Travel Mauritania

Post Updated Jan, 2024

The exception, of course, is if you are trying to visit every country in the world.  If you are planning on doing some travel in Mauritania, here’s some information that may be helpful.

There wasn’t much information online about travel in Mauritania, so we wrote a short blog about our experience here.

But first, here are a few quick facts about Mauritania:

Things To Know Before You Go

  • Mauritania’s population is 4 million, one of Africa’s least populated countries. The capital is Nouakchott.
  • Mauritania was the last country to abolish slavery in 1981. It officially made Mauritania slavery illegal, but by many accounts, modern slavery in Mauritania continues today. For a better insight into Mauritania slavery, read this article.
  • The main attraction would be the desert – near Atar and Chinguetti. 
  • As Mauritania is a conservative Islamic country – there is no alcohol sold, and a conservative dress is required. 
  • One of the longest trains in the world – the Iron Ore train operates from the coastal city of Nouadihbu to Choum and beyond.
  • The country offers an unusual mixture of Moors of Arab-Berber descent and black Africans. Mauritanians are friendly people.
  • It changed its currency, ouguiya, in 2018 – they simply dropped a zero on the end, but prices are still given in the old currency.
  • Visas for Mauritania have dropped in price from 130 EUR to 55 EUR to try and attract more visitors. You can obtain a visa at the airport or the main border crossing. Alternatively, you can get your visa for Mauritania in Rabat, Morocco, before your arrival. The Mauritanian visa was one of the easier ones we got on our extensive overland travel in Mauritania and West Africa.
Mauritania which way
There seem to be only two directions after you cross the border.

Travel in Mauritania – Nouâdhibou

If you are over-landing from Morocco you will arrive in Nouâdhibou after crossing the border.

This small fishing port might not seem like it has much to offer, but most travellers prefer it over the capital.

With a population of just over 100,000, it is an easier entry when you travel in Mauritania before you reach the capital, Nouakchott.

There are two reasons to come here. A small nature reserve dedicated to endangered elephant seals is one of them. We met someone who could arrange a day trip with a guide for around 50 euros.

The other option is for the more adventurous – the Ire-ore train journey which starts here in Nouadhibou and travels inland across the desert to the mining town of Zouérat.

It is a rough ride on top of the train as there is only one carriage for passengers, and the seats get grabbed quickly. The train passes through Chaum town – a jumping point to get to the town of Atar.

Where to Stay in Nouadhibou, Mauritania

There is no way around it; accommodation in Nouadhibou is expensive. The best options are below:

Best Budget Accommodation: Apparts Hotel Esma – This 3-star hotel offers free shuttle service and WiFi. Nightly rate from USD 64, including a continental breakfast—one of the best locations in Nouadhibou.

Best Mid-Range Accommodation: Nouadhibou Guesthouse – A recently renovated guest house set in Nouadhibou, featuring a shared lounge. Among the facilities at this property are free shuttle service and a 24-hour front desk. Excellent reviews from past guests, and budget double rooms start at USD 44 per night, incl breakfast.

Mauritania Transport
Transport in Mauritania – comfortable minivans connect the capital with the bigger towns

Travel in Mauritania – The capital city of Nouakchott

After travelling across all 19 countries in West Africa (don’t miss our 17 essential tips for travelling in West Africa), this capital is still the least developed on this side of the continent.

It has an unusual feel of a sleepy capital but a busy town. If you turn into any major streets, you will land in dusty streets covered in sand. Travelling in Mauritania is a dusty experience, but seeing this in a major city is still surprising.

You might accept an invite for tea by locals, the most common pastime in Mauritania. But be prepared; an invite to some tea means at least three cups, all brewed separately.

It’s strong black tea loaded with sugar and fresh mint and very good. Mauritanians drink so much tea! 

The main attraction is the hectic Porte du Peche, a fish market right on a beach where hundreds of boys and men drag their daily catch straight to the market on the beach. Fish is then sorted, gutted and sold.

Mauritania Beach
Fisherman on the beach in Nouadhibou

Where to Stay in Nouakchott, Mauritania

Best Budget Accommodation: Auberge Triskell– A great choice; the location is good, with wifi available throughout the property—room rates from USD 40 per night.

Best Mid-Range Accommodation: Hotel Semiramis HMJ – This 4-star hotel features a fitness centre, city views and free WiFi. The units come with a flat-screen TV with satellite channels and a kettle—rates from USD 85 per night.

Travel in Mauritania – Ardrar Region

The main attraction of Mauritania and a place that all locals continually recommend. You must go to the desert, they’d say. “Don’t worry about the warnings, it’s safe.”

The cities of Chinguetti and Ouadâne have been on a bucket list of adventure-chasing travellers for a long time, and for those who go a definite highlight of their trip.

Let’s hope foreign governments will be able to change their safety advice in the near future so more travellers can return here. 

If you decide to go, ensure you do some research online or connect with couch-surfing hosts.

Ardrar Region Mauritania
Ardrar Region in Mauritania

Where to stay in Ardrar, Mauritania:

Maison d’hôtel Ouarane – Located in Chinguetti and rooms from USD 21 per night. The location is less than 1 km from High Dune. Free wifi and restaurant on site.

Rooms are fitted with a coffee machine, and an Italian breakfast is available each morning for an additional fee.

International Airport in Nouakchott

The capital city has built a brand new airport. Unfortunately, it’s located 25 km outside the city, and although the airport is quite spacious, there are no options to buy drinks or food, so be prepared.

There was just a single duty-free shop at the airport during our visit. I’m sure that has changed by now.

Have you visited Mauritania recently? Did you enjoy Mauritanian hospitality? Let us know in the comments below.

Travel Tips for Africa

We’ve got some comprehensive blogs about travelling in Africa – what a massive continent this is! Have you ever wondered how many countries in Africa are there? 54 or 55? We cover them in depth in our Ultimate Africa Bucket List.

Don’t miss our recap of our travels across West Africa in 2019 for even more helpful tips. If you’re unfamiliar with this region’s cuisine, we wrote a post about the 8 most delicious West African foods we tried along the way. 

It’s worth reading these 17 ESSENTIAL Things to know before travelling to West Africa, and our ESSENTIAL Packing List for Africa may be helpful to you.