If you’re the type of person who wants to travel to exotic, warm places and wants to explore the Saharan desert, the savannas and see in person, the wild African animals that you have only seen in documentaries, then you would think visiting Mali would be the place where you could find all of these.
Mali is the 8th largest country in Africa and is located in the West, next to Niger, Algeria, Mauritania and Ghana and it would constitute a wonderful experience if you are passionate about the African history, culture, and people. It has points of attractions such as Grand Mosque of Djenné, Boucle du Baoulé National Park, National Museum of Mali, National Park of Mali, Bandiagara Cliffs, Djinguereber Mosque, Tomb of Aski and the capital of Bamako which is also the largest city in the country. Not to mention Mali has 4 attraction points which are listed in the UNESCO patrimony due to their high historical importance.
However, according to Trip Advisory, Mali is listed on the Do Not Travel list of countries due to high risk of crime, terrorism, kidnappings, and robbery.
In this article, we will discuss the potential risks that come when traveling to this country and we will provide you with some piece of advice in order to enjoy your experience if you ever decide to visit it.
Risks you Are Exposed to When Visiting Mali
Overall Risk in Mali: HIGH
It is highly dangerous to travel to Mali because the risks of crime and terrorism are really high. Incidents like really violent crimes and robberies are happening on a daily basis so the recommendation is not to visit the country.
Furthermore, there is a security risk that needs to be taken into consideration due to all the instability that is happening in Mali regarding terrorism and crimes. Other things that cause the risks here are the constant protests and political demonstrations that should be avoided at all costs because they tend to get extremely violent.
It is advised to be really careful and be prepared for any scenario that can take place. For instance, it is recommended to have a food and water supply in case of any disturbances take place. Moreover, watch the news every day to look for any updates in order to make sure what period of the year would be the most suitable for your trip. The holiday season is the one that should be avoided at all costs due to the high risks of thefts, armed robbery, and other crimes.
Additionally, there are often incidents of terrorist attacks against crowded places such as music festivals, malls, hotels or restaurants.
Theft and Robbery Risk in Mali: MEDIUM
Even though the entire criminal activity is really high in Mali, the theft and robbery risks are not that big (as it is for terrorism). There have been incidents of armed banditry, especially in the northern part of Mali because that’s the place they usually operate – at the north border because there are a lot of travelers that are crossing it and they are at risk.
It is important to be vigilant at all costs because it is never sure where do the robbers come from. The airport is another place you should be careful – especially with your belonging – at Bamako Airport have been a lot of reported robberies and further scams on tourists.
- How to Avoid Being a Victim of Theft and Robbery in Mali?
The only way you cannot actually avoid nor being robbed or a victim of any sort of crimes is to be extremely careful. By that, we mean that you shouldn’t go out at night at any costs due to the increasing number of attacks.
Do not carry anything expensive with you when you’re out and be aware of your surroundings. If you see someone approaching you or you feel that they’re following you, you should leave that place and avoid any sort of interactions. Most of the times, there is a high chance you won’t even know that you’ve been robbed because they can be really smooth with this specific act.
Try avoiding the regions in the North, such as Mopti, Gao, and Kidal, due to the increased risk of crimes and especially terrorism. The overall advice is to be really precautious and always take care of your belonging – never leave your bag or documents unsupervised or with someone else, because you can never what will happen.
Scam Risk in Mali: MEDIUM
There have been reports on scams in Mali, especially for the foreigners such as British or Americans. Most of the time the way they can operate would be the following situation: a job offer that implies sending money over before being hired, a business proposal that can get you a lot of money if you invest something at the beginning in order to boost the business.
Moreover, there are a lot of scams happening at the airport, where the officials there might ask you for a certain amount of money because there is something wrong with your luggage or with your documents.
You should be very wary when you exchange money at the exchanger because you can be tricked in getting less money than you should – they can tell you that the exchange rate is higher than it is shown at their desk.
- How to Avoid Being a Victim of Scams in Mali?
The best recommendation in this given scenario is not to trust anybody or any sort of information that may sound “fishy” to you. This is the best way of staying safe and not interacting with individuals that don’t seem legitimate.
Moreover, if it appears that one of their local officials approaches you to ask you for money because you’ve done something wrong there, ask for an identification ID and trust the ones that have their name and their picture on it.
Terrorism Risk in Mali: HIGH
Terrorism is much likely to take place in Mali, especially in the capital, Bamako and the northern regions. The places that are extremely risky are the crowded ones such as the city Centre, hotels, and restaurants. In the year 2017, the American Embassy warned the citizens to be careful when going to the music festivals that took place in February. A month before, in January of 2017, another music festival, called The Festival au Désert that took place in Timbuktu was canceled because the security risk was too high. Keep in mind that all festivals are risky because you can never anticipate what it can possibly happen.
Additionally, terrorism usually operates on the northern borders of Mali and that area should definitely be avoided. In the past few years, there have been a lot of terrorism reports that were aimed at the foreigners and tourists. A good example in this way would be the attack from June 2017 at the Kangaba hotel, where a lot of people have been injured. Moreover, in 2015, a terrorist attack took place at the Radisson Hotel, where 19 victims were killed, including tourists.
From August to Septembers, locals choose their President so there are a lot of street demonstrations where usually terrorist attacks can occur so that is why it’s advised not to join this kind of demonstration and try to stay as far as possible from them.
- How to Avoid Being a Terrorism Victim in Mali?
As usual, the best way of avoiding being a victim of terrorist attacks is to stay away from large groups of people and large gatherings because you can never anticipate what is going to happen in the next hour or so, as things can get really “fluid” in Mali – at one point everyone can seem really peaceful and after a few hours a terrorist attack can take place.
Even though terrorist attacks in Mali are only meant to express an opinion regarding politics or any other belief regarding the locals, foreigners can be at a high risk as well so do not feel like you are not targeted because you can be.
The Jihadist threat is present at all times, but you should check for recent attacks before deciding on visiting these places, Try to avoid cities like Gao, Kidal, In Khalil and especially the capital, Bamako, which is the most vulnerable to these sorts of attacks.
Kidnapping Risk in Mali: HIGH
There is a high risk of being kidnapped in Mali by the Al Qaeda group and other Islamist groups that run in northern areas of Mali. For this area and the capital, there is advised for the foreigners to only travel if they really want to and not go there as tourists because they can be at a high risk.
A large number of Western nationals have been kidnapped and some of them were killed – there were journalists and tourists and some non-governmental organization workers.
The entire country is at risk because they can travel on a long distance in order to carry on a kidnapping so you should be vigilant at all costs by your surroundings because you never know when something like this can take place.
- How to Avoid Being a Kidnapping Victim in Mali?
There are some ways you can avoid this to happen, one of them being to avoid all areas that are highly dangerous in order to minimize the risk.
With that being said, there will always be a risk of being kidnapped but there are certain places that aren’t as dangerous as the Northern region, such as Bougouni or Kita (they are smaller cities that will feel a little bit safer)
Women Traveling Solo Risks in Mali: HIGH
It is not recommended for women to travel alone in Mali because it can get very dangerous for them. This applies to all genders, but nobody, especially women should walk alone on the streets of Mali, because they can seem like they are very easy targets for crimes, robbery, and even kidnapping.
Sometimes there isn’t a specific motive for it, but there have been a lot of reports where women have been attacked by the locals.
If a woman really has to travel and walk by herself in Mali, she should at least go to places where she feels safe, where she sees police and that is being lit properly and don’t look sketchy.
Moreover, as the general advice for any country is, try not to trust anybody as in accept drinks from them or walk with strangers that might tell you they will walk you home. Any activity similar to this is extremely dangerous.
It is recommended to be vigilant and use your instincts, because certain people might not be dangerous, and we are not trying to say that every single citizen from Mali can and will harm you, because that isn’t true at all. Sometimes it’s good to see how the people are acting towards you and what they really want from you.
Try dressing as simple as possible and do not wear any clothes that might be too “revealing” in order to avoid more hassle. Additionally, do not wear any earrings, bracelets, necklaces or jewelry in general, especially if they are made of gold to avoid any incidents even more.
- How to Avoid Being a Victim in Mali?
It is advised to try as much as possible to not walk alone at night because it can be very risky for you. As a woman, you can also be exposed to scams and other criminal acts because you can be more vulnerable.
Moreover, if you are in a situation similar to what we’ve stated above, try getting out of it by announcing the local police or any natives because they can help you.
Dangerous Areas to Be Avoided in Mali
From what we’ve said, there are a lot of areas that should never be visited, especially the western areas like Tessalit, Kidal, Gao, Mopti, and Tombouctou. These areas are advised against all traveling while areas like Segou, Kayes, Koulikoro, and Bamako should only be visited for essential traveling like business related gatherings.
There are a lot of spots that can be avoided due to the criminal acts that increased over the years. For instance, in 2017 a lot of terrorist attacks took place in the areas of Le Campement Resort and in Bamako, the United States of America issued a security message that claimed that there is very risky to travel here.
Overall, is it Mali safe to visit? The answer is that for certain areas it is not safe at all due to the increase terrorism and banditry. It is good to know that you should never, as a tourist, visit the Northern part of Mali, because it was under the control of Islamist rebels, that have very specific laws that can harm you.
You should be vigilant at all times, especially when you are out on the streets, in train, buses or even taxis. Moreover, the Bamuku area is very well known for thefts and you should stay away from commuting from one city to another as much as possible.
When deciding on going on a trip to Mali, you should do all the needed research on what places you should visit and how safe is they in order to make sure that nothing will harm you.