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Recent Mauritanian and Senegalese Border Experiences
Just returned from a month riding down to Dakar and wanted to post some information on the borders, particularly the Diama crossing from Mauritania into Senegal. I had expected this one to be straightforward compared to the busier Rosso alternative but it proved a right hassle.
Entering Mauritania was straightforward: 20€ for the visa, 10€ for the passavant (customs) paperwork and approx 10€ for the insurance for the minimum 2 weeks.
Leaving a country should NOT require further payment unless something is not in order. The guys at Diama wanted 10€ to stamp the passport, 10€ to take the passavant and some other character wanted a €7 community tax. This is all just corruption. I suspect that the various charity rallies have made this crossing more difficult simply handing out euros as an earlier traveller once dished out pens or sweets at will. I'm not sure what can be done officially but my normal practice is to say I am a policeman and normally this keeps officials honest. For the two bikes we got away with a total of 10€ but it involved an unpleasant situation that I won't go into here.....
Entering Senegal was pretty costly too. For UK passport holders the visa should be free. We were charged 10€ each (but at subsequent crossings into and out of the gambia and then Guinea Bissau it was free). A further €20 went on the passavant (at subsequent crossings the correct 2500CFA was paid and a receipt issued). I did not know the correct price at the time so hence was more vunerable to this fraud. Finally the insurance was €20 (legitimate for one month in a number of West African countries).
The police around St Louis just to the south of the border are really corrupt - watch out for the main point just south of town heading to the Zebrabar. The first couple of stops before St Louis were ok - just checking for license, passport, bike papers and insurance. In town we were stopped by a cop asking for the normal paperwork and on finding out that was ok for a "gilete" - apparantly a high-vis vest. That was to be a €10 fine each but after insisting we go to the policestation and having a full on row with the guy during which I took his photo he changed his tune to being hungry.
With the blood boiling I was then stopped at the main check point south of town. This place is famous for fining riders who don't indicate when they are asked to pull over and seemingly folk just pay up. I had been spotted overtaking a truck and the guy was keen to extract what he could. He checked my papers and then just kept hold of them asking for a €30 fine. I had to physically remove them from the guy's pocket in a bit of a struggle after exhausting the normal diplomatic options. Hopefully he will think carefully next time before trying this stunt. It is 100% corruption.
Elsewhere Senegal was great and the cops/border officials were above board. It seems to be just a few bad apples between the St Louis area and the border - no coincidence the Plymouth-Dakar/Banjul runs come through this way. Given the few privateers we met on route it seems to be part of the "game" doing this run.
Never crossed at Rosso so can't compare but Diama is definitely not a good border.
Hope they don't wonder why people start to choose other destinations, looks like the 'Dakar' rally won't be returning for awhile, well at least I hope so, believe me Matt, Rosso is the 'A' ole of the world with piles, and I hope the corrupt scumbags can now wallow in thier own shite.
Well done Matt, you did pretty well. And Rosso is even worse, so you did well to reenter Mauri via Diama.
These arseholes can't see past their own greed the damage they do to the international reputation of their country. I won't be going back to Senegal for a long while but that's partly because I wasn't that enamoured with the scenery after such a long ride and it's quite expensive compared to Morocco.
Tim, we shipped back from Dakar - couldn't face going to Diama again. As for Rosso I can only guess how bad it is.
Strangely enough there were a few travellers we met in Mauritania that were avoiding Senegal completely. The rumours of the hassle had simply put them off. I'm not sure how this problem can best be addressed - the south of the country works well. I will send an e-mail to the Embassy in London to register my annoyance.
The Mauritanian exit was just as bad though.... I ended up locking the passport guy in his office after I paid the 10€ and trying to make a break for it with the keys. Got rumbled and dragged away just before I could get the engine started. Hopefully his colleagues are still giving him grief though.
Good luck to anyone going that way in the near future.
I got buggered big time, and could do nothing about it! I ended up spending nearly 100 Euros in bribes and fees just to get the paperwork done, and it still took 9 hours. I got my fuel stolen (which i didnt find out about until it came to time to refuel 50k away from the damned place,} someone tried to steal my luggage while I was in one of the offices, but got piqued when they found it was all locked to the bike, so bent my brake lever and mirrors down and smashed the glass in them. And that was with a guard!
The police in St Louis are absolute Charlie Uniform November Tangos. Regards the indicator thing. I did indicate and pulled over when he waved me in, no probs there. He then told me to get off the bike, I got off, and left the engine running and indicator on, as it was on the side of the road. He then pointed to it and said he had to fine me for leaving the indicator on!
The fine started at 95 Euro! When I said I wouldnt pay it he said we could discuss it later in the police station. He only had my fake docs, so I could have buggered off, but thought I would wait it out to see what happened. So I sat around a while and fixed the bike up, had a fag and he came back having reduced the fine to a tenner. I said I still hadnt got the money; so he reduced it to 2 Euros and he let me go.
I now dont want to come back through ST Louis and the Rosso crossing. It is a pity it has soured my experience of Senegal because most of the people have been charming. I would be spending more time here if I had better experiences with the police and custoims (and if they hadnt skanked me out of the cash i could spend in country at the border!}
Mauri was wonderful, no hassles anywhere, except the border. the police could not have been more friendly and less hassle in the interior.
Sorry to hear of your experiences - what a shocker!. Hope you never went that way as a result of my mail. It's terrible what is happening up there - I mailed the embassy in the UK to report my findings but more out of frustration than in expectation.
As for the St Louis police I noticed they did not carry guns nor radios so doing a runner should be fine if you've handed over some dodgy documents! I'm not sure what the best approach is with hindsight. Taking a photo of one of them who wanted the high vis vest did the trick and insisting on going to the police station sorted out one of them. The worst one is the control booth on the left hand side of the road just on the exit of the town. The copper there just put my documents in his pocket and they had to be retrieved physically! Best just not to stop!
I have just returned from Senegal and crossed via Diama. I was asked for 10 euros by the police in Senegal, but did not pay.. Realising that I was not going to co-operate the police 'remembered' that I was leaving Senegal not entering and let me go (this of course was a simple face saving strategy).
Paid 4000 CFA for the bridge which is the correct fee
Refused to pay the police in Mauri for a stamp. They called their boss who just told them to let us go.
Paid 10 euro for the laisser passez (spelling?!) and about 25 euro for 10 days insurance. Being in a troupie I paid a bit more than a landie because the price is based on engine cc's apparently!?
They did not bother to ask for the 'community tax'.
I was really NOT looking forward to this crossing but it turned out to be much less of a hassel than coming from the north. I came south from mauri to senegal 3 years ago using diama and also refused to pay. I got away with it then but had a REALLY bad time.
My experience was that it is easier to go north than south. This could well be because of the Plymouth Banjul lads that just pay out.
At the zebra bar I spoke to 4 uk guys who between them were in 3 cars. They paid out a total of 400 euros. By my calculations this is approx 300 euros in corrupt charges!
The owner of the zebra bar told us that the senior officials in St Louis expect a sum of euros per week from the border officials and are told that they can keep what ever they make over that.
The corruption is would seem runs to the top in St Louis. The local police are all part of that corruption.
I don't know how it can be stopped. I do not understnd why the plymouth banjul organisers don't brief their people better. The participants I spoke to had no idea of the corruption and did not know what the legitimate charges were
We are in Pointe-Noire, Congo-Brazzaville right now, dealing with untold red-tape issues with the Angolan Consulate here... that's another story...
By far and away the worst border crossing so far (and bearing in mind we made it through the Nigerian and Congo borders without incident, not even a request for a bribe) has been Diama.
A lot of fellow travellers we've met thus far have opted for the Mauritania-Mali route because they can't be arsed with the hell that is Rosso or Diama. We decided we wanted to go to Senegal so would jut have to deal with Diama.
The guy on the boom at the bridge wanted €20, and no amount of sweet talking, negotiating, downright lying or anything would alter this fee. We eventually had to cough up. We also had to pay €10 per passport, even though a visa was not required. Our yarn-spinning re the boom-crossing meant we weren't charged the "usual" fee for getting our carnet stamped. €40 to cross the Senegalese border is getting off rather lightly it seems! Just after we crossed the Amsterdam-Dakar Rally guys crossed, and they each coughed up €150. Apparently this is mostly down to the fact they don't have a Carnet, and the border police know they intend to sell the cars inside Senegal (in fact most went to Banjul but that's aside). Most of the fee was "importation tax" - a scam more likely. Perhaps the Rally guys actually coughing up these exorbitant fees does just exacerbate the problem but they didn't have much choice. They had a fixer and the rally organisers there but that was the fee, and they had to pay.
We had no issues with police in St Louis though, which reading your above accounts is rather surprising... happily!
Having been to Lac Rose (end point of defunct Dakar rally) I can say it's terrible to see how much infrastructure is now going to waste, and associated jobs lost. I realise that it is mostly due to the Mauritanian Al'Queda connection, but after my experience at the border I have to admit I felt a rather selfish feeling of "you deserve it".
In our experience (and I admit it's only our experience, many of you will have had better experiences), there is nothing in Senegal that you can't find elsewhere. For that reason if I were to do this trip again I would laugh off Senegal and just go Mauritania to Mali. It's not worth the trouble.
That said if you absolutely want to go to Senegal, the border crossing from Senegal to Mali was without hassle or bribe at all. Also the border crossing from Senegal to Gambia (near Banjul) and Gambia to Senegal (Basse Santa Su) was without issue, so it's just the Diama and Rosso borders that are the nightmare. So perhaps, if you have the luxury of time, a better route would be to go Mauritania - Mali - Senegal. Eventually the corrupt ba*tards in Diama and Rosso will have no tourists passing through and will learn the error of their ways... or perhaps that's just wishful thinking?!
Good luck in your travels, whereever they may take you!
Great thread, really helped my prep for upcoming trip. The plan is to head from Dakar to Mauri and round to Burkina Faso, but would appreciate any recommendations and/or words of warning for travelling in Mauri from people who've toured around there (esp. accom., security, police, army as most embassies are very negative about being there)
Diama - Nouakchott - Nouadhibou (Iron Ore train to Atar) - Atar - then to the Mali border at Nioro.
So, coming from Nouakchott, what are the roads like heading east and south to Bamako and then dropping dead south towards Accra? We are on a maxi-scooter and off road riding is out, although we can deal with gravel, dirt, and so on as long as we have a decent track to follow. The map shows a lot of small towns, but how many will have fuel? Could be we just have to deal with the hassle at Senegal and be damned with it, but would rather avoid getting fleeced by corruption. Due to the falling Korean won, our savings have lost nearly 50% at the current exchange rate so we are delaying the trip until either the won picks back up or early next year, whichever comes first. Really need some advice from those who have ridden that way and can give experienced advice on conditions.
The route you are choosing is fine. I would suggest considering the beach route up to Nouadhibou from Nouakchott. so much more interesting than going on the road.
Nouadhibou to Atar is an excellent desert route and Chris Scott's route is fine to follow for navigation.
Chinguetti is a bit run down sad now, but worth a quick visit. The desert route south to Tidjikja was quite a challenge with several detours from the original Chris Scott route. Thoroughly enjoyable and not to be missed.
The roads from Tidjikja to Kifa and on to Nioro are in very good condition, as is the road from Nouakchott to Kifa.
From Nioro there is a new road to Bamako which is in excellent condition.
I found the police to be polite and helpful, it seemed that they were on a charm offensive - perhaps trying to get the Paris Dakar back??
There are petrol (gas) stations in all the main towns on the Nouakchott to Nioro road, and if you run short you can buy fuel in most of the villages. they sell it in small bottles and you will often see strange looking 'hand pump like' contraptions which they use to deliver the fuel. Don' know what the quality is like, but it must work otherwise the locals could'nt run their own vehicles.
I have no idea what the roads are like south to Accra
You should have no problems on this route. Roads are surfaced (tarmac) all the way although as always in Africa you find patches 'under re-construction!'
Suggest five days sufficient: Bamako - Segou - Koutiala 241 miles; to Bobo Dioulasso 136 miles; Bobo - Ouagadougou- Bolgatanga 332 miles; Bolga - Kumasi 325 miles and Ksi - Accra 170 miles. Accomodation OK at all.
This all sounds very familiar.. crossed Diama at the end of Jan. They wanted to charge us 10 euros each for the national park, despite the sign saying it was 1000 um (3 euros). Real problems getting out of Mauri, lots of arguing with the police. Eventually resorted to the "I'm going to phone the embassy" line. It wasn't until I actually sat down in full view of their office with the phone and started dialling that they waved us through the barrier.
Also used the embassy line the other side, they rapidly changed their story for the stamp charges and said it was only business travellers who had to pay.
St. Louis police were a pain too. Pulled over and told to pay up for not indicating. He then realised the indicator was still on and changed his story and said we'd been speeding, but had no idea how fast we were going. We demanded to go to the main police station in town and he backed down and returned our documents. Second time through the check point they just checked absolutely everything, all paperwork down to vaccination certificates, even making sure all the lights worked on the car - despite the fact half the local cars don't even have lights!
Other than that the whole way down to Burkina police have been fine. Watch out for the roundabout to the west of the Ok Inn in Ouaga though. Got stopped there yesterday for not stopping at a red light. The police couldn't even see the light that was apparently red from where they were standing, so as we were staying in Ouaga for a few days I said I wanted it to go to court and started taking photographic evidence. Paperwork was soon returned and we were on our way again.
Hope that helps others on a similar route. The fundamental rule is don't pay no matter what, just encourages corruption.
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