Electricity

Electrical outlets in Mauritania usually supply electricity at 220 volts, 50Hz. European two-pin plugs with round pins are standard.

Language

Arabic is the official language of Mauritania and Hassaniyya is the local form of Arabic spoken by the majority of the population. French is also widely spoken.

Money

The Mauritanian Ouguiya (MRU) is the official currency of Mauritania. Most places only accept cash and most shops and restaurants prefer local currency. Credit cards can be used at a few hotels in Nouakchott and Nouadhibou; some ATMs accept foreign credit or debit cards. Euros and US dollars are both fairly easy to exchange.

Tipping

A tip of 12 to 15 percent is expected in restaurants in Mauritania if no service fee has been added to the bill. Hotel service staff and taxi drivers welcome small tips.

Health

Malaria is a problem in the southern provinces and some form of prophylaxis is recommended for all travellers who venture there. However, there is no malaria risk in the provinces of Adrar, Dakhlet-Nouadhibou, Inchiri and Tiris Zemmour. A yellow fever vaccination is required for travellers arriving from countries with a risk of yellow fever transmission, and is recommended for all travellers visiting regions south of the Sahara. A vaccination for meningococcus is recommended for all travellers during the dry season, between November and June. Vaccinations are also recommended for hepatitis A, hepatitis B and typhoid, and travellers are generally advised to be up to date on vaccinations for polio, MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) and tetanus-diphtheria. Those who will be coming into contact with bats, or may be at risk of animal bites, should consider a rabies vaccination.

Travellers should not drink tap water in Mauritania unless it has been boiled, filtered or chemically disinfected, and should avoid ice in beverages. They should also avoid eating fruit and vegetables unless they have been cooked or peeled, and they should eat all cooked meals eaten while hot.

Medical facilities in Mauritania are limited and visitors should ensure that they have comprehensive travel and health insurance. Basic medical care is available in the capital. Most doctors and hospitals will expect payment in cash, regardless of whether patients have travel health insurance. Visitors should take along any medication they may need, in its original packaging and accompanied by a signed and dated letter from a doctor detailing what the medicine is and why it is needed.

Safety

Although crime levels are moderate, travellers should keep a low profile and take every precaution to ensure personal safety, as thefts and violent incidents have been reported in recent years. Visitors should avoid political gatherings and demonstrations; terrorism is an ongoing concern.

Local customs

Mauritania is a Muslim country and visitors are encouraged to respect this fact. In particular, visitors are encouraged to be observant during the month of Ramadan, when eating, smoking and drinking in public are severely frowned upon. Conservative dress (covering the arms and legs) and reserved public behaviour are the norms, especially for women. Outside of cities, locals generally eat sitting cross-legged on the ground, and using their hands.

Doing business

Mauritania is a very poor country. Mining is the principal industry and some offshore drilling for oil and gas has begun. French is the language of business and very few executives speak English. Business etiquette is fairly formal and dress should be conservative, especially for women. Office hours are generally 8am to 3pm, Sunday to Thursday.

Duty free

Those travelling to Mauritania over the age of 18 may import the following goods duty-free: 200 cigarettes, 25 cigars or 250g of tobacco, 50g of perfume and 250ml eau de toilette. Alcohol is prohibited, and firearms require an import and gun license prior to arrival.

Communications

The international dialling code for Mauritania is +222. Landline infrastructure is limited, but mobile phone usage is fairly high and roaming agreements exist with some international mobile phone operators. Coverage is limited to urban areas, though. Visitors can purchase local SIM cards for unlocked phones; some hotels provide internet access.

Passport & Visa

Most travellers can be issued with a visa on arrival if they are entering Mauritania by air via Nouakchott and meet all the requirements, but it is worth confirming this in advance. All foreign passengers to Mauritania must hold return or onward tickets, and the necessary travel documentation for their next destination. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required if travellers are older than one year of age and are arriving from a country with a risk of yellow fever transmission. (Travellers who are older than nine months of age should receive vaccinations against yellow fever if they are travelling to areas south of the Sahara Desert.) It is highly recommended that travellers' passports have at least six months' validity remaining after the intended date of departure from their 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 for a minimu of six months from the date of arrival. A visa is required.

British citizens must have a passport that is valid for a minimum of six months from the date of arrival. A visa is required for British passport holders, irrespective of the endorsement regarding their national status contained therein.

Canadian citizens must have a passport that is valid for a minimum of six months from the date of arrival. A visa is required.

Australian citizens must have a passport that is valid for a minimum of six months from the date of arrival. A visa is required.

South African citizens must have a passport that is valid for a minimum of six months from the date of arrival. A visa is required.

Irish citizens must have a passport that is valid for a minimum of six months from the date of arrival. A visa is required.

New Zealand citizens must have a passport that is valid for a minimum of six months from the date of arrival. A visa is required.

Useful contacts

Emergencies: 17 (police); 18 (fire)

Embassies / consulates in other countries

Embassies / consulates in Mauritania

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