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UK authorities issue travel advice for Mali

News about: Mali

Mali

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Still current at: 15 December 2011
Updated: 14 December 2011
No restrictions in this travel advice Avoid all but essential travel to part(s) of country Avoid all but essential travel to whole country Avoid all travel to part(s) of country Avoid all travel to whole country


This advice has been reviewed and reissued with amendments to the Travel Summary and the Safety and Security - Terrorism section (kidnapping in the Sahel region). The overall level of the advice has not changed; we advise against all travel to the northern provinces of Mali..

(see travel advice legal disclaimer)



  • We advise against all travel to the northern provinces of Mali. This includes the provinces of Kidal, Gao, Koulikoro (north of Mourdiah), Ségou (north of Niono), Tombouctou (including the city of Tombouctou (Timbuktu)), Mopti, and areas bordering Mauritania east of Nioro in the Kayes province.
  • There is a high threat from terrorism in Mali. Terrorists have been involved in kidnaps in the region, on a number of occasions leading to the murder of the hostages. Following an attack on four tourists on 25 November 2011, in which one was killed and three others kidnapped, the Malian authorities have evacuated all foreign tourists from Tombouctou. We believe that further kidnap attempts are likely.
  • There have been reports of kidnap threats against westerners attending festivals in Mali. The Festival in the Desert 2012 will take place in Tombouctou, an area to which we advise against all travel and where four tourists were attacked in November 2011. The Festival Ali Farka Toure in Niafunke is also taking place in an area to which we advise against all travel. See Safety and Security - Terrorism.
  • Mali is a Muslim country and their laws and customs are very different to those in the UK. You should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times and be aware of your actions to ensure that they do not offend other cultures or religious beliefs, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas. See our page on travelling during Ramadan.
  • Travel in Mali can be difficult and conditions are poor for overland travel. You should take all necessary safety precautions, especially outside of main urban areas, have confidence in your security arrangements and maintain a high level of vigilance. See Safety and Security - Local Travel and our Rally Racing page.
  • You should register on LOCATE so that we are able to contact you in an emergency. See the General section of this Travel Advice.
  • You should take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. See the General - Insurance.

Safety and Security - Terrorism
There is a high threat from terrorism. Terrorists have been involved in kidnaps in the region on a number of occasions leading to the murder of the hostages. Following an attack on four tourists on 25 November 2011, in which one was killed and three others kidnapped, the Malian authorities have evacuated all foreign tourists from Tombouctou. We believe that further kidnap attempts are likely.

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQ-M) operates directly or through criminal gangs who carry out kidnappings on their behalf or pass on their kidnap victims for monetary gain. Attacks have occurred across a wide area of the Sahel region, including Mali.

Since 2008, AQ-M has taken over 25 hostages of a variety of nationalities, primarily European. A number of these hostages are still being held, including a group of French nationals kidnapped in September 2010. A British citizen was amongst a group of tourists who were kidnapped in Mali in January 2009. He was killed some months later. See our Sahel page for further information on the regional threat:

  • On 25 November 2011, four tourists were attacked in Tombouctou. One was killed and three others kidnapped. The Malian authorities subsequently evacuated all foreign tourists from Tombouctou.

  • On 24 November 2011, two French nationals were kidnapped from a hotel in the town of Hombori, to the north east of Mopti.

  • On 5 January 2011 the French Embassy in Bamako was attacked by an individual using explosives and a handgun.

There have been reports of kidnap threats against westerners attending festivals in Mali. The Festival in the Desert 2012 will take place in Tombouctou, an area to which we advise against all travel and where four tourists were attacked in November 2011. The Festival Ali Farka Toure in Niafunke is also taking place in an area to which we advise against all travel.


The festival in Anderamboukane was postponed earlier in the year due to security concerns. In 2009 a British national who attended this festival was subsequently kidnapped and murdered.

On 19 April 2011 the Embassy of France in Bamako (Mali) alerted its nationals of a “very high risk” of being kidnapped in Mali and Niger particularly between the city of Mopti and the border with Burkina Faso.

If you are travelling to Mali as part of an organised tour you should confirm with the organisers that they are aware of our Travel Advice and that they can confirm in writing that their travel insurance still applies. You should also be aware that the local governments in the region are also attacked by AQ-M. The security forces in Mali, Niger and Mauritania have all suffered fatalities.

You should be aware that the long-standing policy of the British Government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The British Government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners increases the risk of further hostage taking.

Regularly consult our Sahel page for more information on the threat from AQ-M.

See our Terrorism Abroad page.

Safety and Security - Crime
There have been incidents of armed banditry, car-jacking, and kidnap in northern Mali. Bandits and smugglers are particularly active across the Mali-Algeria, Mali-Guinea and Mali-Niger borders and constitute a real risk to travellers, especially after dark.

Safety and Security - Local Travel
We advise against all travel to the provinces of Mali north of the River Niger from Mopti. This includes the provinces of Kidal, Gao, Koulikoro (north of Mourdiah), Segou (north of Niono), Tombouctou (including the city of Tombouctou (Timbuktu), Mopti, and areas bordering Mauritania east of Nioro in the Kayes province.

Landmines have been used by groups operating in North and North East Mali.

If you plan to travel to any of the areas of Mali where we advise against travel, you are advised to fly. If travelling overland, it is essential to plan your journey in advance and inform local authorities (police and/or army) before leaving Bamako. A reputable local driver/guide is also recommended. In all cases, travelling after dark should be avoided.

Safety and Security - Local Travel - Road Travel
Road conditions off the main roads are often poor, especially in the rainy season (June to September). Other road users may drive dangerously and follow unsafe practices. You should take particular care and attention when driving in urban centres.

In June 2008, 12 people were killed in one week in accidents on the Bamako-Dakar road (via Kayes). Between 23 September and 8 October 2006, approximately 50 people died in road accidents on RN7 (Bamako-Segou-Mopti road).

See our Driving Abroad page.

Safety and Security - Air Travel
Commercial flights between Mali and Europe land at Senou International Airport in Bamako.

For more general information see Airline Security.

Safety and Security - Political Situation
Mali Country Profile

The political situation in most of Mali is calm. There has been a history of ethnic tension in some parts of the country, particularly in the North, but these tensions have reduced in the last year.

Large political rallies and demonstrations are not common in Mali, we recommend that you avoid them.

Local laws reflect the fact that Mali is a Muslim country. You should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times and be aware of your actions to ensure that they do not offend other cultures or religious beliefs, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas. See our Travelling During Ramadan page.

Women are expected to dress modestly. Homosexuality is legal in Mali, but not widely accepted.

See our Your trip page.

Entry Requirements - Visas
British citizens require a visa to enter Mali, obtainable from a Malian Embassy or Consulate. There are Malian Embassies in some neighbouring countries, which issue visas.

Entry Requirements - Yellow Fever vaccination certificate
You must also have a valid international vaccination card with a valid yellow fever immunisation.

Entry Requirements - Passport Validity
You must hold a valid passport to enter Mali. Your passport must be valid for the proposed duration of your stay. No additional period of validity beyond this is required. However, it is always sensible to have a short period of extra validity on your passport in case of any unforeseen delays to your departure. You do not have to wait until your old passport expires to apply to renew it. Any time left on your old passport when you apply will be added to your new passport, up to a maximum of nine months. For passport applications in the UK, you should apply to the Identity and Passport Service.

Entry Requirements - Travelling with children
For information on exactly what will be required at immigration please contact the Mali Embassy in Brussels.

Medical facilities in Mali are very limited. The Pasteur Clinic in Bamako can treat emergency cases and provide diagnostic facilities (Tel 00223 2291010 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 00223 2291010 end_of_the_skype_highlighting or Email cliniquepasteur@afribone.net.ml).

Cholera, malaria and other tropical diseases are common to Mali. Outbreaks of meningitis also occur, usually from the end of February to mid-April.

You should drink or use only boiled or bottled water and avoid ice in drinks. If you suffer from diarrhoea during a visit to Mali you should seek immediate medical attention.

In the 2010 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic the UNAIDS/WHO Working Group estimated that around 66,000 adults aged 15 or over in Mali were living with HIV; the prevalence percentage was estimated at around 1% of the adult population compared to the prevalence percentage in adults in the UK of around 0.2%. You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS. See our HIV and AIDS page.

You should seek medical advice before travelling to Mali and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up-to-date. For further information on vaccination requirements, health outbreaks and general disease protection and prevention you should visit the websites of the National Travel Heath Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) and NHS Scotland's Fit For Travel or call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.

See our Travel Health and Swine Flu pages.

Natural Disasters - Rainy Season

The rainy season in Mali is from May to November. Torrential rains can cause floods and landslides. You should monitor local weather reports and expect difficulties when travelling to affected areas during this season.

General - Insurance
You should take out comprehensive medical and travel insurance before travelling. This should include cover for medical treatment and evacuation, accidents, cancelled flights and stolen cash, credit cards, passport and luggage. Check for any exclusions and that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake. See our Travel Insurance page.

If things do go wrong when you are oversees then see our When Things Go Wrong page.

General - Consular assistance
Normal consular services have been temporarily suspended, due to operational pressures. If you need urgent consular assistance, please contact the British Embassy in Dakar on (221) 33 823 7392 or (221) 33 823 9971.

General - Registration
British nationals residing in Mali should register at the British Embassy, as should anyone intending to travel up-country.

Register with our LOCATE service to tell us when and where you are travelling abroad or where you live abroad so our consular and crisis staff can provide better assistance to you in an emergency.

General - Money
Major banks and hotels accept credit cards and travellers cheques.

Source: UK Department of Foreign Affairs Date: 15-Dec-2011 18:57:13