Updated April 2023

The Malian Sahara remains a war zone or bandit country, but most reported attacks, IEDs as well as outright massacres occur in the Sahel now, including over the border with Burkina Faso where foreigners have been killed, kidnapped or gone missing.

Malian CFA XOF exchange rates

Price of fuel
Diesel from around 636 CFA/litre, more in remote towns. Petrol is 710 CFA.
World fuel prices.

More than you think, especially fuel.

Useful languages
French, Arabic

Needed by all except French. You can just turn up and get a pass at some borders for 15.000 CFA (~€20) which gives you a week to get a proper visa in Bamako free of charge. You need to fill in a form and have 2 photos for up to 3 months, single-entry. This has been the case for many years although you do hear of it backfiring, possibly merely due to border officials trying it on. See this.
No consulate in UK – nearest are:
487 ave. Moliere, Bruxelles or
Consulat du Mali 64 rue Pelleport, 75020 Paris.
Download visa forms. It can take up to 2-3 days from when they get it.

Mali consulate in Rabat (Morocco).
7, Rue Thami Lamdaouar
GPS N33 58.7′ W06 50.0′ a few doors down from the Mauritanian embassy
€60, 1 hour.

There is also a Mali consulate in Nouakchott
Ave de Palais des Congres
N18°06.48′ W15°58.73′
Two photos and photo copy of passport, 6500UM. Visas issued in as little as an hour.
And a consulate in Tamanrasset, Algeria, next to the Niger consulate, High Street south end (look for the flag as on the top of this page). Here they issue a 5-day pass in a day or so, but that route to Mali visa Tessalit is closed.

From Mauritania – the way most people arrive overland these days – pick up a Mali visa in Rabat or Nouakchott while you wait for 6500 oogs for 1 month (8000 for double entry and 10,000 for 2 months double entry. Two photos required).

Border formalities
Buy laissez-passer (local ‘carnet’) and insurance (both cover the whole CFA currency zone).

Desert pistes
Even in the good years exploring the Sahara north of Timbuktu was never Mali’s highlight and now there’s no chance. This includes the 1000-mile trans-Saharan Tanezrouft piste, leading up to Reggane in Algeria. Right now it’s a bad idea to go east or north of Bamako.