Crime rates in Mali are not high but you should take sensible precautions. Do not carry valuables in public.
There have been incidents of armed banditry, carjacking, and kidnap by extremist groups in northern Mali, including the brief capture of tourists north of Timbuktu by a heavily armed extremist group in January 2004, and earlier instances of banditry between Douentza and Mopti/Sevare. Because of the increased risk of banditry and kidnap travel to the north of Timbuktu, the western border area with Mauritania and the eastern border with Niger is not advised. Bandits and smugglers are also active across the Algeria-Mali-Niger border and constitute a real risk to travellers, especially after dark. You should be vigilant, especially when travelling in the north.
It is strongly advised against travelling outside Bamako after dark.
We found the fastest visa response ever from the Honorary Consul in Basle, Switzerland. He returned our passports by return post. BUT you need to send actual money with your passport! Its best to send 50 SWISS FRANCS. they don't accept cheques! You also need tosend a stamped addressed enveloppe. for return postage. You should also make sure that your passport is valid for at least six more months.
You can print out the forms on the consul website
Honorary Consulate of Mali
Spalenberg 25, Ch-4001 Basle, Switzerland
A list of all consular and embassy sites for Mali is available at:
Do not underestimate the importance of well-worn walking boots. I thought mine were, but what I didn't take into consideration, was the fact that my feet swelled enormously in the heat which resulted in 14 blisters.
Pack plenty of Compeed. Duct tape is another good idea - great for protecting the feet where the skin hasn't broken yet, or to hold other plasters in place! I also ended up losing three toe-nails.
Towards the end of the dry season, the water in the Niger River becomes dangerously low, and sand banks begin to apprear in the middle of the watercourse. The captains try to steer clear of these hazards, but every now and again you nedd to get out and drag the boat of the bank. As you can see from the picture, the water is only waist deep.
There are a couple of sttep drops to look down upon during the trek, and the walks involving these should not be undertaken by someone suffering from vertigo. Parts of the descent is on roughly hewn ladders and scrambling over loose rocks. Little children scamper around your feet wanting to help you (for a price of course) - I found them more of a nuisance than help as they seemed to be standing exactly where I wanted to put my feet!
Many of Mali's roads, outside the highways, are merely sandy tracks. Often vehicles will be stuck in the soft sand, and everyone must get out to push, often with the help of other motorists and passers by.
While we were there, a new road to Bandiagara was under construction - this should now be finsihed - making the journey to the Dogon area much faster and more comfortable.
This is not really a warning or danger, just a reminder, but I didn't know where else to put it.
Everyone (except nationals of the West African states) needs a visa to enter Mali. There are no embassies in the UK, the nearest are either France or Belgium.
Once in Mali, you need to register with the police in all major twon, who will stamp your passport.
Hippos kill more people in Africa every year than any other animals. (except perhaps the mosquito). This was clearly embedded in my mind when I woke up one morning, having spent the night in my sleeping bag under the stars along the banks of the River Niger. I had heard strange chomping noises in the night, but with no ambient light, and being too lazy to get up and switch my torch on, I just ignored it. I was therefore horrified to discover, just a mere 50 yards away, a group of hippos grazing on the river bank!
We saw many hippos on our three day boat rtip between Mopti and Timbuktu!
The hot, sand-laden wind from the Sahara generally blows from March to June, raising the temperature considerably. It can at best be an interesting experience, at worst, terrifying. Along the banks of the Niger one evening, we had to sit in the tents to stop them blowing away. One particularly petite girl, was being lifted off the ground in her tent! The sand hits you like tiny bullets - most uncomfortable - and makes it very difficult to breathe!
The dust caused from the Harmatten can be a real nuisance, getting in your nose, ears and mouth, not to mention your camera! 300 million tonnes of dust is created each year by the Sahara, most of it blown across West Africa by the harmattan. This can cause a lot of difficulties for contact-lens wearers as well as respiratory problems - colds/bronchitis is common in travellers.
The temperature in Mali is nearly always hot, dry and dusty. During the dry season - between November and June - temperatures can reach in excess of 50ºC. We went in early March, the end of the alize winds which brings with them cooler weather - supposedly. The temperature reached 46ºC in the shade, and there is precious little shade whilst trekking in the Bandiagara Escarpment.
Trekking usually starts around 06.00 in the morning to get a good start before it heats up at lunchtime. A long siesta (3-4 hours) is followed by a further 3 hours walk or so in the afternoon. Even at night the temperature remained high, and we often found it more pleasant to sleep under the stars rather than in a stifling tent.
You probably already know it but i'll say it whatever : be very careful of what you drink and eat. When you're going to a restaurant even if it's an european restaurant avoid row fruits and vegetables.
Whereever you go never never drink anything else than bottled water or sodas.
Even being careful it took me two month to really recover from my 3 month trip in Mali !!!!
There are quite a few roads that are not paved, especially when you are heading north, so please drive carefully, take sandshields with you and one or two spare tires at least!
4WD is essential in some regions, so a good preparation is very important!
Is falling in love with a country and wanting to help a danger? Well, but it made my life so rich, that I would want you all to experience the same! If you are curious, please have a look at my Fatoumata travellogue....
Be very careful accepting local food. Be sure that your chicken-rice is fresh and well boiled or fried! Stomach problem are common as it is hot and sanitary conditions are poor. Sealed mineral water is available in every village but you will probably get only half bucket of water to do your morning and evening toilette
Make sure you get all of your vaccinations up to date before you go to Mali. Yellow Fever is mandatory to get into the country. Malaria is very important as there are a LOT of mosquitos at night. If you're not used to extreme temperatures, you should also have purified water readily available. It is recommended that tourists not drink the water, even if the local people are drinking it, as it may contain bacteria that our bodies are not equipt to deal with.
ACI 2000, Hamdallaye, (formerly Radisson SAS), Bamako, 2566, Mali
Good for: Couples
A large hotel built in the 1950s and renovated in the 1980s. There is a swimming pool which is among...more
Now Libyan owned and abandoned by the Sofitel hotel chain, the lobby in the late afternoon and...more
More Regions in Mali