Mauritania

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Flag of Mauritania Mauritania
Information
Language: Arabic (Hassaniya) and French
Capital: Nouakchott
Population: 3,205,060
Currency: Ouguiya (MRO)
Hitchability: <rating country='mr' />
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<map lat="20.762009857693" lng="-10.355950922706" zoom="5" view="0" />


The longest train in the world, which runs from Nouadhibou to Choum and Zouerate

Mauritania is a very dry country on the west coast of West Africa, south from Western Sahara, north from Senegal and Mali. Mauritania doesn't seem to be a good place for hitchhiking, at least in the conventional sense. The majority of vehicles are shared taxis and many private vehicles which stop will charge the same rates. Still it is possible to cross the country by hitchhiking; the main roads (Nouakchott-Nouadhibou, Nouakchott-Nema and Nouakchott-Rosso, possibly Nouakchott-Atar as well) are certainly hitchable, be it with overlanders, Euro-African car traders who bring vehicles to West Africa, or just nice Mauritanians curious about meeting Europeans.

In southern Mauritania on the road to Mali, around Kiffa and Ayoun el-Atrous hitchhiking is much harder than in other parts of the country. People there really don't understand hitchhiking and even after long explaining of what you're doing they'll take you to the bus station. Even the police/army/gendarmerie checkpoints are somewhat harder there. Officers are able to wait for bribes for hours, force you out of the car for "safety" reasons and next day force another driver to take you. It doesn't feel very comfortable but it's certainly possible to hitch through.

Whenever hitchhiking in Mauritania, police check points will play an important role. Depending on your luck, the mood of the check point's commander and a million other factors, they will think you're great, invite you for food, give you stuff and even try to find rides for you, or tell you that you absolutely can't hitchhike from there, either because it is illegal or just because it is "not normal" or "not safe", and you might be forced to take a taxi. When you're hitching with Mauritanians (except maybe if it is a taxi taking you for free, which also happens), be prepared for the police going incredible lengths to make sure you're safe and everything is in order - when Zenit was hitchhiking from Rosso to Nouakchott with three Mauritanian agronomists, police sent the whole car all the way back to Rosso after three quarters of the way (150km) so the region's police chief (who had come to the station from his home for the occasion) could personally make sure Zenit was in the car voluntarily. Also, at every checkpoint (which are really numerous in Mauritania), Zenit was asked to step out of the car and taken aside to ask about the ride and to take all the information, including the car's Chassis number and the driver's phone number at one point.

In 2016, police checkpoints are much less strict, probably because there have been no reports of kidnappings or similar incidents in recent years, and the situation in the region seems to have calmed down in general.

It should be possible to hitch to Mauritania from the consulate in Rabat, Morocco, with overlanders calling in to get their visas, or from southern Morocco. You can also get into Mauritania with Mauritanian traders, who can be found opposite the first police checkpoint north of Dakhla. The price for a journey to Nouadhibou is currently 250-380Dhs (negotiable). Another option are Moroccan vegetable trucks leaving from Agadir or Marrakech.

The train from Nouadhibou to Choum and Zouerate is free if you ride in an ore hopper - most passengers do anyway.

I've found it very easy to hitch over short distances, maybe up to 10 km further than that payment is expected. However I did hitch with a general from the Mauritanian Army from Atar to Nouakchott, he even insisted on paying a hotel for us halfway.

Cities

Border crossing

Be aware of mines in the border region to Western Sahara. Don't leave the road there. Do not accept guides offering to take you across for a small fee, the road is clearly visible, walkable and you will only get ripped off.

Be wary on the border to Senegal if you cross at Rosso, there's many hustlers there (even though they mainly target people in cars). You should also have your vaccination certificate ready (they check for yellow fever), or be prepared to shed some money or a lot of time, possibly both.

To Mali you have to go to Ayoun first and then south to Gogui. It's probably the only not-a-dirt road, there are no problems at the crossing.