Last Updated: Feb 23, 2011
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in Mali, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. In some places you may be taken in for questioning if you don’t have your passport with you. In some places driving under the influence could land you immediately in jail. These criminal penalties will vary from country to country. There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States, and you can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. If you break local laws in Mali, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not where you are going. Persons violating Mali’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Mali are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. 

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SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Mali is a signatory to the Treaty on Cultural Property, which restricts exportation of Malian archeological objects, in particular those from the Niger River Valley. Visitors seeking to export any such property are required by Malian law to obtain an export authorization from the National Museum in Bamako. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Mali in Washington or the nearest Malian consulate for specific information regarding customs requirements. U.S. Customs and Border Protection may impose corresponding import restrictions in accordance with the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act.

Currency exchange facilities are slow and often use out-of-date exchange rates. The U.S. embassy is unable to provide exchange facilities for private U.S. citizens. There are a few ATMs in Bamako that accept U.S. citizens’ credit/debit cards. Maximum withdrawals are generally limited to $400, and local banks charge up to $20 per transaction for use of their ATMs. There are no ATMs outside of Bamako. Credit cards are accepted only at the largest hotels, a few travel agencies (for an extra fee), and very few select restaurants. Cash advances from credit cards are only available via Western Union in Mali.

The U.S. Embassy does not always receive timely notification by Malian authorities of the arrest of U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their passport with them at all times, so that proof of identity and citizenship are readily available in the event of questioning by local authorities. If arrested, U.S. citizens should always politely insist that they be allowed to contact the U.S. Embassy (see section on Smart Traveler Program Enrollment/Embassy Location above).

Visitors should exercise caution when taking photographs in Mali. Photographing any official object, entity, or person is restricted. These restrictions include infrastructure, facilities, government buildings, as well as individuals. You should obtain explicit permission from the Malian government before photographing transportation facilities and government buildings. Taking a photograph without permission in any public area or around any of the above listed facilities often provokes a prompt response from security personnel or may offend the people being photographed. Taking photos of the U.S. Embassy in Bamako is prohibited.

International telephone calls are expensive, and collect calls cannot be made from outside of Bamako.

Accessibility: While in Mali, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what you find in the United States.

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MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Medical facilities in Mali are extremely limited, especially outside of Bamako. Psychiatric care to the same standard as that practiced in the United States does not exist. The U.S. Embassy in Bamako maintains a list of physicians and other healthcare professionals who have indicated willingness to treat U.S. citizen patients. The Embassy is unable to recommend medical professionals or facilities. 

Most U.S. medicines are unavailable; European medications are more easily found, and can be obtained at pharmacies throughout Bamako, and are usually less expensive than those in the United States Travelers should carry with them an adequate supply of needed medication and prescription drugs, along with copies of the prescriptions, including the generic names for the drugs. Be careful to avoid purchasing potentially dangerous counterfeit medications when buying on the local market in Mali. 

You can find good information on vaccinations and other health precautions, on the CDC website.  For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.

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MEDICAL INSURANCE: You can’t assume your insurance will go with you when you travel. It’s very important to find out BEFORE you leave. You need to ask your insurance company two questions:

In many places, doctors and hospitals still expect payment in cash at the time of service. Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctors’ and hospital visits in other countries. If your policy doesn’t cover you when you travel, it is critical that you purchase travel insurance with evacuation coverage for your trip, and carry the insurance information with you. For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.

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TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Mali is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

U.S. citizens traveling by road in Mali should exercise extreme caution. Mali has paved roads leading from Bamako to most major cities in the south. During the rainy season from mid-June to mid-September, some unpaved roads may be impassable. On many roads outside of the capital, deep sand and ditches are common. Four-wheel drive vehicles with spare tires and emergency equipment are recommended. Travelers must be prepared to repair their own vehicles should they break down or become stuck. Travelers should also carry plenty of food and water.

The U.S. Embassy strongly urges all travelers to avoid traveling after dark on roads outside of urban centers. The roads from Gao to Kidal and Menaka, and the roads around Timbuktu, are desert tracks with long isolated stretches. Travel on these roads is strongly discouraged due to the threat of kidnapping and terrorism (see threats to Safety and Security section above).

Drivers travel on the right-hand side of the road in Mali. Speed limits range from 40-60 km per hour (25-40 miles per hour) within towns, to 100 km per hour (60 miles per hour) between cities. Road conditions often require much lower speeds. Due to safety concerns, the Embassy recommends against the use of motorbikes, van taxis, and public transportation. Excessive speeds, poorly maintained vehicles, lack of street lighting and roving livestock pose serious road hazards. Many vehicles are not well-maintained, and headlights are either extremely dim or not used at all, while rear lights or reflectors are often missing or broken. Driving conditions in the capital of Bamako can be particularly dangerous due to limited street lighting, the absence of sidewalks for pedestrians, and the number of motorcycles, mopeds and bicycles.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.

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AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: Because there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Mali, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Mali’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. Further information may be found on the FAA's website.

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CHILDREN’S ISSUES: For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.

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This replaces the Country Specific Information for Mali dated June 16, 2010, to update all sections.

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