My arrival into Mauritania in July 2022 was a completely spontaneous accident, it was another completely wacaday journey for me. I was supposed to be in Poland. But my lifestyle has never been predictable or obvious. Here I was in The Sahara Desert again. This defied belief yet one more time, and proof that life is never simple in my world.
“I can’t sleep because the world won’t wait” – Noel Gallagher.
This was yet another crazy full circle for me because in May 2016 on my Secret Senegal tour I had already “been” in Mauritania. That remained the only country I was officially in that I never counted as backpacking it. You see, I had an hour in Noukachott International Airport as a stopover on that trip, though I never left the aeroplane. For prosterity here is a photo of me actually in Mauritania in 2016.
Now in July 2022, fast forwarding 6 years and 2 months later, I was here for real and ended up backpacking through Nouakchott, Nouadhibou, Choum, Atar, Akjoujit, Adrar and Bou Lanouar. How I ended up here was absolutely ridiculous.
My Flight Into Mauritania
Back in 2016, my flight in was Istanbul to Nouakchott. That was a regular flight with Turkish Airlines, which stopped in Nouakchott and then connected to Dakar in Senegal.
Here in 2022, more crazy stuff happened. My flight in was cancelled the day before the flight. Cancelled completely. I was supposed to fly direct from Gran Canaria in The Canary Islands 🇮🇨 to Nouakchott! I was supposed to be on the 21:40 flight, arriving in Mauritania at 22.30, a short 50 minute flight, makes sense.
So that above image was my supposed flight, until I received the below email to say that it was cancelled completely…
Despite the fact that the Canary Islands are nice, and sentimental for me, I now had to either book an emergency flight into Mauritania, or cancel the plans I had made with a tour company there and forget about the trip. I’m too determined. I don’t give up.
I was sitting by the beach in Puerto del Rosario, capital city of Fuerteventura the day before my supposed flight into Mauritania. Luckily, I found a WiFi bar there called El Mirador.
I spent two hours in here at El Mirador, on pizza and beer looking for another flight option. Ridiculously the cheapest and easiest one I found was via Casablanca in Morocco. Casablanca is further north of Mauritania than The Canary Islands!! It would also mean that I would be in Casablanca four times, having once backpacked its sights on Christmas Day. So I booked this new double flight. It just meant I’d arrive 3 hours later, in essence cutting a 4 day trip into a 3 day trip.
And then after all that, Air Mauritania emailed to say that my original flight was NOT cancelled and was back on with a new time. Dear Lord, I couldn’t believe it. I now had TWO flights into Mauritania at almost the same time on the same night. And they did that on a What’s App message!! It was ridiculous – they were using 4 different methods of communication and I now had two flights in…at least I knew I was going to Mauritania.
Flying Into Mauritania
So after all that crazy halliballoo, I boarded my flight to Mauritania from Casablanca in Morocco to land in the early hours of the morning – just about 3-4 hours later than originally intended. I hadn’t sorted my visa, but I had read you could get a Mauritania Visa on arrival on a Northern Irish passport. The flight took around 2 hours and food was served.
Visa On Arrival Information for Mauritania
There are only a select few countries which DO NOT need a visa to visit Mauritania. As of August 2022, citizens of the following 8 countries can visit Mauritania without a visa for up to 90 days:
I read that I could get a visa on arrival and as of August 2022, all other nationalities also can, it appears. It doesn’t mention that Israel are exempt, however interestingly Italians who have a diplomatic passport still need a visa. All other diplomats are exempt.
You must pay in cash for the visa. It’s either 55 Euros or 55 US Dollars. Both are okay but nothing else is. Sometimes, the visa issuing process at the border can take several hours. Please note that the Mauritanian Embassy in London does not issue visas. You land, are taken to immigration and here there are two queues. Queue one is for residents/those who already have a visa or those who simply don’t need a visa.
Queue Two is for those needing a visa, like me. The queue was long but I joined. I filled the immigration and visa forms while I waited in the queue. Filling them in took me two minutes. The queue took about 35 minutes. I met a lady from Chile and her daughter plus a gentleman from Spain and then I was ushered into a booth. The visa forms can be in Arabic, French or English.
Getting The Mauritania Visa On Arrival
You pay the money – cash only in Euros (55) or US Dollars (60). You get your photo taken and that is the photo that appears on the visa. You also get all 8 fingerprints and 2 thumbprints taken. It’s a smooth and easy process. The border agent then prints the visa and places it in your passport. Then you take your immigration form, passport with visa to the border control. They asked me about purpose of my trip and where I will stay. Just tell them you are a tourist, give the hotel name (for the first night) and that’s it.
You get stamped on entry into Mauritania and voila! The visa is valid for thirty days – mine was on my Northern Irish passport.
In Mauritania I backpacked through Nouakchott, Nouadhibou, Choum, Atar, Akjoujit, Adrar and Bou Lanouar. I took the famous railway there. It’s the world’s longest train and it runs from the Sahara Desert to the Atlantic Ocean carrying iron ore. The country felt very very welcoming and safe. It was much nicer to me than Togo, Benin, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Morocco, The Gambia and Western Sahara!
Here are a few videos of my trip to Mauritania: