Road Conditions and Safety: We recommend that you exercise extreme caution when traveling by road. Travelers after dark on roads outside of urban centers are subject to attack by kidnappers and terrorists, and more commonly regular banditry, as roads are poorly lit or seldom traveled. Road travel between Gao, Kidal, and Menaka, and outside Timbuktu, should be avoided as they are common sites for improvised explosive devices (bombs) and ambushes by armed assailants.
- Remain alert and vigilant while driving.
- Do not make any unplanned stops.
- Do not drive alone at night.
- Keep car doors locked and windows up, even if the need arises to speak to someone outside of the vehicle.
- If you are forced to stop, do not resist the demands of would-be assailants, as they may be armed.
- Avoid using motorbikes, van taxis, and public transportation.
- Many vehicles are not well-maintained, and headlights are either extremely dim or not used at all, 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.
Mali has paved roads leading from Bamako to most major cities in the south and east. During the rainy season from mid-June to mid-September, some unpaved roads may be impassable. Four-wheel drive vehicles with spare tires and emergency equipment are recommended. Professional roadside service is not available. It is imperative to carry sufficient quantities of drinking water and food. Drivers should ensure that their gas tanks are at least half-full at all times, as gas stations are not widely available.
Drivers travel 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 much lower speeds.
See our Road Safety page for more information.
Aviation Safety Oversight: 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 safety assessment page.
The U.S. government has warned about the risks to civil aircraft operating into, out of, within, or over Mali due to hazards associated with ongoing fighting involving military forces and extremist/militant groups. The FAA advises U.S. civil aviation to avoid flying below a certain altitude in the airspace over Mali. For further information on FAA flight prohibitions, see the Federal Aviation Administration?s Prohibitions, Restrictions and Notices.
We do not pay medical bills. Be aware that U.S. Medicare does not apply overseas.
Medical Insurance: Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers overseas only accept cash payments. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.
We strongly recommend supplemental insurance (our webpage) to cover medical evacuation.
Medical facilities are extremely limited, especially outside of Bamako. U.S.-standard care does not exist. Most U.S. medicines are unavailable; European medications are more easily found, and can be obtained at pharmacies throughout Bamako.
- Do not purchase the potentially dangerous counterfeit or expired medications sold on the local market.
- Carry with you an adequate supply of needed medication and prescription drugs, along with copies of the prescriptions, including the generic names for the drugs.
- If traveling with prescription medication, check with the government of Mali to ensure the medication is legal in Mali.
- Always carry your prescription medication in original packaging with your doctor?s prescription.
Zika: On March 13, 2017, the CDC designated Mali as a country at risk for an outbreak of the Zika virus. Because Zika infection in a pregnant woman can cause serious birth defects, women who are pregnant or who may become pregnant should not travel to Mali. All travelers should strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites and sexual exposure to Zika virus during and after the trip.
The following diseases are prevalent:
Vaccinations: Be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Further health information:
Local laws and Special Circumstances
Criminal Penalties: You are subject to local laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be arrested, expelled, or imprisoned. Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Travelers may be detained for questioning if stopped by the police and unable to produce their passport or for taking pictures of certain buildings. Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol may lead to arrest. If you break local laws, your U.S. passport will not help you avoid arrest or prosecution. The U.S. government cannot get you out of jail.
Arrest Notification: If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy immediately. See our webpage for further information.
Cultural Property: 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. Contact the Embassy of Mali in Washington D.C. 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/Access to Funds: Currency exchange facilities are slow and often use out-of-date exchange rates. There are several ATMs in Bamako that accept U.S. credit/debit cards, though they do not always function reliably. Maximum withdrawals are generally limited to $400, and local banks charge up to $20 per transaction for use of their ATMs. There are some ATMs outside of Bamako in Segou, Sikasso, Koutiala, Gao, and Mopti, though they are occasionally inoperable. Credit cards are accepted only at the largest hotels, Banque Atlantique, a few travel agencies (for an extra fee), and a few restaurants. Cash advances from credit cards are available in Mali only via Western Union. The U.S. Embassy is unable to provide currency exchange services for private U.S. citizens.
Photography: Exercise caution when taking photographs in Mali. Photographing any official object, entity, or person is restricted. These restrictions include infrastructure, facilities, government buildings, and individuals. You should obtain explicit permission from the Malian government before photographing transportation facilities and government buildings. Taking a photograph without permission in any public area or around any of the above listed facilities often provokes a prompt response from security personnel or offends the people being photographed. Taking photos of the U.S. Embassy in Bamako is also prohibited.
Communication: Communication infrastructure in Mali is of limited coverage and speed. International telephone calls are expensive, and collect calls cannot be made from outside of Bamako. There are a number of internet service providers in Mali, many of which operate on cellular networks.
Faith-Based Travelers: See our following webpages for details:
- Faith-Based Travel Information
- International Religious Freedom Report ? see country reports
- Human Rights Report ? see country reports
- Hajj Fact Sheet for Travelers
- Best Practices for Volunteering Abroad
LGBTI Travelers: There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of LGBTI events in Mali. Societal discrimination, however, is widespread. LGBTI individuals have experienced physical, psychological, and sexual violence, which society views as corrective punishment and police frequently refuse to intervene. Most LGBTI individuals isolate themselves and keep their sexual identity hidden.
Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance. There is no law protecting the rights of persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities in employment, education, access to health care, or in the provision of other state services, nor requiring accommodation and access to public facilities. No special accommodations are made or officially reduced fares or rates are available to persons with disabilities in public transportation or taxis, communications, lodging, medical facilities, restaurants, caf?s, bars or other tourist spots. Foot paths and pedestrian-friendly road crossings are rare and generally are inaccessible to persons with disabilities.
Women Travelers: Domestic violence, including spousal abuse, is common. Although the law prohibits spousal abuse, it does not prohibit domestic violence. The minimum age to marry without parental consent is 16 for females and 18 for males. Girls may marry with parental consent at age 15 if a civil judge approves. However, child marriage remains a common practice.
Female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) is legal in Mali and widely practiced. The Government of Mali prohibits FGM/C in government-funded health care centers.
See our travel tips for Women Travelers.
Safety and Security
Political Stability: Mali continues to face significant political and security challenges amidst slow implementation of a peace agreement signed in 2015 that aims to resolve the ongoing conflict in northern Mali. A disparate group of politically-motivated armed groups, militias, bandits, and extremist groups continue to exert influence in wide swathes of northern and central Mali. The Malian government is generally not present in those areas outside of major cities. Furthermore, terrorist groups have increased the frequency and range of their attacks – particularly against the base camps of the UN peacekeeping mission (MINUSMA) in Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal – in an effort to destabilize the country.
Travelers should avoid travel to the northern parts of the country because of continuing insecurity and ongoing military operations. The situation in central Mali – in the Segou and Mopti Regions – is increasingly unstable due to intercommunal conflict and localized political violence, as well as an increasing number of armed attacks.
Terrorism: Terrorist groups with varying degrees of allegiance to al-Qa’ida and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) operate in Mali, and often pursue local agendas complementary to these global jihadist movements. Groups linked with al-Qa?ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which have merged under the banner of Jama?at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM) continued to conduct terrorist attacks throughout 2017 and 2018, primarily targeting international and Malian military forces. These groups have claimed responsibility for recent gun and improvised explosives attacks, kidnappings, and other violent actions in northern and central Mali.
JNIM has claimed an increasing numbers of attacks, including the April 2018 large scale, multi-stage attack on the MINUSMA camp in Timbuktu. Terrorist groups are likely to continue, if not escalate, attacks on Western targets throughout the Sahel (including Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger).
MINUSMA and French troops, in collaboration with Malian security forces, are deployed in the country and are conducting counterterrorism operations that target extremist elements. However, their presence is not sufficient to counter every threat. Extremist groups have attacked UN peacekeepers? northern base camps in Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal throughout 2017 and early 2018. Attacks by violent Islamist extremist groups have moved beyond the traditional conflict zone in the north to the center and south of the country. The area along the border with Burkina Faso, and some remote parts of southern Mali, are increasingly under threat of attack.
In Bamako, there are ongoing threats against hotels, restaurants, and other areas where Westerners congregate On June 18, 2017 terrorists attacked Hotel Kangaba, a popular destination for westerners and expatriates on the outskirts of Bamako, killing five civilians and one Malian first responder.
Kidnapping: The threat of kidnapping of Westerners by criminal or terrorist groups remains high throughout the region. In 2017 a Colombian nun was kidnapped near Koutiala, in the Southeast of Mali, near the border with Burkina Faso. These kidnappings illustrate the increasing reach of criminal and terrorist groups.
Travel Restrictions for U.S. Government Employees: U.S. government employees must seek permission before traveling outside of Bamako and are not allowed to travel outside Bamako after dark. They are also prohibited from using public transportation outside of Bamako. Although these restrictions do not apply to private U.S. citizens, you should take them into account when traveling in Mali.
Civil Unrest: Periodic street demonstrations occur throughout Mali. Although some are planned and often peaceful, demonstrations can occur spontaneously and turn violent. The majority of these are contained by security forces, but U.S. citizens should avoid street demonstrations and maintain security awareness at all times.
Crime: Criminal traffickers of all kinds operate throughout the Sahel, and may respond violently if encountered. Violent crimes are not frequent, but U.S. citizens should maintain a vigilant posture in all urban areas. There has been a recent uptick in police harassment and violent crime such as armed robbery, armed carjacking, and assault in Bamako. There are sporadic reports of nighttime robberies occurring on the roads outside of the capital; tourists should not drive at night (See Travel & Transportation section).
For Your Safety:
- Guard your passport and wallet when in crowded outdoor areas and open-air markets.
- Be vigilant for pickpockets, especially at night.
- Use all available safety measures in your home or hotel, including locking doors and windows at all times, and setting the alarm.
- If asked to stop by police, stop only in well-lit areas or places where several officers are posted.
Victims of Crime: U.S. citizen victims of sexual assault should first contact the U.S. Embassy.
Report crimes to the local police at 8000-1115 (connection and response is not always reliable) and contact the U.S. Embassy during normal consular hours, at (+223) 20 70 25 05, or after-hours at (+223) 66 75 28 60. If you are unable to reach the Consular Section, please call the main Embassy phone at (+223) 20 70 23 00.
Remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting crime. However, response from local authorities and recourse for victims of crime is extremely limited. When you do interact with local police always request a copy of the police report.
Due to the vigilantism which often occurs when criminals are apprehended in Mali, it is best to avoid the large crowds that may gather at the scene of a crime, a vehicle accident, or any altercation.
- help you find appropriate medical care
- assist you in reporting a crime to the police
- contact relatives or friends with your written consent
- explain the local criminal justice process in general terms
- provide a list of local attorneys
- provide our information on victim?s compensation programs in the U.S.
- provide an emergency loan for repatriation to the United States and/or limited medical support in cases of destitution
- help you find accommodation and arrange flights home
- replace a stolen or lost passport
Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence may contact the Embassy for assistance.
Tourism: No formal tourism industry infrastructure is in place. Tourists are considered to be participating in activities at their own risk. Emergency response and subsequent appropriate medical treatment is not available in-country. U.S. citizens are encouraged to purchase medical evacuation insurance. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.
Entry exit Requirementsh
To enter Mali, you will need a valid passport with at least one blank page, a visa, and evidence of yellow fever vaccination. Visas are not available upon arrival in Mali. You must obtain your visa in advance of travel to avoid excessive fees and unexpected potential travel restrictions imposed at the port-of-entry. Visit the Embassy of Mali website for the most current visa information.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Mali.
See the Department of State?s Fact Sheet on Mali for information on U.S. – Mali relations.