Visas at the border cost €55.
The Nouadhibou-Nouakchott highway is secure with several checkpoints and roadhouses.
Mauritanian ouguiya exchange rates – about 370 to a euro or 10 dirhams. You can buy it black market at the Moroccan border post or in No Mans Land or at the border.
Price of fuel
About 390 oogs for diesel, 430 for unleaded. More in the countryside.
French, Arabic (Hassaniya).
Visas are issued at the Moroccan and Senegalese (Rosso) borders. In 2017 the price dropped from €120 to €55, plus an additional €10 to a transiteur fixer for the paperwork. On your visa it ought to say €55.
Go to the last post of this thread to read about recent visa experiences.
Rabat is the same price and may save waiting at the border, but takes a day and visas were suspended in March 2017, probably temporarily.
6, Rue Thami Lamdawar
email (+212) (537) 65 66 78
Apply Monday to Thursday 9-11am (queueing from 7am, some sleep in their cars), and collect same afternoon at 3pm. Read this. A 30-day visa costs €40 and is now valid from a date you specify on your application, not the date of issue. A one-year visa (possibly multiple entry) visa costs more. For either you need 2 photos stapled to the form, so bring your stapler, or use the one from the fixer onsite. For photos and copies there is a supermarket at the crossroads about 100 metres away (N33° 58.93′ W06° 49.75′; opens at 7.30am).
The Mali embassy is in the same street, 100m away.
7, Rue Thami Lamdawar
GPS N33 58.8′ W06 50.0′
There is also a Mali embassy in Nouakchott – visas issued in as little as an hour on a good day.
From Mali northwards into Mauritania: ‘At Nioro they are no longer issuing visas at the border... you can get a visa at Bamako near the Chinese Embassy on Rue Kolikoro. You need 4 photos; ready next day for 20,000 CFA.’
Border formalities from Morocco (both open 9.00 – 18.00, give or take). Allow half a day from arriving at Morocco frontier to leaving the Mauritanian post.
In March 2017 a Polisario checkpoint popped up in No Man’s Land but this should not really affect travellers, it’s more of a propaganda exercise.
Having come across the newly sealed Moroccan road through No Mans Land from the Moroccan frontier post (N21° 21.8′ W16° 57.6′), you get to the buildings at the start of the Mauritanian tarmac (N21° 20.0′ W16° 56.8′) where you get stamped by the Gendarmerie. You then buy a visa if necessary (see above) or have your pre-obtained visa stamped by the Police. No passport photos or photocopies needed: they photograph you with a webcam and scan your passport.
By now a fixer will have nabbed you and offer to do it all for you for a fee from €10. Like in Wadi Halfa (Sudan) it’s a bit of a scam, in that you could DIY but there’s no getting away from paying the fixer. You will get all your docs sorted so just accept it good naturedly as a ‘tax’. Your fixer may do all the procedures listed below.
Next, get a white A4 30-day temporary import permit (TIP 4800 oogs or €10 for a bike). Then optionally buy official currency if you didn’t buy black in No Man’s Land.
You can then buy vehicle insurance, a windscreen sticker which costs 9500 oogs (30 euro) for a car for 10 days, €25 for bike. Or you can buy a forward-dated ‘Carte Brun’ for the ECOWAS West African countries (not Mauritania) for €75 (30,000 oogs) for a car. This is regional motor insurance, similar to the regional laisser passer ‘local carnet’.Note that they now search your vehicle a little more thoroughly and may not take too well to cheaper Moroccan petrol in jerricans or alcohol.
In 2007 a guy was killed and another badly injured but a landmine while needlessly straying east just a couple of kms from the unsealed track through No Man’s Land. Full story and maps for clarification here. Locals (possible evading the border) were also killed in this way in 2009. If you stick to the clear track there is zero risk, even if some travellers’ blogs routinely exaggerate the experience of ‘crossinga minefield’ to get to Mauritania.
The southern border with Senegal at Rosso (map left) remains notorious as a place of low level scammery, with police working with uninformed locals. It has been like this for decades many choose to avoid the ferry at Rosso and head 30km downstream to the dam or ‘barrage’ at Diama where things are usually less bad. There is no ferry here – you cross the tidal lifting bridge.
The road from Nouadhibou to Nouakchott
Following the kidnappings in 2009, the Mauritanians have got on the case and there are now over a dozen checkpoints on the road from Nouadhibou to Nouakchott. As in the Western Sahara, handing out a pre-printed form with your details saves time. You can download a Word template by clicking this. Make at least two dozen.
The Route d’Espoir from Nouakchott east to Nema is also patrolled but less safe – venturing east beyond Ayoun is unadvisable. In November 2012 a single traveller was probably spotted in this area and then kidnapped soon after he crossed into Mali near Diema, 300km east of Kayes (not Diama on the river). Avoid crossings into Mali east of Ayoun; what’s left of AQIM or general-purpose bandits may still operate there.
The ore train
The ore train linking Nouadhibou port with the mines at Zouerat no longer allows you to offload vehicles at Choum on the ‘corner’ of the PFZ, but goes all the way to Zouerat (12–16hrs).
It’s said the continuation of the asphalt road from Atar to Choum all the way to Zouerat is near completion. Good northern Mauritania and PFZ report from 2017.
Now that the road south is sealed, a lot of people shoot through Mori and don’t give it a chance. Others recognise that these days it’s the only real Saharan country left where you can drive anywhere they will allow without a mandatory guide, although lately they try and insist you get to a town before dark and camp by a police station.
The run along the railway to Choum (Route R2, below) is a good introduction to the desert with easy navigation and some extended dune cordons; it gets soft and tussocky so for these sections motorbikes may find it easier on the coarse gravel between the rail tracks (no sleepers). The Adrar plateau between Atar, Ouadane and Tidjikja offers some great opportunities. Tracks are rare on the long piste following the Dhar Tichit escarpment between Tidjikja and Nema and, being close to Mali, Nema may not be a good place to go these days. Full details of these tracks and more in the book or good trip report here from 2013.
North of the Adrar is little explored, but possibly not actually out-of-bounds on the northwest corner west of 10°W (see this). You won’t make it to Chegga fort where Mali and Algeria meet.
In late 2006 we drove direct from Ouadane east to Bordj Moktar in Algeria and beyond – a technically easy if very remote 2000km off-piste traverse that was not without risks in northern Mali. Trip report from far north Mori in late 2011 here. Stick to the Zouerat road and you should be OK, but of course it’s a dead end, as borders beyond are closed.
The Route R2 update from the border via Choum to Atar (520km, p.468 in the book) is below. Since 2011 it’s said to be improved although the dunes stages are still tough and would be hard work on a heavy bike.
Mauritania Route R2 below and a Google map with added information.