Western Sahara Country Brief
Security travel advice for Western Sahara
Threat level: Medium-High
The current travel safety advice for Western Sahara is to remain vigilant and cautious during your stay especially nearing the bordering areas. There is a risk of terrorism due to the growing extremist sympathisers in the region, in addition to this tourists may be indiscriminately targeted at prominent tourist locations globally and as such vigilance is advised. Neighbouring Morocco has ongoing issues with groups targeting western interests and as such caution is advised.
Recent Security Risk Events
Travel advisories are in place for the bordering regions of Western Sahara and Mauritania as well as Algeria.
- Western Sahara within 30km north/west of the Berm
- Western Sahara south/east of the Berm
Western Sahara had been an area where fighting had continued for many years over a territorial dispute, and as such there are areas of unexploded land mines nearing towards the borders. Please avoid these areas if possible and take note of this and only travel on the main and not off road routes.
Due to the territorial dispute, there is a risk of demonstrations which have the potential to turn violent and also sporadic violent events when tensions are high in the region. Please follow general security advice and remain calm and locate to a safe area away from large public gatherings such as demonstrations.
There is risk of not being able to access the country or being expelled from the country, during times of political strife this is more likely. Morocco which closely monitors and controls access to the region has previously refused entry to single travellers, however well organised groups are generally permitted. During times of political strife this is more likely. Most of the information for the country can be found under Morocco pages.
Please note whilst you are in Western Sahara you are obliged by the Moroccan authority's laws and regulations.
Western Sahara is a Muslim led country and as such please be respectful of the local laws and customs in the region. Observe this especially when travelling during the month of Ramadan or to religious sites. Be mindful that lone women will attract attention and that it may be best to dress conservatively to minimise this. Homosexuality in the country is illegal and with all countries which imposes this please be discrete in your actions to not cause offence or be investigated by local authorities.
Petty crime is present as such things like bag snatching, muggings, pickpocketing and scams take place commonly within the busier areas.
There is an active ceasefire which has been in place since 1991 and monitored by the United Nations. The territory of Western Sahara is one that is disputed between Morocco and the Polisario Front, it is an ongoing issue where the legal status is disputed and sovereignty remains unresolved.
The Western Sahara can be a very difficult place to drive in and logistics can be a real problem. If you are self-driving you should ensure that your vehicle as spare fuel, water and other provisions in case of a breakdown.
The road conditions are poor in Western Sahara and the country has a long record of road incidents.
Please note that there are unexploded land mines and that it is best not to drive off road as many fatalities happen each year in the country due to the landmines. Driving in the desert is very different from normal off-road driving and should only be done by experienced drivers.
Currency: Moroccan Dirham
Time now in Laayoune:
EU, UK and US visitors do not require a visa for a visit of up to 90 days. Visitors from all other countries should check with their Embassy or Consulate.
It is advised that visitors to the Western Sahara are up-to-date with primary boosters such as MMR. You should ensure that you have been further vaccinated against diseases such as Tetanus, which is usually administered when you are a young baby. You may also want to consider Typhoid and Hepatitis A vaccinations. Check with your local health professional prior to travel if you are unsure.
Other health risks
Medical care varies greatly out of the main cities and large towns. All medical care must be paid for on the spot and providing comprehensive medical and travel insurance has been purchased this can be claimed where valid.
Personal hygiene must be paramount, the local water supply avoided at all costs and bottled water inspected prior to consumption. There have been a number of cases of bottled water being refilled with tap water and re-sold.
The U.S. government does not have an Embassy in Western Sahara, all Consular acvivity is dealt with via its Embassy in Rabat, Morocco.
U.S. Embassy Rabat
Km 5.7, Avenue Mohamed VI,
Telephone: +212 5376 37200 (Rabat)
Telephone: +212 5222 64550 (Casablanca)
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +212 6611 31939
The United Kingdom government does not have an Embassy in Western Sahara, all Consular acvivity is dealt with via its Embassy in Rabat, Morocco.
British Embassy Rabat
28 Avenue S.A.R. Sidi Mohamed,
Telephone: +212 5376 33333
Other useful info
Police emergency: 150
Fire emergency: 150
Medical emergency: 150