Mauritania

mauritanSouthbound visas 690 dirhams/1 day in Rabat; €55 at the border
The Nouadhibou-Nouakchott highway is secure with several checkpoints and roadhouses
Updated October 2017

 sahara-routes-2016Money
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.

Costs
Moderate.

Useful languages
French, Arabic (Hassaniya).

Visas: 
Visas are issued at the Moroccan and Senegalese (Rosso) and Mali (Gogui) borders. In 2017 the price dropped from €120 to €55, plus possibly an additional €10 to a transiteur fixer for the paperwork. On your visa it ought to say €55. Currently no visas issued in Dakar. Go to the last post of this thread to read about recent visa experiences.

morivizVisa in Rabat is nearly the same price (690 dh) as the border, but takes a day.
6, Rue Thami Lamdawar
Rabat-Souissi
N33°58.8′, W06°49.9′
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 690 dh 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
Rabat-Souissi
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.’

jd-mk-moridouane-polisario-guerguerat-350x197Border 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 (above right) popped up in No Man’s Land but this should not affect travellers, it’s more of a propaganda exercise and is said to have since gone.
Having come across the partly 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′) noman-jpgwhere 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 thebuy 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.
minesIn 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.

rosso-diama

The southern border with Senegal at Rosso (map left) remains notorious as a place of low level scammery, with officials working with uninformed locals. It has been like this for decades so southbound, 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.

mercarThe 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.

oretrainThe 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 (and one of these years all the way to Zouerat) is near completion. Good northern Mauritania and PFZ  report from 2017.

Desert pistes
adrarkaart2013
A lot of people shoot through Mori and don’t give the interior 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 from the coast 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 sectionsmotorbikes may find it easier on the coarse gravel between the rail tracks (no sleepers).
rim11ferdiOnce you reach Choum there is now an
 asphalt road south to Atar with plans to extend it north to Zouerat and beyond all the way to Algeria?
And in early 2017 it was reported the old 400-km Route R10 (from Sahara Overland) between Atar and Tidjikja (red line on map left) was just about all sealed too. Tidjika has long been on the road network. This new red road opens up access into the interesting Adrar region.
Tracks are rare on the 800-km R11 piste following the Dhar Tichit escarpment between Tidjikja and Nema and, being close to Mali, Nema may not be a good place to end up these days. Full details of these tracks and more in the old book or good trip report here from 2013.

rimzonesNorth of Choum 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; there is probably too much illicit activity going on around here. The map on the left shows access in 2017; basically Bir Mogrein is the limit.
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 – to tourists at least.

Bab Sahara is a popular place to stay in Atar. On the west side of town. That map top right is produced by them.

Mauritania-Route-R2

The Route R2 update from the border via Choum to Atar (520km, p.468 in the old book) is below. Since 2011 it’s said to be improved although the dunes stages are still dunes and would be hard work on a heavy bike and even harder in a 2WD.
Mauritania Route R2 left and a Google map with added information.