Mauritania Travel Information
No GMT offset.
Electrical outlets in Mauritania usually supply electricity at 220 volts, 50Hz. European two-pin plugs with round pins are standard.
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.
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.
Although crime levels are not too high in Mauritania, terrorism is an ongoing concern. The UK Foreign Office advises against all travel to the provinces of Tiris Zemmour, Adrar, Tagant, Hodh el Chargui, Dakhlet-Nouadhibou and Inchiri due to a high threat from terrorism. They advise against all but essential travel to the rest of the country, including the capital, Nouakchott. Since 2008 more than 25 foreigners have been kidnapped by terrorist groups in the Sahel region, which includes Mauritania. The US Department of State also warns its citizens of the risk from terrorism in Mauritania, advising against travel to large swathes of the country because of the security risk. They advise foreigners travelling outside of urban areas to move only in a convoy with an experienced guide and reliable vehicles. No travel should be undertaken after dark.
In urban areas crime levels are moderate but steadily increasing. There have been incidents of carjacking, robbery, rape and assault involving foreigners. Travellers should keep a low profile, stay vigilant, and take every precaution to ensure personal safety. Protests are fairly common in Nouakchott and violent clashes between police and protestors do occur. All street protests and political gatherings should be avoided. Military and police roadblocks are common in urban areas and identification should be carried at all times.
Since Mauritania is an Islamic state, governed by Islamic law, visitors should at all times be respectful of the social mores that have been entrenched in the country by the teachings of the Koran. Visitors are encouraged particularly to be observant during the month of Ramadan, when eating, smoking or drinking in public is severely frowned upon. Conservative dress (covering the arms and legs) and reserved public behaviour are the norms, especially for women. Be sure to remove your shoes before entering people's homes and mosques. Note that Mauritania is a dry country, and although there are restaurants that will sell alcohol to foreigners, drinking with locals is strictly prohibited. Note also that it is considered taboo for women to lie on their backs, and for men to lie on their stomachs, in public places. Public displays of affection are totally out of the question: in Mauritania, not even married couples are allowed to hold hands in public. It is also worth bearing in mind that Mauritanians are extremely direct communicators, and may eschew normal pleasantries such as 'please' and 'thank-you'. Finally, it is considered extremely rude to ignore people who greet you in public places.
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.
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; however, coverage is limited to urban areas. Some hotels provide internet access.
Those travelling to Mauritania over the age of 18 may import the following goods duty-free: 200 cigarettes/25 cigars/450g of tobacco, 50ml of perfume and 250ml eau de toilette. Alcohol is prohibited, and firearms require an import and gun license prior to arrival.