Safety in Mali

Until recently Mali was one of the most popular destinations in West Africa thanks to its rich history and stunning landscapes, but that all changed in 2012, when militants took over northern Mali following the collapse of neighbouring Libya. Armed rebels from the Tuareg ethnic group, many of whom had been fighting for Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, returned to Mali; and with the help of al-Qaeda-backed Islamists declared an independent state in the north, something that separatists had been calling for decades. The Islamists imposed Sharia law and many of Timbuktu’s finest ancient artefacts and manuscripts were destroyed. Meanwhile fighting broke out between the Tuaregs and Islamists when they couldn’t agree on how their new state should be managed.
Troops from France, as well as other African nations, arrived in early 2013, driving the Islamists into the desert; and the UN brokered a peace deal between the government and rebellious Tuareg armed groups in 2015. Despite this, there has been occasional violence by Tuareg rebels, the desert is largely ungoverned and al-Qaeda-linked militants have continued to carry out attacks, most recently at a military camp in Gao in January 2017, and at Le Campement Kangaba resort east of Bamako in June 2017. A state of emergency has been in place throughout the country since November 2015.
What do our operators say?

What do our operators say?

One of our UK based tour operator continues to run small group trips to Mali, taking in Bamako, Djenné and Dogon country, and going as far up as Mopti. They don’t go any further north, however, and consider Timbuktu unsafe to visit at the moment. Our other UK based operator, is still organising travelers going to the south of Mali. They say that the desert is out of bounds and they won't send anyone east of Mopti other than by river, but Bamako, Segou, Mopti, Djenné and the Dogon Country are OK. They can also arrange travel to Timbuktu on a tailor made basis through trusted local guides. The risk of banditry means it's not possible to drive to there, but you can fly by small chartered plane or go by river. Our Mali based operator can also arrange tailor made travel in the country, including to Timbuktu.
FCO advice

What does the UK Foreign Office say?

FCO advice currently warns against all travel in northern Mali north of Segou and against all but essential travel in the south of the country. They say that the provinces of Tombouctou, Kidal, Gao and Mopti are totally off limits due to the risk of kidnapping and terrorist attack.

Our top Mali Vacation

Cultural tour of Mali

Cultural tour of Mali

Experience the magic of Mali's landscapes and people

From 2350 15 days ex flights
Tailor made:
Departs every Saturday throughout the year
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Mali or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

What about insurance?

Getting comprehensive travel insurance is crucial when planning a trip abroad. If you're still keen to visit Mali despite UK government warnings, getting travel insurance has to be a priority. Campbell Irvine Direct, who we work with, offers specially tailored policies for people traveling to countries which have FCO travel warnings in place, and often cover our travelers when other insurance companies won't. You could, for example, be offered a policy that will cover you for illness, accident and theft – but it won’t cover you in the event of war, rebellion or terrorism.
Are festivals still running?

Are festivals still running?

Mali’s legendary Festival in the Desert, which had attracted Malian nomads and music fans from across the globe since 2001, has been out of action over the past few years. In 2010, it was moved from its secluded location in Essakane to the outskirts of Timbuktu because of security concerns. In 2012, the festival was forced into exile completely by Islamic extremists and has been kept out ever since. Due to return in 2017, it was cancelled after suicide bombers attacked a military camp in the city of Gao in January of that year, killing at least 77 people and wounding more than 100 others.
Until the security situation stabilises, music lovers will have to head for the Festival sur le Niger, which takes place in Ségou along the banks of the Niger every February and has done for the past 14 years. The attractions include traditional dances and performances, theatre, plays and music showcases.
Written by Nana Luckham
Photo credits: [Page banner: magharebia] [Top box: Magharebia ] [What do our operators say: Magharebia] [What does the foreign office say: Magharebia] [Are festivals still running?: Gina Gleeson]