Dusty Travel in Mauritania – 8 Tips About Mauritanian Culture

Travel in Mauritania is not on everyone’s bucket list.

Mauritania is not your typical travel destination unless you’re overlanding, or you love the desert.

Dusty Travel in Mauritania – 8 Tips About Mauritanian Culture

Travel in Mauritania is not on everyone’s bucket list.

Mauritania is not your typical travel destination unless you’re overlanding, or you love the desert.

Hi, we’re Rach & Marty!

We’ve visited every country in the world and want to help you get the most out of your travels!

Whether you need an expertly planned itinerary, some experienced hints and tips, or just craving a delicious food adventure, we’ve got you covered!

Hi, we’re Rach & Marty!

We’ve visited every country in the world and want to help you get the most out of your travels!

Whether you need an expertly planned itinerary, some experienced hints and tips, or just craving a delicious food adventure, we’ve got you covered!

Hi, we’re Rach & Marty!

We’ve visited every country in the world and want to help you get the most out of your travels!

Whether you need an expertly planned itinerary, some experienced hints and tips, or just craving a delicious food adventure, we’ve got you covered!

We may earn affiliate commissions from websites we link to, at no cost to you. Click here for details.

Travel Mauritania

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 Iron-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.

Check it out! AFRICA Food Map

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.

Travel in Mauritania - Man on 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.

A Final Word About Travel in Mauritania

Over the past five years or so, and with the popularity gaining to explore this country and ride the iron-ore train, Mauritania is getting busier with tourism.

You can explore the country independently, or share the experience with likeminded travellers.

If you would like to travel in Mauritania, we recommend viewing this range of group adventures in Mauritania.

Travel Tips for Africa

We have many travel guides and tips for Africa – what a massive continent!

Have you ever wondered how many countries in Africa there are? 54 or 55? We cover them in depth in our ultimate Africa bucket list.

There is some delicious cuisine to be enjoyed across Africa, and these ten best African countries for food will inspire your food journey.

Check out how many of these 15 most popular foods you can taste.

If you’re wondering what they eat for breakfast in Africa, check out these 20 popular breakfast foods.

For food lovers, our Food Map of AFRICA lists the quintessential dish you need to eat in every nation!

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

Don’t miss our recap of our travels across West Africa for even more helpful tips, and try these popular West African dishes; they’re fantastic!

You’ll need to stay connected while travelling in Africa. We recommend eSIM. It’s easy, reliable and affordable. View eSIMs for individual countries in Africa, or consider a regional eSIM for Africa (which covers 36 countries)

If your travels in Africa are part of a much larger global adventure, then a Global eSIM may be the answer. It connects you in 124 countries, offering data-only eSIM and data/call/text Global eSIM. This eSIM has been a game-changer for us, and we couldn’t imagine travelling without it now.

If you want to travel with like-minded travellers, consider joining a group tour. View the best deals on group tours in Africa.

Check out our best-ever travel tips compiled from more than twenty years of experience.

Did you enjoy this article? Share it with friends and family!

Travel Planning Resources

✈️ Flights: We use Skyscanner to book cheap flights worldwide.

🏨 AccommodationBooking.com is our preferred platform for booking hotels and accommodation. We use Vrbo to book apartments and long-term stays.

🏥 Travel Insurance: We recommend Heymondo (Get 5% off Heymondo) & SafetyWing

🚌 Transportation: Trainline is the best website to reserve trains. We use Omio to book transport worldwide. For travel in Asia, we use 12Go. 

🚘 Car Rental: We use DiscoverCars to book rental cars worldwide.

👫 Group ToursG Adventures OR compare multi-day tours worldwide with Tourradar.

📸 Day Tours & TripsGetYourGuide & Viator are the only two platforms you need.

📚 Lonely Planet: The Best Range of Travel Guides & Ebooks, and FREE Shipping! (use code RACHELDAVEY10 for a 10% discount)

🎒 LuggageOsprey Farpoint 40L Backpack or Samsonite Luggage Range.

🛄 What to Pack: Don’t forget your Universal charger and a good power bank.  To help you pack the essentials, here is our ULTIMATE Packing List for all Travellers.

🐶 Become a House Sitter: Join Trusted Housesitters and enjoy FREE accommodation worldwide. Use our invite to receive 25% off your new membership.

💰 Send Money Anywhere: WISE & Revolut are the best online accounts that let you send money, get paid, and spend money internationally. Both are so easy to use and way cheaper than any bank transfer.

📶 Stay Connected: Airalo eSIM allows you to get connected the moment you land at your destination, and you can avoid those expensive data roaming charges. We LOVE this product! Use promo code NOMAD15 for 15% off ALL eSIMs (new Airalo users only) OR use NOMAD10 for 10% off ALL eSIMs (for existing Airalo users)

✅ Check out our Travel Gear and Travel Resources for more valuable tips to save you money!

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5 Comments. Leave new

  • wow what a journey! 19 African countries more that most people do in a life time. Very inspiring.

    Reply
  • I go in Mauritania every single year since 2008 as my son did the Peace Corps there and then married a Mauritanian girl. They have 2 beautiful daughters and he loves it. Life there is no stress, people are very nice and humble. I just like the respect the young have for the eldest.
    Simple daily pleasure like going to the beach, buying fish and grilling on the beach.
    I like ce this country still not touched too much by invasive tourism. The desert I crossed it and it is sublime, staying in oasis just you feel on another planet. And by the way very safe you have less chances to get kill there than in a mall n the US. Already with no alcohol and no guns less problems!

    Reply
  • There is nothing like Exploring Sahara in Mauritania. Thanks for your very informative article on Mauritania, which can inspire many like me to visit beautiful deserts of Mauritania and hitch-hock iron ore train. Thanks for sharing all info.

    Reply
  • Pamela Snow
    June 7, 2023 1:14 pm

    Hello.
    I am in Morocco at the moment and considering traveling overland into Mauritania later this month. I am a female solo traveler. Were you 2 traveling independently as 2 line females. If so, can you tell me what it was like as 2 females traveling in Mauritania? It is difficult to find any up to date information about this on the internet.
    Thank you!

    Pam

    Reply
    • Hi Pam,

      Yes, we travelled independently together in Mauritania. We had a very positive experience there, we never felt unsafe, but at times the language barrier (if you don’t speak Arabic) can be challenging to move around.

      Mauritania is a very patriarchal and conservative Muslim country in which society see the role of a woman quite differently from Western countries, and as a woman or women travelling alone without a male, it’s unheard of.

      We’re sure you’ve read about the country in depth to try and understand cultural differences and behaviour between men and women – it will help.

      Be prepared for a country lacking in proper infrastructure, it’s a long way between main cities..and lots of desert.

      Hijabs are not necessary, but it’s useful to wear one to attract less attention towards you. Perhaps even consider wearing a traditional melahfa while you’re there.

      Try to be super organised for where you plan to sleep once you arrive somewhere, as there are not too many options.

      We wish you a good time! 🙂

      Reply

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