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Mauritania - Getting there & away, getting around

Mauritania - Getting there & away

Regular flights to Nouakchott from Paris are available. You can also fly from Casablanca and Algiers a couple of times a week, as well as catch flights from Dakar, Bamako, Banjul and Abidjan. Air tickets are much cheaper in Mauritania than the rest of Africa, so never purchase return tickets from other countries; buy two one-way tickets instead.

Border disputes, although calmer now than in recent years, still occur. The adventurous might consider the following options. Bush taxis from Senegal can take you as far as the border crossing to Rosso where a ferry connects to more taxis on the Mauritanian side. From Dakar the trip takes up to 12 hours. The Morocco convoy days are over, and there are buses between Dakhla and Nouâdhibou (twice weekly, 12 to 16 hours). Coming from the north, it’s easy to hitch a ride with other travellers from a Dakhla campement (guesthouse) – people usually charge US$20 to US$40 per person. It’s a challenging drive through the desert, and drivers are usually happy to take people along to cover the costs of a guide and to help with digging the vehicle out of the sand. The route is an adventure – a first taste of the desert, like a scene from Mad Max, scattered with car wrecks and people appearing from nowhere. There’s less traffic from south to north, but it’s possible to get a lift this way too. You could also club together with other travellers and arrange a bush taxi for the journey. It is possible to travel to Mali in your vehicle or via sporadic public transport. The 1100km (680 mi) route from Nouakchott to Nema is asphalted all the way. The journey to Bamako can be done in three days, but that's pushing it. Although the main crossing point to Mali has been closed for most of the decade, it should be possible to cross at other points, such as south of Kiffa. Consult with officials from either country before attempting this journey.

Getting around Mauritania

Air Mauritanie runs regular internal flights to Nouâdhibou, Atâr, Néma and several other towns. Book early. Bush taxis and trucks ply all the major routes also, but the roads are often bad and the trips slow and long. There is a train in Mauritania, too, though few travellers - even the most daring ones - choose to take it. It runs from Nouâdhibou to Zouérat, carrying iron ore and uncomfortable passengers. The trip is mostly at night and surprisingly cold, but passengers claim it's pretty safe.

Driving is possible through some of Mauritania, but should never be attempted alone, and hardly ever without a guide. Many tar roads have been covered by the relentless sands of time. A knowledge of deserts, winds and even tides is required, making it an unattractive option for many travellers. Hire cars are ridiculously expensive, but are available in Nouakchott if you insist.

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