Mali Travel Advice
Security travel advice for Mali
Threat level: High
Travellers to Mali are advised to remain vigilant as there is a very high threat from terrorism as well as high crime rates in all areas of the country. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is known to operate freely in parts of Mali and have claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of western nationals living in Mali in 2016. There is a high threat of kidnapping by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. There have been a multiple recent bomb attacks in Gao, Kidal, Timbuktu and In Khalil and further attacks are highly likely.
There is also a threat from unexploded landmines, Improvised Explosive Devices and other ordinance. North and North East Mali are the most at risk.
The country is in a state of emergency since November 2015.
Recent Security Risk Events
On the 20th of January 2019, a terrorist attack on a mission camp of the United Nations occurred in Aguelhok (a village in the Kidal region of Mali), killing 10 peacekeepers and injuring 25 others.
On the 18th of June 2017, terrorists killed two tourists, at a luxury resort popular with Westerners near Mali's capital city of Bamako. 32 tourists were rescued during the attack on the Le Campement resort. A number of eopel were injured including three UN Staff. Two attackers were killed at the scene and one evaded capture.
In January 2017, a car bomb exploded in a military base in the city of Gao, located in Northern Mali. It is thought that Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb are responsible for this attack.
Hotels, cafes and restaurants visited by foreigners can be the targeted by terrorist groups, so you should remain on high alert and aware of your surroundings at all times.
Hotel Nord Sud in Bamako was attacked in March 2016, targeting the EU Training Mission’s HQ located inside the hotel where nearly 600 foreign nationals live. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is thought to have been responsible for this attack.
A number of festivals take place in Mali each year. There have been some cases where tourists have been kidnapped from the Mali-Niger border after attending a festival and later executed. Although this is rare and extremely unlikely, it is advised that you avoid attending such festivals or similar events as western travellers are at high risk of being kidnapped. Kidnapping for ransom is Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s primary source of finance.
In November 2015, terrorists took residents and staff of the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako in hostage and killed 20 hostages. Al-Mourabitoun and Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attack.
The French/African military intervened in Mali in 2013 causing tensions within the country. This has led to widespread unrest and occasionally violence such as the 19th July 2016 attack on soldiers in which a gunman killed at least 19 people and injured over 30 more. It is believed that an armed group with ethnic and jihadist concerns is responsible.
There is tension near the northern borders of Mali along with high risk from banditry and human trafficking. Armed bandits are also known to use landmines on roads and have been responsible for the deaths of multiple travellers in recent years. The risk of banditry increases significantly at night and it is best not to travel without armed security and all travel at night time is highly advised against.
There are some reports of bandits impersonating police officers to scam travellers out of their money and travel documents. You should ask to see ID if stopped by police but do not resist if they are armed. It is further recommended that you carry only copies of your ID with you and leave all important documents in a safe in your accommodation.
Mali has been an independent country since the 1960s and is a member of the African Union and the United Nations. US-Mali relations are very strong and the US has a lot of input into the development of the country. France has played a major role in helping Mali via military support in the Northern Mali conflict, and ties between the two countries are continuingly growing.
The country is aiming to help resolve conflicts in many African countries including Liberia, Sierra Leone and neighbouring Côte d'Ivoire. It is seeking to prevent or refuse the spill over of conflict from neighbouring states into Mali as much as possible.
The road conditions in Mali are very poor outside of the main cities, and the average driving standard is erratic and unpredictable. Night-time checkpoints operate in Mali at various locations spread across the country and are in place from 9pm until sun rise. You should keep vehicle and personal identification on you or in your vehicle at all times when travelling in Mali.
You can drive with most national driving licences including UK, EU and US licences. It is advised not to drive unless you are experienced who is familiar with the unpredictable Mali terrain.
Currency: West African CFA franc
Time now in Bamako:
All nationalities visiting Mali should have a passport with at least 6 months of validity left beyond the length of the stay, as well as a yellow vaccination certificate. Most visitors will also need to apply for a visa before entering the country. You can get this from your closest Malian Embassy or Consulate.
It is advised that visitors to Mali are up-to-date with primary boosters such as MMR. It is essential that you get vaccinated against Yellow Fever as there is risk of the disease throughout the country. It is an entry requirement that you present a certificate proving your immunisation. This should be completed at least 10 days prior to departure.
It is further recommended that most travellers get Tetanus, Typhoid and Hepatitis A vaccinations. Check with your local health professional prior to travel if you are unsure.
Other health risks
Medical facilities in Mali are limited, particularly if you are travelling outside of the capital city. You should ensure that you have adequate travel insurances as treatment can be expensive. If you regularly take a medicine you should ensure you have enough supplies for the length of your stay as many medicines are not available in the country.
You should take precautions to protect yourself from Malaria as it is prevalent in sub-Saharan Mali throughout the year and infrequently in some areas of northern Mali. There is also a risk of Dengue in Mali, so the use of a mosquito net at night time and insect repellent products is advised. Outbreaks of meningitis can occur, most commonly between February and April.
It is recommended against swimming in fresh water as Schistosomiasis can be contracted via a parasite that penetrate human skin when the water is contaminated.
Personal hygiene must be paramount and the local water supply, including ice-cubes in your drinks avoided at all costs. You should only drink bottled water in Mali and this should be done with caution. Bottled water being refilled with tap water and re-sold is an issue to be aware of.
British Embassy Bamako
Cité du Niger II,
Telephone: +223 44 97 69 13
Rue 243, Porte 297
Telephone: +223 20 70 23 00
Other useful info
Police emergency: 18
Fire and rescue emergency: 17
Medical emergency: 15