meningitis (particularly if travelling between February and April), malaria, and cholera be taken. Bottled water is available and recommended, if not available, be sure that water is boiled and avoid ice in drinks. Food should be thoroughly cooked. Medical facilities are limited, especially outside of Bamako, and basic medicines might not be available. Travellers are advised to bring a personal supply of medicines with them. Comprehensive medical insurance is essential; serious medical problems will require air evacuation outside of the country.

Safety

Tourists should avoid travelling to the provinces of Timbuktu (Tombouctou), Gao, Kidal and Mopti, as well as parts of Kayes, Segou and Koulikoro, as there has been an increasing number of inter and intra-communal security incidents. Bandits and smugglers pose a risk along Mali's northern borders, particularly after dark.

Local customs

Mali is a Muslim country and visitors should respect the local culture by dressing modestly (especially women) and asking people before taking their photographs. Religious customs should be respected, particularly during the month of Ramadan when eating, drinking, and smoking during daylight hours should be discreet as it is forbidden by the Muslim culture. Homosexuality is frowned upon. Generally direct eye contact is considered rude. Aim for indirect eye contact.

Doing business

French is the principal language of business in Mali. Business is conducted somewhat formally, but due to the heat, lightweight suits are worn for important meetings and more casual attire for regular meetings. One should use the French titles of Monsieur and Madame when meeting and greeting. Women, in particular should dress conservatively. Business hours are usually from 7.30am to 4pm Monday to Thursday; 7.30am to 12.30pm and 2.30pm to 5.30pm on Fridays to allow for mosque.

Duty free

There is free import of 1,000 cigarettes or 250 cigars or 2kg of tobacco, 2 bottles of alcohol, and perfume for personal use. Sporting guns are allowed as long as authorisation from the Customs Department in Bamako is acquired within 24 hours of arrival.

Communications

The international dialling code for Mali is +223. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0027 for South Africa). Some hotels offer internet access and roaming agreements exist with several international mobile phone companies.

Passport & Visa

Most foreign passengers require a visa to enter Mali, and sometimes these visas can be gained on arrival. Visitors are encouraged to contact their nearest Malian embassy or consulate to confirm their visa/entry requirements. Note that a yellow fever vaccination certificate is required to enter Mali for all travellers arriving from an infected area. NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

Entry requirements

US citizens must have a passport that is valid upon their arrival in Mali. A visa is required.

British citizens must have a passport that is valid upon their arrival in Mali. A visa is required.

Canadian citizens must have a passport that is valid upon their arrival in Mali. A visa is required.

Australian citizens must have a passport that is valid upon their arrival in Mali. A visa is required.

South African citizens must have a passport that is valid upon their arrival in Mali. A visa is required.

Irish citizens must have a passport that is valid upon their arrival in Mali. A visa is required.

New Zealand citizens must have a passport that is valid upon their arrival in Mali. A visa is required.

Useful contacts

Mali Tourist Office, Bamako: +223 20 22 5673

Emergencies: 17 (Police); 15 (Ambulance). These numbers may not work throughout the country and regional emergency numbers should be confirmed before travel.

Embassies / consulates in other countries

Mali Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 332 2249.

Mali Embassy, Brussels, Belgium (also responsible for Britain): +322 345 74 32.

Mali Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 232 1501.

Mali Embassy, Tokyo, Japan (also responsible for Australia): +81 3 5447 6881.

Mali Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 342 7464.

Mali Embassy, Tokyo, Japan (also responsibe for New Zealand): +81 3 5447 6881.

Embassies / consulates in Mali

United States Embassy, Bamako: +223 20 70 2300.

British Embassy, Bamako: +223 2021 3412.

Canadian Embassy, Bamako (also responsible for Australia): +223 20 21 2236.

South African Embassy, Bamako: +223 20 29 2925.