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Travel Security Advice for Mali




Mali is a developing country in western Africa with a stable and democratic government.  The official language is French.  The capital is Bamako.  Facilities for tourism are limited. The terrorist group Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) continues to use northern Mali as a safe haven.  AQIM kidnapped two Canadian diplomats in Niger in December 2008 and four European tourists along the Mali-Niger border in January 2009.  All were believed to be held in northern Mali; the Canadians and two Europeans were released in April 2009.  Read the Department of State Background Notes on Mali for additional information.


A passport and visa are required.  All travelers must have international vaccination cards with a current yellow fever immunization.  Travelers should obtain the latest visa information and entry requirements from the Republic of Mali Embassy at 2130 R Street NW, Washington, DC  20008, telephone (202) 332-2249.  Inquiries can be made at the nearest Malian embassy or consulate.  Visit the Embassy of Mali website for the most current visa information.

Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website.  For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information Sheet.


The U.S. Embassy in Bamako strongly advises American citizens against traveling to the northern regions of Mali as the terrorist group Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) continues to use northern Mali as a safe haven and platform from which to conduct operations.  AQIM has been designated as a terrorist organization by both the United States and the European Union, and has declared its intention to attack Western targets.  In October 2008 AQIM released two Austrian tourists in northern Mali who had been kidnapped in February 2008 in Tunisia.  In December 2008 AQIM kidnapped two Canadian diplomats in Niger.  AQIM kidnapped four European tourists on January 22, 2009, along the Mali-Niger border near the northern Malian town of Anderamboukane.  AQIM subsequently released the Canadian hostages and two of the four European tourists in northern Mali in April 2009.

In addition to threats posed by AQIM and potential hostage takers, confrontations between the Malian military and Tuareg rebel groups occurred in Nampala along Mali’s frontier with Mauritania in December 2008, and in the region of Kidal in January 2009.  The threat posed by AQIM, continued Tuareg unrest, sporadic banditry, and the porous nature of Mali’s northern borders with Algeria, Niger, and Mauritania all reinforce longstanding security concerns affecting travel to northern Mali.

The Department of State strongly urges citizens to avoid all travel to northern Mali, and notes that U.S. Government employees in Mali are required to have the written approval of the U.S. Ambassador to Mali prior to traveling to the region of Kidal, areas north and east of the town of Gao, including along the road to Ansongo, the town of Timbuktu, and points further north.  This restriction includes the site of the popular Tuareg music festival at Essakane, north of Timbuktu.

The U.S. Embassy’s ability to assist American citizens kidnapped by terrorists in northern Mali is severely limited. The United States has a policy of not paying ransom, releasing prisoners, changing policies or making substantive concessions to terrorist organizations. 

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ website.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the U.S. and Canada or, for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.  These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.  For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s information on A Safe Trip Abroad .


Violent crime in Mali is infrequent, but petty crimes, such as pick pocketing and simple theft, are common in urban areas.  Passports and wallets should be closely guarded when in crowded outdoor areas and open-air markets.  Individuals traveling on the Bamako-Dakar railroad are advised to be vigilant for pickpockets, especially at night.  Criminals will not hesitate to use violence if they encounter resistance from their victims.  There are sporadic reports of nighttime robberies occurring on the roads outside of the capital; tourists should not drive outside of Bamako at night.  Travelers should stay alert, remain in groups, and avoid poorly lit areas after dark.

Sporadic banditry and random carjacking have historically plagued Mali's vast desert region and its borders with Mauritania and Niger.  While banditry is not seen as targeting U.S. citizens specifically, such acts of violence cannot be predicted. 

On July 1, 2008, six people working as USAID contractors were robbed of their vehicle and all belongings, at gunpoint, by three bandits between the villages of Temera and Bourem, approximately 120 km (75 miles) northeast of Gao along the Niger River. 

From May 2008 until July 2008, there were a series of attacks at various Malian government installations.  While most of these have been in eastern Mali, on May 6 2008, bandits attacked a military outpost in Diabali, 175 km (110 miles) north of Segou.  While these actions appear directed exclusively at government security facilities, including military, gendarmerie and national guard bases, bandits have been known to stop cars at gunpoint while making their escape.  Those traveling or living in Mali are strongly encouraged to register with the Embassy to allow e-mail notification should further attacks occur.  Please see the Registration/Embassy Location information at the end of this article


The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.  If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for assistance.  The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, help you find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred.  Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Mali is: 17.

Please see our information on Victims of Crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.


While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.  Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.  Persons violating Mali’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.  Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Mali are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.  Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.  Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.


Mali is a signatory to the Treaty on Cultural Property, which restricts exportation of Malian archeological objects, in particular those from the Niger River Valley.  Visitors seeking to export any such property are required by Malian law to obtain an export authorization from the National Museum in Bamako.  It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Mali in Washington or the nearest Malian consulate for specific information regarding customs requirements.  U.S. Customs and Border Protection may impose corresponding import restrictions in accordance with the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act.

Currency exchange facilities are slow and often involve out-of-date rates.  The U.S. Embassy cannot provide exchange facilities for private Americans.  There are a few ATMs in Bamako that accept American credit cards and debit cards with a Visa logo only.  Maximum withdrawals are generally limited to $400, and local banks charge up to $20 per transaction for use of their ATMs.  There are no ATMs outside of Bamako.  Credit cards are accepted only at major hotels, a few travel agencies, and select restaurants.  Cash advances on credit cards are available from only one bank in Mali, the BMCD Bank in Bamako, and the only card they accept for this is Visa.

The U.S. Embassy does not always receive timely notification by Malian authorities of the arrest of Americans.  U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their passport with them at all times, so that proof of identity and citizenship are readily available in the event of questioning by local authorities.  If arrested, U.S. citizens should always politely insist that they be allowed to contact the U.S. Embassy (see section on Registration/Embassy Location below).

Photographing military subjects is restricted.  One should also obtain explicit permission from the Malian government before photographing transportation facilities and government buildings.  Taking a photograph without permission in any public area may provoke a response from security personnel or offend the people being photographed.  Taking photos of the U.S. Embassy is also prohibited.

International telephone calls are expensive, and collect calls cannot be made from outside of Bamako.

Please see our Customs Information sheet.


Medical facilities in Mali are limited, especially outside of the capital, Bamako.  Psychiatric care is non-existent.  The U.S. Embassy in Bamako maintains a list of physicians and other healthcare professionals who may see U.S. citizen patients.  The Embassy cannot guarantee these services or specifically recommend any physicians.

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to, or foreign residents of, Mali.

Many American medicines are unavailable; French medications are more easily found.  Available medications can be obtained at pharmacies throughout Bamako, and are usually less expensive than those in the U.S.  Travelers should carry with them an adequate supply of needed medication and prescription drugs, along with copies of the prescriptions, including the generic names for the drugs.  Caution should be taken to avoid purchasing potentially dangerous counterfeit medications when buying on the local market in Mali.

According to the Malian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, there are currently no HIV/AIDS-related entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Mali. 

For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO)
website Further general health information for travelers is available from the WHO .


The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.  Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.


While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.  The information below concerning Mali is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

U.S. citizens traveling by road in Mali should exercise caution.  Mali has paved roads leading from Bamako to Segou, Mopti and Sikasso.  During the rainy season from mid-June to mid-September, some unpaved roads may be impassable.  On many roads outside of the capital, deep sand and ditches are common.  Four-wheel drive vehicles with spare tires and emergency equipment are recommended.  Travelers must be prepared to repair their own vehicles should they break down or become stuck in the sand.  Travelers should also carry plenty of food and water.

The Embassy strongly urges all travelers to avoid traveling after dark on roads outside of urban centers.  The roads from Gao to Kidal and Menaka, and the roads around Timbuktu, are desert tracks with long isolated stretches.  Those areas are in any case the subject of serious concern (see above) due to the threat of kidnapping and terrorism, and it is strongly recommended to avoid travel to those areas.

Drivers drive on the right-hand side of the road in Mali.  Speed limits range from 40-60 km per hour (25-40 miles per hour) within towns, to 100 km per hour (60 miles per hour) between cities.  Road conditions often require lower speeds.  Due to safety concerns, the Embassy recommends against the use of motorbikes, van taxis, and public transportation.  Excessive speeds, poorly maintained vehicles, lack of street lighting and roving livestock pose serious road hazards.  Many vehicles are not maintained well and headlights are either extremely dim or not used while rear lights or reflectors are often missing or broken.  Driving conditions in the capital of Bamako can be particularly dangerous due to limited street lighting, the absence of sidewalks for pedestrians, and the number of motorcycles, mopeds and bicycles.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.  Visit the website of the country’s national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety.


As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Mali, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Mali’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards.  Further information may be found on the FAA's website.


For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.


Americans living or traveling in Mali are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy or through the State Department’s travel registration website so that they can obtain current information on travel and security within Mali.  Americans without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy.  By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency.  The U.S. Embassy is located in ACI 2000 at Rue 243, Porte 297.  The Embassy's mailing address is B.P. 34, Bamako, Mali.  The telephone number is (223) 20-70-2300.  The consular fax number is (223) 20-70-2340.  The email address is This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it The Embassy web page is at http://mali.usembassy.gov/.

This replaces the Country Specific Information for Mali dated December 19, 2008, to update the Country Description and sections on Safety and Security, Information for Victims of Crime, Medical Facilities and Health Information, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, and Registration/Embassy Location.


The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office also has information regarding Mali HERE....

Looking for an Embassy ?, You can also check out our World Wide Embassies Section HERE (For US Citizens) or HERE (For UK Citizens)................

There is also a Malaria Warning for Mali HERE....

Be advised, there is a Travel Warning for Mali HERE.....


The SW Team..... 


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