We would love to explore more of Africa and are hoping to plan a Mauritania holiday in the next year or so. We are so grateful to have this cost of travel breakdown from Trina and Tim from Team Hazard, who are sharing their cost of travel tips for Mauritania.
We know planning and budgeting a trip can be a challenge, which is why we are sharing these cost of travel guides from those locals and travellers, so you can plan your dream trip without worrying about over spending.
The exchange rate at the time of publishing (April 2020): $1 USD = 0.92€ EUR = 80p GBP
Mauritania Holiday Planning
Mauritania is a land of desert, desert and more desert. It truly lives and breathes the Sahara. It’s a dry world where people take a little time to get used to you and speaking some French or Arabic goes a long way for making an easier trip.
Not much is easy here, though. Traveling in Mauritania is both a step back in time and a deep dive into a very non-western culture. There is little, to no, tourist infrastructure; there are private guides and drivers to the interesting places, but you’re not going to find a first class tourist bus with cushy seats and air conditioning to take you from Nouakchott to Atar, or anywhere else for that matter.
As Mauritania is a country that’s just shedding its security warnings (starting late 2018), you should be prepared with many copies of your passport, b/w is fine. Military checkpoints are plentiful. There were seven between Nouakchott and Nouadhibou alone, and you’ll need to give each of them a copy, going both directions.
Note: They used to ask for fiches with more detailed information, but when we were there in December 2018, the process had been simplified to passport photocopies. Some bus companies will provide these for you, but it’s best to have your own stash because you don’t always know where a checkpoint will be, no matter how remote the location.
Using Booking.com as our source for Nouakchott, there isn’t anything in a true budget range and this surprised us a little bit. In fact, overall, Mauritania is more expensive than we expected it to be.
Prices are noted in USD
Backpacker – Non-existent (except at Bab Sahara in Atar – see below)
Budget Hotel – $40-60
Mid-Range Hotel – $65-85
High End – $90-145
The budget hotels are mediocre to good. We can’t directly report on mid- and high-end because those were beyond our budget.
After Nouakchott, we didn’t use Booking.com again. In Nouadhibou, where we went to see the shipwrecks, we had a driver helping us and he drove around until we found a suitably affordable place with food in easy walking distance. It was nice all around.
There were two wonderful accommodations during our time in Mauritania. We found both of these places by word-of-mouth via other travelers and FB groups.
The first is Bab Sahara in Atar. Run by an awesome Dutch couple, this place is everything you want to come back to at the end of a long day in the desert. They have accommodation for every price range ($10-45), from camping, to nomad tents, on up to a very comfy stone hut with a ceiling fan, window screens and a private bathroom (still in budget range). The compound is a wonderful retreat and the surrounding area is great to walk around for photography and getting to see people in their everyday lives. The food is top-notch as well.
The second great place is Rose des Sables in Chinguetti. It’s a traditional auberge, meaning all of the rooms surround a central courtyard. The bathroom facilities are separate from the rooms, but they’re spacious and clean. The owner is great and helped us a lot when my husband experienced some health problems. This is THE place to go in Chinguetti.
Shared taxis which mostly exist in Nouakchott are very cheap, pocket change, if you can manage using their routes. They are not door-to-door.
Honestly, we either walked, or got a ride, so I don’t know the set-up for private taxis but considering the price of other things, I can’t imagine them being more than $1-2.
Buses are really minivans and they cover the long routes from Nouakchott to Nouadhibou, or Atar, for a very reasonable, $12-15 for the 5-6 hour ride. The seats are assigned so it pays to buy a day ahead if you can, though the front bench is often reserved for Muslim women, depending on the company.
These bus rides are fine, but the one or two stops are not the most luxurious. They’re not usually more than a strip of businesses along the highway. Bathrooms range from okay, to sketchy, and mostly of the squat toilet variety, or you can use a discreet bit of roadside. If you have concerns about these things, discuss it with them. They might be able to make special arrangements, or consider hiring a private car.
The two highways, between Nouakchott and Noaudhibou, and Nouakchott and Atar, are well-paved with only a few rough spots. They are the only long distance roads that are paved at all, however. Anything off these roads generally requires a 4×4. And if you haven’t driven on piste in the desert and deep sand, it’s best to hire a driver for whatever excursions you want to do.
In hiring a 4×4, be ready to negotiate, or book through Bab Sahara. Their prices are fair and their driver is vetted, friendly, and will stop to make some great nomad tea while checking the air pressure in the tires.
Food and drink costs
Food is interesting in Mauritania. Part of the reason things are expensive is that almost nothing is produced in-country. Almost everything is imported. So the places that make quality food, the ones that cater to travelers, tend to charge the same kinds of prices you’d find in the US and Europe. That can mean meals anywhere from $9-20 per person for an average, but it’s a good meal. These would be meals at our accommodations or in mid-level restaurants. There are fancy restaurants that cost somewhat more.
We did find a local shop in Nouakchott that made sandwiches for about $2-4 each. They were good, but inconsistent. I could order the same thing twice in a row, and get two very different sandwiches depending on who was in the kitchen. These shops aren’t plentiful, so finding one will depend on where you’re located.
Activities and attractions
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