Stay Safe in Mali
Because Mali is politically fragile, lawlessness is widespread. Mali was struck by a political crisis and civil war in June 2012, temporarily dividing the nation into two parts: the north, known as “Azawad,” and held by a group of Islamist rebels, and the south, which was ruled by a military junta. Traveling through Timbuktu and Gao provinces is especially hazardous, and Islamist rebel groups have ordered the destruction of any sites suspected of involving idolatry as of July 2012. The United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom have all issued travel warnings advising against all travel to Mali at this time.
The train between Bamako and Kayes is infamous for theft, so if you’re riding it, use great care, bring a pocket flashlight, and keep your goods and valuables on your person at all times.
There’s also a high possibility you’ll run into the cops. They are mainly concerned with directing traffic and fining individuals for incorrect documents, so you have nothing to worry from them, but have a copy of your passport and visa with you at all times (and preferably the original if keep it secure).
Only having a driver’s license is insufficient, and you may be taken to the police station unless you bribe your way out. It’s worth noting that the police in Bamako often stop taxis, but this may be mitigated by never having more than four people in the vehicle and only using “official” taxis (the ones with the red plates only: in Bamako, a car with white plates is not an official taxi even if it has a taxi sign on top, regardless of what the driver may tell you).
Because the shadowy coalition of Al Qaeda and Tuareg rebel groups has been targeting foreigners for kidnappings, the northeast half of Mali (anything north and east of Mopti Province) is just not secure for tourism. Unfortunately, similar kidnappings happened in other areas of the nation (including the capital) in late 2011, and terrorists abduction tourists remains a serious worry.
Despite the fact that homosexuality is legal in Mali, a 2007 study by the Pew Global Attitudes Project found that 98 percent of Malians think homosexuality is a way of life that should be shunned, a comparable percentage to Kenya and Egypt. When it comes to public displays of love, LGBT travelers should be cautious.
Stay Healthy in Mali
Although it is seldom enforced, having an overseas vaccination card proving yellow fever immunization is legally needed. Vaccinations against Hepatitis A, B, typhoid, and meningitis are also advised. Due to a recent polio epidemic in Northern Nigeria that has expanded across the area, you may also want to consider having a polio vaccine.
Malaria is prevalent in Mali, particularly the most severe form, s. falciparum malaria. Malaria prophylaxis should be taken by all visitors during their stay in Mali (mephloquine and Malarone are the most common). Other important measures include using insect repellent in the evenings and sleeping beneath a mosquito net in all but the most luxurious, sealed, air-conditioned hotels. Because the mosquitoes that transmit the parasite are only active at night, this will substantially reduce your chance of contracting malaria. However, you should take these measures even if you are not at risk of contracting malaria to prevent getting bitten by irritating mosquitos! During the day, you will virtually never see or be disturbed by mosquitoes.
Food and water
Keep your distance from soiled food and drink. The rule of thumb is to “boil it, peel it, or forget it.” Also, never drink water from sealed bottles or after sterilizing it with boiling or chemical equipment. Another problem is the food. It may be tough to tell whether something has been cooked long enough. Unusual spices, which are unfamiliar to Westerners, may also induce illness, particularly diarrhea. Expect little stones or grit in your dinner, particularly if you’re eating local couscous (this doesn’t imply it’s dangerous, since it’s been cooked properly). The most serious threat to a traveller is diarrhea. Get plenty of rest, drink plenty of clean water, and eat soft, simple meals if you have moderate diarrhea. Antibiotics may be required if the diarrhea is severe or lasts many days. The body will lose a lot of water and salt throughout the sickness. Coca-Cola (sugar and water) and pretzel sticks (salt) are readily accessible and perform an excellent job of restoring vigor to travelers. There are also quick powders available that include the required glucose and salts.