Read the Department of State’s Travel Advisory for Mali and Worldwide Caution before planning travel to Mali.
Lawlessness and Instability: Mali faces significant security challenges. A disparate group of militias, bandits, politically motivated armed groups, and extremists exert influence in wide swathes of northern and central Mali. Malian state presence—including law enforcement, schools, and other public services—generally does not exist in those areas outside of major cities. The northern parts of the country continue to be plagued by insecurity due to terrorism and ongoing military operations, while central Mali–in the Segou and Mopti Regions–is unstable due to violent intercommunal conflict, instigated by terrorist groups, and armed attacks.
Terrorism: Travelers should avoid travel outside of Bamako because of insecurity and ongoing military operations. Terrorist groups with varying degrees of allegiance to al-Qa’ida and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) operate in Mali and often pursue local agendas complementary to these global jihadist movements. Groups linked with al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which have merged under the banner of Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM), remain active and routinely conduct attacks targeting international and Malian military forces. These groups have claimed responsibility for small arms and improvised explosive attacks, kidnappings, and other violent actions, including attacks on the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).
French troops, in collaboration with Malian security forces, conduct counterterrorism operations that target extremist elements. However, these foreign forces’ presence is not sufficient to counter every threat. Attacks by violent Islamist extremist groups have spread beyond the traditional conflict zone in the north to the center and south of the country. The area along the border with Burkina Faso and some remote parts of southern Mali are increasingly under threat of attack.
In Bamako, hotels, restaurants, and other areas where Westerners congregate may be targeted by extremists. On June 18, 2017 terrorists attacked Hotel Kangaba, a popular destination for westerners and expatriates on the outskirts of Bamako, killing five civilians and one Malian first responder.
Kidnapping: The threat of kidnapping of Westerners by criminal or terrorist groups remains high throughout the region. Extortion and kidnapping for ransom are significant sources of financing for JNIM-affiliated groups. In one exchange in 2020, JNIM released four hostages, including a Malian politician and three Westerners, for the release of some 200 prisoners held by Malian authorities. JNIM had executed another Western hostage shortly before the exchange.
Travel Restrictions for U.S. Government Employees: U.S. government employees must seek permission before traveling outside of Bamako. They are also prohibited from using public transportation outside of Bamako. Although these restrictions do not apply to private U.S. citizens, you should take them into account when traveling in Mali.
Civil Unrest: Periodic street demonstrations occur throughout Mali. Although some are planned and peaceful, demonstrations can occur spontaneously and turn violent. The majority of these are contained by security forces, but U.S. citizens should avoid street demonstrations and maintain security awareness at all times. Mali also has been subject to periodic coups, the most recent of which occurred in August 2020.
Crime: Criminal traffickers of all kinds operate throughout the Sahel and may respond violently if encountered. Violent crimes are frequent; U.S. citizens should maintain a vigilant posture in all urban areas. There has been a recent uptick in police harassment and violent crime such as armed robbery, armed carjacking, and assault in Bamako. There are sporadic reports of nighttime robberies occurring on the roads outside of the capital; tourists should not drive at night (See Travel & Transportation section).
For Your Safety:
- Guard your passport and wallet when in crowded outdoor areas and open-air markets. You may wish to consider carrying only paper copies of your passport and documents in these areas.
- Be vigilant for pickpockets, especially at night.
- Use all available safety measures in your home or hotel, including locking doors and windows at all times, as well as employing an alarm system.
- If asked to stop by police, stop only in well-lit areas or places where several officers are posted.
See the Department of State and the FBI pages for information on scams.
Victims of Crime: U.S. citizen victims of sexual assault should first contact the U.S. Embassy.
Report crimes to the local police at 80 00-11 25 (connection and response is not always reliable) and contact the U.S. Embassy during normal consular hours at (+223) 20 70 23 00, or after-hours at (+223) 66 75 28 60.
Remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting crime. However, response from local authorities and recourse for victims of crime is extremely limited. When you do interact with local police, always request a copy of the police report.
Due to the vigilantism which often occurs when criminals are apprehended in Mali, it is best to avoid the large crowds that may gather at the scene of a crime, a vehicle accident, or any altercation.
Please see our information for victims of crime, including help for U.S. victims of crime overseas, and possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
The U.S. Embassy can:
- help you find appropriate medical care
- assist you in reporting a crime to the police
- contact relatives or friends with your written consent
- explain the local criminal justice process in general terms
- provide a list of local attorneys
- provide information on victim’s compensation programs in the United States_
- provide an emergency loan for repatriation to the United States and/or limited medical support in cases of destitution
- help you find accommodation and arrange flights home
- replace a stolen or lost passport
Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence may contact the Embassy for assistance.
Tourism: No formal tourism industry infrastructure is in place. Tourists are considered to be participating in activities at their own risk. Emergency response and subsequent appropriate medical treatment is not available in-country. U.S. citizens are encouraged to purchase medical evacuation insurance. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.