There have been incidents of armed banditry, car-jacking and kidnap in northern Mali. Bandits and smugglers are present along Mali’s northern borders and pose a risk to travellers, especially after dark.
The Malian authorities have provided the following numbers in case of emergencies:
Despite the presence of a UN peacekeeping mission (MINUSMA), the situation in the north remains tense. You should not travel in the north of Mali and parts of the centre of the country. See Summary
Landmines are used by groups operating in North and North East Mali.
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.
In the case of a vehicle accident, go to the nearest police station to file a report immediately. If you remain on the spot you risk being taken to task, sometimes violently, by the local population. Medical help in the event of an accident is likely to be limited.
British nationals are increasingly being targeted by scams. Treat with considerable caution any requests for funds, a job offer, a business venture or a face to face meeting from someone you have been in correspondence with over the internet who operates in West Africa.
Night-time checkpoints operate in Bamako at various locations. Checkpoints are in place from approximately 9pm until dawn.
Keep vehicle and personal identification documents with you at all times while travelling by road. Approach security checkpoints slowly and comply with instructions given. There have been incidents late at night where people dressed as policemen have demanded money from drivers in Bamako. Ask to see identification. Don’t resist if the person is armed.
Road conditions off the main roads are often poor, especially in the rainy season (June to September). Other road users may drive dangerously. You should take particular care and attention when driving in urban centres.
A number of European and African commercial airlines operate services to and from Bamako Sénou International Airport.
There was a coup in Mali in 2012 following armed conflict in the north. Following a French-led military intervention, democracy was restored in 2013. A peace agreement has been signed by most parties to the earlier conflict and a process of reconciliation is continuing. President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta (IBK) took office in September 2013, following national elections.
There is a high threat from terrorism. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by the international community, including expatriates and foreign travellers. Following French/African military intervention in Mali in January 2013, there is a high threat of retaliatory kidnap or attack against Western interests, especially in areas north of Mopti, though the threat exists throughout the country. There have been a number of recent bomb attacks in Gao, Kidal, Timbuktu and In Khalil. Further attacks are likely.
The US Embassy in Bamako has issued a warning to its citizens of the threat of terrorist attack against large gatherings, including music festivals. The Festival au Désert in Timbuktu was recently cancelled due to security concerns. Festivals in other parts of the country, such as the Festival sur le Niger in Segou from 1-5 February, are vulnerable to attack.
As seen in Mali, Cote d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso, terrorist groups continue to mount attacks on hotels, cafes and restaurants visited by foreigners. Be especially vigilant in these locations.
Methods of attack have included complex attacks by militants, kidnappings, small arms fire, and the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDS).
Recent attacks include:
There is a high threat of kidnapping by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQ-M) and other regional Islamist groups including Al Murabitun. These groups operate in the border areas of northern Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Algeria and Libya. They’re capable of travelling long distances to carry out attacks. Westerners have been kidnapped in Mali and the wider Sahel region, including in Kidal, Kayes, Timbuktu, Gao and Hombori.
The kidnap threat is not limited to northern Mali as AQ-M has proven capability of travelling long distances to carry out kidnaps, including in neighbouring countries. Western nationals have been abducted in Burkina Faso from the Tambau region by armed groups in April 2015 and January 2016. Criminal gangs have previously carried out kidnapping for terrorist groups in return for financial rewards. There are several foreigners still held hostage by Islamist terrorists in north and west Africa, a number of whom were kidnapped in Mali. Victims in the region have included tourists, NGO workers and diplomats of a variety of nationalities, primarily European. These attacks have sometimes resulted in the murder of the hostage.
Kidnapping for ransom is Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s primary source of finance. 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. The Terrorism Act (2000) also makes payments to terrorists illegal.
There is considered to be a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
There’s a very real threat of kidnap to westerners in the Sahel and surrounding region. The Sahel region includes Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. The kidnap threat extends to other countries including Algeria, Cameroon, Libya and Nigeria. There is a continuing threat of kidnap following the military intervention in Mali which began in January 2013. Further attacks are highly likely.
There are several hostages still being held in the Sahel and surrounding region, some of whom have been held for more than 5 years. Victims in the region have included construction workers, NGO workers, tourists and diplomats of various nationalities, primarily European. Some hostages have been killed, including British nationals.
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 and finances terrorist activity. The Terrorism Act (2000) also makes payments to terrorists illegal.
The terrorist threat in the Sahel and surrounding region comes from a number of groups, including Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQ-M) and Al Murabitun, a merger of the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA) and Mokhtar Belmokhtar’s group. These terrorist groups aspire to establish Islamic law in the region and to attack Western interests.
The groups carry out kidnappings of Westerners for financial gain, prisoner exchange and to exert political pressure on governments. Kidnapping for ransom is AQ-M’s primary source of finance.
AQ-M and regional Islamist groups operate in the border areas of northern Mali, Niger and Algeria. They have proven capability of travelling long distances to carry out attacks, including in Algeria, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. Criminal gangs also carry out kidnappings for terrorist groups in return for financial payment.
Since 2013 terrorist groups in the region have also kidnapped westerners in Cameroon and Nigeria. The main terrorist threat in the region comes from Boko Haram and Ansaru.
Boko Haram is an Islamist extremist group in Nigeria that has been proscribed by the UK as a terrorist organisation.They pledged allegiance to Daesh in March 2015.
Boko Haram regularly mounts attacks in northern Nigeria. Most attacks occur in the north east, particularly in Borno and Yobe states where Boko Haram has its operating base. There have, however, been a large number of attacks in other Nigerian states and further attacks could occur anywhere.
Ansaru is an Islamist terrorist organisation based in northern Nigeria, and is proscribed by the UK. Ansaru have carried out a number of kidnap attacks in Nigeria. Boko Haram have taken hostages from neighbouring Cameroon and are consistently kidnapping local nationals and Cameroonians.
If you do choose to work in an area where the FCO advise against travel due to the high threat of kidnapping, you will need a high level of security. Make sure you:
If you’re taking part in a cross-country rally that travels through the Sahel and surrounding region, you should be aware of the high risk of kidnapping in parts of the region.
One of the most famous rallies in the region, the Paris-Dakar Rally, now takes place in South America due to the threat of kidnap.
If you do choose to take part in a rally that travels through areas where the FCO advise against travel, make sure you:
You should also be aware that the ability of the FCO to provide consular assistance in some countries in the region is limited.
French is the official language in Mali. It’s widely spoken and understood in the major towns and cities, whereas English is not. Elsewhere in the country, local languages are normally used.
Mali is a Muslim country and the country’s 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.
In 2017, the holy month of Ramadan is expected to start on 27 May and finish on 25 June. See Travelling during Ramadan
Don’t photograph military or government installations; ask permission before taking photographs.
Carry some form of identification at all times. This would normally mean your passport or residence permit. If you drive outside the main towns, the likelihood of having to produce some form of identification is high.
Women are expected to dress modestly.
Homosexuality is legal in Mali, but Mali is a very traditional society and public displays of affection are frowned upon.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
British citizens need a visa to enter Mali. You can get one from the nearest Malian Embassy or Consulate. There is a Malian Honorary Consulate in London.
Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.
Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay. No additional period of validity beyond this is required.
UK Emergency Travel Documents are not valid for entry into, or transit through, Mali.
Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.
Medical facilities in Mali are very limited. Staff at the British Embassy use Polyclinique Internationale Bamako (Polyclinic Guindo) (Badalabougou Est rue 18 porte 19; telephone: (+223) 20 22 22 07; firstname.lastname@example.org)
Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
Cholera, malaria and other tropical diseases are common to Mali. Outbreaks of meningitis also occur, usually from the end of February to mid-April. An outbreak of cholera was reported in late May 2013 near the Nigerien border with Gao province. See information on cholera
You should drink or use only boiled or bottled water and avoid ice in drinks.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial (+223) 2023 07 80 or (+223) 2022 27 12, (Service d’Urgence – Hopital Gabriel Touré). You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
The rainy season in Mali is from May to October. Torrential rains can cause floods and landslides. You should monitor local weather reports and expect difficulties when travelling to affected areas during this season.
Major banks and hotels accept credit cards and travellers cheques. Access to money from ATMs and banks may be limited if the political situation deteriorates.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.