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  #1  
Old 2 Jan 2012
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Mauritania trip report

Dear friends,

I’ve returned from a 2-month fieldwork trip to Mauritania. Below you’ll find a series of updates and info (all GPS coordinates in decimal degrees).
Overall, from the description below, you’ll find that independent overland in Mauritania is still possible but it is being more and more conditioned. Some areas can still be freely visited, like the Adrar or the PN Banc d’Arguin, but the bordering areas with other countries are hard to travel through. The police are apparently doing a good job and controls very well the territory and people. But the sense of remoteness and loneliness that you could enjoy in Mauritania some years ago is being progressively lost.

Cheers,
José


VISA in Rabat
Last October, the Mauritanian embassy in Rabat was taking 48h to issue VISAs. I don’t know if the situation has changed in the meantime. A very basic and cheap camping to wait for the VISA is at Temara plage (N33.93015 W6.953833). Many overlanders stay in this camp.


Border crossing Morocco-Mauritania
It took us 5 hours heading to Mauritania and 4 hours on the way back. On the way down, Moroccans are asking if jerrycans are filled up with fuel; if yes a few is to be paid... On the way up, they are using a car scanner to search possibly for arms and ammunition (btw, such scanner is also now installed in the new Tangier port).
Mauritanians will ask your route. If you’re transiting to Senegal or Mali there won’t be too much questions asked. If you’re planning to stay in Mauritania, then they will ask for all possible details concerning route, dates, places to stay, etc. They will insist that you should have a local mobile phone to be reachable by the gendarmerie when possible.
The temporary importation declaration issued by the Douane is only valid for 7 days and the extension can only be done in Nouakchott. If you’re heading for Senegal/Mali this should be enough. However, if you’re planning to stay in Mauritania longer than a week, then most likely you’ll be forced to go to Nouakchott to sort the paperwork in advance and then visit the country.


VISA extension in Nouakchott
VISA extensions take 24 hours. They are no longer issued by the gendarmerie (N18.090300 W15.970950). Now they are issued by the DST (approximately at N18.0889 W15.9828), but things can change rapidly. The police now demand a letter of invitation if you’re planning to stay more than 1 month. Thus, it appears that independent tourism in Mauritania is limit to a 1 month visit (or you’ll have to ask for an invitation letter to an agency).


Travelling in Mauritania
There many new police checkpoints along paved roads and pistes, all asking for a “fiche”. So be prepared with dozens of copies of the fiche (besides the vehicle licence number, include also the chassis number); we’ve given more than 100 copies during the 2 months!
Police is clearly instructed to monitor the route of travellers and you’re obliged to give details of your destination, schedule and plans for the over-night staying. They will insist on the need to sleep in cities, villages, or even on the side of the police checkpoint. Bush camping is somewhat tolerated around certain areas, like the Adrar or the PN Banc d’Arguin, but close to border areas is not accepted (including all border areas with Morocco, Senegal and Mali). Having a local mobile phone or a satellite phone may help convincing the police to let you bush camp (you’ll be asked to contact the police at certain hours to insure that everything is OK...). Night travelling is not allowed east of Kiffa, and travellers are forced to sleep beside the checkpoint after 18:30h.
All area east of 10º and north of 20º is now a military zone. This corresponds roughly to all area east of El Ghallaouiya and north of Chinguetti. The area is closed for tourism.


Routes
A large and more or less well settled track has been open from Boû Lanouâr to Choûm, covering route R1 of Sahara Overland book. A 2WD can now reach Choûm more or less easily, although some sections continue to be sandy and will need speeding.
Apparently, a paved road will be built from Atar to Zouerat. Presently, a 20km stretch north of Touâjîl is already paved to help crossing the Akchâr dunes.
The paving of the road Kaédi – M’bout – Sélibabi carries on, and the stretch from M’bout to Sélibabi is nearly complete. From Sélibabi, it is supposed to continue to Kankossa and then to Kiffa.


Fuel prices
Morocco
Rabat: 7.20 dirham/l
Sidi Akhfenir: 5.20 dirham/l
Bojador: 5.20 dirham/l
Dakhla junction: 5.25 dirham/l
Hotel Barbas: 5.37 dirham/l

Mauritania
Atar: 329.5 oug/l
Nouakchott: 321.4 oug/l
Maghta Lajar: 324.5 oug/l
Kiffa: 327.8 oug/l
Bogue: 324.3 oug/l


Exchange rates (1 euro =):
370 oug: Zouerat
380 oug: Atar
383 oug: Nouakchott
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Desert Crocodiles of Mauritania: http://cibio.up.pt/crocodilos/en
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  #2  
Old 2 Jan 2012
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The visa in Rabat takes 30 hours now. You put the application in at 9am one day and get your passport back at 3pm the next. Price 340 Dh. Get there early to get a form, fill it in and hand it back to them before they shut. They only seem to be open one hour in the morning and long enough to return passports at 3 pm.
If you have a vehicle you can camp in, you just park in the street right there. There are shops and restaurants a few hundred metres away. It's nice and quiet at night. (2 weeks ago)
Persistence
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  #3  
Old 3 Jan 2012
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"All area east of 10º and north of 20º is now a military zone. This corresponds roughly to all area east of El Ghallaouiya and north of Chinguetti. The area is closed for tourism."

Jose, this can't be totally true - just came back from a trip to Tiris Zemmour, going as far as 26N and 10W

diesel price Fderik (black market, good quality algerian diesel) 175 ougiya per liter
diesel price Buer Tighisit - 130 ougiya per litre

exchange rate Nouakchott 1 euro 396 to 400 ougiya
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  #4  
Old 3 Jan 2012
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Hi,

Maybe I was not clear: it is all area East of the 10ºW. So if you went as north as 26º but stayed west of the 10ºW parallel you were not in the military zone. I assume that you went to Bir Moghrein, etc. The piste from Zouerat to Bir Mogrein, and northwards to Algeria is outside the military zone.
Just to recall the source of the info, it was the chief of the Douane at Zouerat, to who we had a nice conversation, that explained that militaries are doing aerial surveys of the survey to monitor activities. According to him, it is not possible to enter the area without a military permit.

Cheers,
JC
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  #5  
Old 3 Jan 2012
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Fuel question.

Thanks for the report Jose.

Quote:
Border crossing Morocco-Mauritania
On the way down, Moroccans are asking if jerrycans are filled up with fuel; if yes a few is to be paid.
Why do the Moroccans ask for payment for taking fuel out of Morocco? I had heard of them being annoyed when bringing full jerry cans in from Ceuta, and of Mauritanian customs being unhappy with full jerry cans being brought in, which I can understand as they would lose a little revenue. Do you remember how much they made you pay?

Again thanks Steve
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  #6  
Old 3 Jan 2012
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Hi Steve,

One of the moroccan officers spot the jerrycans and said that it is not legal to leave Morocco with low-tax fuel and if we didn't want to abandon all fuel, we would had to pay a fee. I paid like 5 euros (smalest bill possible!) without any receipt(!).
I guess that this not be a general rule; it was only the opportunity that prompt the officer to ask for the money. But after a couple of hours of waiting sorting the paperwork, I didn't want to wait any longer.

So, I guess if you can somehow hide the jerrycans, that's a good policy to avoid being asked for money, and, as you correctly mention, Mauritanians usually don't miss an opportunity to ask for a cadeaux.

Cheers,
José
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  #7  
Old 3 Jan 2012
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Jose,

Thanks again for an excellent Mauritanian post.

A couple of quick questions if I may:

1. You mention that there are now police checkpoints on some of the pistes. Are these just on the typical Adrar pistes around Atar & Chinguetti, or did you find these on the more remote pistes as well?

2. You also mention that TIPs are now only valid for 7 days. Was this actively checked by police at checkpoints or are they just interested in passports & destination details? Based on previous trips several years ago, I have never had the TIP checked and am considering whether it would be warranted to detour via Nouakchott to have it extended, or whether to take the risk.

regards
Matt Roach
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  #8  
Old 4 Jan 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt Roach View Post

2. You also mention that TIPs are now only valid for 7 days. Was this actively checked by police at checkpoints or are they just interested in passports & destination details? Based on previous trips several years ago, I have never had the TIP checked and am considering whether it would be warranted to detour via Nouakchott to have it extended, or whether to take the risk.

regards
Matt Roach


I'm just going to assume that the more answers the merrier and add in my recent experience (Nov. 2011) with the TIP.


I crossed into Mauri with the standard 1 month visa acquired in Rabat, and got the Laissez-Passer/Temporary Import Permit on the border for 10 Euros, assuming it would be filled out for the same duration as my visa. It was my first "proper" bike trip...

Mine was written out as valid from the 6th to the 12th of November.

I only had to produce it once in about three weeks through Mauritania, but this was after it had expired (still without me realising).

This was at a douane post on the N1 on the way into Nouakchott (from Atar). They said it was an infraction, and "tres grave".
They were also confused that I had gotten that far, as there is apparently another douane post in Akjoujt which I didn't see, who should have picked up on it.

After around an hour of waiting a different customs officer arrived and I was allowed to carry on, but only with strict instructions to visit the Direction General des Douanes in Nouakchott to resolve the matter. I was given directions for the office.

The extension was free and relatively painless, but I did have to be a bit forward to avoid being railroaded by other African tourists. The authorities had no problem that it was already out of date when I required the extension, and simply asked how long I needed the extension for.

After this I didn't have to show the TIP again until the Mali border - there were a few more douane posts along N3, but none were manned.

At the border I don't believe the douane officer checked the back of my TIP (which was where the extension was stamped and signed) but I can't say for sure as it was a tense situation involving paying the 3000 ouguiya exit fee with German milk - I won't get into that!


I hope this helps, I don't know if it'll be worth it for you taking the risk, but personally I would think so. (I have only been to Mauritania the once though...)
Maybe you can just get one with longer validity in the first place?

Eddie.
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  #9  
Old 5 Jan 2012
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Dear Matt,

In reply:

1. You mention that there are now police checkpoints on some of the pistes. Are these just on the typical Adrar pistes around Atar & Chinguetti, or did you find these on the more remote pistes as well?

I've found more checkpoints on both paved roads and pistes. In pistes, I think that in some cases the checkpoint were already there in the past, but they didn't bother to really check who was going though. An example, would be the 3 or 4 checkpoints along R2 (Nouadhibou-Choum) close to the villages. Also, I was told that there is a new checkpoint on the Atar-Tidjikja piste, close to Ain Sefra. Also, south of the NKC-Nema road you'll find plenty of checkpoints... In fact, when leaving a checkpoint, police will instruct you to pass by the next checkpoint; they will phone the next checkpoint, and if you don't appear, they will imeadiately start looking for people. This happened to us twice on the last trip.


2. You also mention that TIPs are now only valid for 7 days. Was this actively checked by police at checkpoints or are they just interested in passports & destination details? Based on previous trips several years ago, I have never had the TIP checked and am considering whether it would be warranted to detour via Nouakchott to have it extended, or whether to take the risk.

No, it was never checked again. But as Eddie mentions, if you're caught they will insist on a fine. As a rule of thumb, if you're planning to stay less than 15 days, I would risk in not making the detour to NKC; if you're planning to stay longer, than the chances of being asked for the TIP will increase...
Btw, we visit Mauritania not for tourism but for work, which are very different situations. We were not willing to take many risks concerning paperwork. Thus, we moved from the border to Zouerat and tried there to extend the TIP. The officer there extended the TIP for another 7 days. We finally, solved the issue in NKC, about 1 month after entering Mauritania...

Cheers,
José
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  #10  
Old 7 Jan 2012
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Jose, Eddie

Thanks for your replies. Much appreciated!
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  #11  
Old 9 Jan 2012
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Many thanks for the report Jose. Mauri is the sole survivor of the deep desert at the moment it seems.
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  #12  
Old 10 Jan 2012
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Sheikh MDickie goes redistributing

Laid up in Bamako with mum and Daddy of stomach bugs::::been a problem for _ days::I had to stay over in NK and a day longer in Aleg than planned:::which put my assurance a day over::Sods law:::20 euro fine no receipt:::near the Mali border::rob cheaper than renewing for 10 days tho::::Wanted to share the insurance situation in Mali tho::::as usual :ounced on at the border:::and caved in and paid 41K CFA for 3 months:::later at Douane::told not properly stamped:::go to assurance office:::free stamp ho hoho:::there::they said it is illegal to sell 3 months::nly a whole year for motos in Mali:::took another 16K:::Seemed honest:::but I hve been to HQ of Lafia Assurance in Bamako to check::::buggers confirmed it is the law:::Police at Nioro wouldnt validate the Laissez P without assurance:::so maybe I could have done it some other way::::but lot of cash for a few weeks:::although inc other CFA countries of course::::Told I could suspend the policy when I got home::::h yeah::::wait for the refund :::hum::::AND Laissez Passez is 5k :::except weekends::vertime rate;::::so 15k::::eople were sleeping over outside to avoid it::::::all good fun:::lifeùs rich pastry etc
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Old 10 Jan 2012
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apologies

May I just add:::not all qeyboards are the same::::apologies for dodgy smileys and suchlike::::
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