Sunday 15 Jan 2017
The most corrupt border in Africa
Reigned as the most corrupt border in Africa I can confirm one thing this is the most ridiculous border experience I have ever had. The whole thing is sort of like an absurd pantomime with swiney back ally characters playing their crooked roles in trying to rinse confused strangers of their money, including the people in uniform. Take my advise and avoid engaging in conversation with anybody
How to get to the Rosso border
From Dakar you can take a 7 seater taxi directly to Rosso which is the Mauritania – Senegal border which takes around 6/7 hours and costs 6500CFA. Since the picturesque city of Saint Louis is near Rosso I decided to explore there a night before going to Mauritania. Dakar to Saint Louis was a 5/6 hour drive. I highly recommend staying a night or two in Saint Louis
Saint Louis, Senegal to Mauritania via Rosso border
I begrudgingly left Saint Louis at 3pm and took a 7 seater shared taxi to Rosso. It cost 2600CFA and took 1 hour.
It was all going smoothly until security check point, just before the border a thug looking, non uniformed ‘police man’ aggressively told me to exit the car. He took my passport, jumped on a motorbike and told me to hop on. I was instantly unnerved. He drove me to the Senegal exit border station and demanded 500 CFA. This is not mandatory since the taxi was going to the same place, he happened to see the opportunity by scamming me. I obliged because he wouldn’t give me back my passport. Sadly this was just an introduction of what was to come.
At the Senegal exit border station I waited for the chief to finish praying until he stamped my passport to exit. I didn’t pay any exit / tax fees.
I should now point out that there are no signs around this border and the people around are very aware of this and will harass confused looking tourists. You should pass the gate of Rosso at Senegal and show your passport when asked, walk a few steps forward the water and take a pirogue (wooden boat) to the Mauritanian side and walk to the visa office, get stamped and leave. Technically this is the process but in practice it is more complicated.
Crossing into Mauritania by pirogue (wooden boat)
The first guard asked me for my passport which I showed him, then asked for my medical documents… According to him you need to prove you’ve taken certain vaccinations. Questionable as I have never heard of that before. If you don’t have it they will write you a receipt which you must go to the hospital with immediately to get a vaccine. I’m not sure how true it is but I didn’t need that hassle so a 1000 CFA bribe was paid for him to turn a blind eye to my lack of medical papers. A couple meters later another police man asked for money.. Another 500 CFA gone.
A few meters down and I was at the water the separates Senegal and Mauritania.. (I didn’t know there was water between Senegal and Mauritania)
You have to take shared pirogue boat from Senegal to Mauritania. The ride is 5min and it costs 1000CFA. I’ve heard it can be free though I paid.
An exhausted me with a very dirty T-Shirt
Where is my passport?
At this point, between the river of Senegal and Mauritania I realised that my passport was missing. Lost? Stolen?? … What a nightmare. I just had it!! I was in the process of mentally accepting my loss and having to face unpredictable circumstances of perhaps sleeping at the Rosso border and crying to the British embassy for help when my passport was located in the water. How it got there is very questionable as it was very far away from where I was seated. It was soaked. Imagine that, I just got my exit stamp from the bureaucratic theatre that was the Senegalese border and was in the river, on the boat to the Mauritanian border – supposingly the most corrupt border in Africa with a soaking wet passport – the new stamp hadn’t even dried so it was smeared red across the page.
Off the boat the border police took my passport and held it to the sun to dry. Finally after 45 mins it was dry. He was paid a tip for the service of holding my passport up to the sun, something he insisted to do.
The Mauritania visa process and cost
- First I had my fingerprints scanned
- Secondly my passport can scanned and copied
- Third I took a biometric photo for my visa
- Lastly my visa was printed and placed in my (now dryish) passport
The Mauritania visa cost €55
I did not pay a €10 tip that they charge
Getting past the border gates at Rosso my passport was check and photocopied again.
Finally, with the addition of a sleazy derogatory comment from the Arabic male police officer I was in Mauritania.
Total cost of the Rosso, Mauritania border crossing…
The visa cost €55, you can pay in Euros, CFA or the local currency. Keep an additional 5000 CFA with you for bribes, tips and the boat crossing. Of course the only official cost is the Mauritian visa
The border is like a business, so budget for it. I paid out several times between 500-1000CFA. Look at it like this, its a way to get rid of your CFA (Senegalese currency). It helps if you can speak French, Arabic or Wolof which I however spoke none of. This border has the potential to be organises, swift and easy as it is straightforward and there it is not crowded... But like most African/Arabic land borders they complicate things by making it frustrating and hassle through bribes, bullies and tips.
The border crossing is safe, just highly frustrating
The road from Rosso to Nouakchott
I traveled by car to Nouakchott. From Rosso to Nouakchott it is a 3hour drive on an extremely bad road. Craters, pot holes and police checks, two of whom took my passport details down for registration.
The road is so bad that the front tire of the car burst and had to be changed. About 200km was spent driving off road and on the desert sand to avoid the fatal road conditions
I have travelled from Gambia to Mauritania by road crossing land borders on foot and I can say it is exhausting. Physically and mentally. My final leg is to Morocco through Western Sahara – I hope this will be stress free, but let’s see..