Mauritania Airlines flies daily (except Wednesday) between Nouakchott and Nouâdhibou (UM31,000, 45 minutes), and twice a week via Zouérat (UM39,000, three hours). Tickets can be purchased at the airline's office in Nouakchott or most travel agencies.
On the plus side, roads are flat and there’s little traffic. Of course, the challenges are serious. Large distances between the relatively few settlements, lack of shade, strong winds and scarce services or infrastructure geared towards cyclists means travelling by bicycle is not for the faint hearted. You need to carry an adequate supply of food and water, protection from the sun and heat, and plan well. When in need, you can usually camp out next to a checkpoint on the road.
There are no passenger boat services operating along the Mauritanian coast.
There are no traditional buses or bus stations for long distance travel within Mauritania.
Car & Motorcycle
Mauritania's primary road network is mostly good, with tarred roads leading from the border with Western Sahara to Nouakchott, and on to the Senegalese and Malian borders at Rosso and Nioro respectively. The roads from the capital to Atâr and Tidjikja are also tarred. Elsewhere, piste is the order of the day, although great swathes of the country are little more than sandy tracks (at best). Police checkpoints abound; make your own form (fiche) to hand over.
Consider renting a 4WD and driver if you want to reach more remote parts of the country. The standard Toyota Hilux usually costs around UM21,000 per day for the vehicle, plus petrol (around UM384/L).
Mauritania is a country in love with police roadblocks, and you’ll frequently be asked to produce ID, especially when entering or leaving a town. This is usually a straightforward procedure and police are generally polite. Your details are registered, so to speed things up make your own form (fiche or ordre de mission) to hand over. List all the personal details from your passport (including visa number), home address, occupation and destination. Best to also include a photocopy of your passport's information page. If you’re driving, include your vehicle’s make, colour and registration number. Make plenty of photocopies.
Minibus & Bush Taxi
Minibus routes stitch together the main towns and cities linked by tarmac roads. Where tarmac is replaced by piste, the bush taxi (taxi brousse) – often Mercedes 190s and Peugeot 504s – take over, along with pick-up trucks for the rougher routes.
With long stretches of nothingness, including the route between Nouakchott and Nouâdhibou, basic, gritty rest stops feel like revelations of civilisation. Some, including the petrol station between the two major cities, offer food, including camel sandwiches (UM600).
The Nouâdhibou–Zouérat train is certainly an epic adventure when the security situation permits, and it is a masochists' dream. It's an iron-ore train with no passenger terminals, but it's become a passenger train for lack of better alternatives. The trip takes 16 to 18 hours, but most travellers get off at Choûm (close to Atâr), 12 hours from Nouâdhibou.