10 tips for visiting Mauritania

1. Any car with a taxi sign or any Mercedes 190 on the street is a taxi, but all will not take female passengers. If you are the first one in the car, you pay 200 ouguiya. If there are already people there you normally pay 100 ouguiya. But never pay more than 200.

2. If you’re a woman: Don’t attempt to shake hands with a man unless he offers you the hand himself. Many people are religious here and due to their religion women can be dirty (you never know whether they’re on their period or not).

3. The water isn’t poison. Lots of westerners here don’t drink the tap water, but I tell you it is ok. What you should take extra care for are the vegetables, but as long as you wash them (as you probably do at home also) it’s no problem.

4. When you enter a shop or a taxi it is polite to say salaam aleikum. Some will ask you why you speak Arabic when you’re not Arabic. Most will just be flattered.

5. Go to the desert in the east, there’s a lot of history there and the culture is very different from by the coast. The children will call you Mezrani (white person) and ask for cadeaux since there used to be many tourists there who would give the children small gifts. As the tourists almost stopped coming so did the cadeaux.

6. If you’re a woman it is polite to wear a headscarf, at least when visiting the countryside, but not compulsory.

7. Don’t be shy to try the different foods, but expect some trouble if you’re a vegetarian or especially vegan. Usually there is only one option to choose from at the restaurants. Maffe (rice with peanut sauce) without meat is good but don’t be picky. To buy food at the market and prepare yourself is a good choice.

8. Ask a local for the real price if you are unsure when buying. One kg oranges cost 400 ouguiya, bananas and apples are generally pretty expensive, about 500 ouguiya per kg. One bread cost 100 ouguiya and eggs are 50 ouguiya per egg.

9. Cover your skin. Even though it may be hot during the day it is the best way to avoid the worst hassle. Though, if you have light skin, light hair and light eyes, there will be some hassles anyway. You will find some people saying it is not true, everyone has different experiences.

10. Don’t be afraid. Most people won’t hassle you if you tell them not to, and hardly any will want to harm you. Mauritania is safer than many western countries if you ask me.

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