Getting there & away
At the time of research, the most straightforward route to Mali was from Ayoûn el-Atroûs to Nioro. You can also cross at Néma, Timbedgha (both connecting with Nara in Mali) and Kiffa (connecting with Nioro in Mali).
If crossing into Mali, have your passport stamped by police at the first town you reach after crossing the border. You must also clear customs, which is done in Néma or Ayoûn el-Atroûs.
The only border crossing between Morocco and Mauritania is north of Nouâdhibou. Crossing this border is straightforward; the road is now entirely tarred to Nouakchott, except for the 3km no-man’s-land that separates the two border posts. Coming from Morocco, you can buy the Mauritanian visa at the border (€20). Expect to pay another €20 for various ‘taxes’ on top of the visa price. Although there are no longer any currency declaration forms, some customs officials still ask for it and, of course, if you can’t present it, they will expect a small bribe.
Note that there’s no public transport between Morocco and Mauritania.
The main border crossing for Senegal is at Rosso but it’s also possible to cross at Diamma (Keur Masséne), west of Rosso. When crossing into Senegal at Rosso, note that immigration is only open on the Mauritanian side from 8am to noon and 3pm to 6pm. The border crossing here is notorious for its hassles.
From Dakar to Nouakchott by public transport usually takes from 11 to 13 hours depending on the wait at the border. Most minibuses and bush taxis leave Dakar before 10am to be sure of arriving in Rosso well before the border closing time (6pm). At Rosso, most travellers without vehicles cross by pirogue (UM200/CFA500, five minutes) as the ferry crosses only four times daily.
Be prepared for some confrontation with customs officials who usually ask for ‘exit taxes’.
Mauritania’s national carrier, Air Mauritanie, flies to Paris, Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire), Bamako (Mali), Casablanca (Morocco), Cotonou (Benin), Dakar (Senegal), Las Palmas (Canary Islands) and Pointe-Noire (Congo).
Point Afrique (in France 00 33 4 75 97 20 40; www.point-afrique.com) flies between Paris and Marseilles and Atâr from the end of October to the end of April, while Air France has flights between Paris and Nouakchott. Fares from Paris start at US$550.
Air Senegal operates between Dakar and Nouakchott, while Royal Air Maroc has flights between Nouakchott and Casablanca. Tunis Air connects Nouakchott with Tunis (Tunisia), while Air Algérie flies to Algiers. From Casablanca, Tunis or Algiers, there are many connections to Europe and the Middle East.
All airlines flying to/from Nouakchott have an office in the capital.