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Travel Tips

Mali Travel Guide

 

About Mali

Mali is a landlocked country in West Africa. Mali is bordered by Mauritania and Algeria to the north, Niger to the east, Burkina Faso and Côte d'Ivoire to the south, Guinea to the south-west, and Senegal to the west. Its size is just over 1,241,238 square kilometers (480,000 sq mi) with a population of 14.5 million. Its capital is Bamako.

Culture

GREETING

  • Man greeting Man -   Men shake hands when greeting one another.  After shaking hands it is common to put your right hand to your chest as a show of respect. When meeting friends, especially if it has been a long time since you have seen each other, a hug is the common form of greeting.  Handshakes may linger a bit.
  • Woman greeting Woman-   A simple handshake is appropriate for an initial meeting.  A verbal hello is appropriate as well. When meeting friends, especially if it has been a long time since you have seen each other, a hug is the common form of greeting.
  • Man greeting Woman- A simple handshake is common.  If the hand is not extended, than a slight bow or nod is the polite thing for men to do.
     

Body Language

  • Despite the conservative culture (90% of the country subscribes to Islam) touching is normal during conversation. 
  • Often times when something is funny if said or a good point is made, a high-five like hand grasp is normal. 
  • Touching is especially normal between women, such as a hand on the arm. 
  • Men normally hold hands with other men while walking.  This is a sign of friendship.
  • There is less touching and more space when talking between genders.

 

Taboos   

  • Avoid pointing at people with your index finger, use the whole hand instead. 
  • Giving anything to someone with the left hand is considered very rude.  Always give and receive object with the left hand. 
  • When eating out of a communal bowl, don’t take meat or veggies from the other side.
  • When invited to dinner at someone’s home, it is rude to bring a hostess gift.  It is the responsibility of the host to provide everything for their guest. 

 

TRAVEL DOCUMENT and VISAS

 

  • U. S. nationals must have a passport valid for at least three months after their scheduled return date.
  • For U.S. citizens traveling to Mali a visa is required; for other nationals please contact the Embassy of Mali.
  • Your passport must have at least two blank visa pages for immigration stamps.
  • Travelers should obtain the latest visa information and entry requirements from the Republic of Mali Embassy at 2130 R Street NW, Washington, DC 20008, telephone (202) 332-2249. Inquiries can also be made at Malian embassies or consulates worldwide. Visit the Embassy of Mali website for the most current visa information.
  • Documentation of a Yellow fever vaccination within the last ten years is required. Please remember to carry evidence of your vaccination.  If you are not able to show evidence of a current yellow fever immunization, you may be required to be re-immunized on the spot as a condition of entry into the country. The Embassy strongly discourages this option.

 

AIR TICKET

 

  • When you receive your package, please verify that the name on your international round trip airline ticket is spelt correctly. Your name must be the same as it is listed in the passport.
  • Please be at the airport with enough time as required by the airlines (3 hours before departure is recommended). 

 

HEALTH REQUIREMENTS

 

  • Vaccination against Yellow fever is required.
  • It is highly recommended that you get a prescription for malaria prophylactics, which your physician or pharmacist will advise you how to take.
  • The Centers for Disease Control recommend other preventative actions, including vaccinations and safeguards for the following:
    • Hepatitis A and B
    • Typhoid
    • Flu
    • Measles
    • DPT
    • Polio
    • Chickenpox
    • These above are not requirements for entry only recommended.
  • Use of insect repellant is recommended.
  • Use of bottled water for drinking and brushing teeth is recommended.
  • The final decision regarding health requirements must be made by your personal physician or health care provider.

 

WEATHER AND CLIMATE

  • Mali is a dry land-locked country of northwestern Africa. It is very close to the Tropic of Cancer and thus enjoys tropical climate. Mali has distinct summer and winter months. Mali climate has three main seasons. Rainy season lasts from June to October. The winter season is between October and February, which is followed by extremely hot and dry climate till June. Depending upon the latitudes, Mali climate differs from one place to another. Northern Sahara zone in Mali experiences hot and dry climate whereas the climate of Mali in the subtropical southern part is hot and humid. The climate in Mali is hot with average temperatures ranging between 24° and 32°C. The amount of rainfall also varies throughout the year.

 

MONEY & CURRENCY

  • Most hotels have a forex (foreign exchange) bureau which offers competitive exchange rates.
  • Do not convert more than you need into the local currency or you might have to cover your remaining local currency back into USD before you leave, which will cost you double.
  • Always keep receipts for your currency exchange.
  • Only take new U.S. bills, issued after 2000, that are not wrinkled or ripped.
  • Most of Mali’s banks change foreign cash. Outside Bamako you may have difficulty with traveler’s cheques, and when banks do change them commission rates vary wildly. Bank of Africa, Ecobank and Banque Internationale du Mali (BIM) usually charge around 2%.

Credit Cards:

  • Credit cards are very little used in the cash economies of Mali and other West African countries — only at a few banks, large hotels and restaurants in Bamako and other capital cities. Visa card is usually the only card accepted, and sometimes, MasterCard or American Express;

   ATM:

  • Bring your ATM card so you can get local currency if an ATM is available, such as at the airport upon arrival.
  • Be sure to let your bank know you’ll be traveling internationally so they will honor your ATM being used.

 

TIPS/GRATUITY

 

As in all other areas of the hospitality industry, tips are a major part of service employees’ income. It is expected that tour guides, drivers and any others who provide a service will be tipped. The amount depends on the number in your group.

 

BARTERING


Bartering is a way of life in most African countries - it's a great way to break the ice and can be a lot of fun. But here is some advice that you should take into account:

  • Always be polite but firm.
  • Deal only with people you are comfortable with since you will be spending a lot of time with the person with whom you are bargaining.
  • Do speak a little of the seller's language. In any transaction in a foreign country, the effort you make to use a little of the local language will be returned many fold.
  • Don't be rude. Under no circumstances should you be rude, or question the validity of any price the seller names--no matter how absurd it seems to you. Your attitude should be apologetic and a little self-effacing: "I'm sorry, but I can't pay that much." If you feel the seller is really trying to rip you off, just apologize for taking his time and leave. There is no need to bargain further; rather you should seek the item elsewhere. On the other hand, you should just enjoy the whole process and have fun. Feel free to laugh at an outrageous price, make friends, and enjoy the relationship.
  • When bargaining to buy an item, bear in mind that a small amount to you could be extremely important to the seller. So don’t waste time bartering over a few cents. 

PHONES

  • You’ll want to be reachable when you are in Mali. Because of the time zone difference and your travel schedule it will be hard to know when you’ll be at a fixed point (e.g. in a hotel room). What works best is for you to have a cell phone that functions in Mali and on which you can receive/send text messages.
  • The international dialing code for Mali is +223. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 001.212 for New York City). For example, when your family/friends call to Bamako, they should dial: 011- 223- + Number. If a local phone number starts with a “0”, drop that when calling from an international location.

TIME ZONE

  • During the months when the U.S. has daylight savings time Mali is 4 hours ahead of the Eastern Time zone in the United States. For example, when it is 1 pm in New York it will be 5 pm in Mali. When the U.S. has reverted to standard time, there is a 5 hour time difference. Mali does not have daylight savings time.

ELECTRICITY

·The electrical current in Mali is 220/240 volts, 50 Hz. Bring along an adapter to use with your personal appliances. Three-pronged plugs are the most commonly used.

  • Converter: If there is a range of 110-220v you can use the appliance without a converter. You may need to move a switch from one indicator to the other. If your appliance is only good for 110v, you’ll need a converter. There are different types of converters, depending on the wattage of the appliance. Be sure to get the right kind.
  • Adapter Plug: Regardless of the voltage your appliance uses, you will not be able to plug it directly into the wall. Depending on whether your appliance is a two-prong or three-prong item, you will need an adapter plug that works with your appliance. You may need two plugs—one with two prongs and the other with three.
  • Power strips: If you have multiple things to charge, you may want to purchase a power strip. That way you can charge several camera batteries, your cell phone, etc. at once.
  • Note:  Throughout the world electrical outlets in bathrooms are ONLY for shavers. Do NOT plug anything else in, including hairdryers.

 

 

OFFICIAL LANGUAGE

  • French is the official language, but English is widely spoken in hotels and other tourist related facilities. Bamana kan is the most spoken local language in the country.

 

CARRY-ON LUGGAGE

 

  • Be sure to check the size and weight limit of carry-on luggage with the airline that you are flying.
  • For Delta Airlines for example you can read the restrictions at: http://www.delta.com/traveling_checkin/baggage/baggage_allowance/index.jsp  The size of the carry-on bag must not exceed 45 linear inches.
  • It is very important that your carry-on luggage has at least one complete change of clothes so that in the unfortunate situation that your checked luggage is delayed you will not be overly inconvenienced.
  • The security regulations prohibit taking certain items in your carry-on luggage. To double check current restrictions, read these procedures:

      http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/prohibited/permitted-prohibited-items.shtm

 

Recommended clothing:

  • Lightweight or tropical for most of the year with rainwear for the rainy season.
  • Long sleeves for nights.
  • An umbrella or light rain coat for occasional shower.

 
Clothing culture

Casual wear is suitable throughout the country although beachwear should only be worn at the beach or poolside. Only the most exclusive dining rooms encourage guests to dress for dinner.

 

The idea is to take as little as possible, we suggest:
 

  • At least 1 long-sleeved shirt/blouse.
  • 2 light long trousers, which will help protect you against the sun and
  • Insect bites.
  • A hat that shades your neck and forehead.
  • A pair of well broken in walking boots/sneakers.
  • Small washcloth.

 

General Accessories:

  • Electrical adapter plugs, and converter if needed.
  • Tape recorder, to record your guide, sounds in the country, and lectures.
  • Camera, film/memory cards and extra batteries.
  • Day pack.
  • Ziploc plastic bags for electronics and film.
  • Small flashlight. Occasional black outs are not unusual in most of West Africa but it is unlikely that you will experience these in the hotels you are staying at.
  • A digital photo storage unit, such as a flash drive or pen drives may come in handy
  • Snacks for those travel days when you’re on a bus, no lunch is included, etc.—food bars, jerky, hard candies, nuts, etc.
  • Business cards to give to your new friends so you can develop email connections (no home address is necessary).
         

First aid and toiletries:

  • Toothpaste
  • Soap (Many hotels provide only very small bars of soap)
  • Baby wipes, wet wipes, or hand cleansers.
  • Malaria tablets
  • Insect repellent containing DEET
  • Some kind of pain killer (such as aspirin)
  • Antiseptic/Antihistamine Cream
  • Band aids and bandages
  • Imodium and other anti-diarrhea medicine

 

Prescription medication:

  • Make sure you have enough to last during your trip, as well as a copy of the prescription(s).
  • If you wear glasses or contact lenses, you should have with you a spare pair of glasses or enough lenses and cleaning solutions to last your trip. Also carry with you a copy of your prescription.

 

DO’S & DON’TS
 

  • Do spend some time reading up and learning about the country you are visiting - you will get a far better reception if you take an interest in the people, respect their culture, learn their social etiquettes and at least the basics of the local language. A simple "hello", "please" or "thank you" goes a long way.
  • Do show respect for local cultures, traditions and holy places and always dress modestly. 
  • Do carry tissues/toilet paper and hand sanitizer with you every day; outside of your hotel room you may not find toilet facilities that are what you are familiar with.
  • Do carry a notebook and recorder with you, in addition to your camera.
  • Do use sun screen liberally.
  • Do use water sparingly - it is precious in many countries and the local people may not have sufficient clean water.
  • Do be prepared for "tourist touts"—young men who generally have a sad story that requires you to part with your money.
  • Do be careful with your belongings, particularly in crowded areas.
  • Do watch out for thieves among other travelers--they're sometimes worse than the locals!
  • Do support the local economy by buying local fabric, clothing and crafts.
  • Do look out for quality products--there is a lot of junk just waiting for the unsuspecting traveler.
  • Don't discard litter randomly; dispose of it in a proper place. Waste disposal is a major expense in poorer countries.
  • Don't become so worried about crime that you forget to enjoy your trip. It's easy to fall into the habit of worrying so much that the real pleasures of the country pass you by. 
  • Don't display your wealth, don't wear expensive jewelry, wear a cheap watch.
  • Don't walk around waving a map - if you get lost, go into a shop and take the map inside.
  • Don't be surprised if things happen less quickly or efficiently as they do at home. After all that is the reason you travel--to experience different cultures.
  • Expect that measurement will be in the metric system, so distances are in kilometers, temperature is in Celsius, etc. Be prepared to be able to do the conversions in your head so you can communicate with the locals about what life is like where you live and so you can understand them. 
  • Don’t take photos of military bases, police offices, or airports.
  • Don’t be surprised if you encounter police checkpoints or traffic police. These are common in Africa and are used to look for stolen or overweight vehicles, robbery suspects and other law enforcement procedures.
  • Do carry your passport with you, but in a secure method, protected from pickpockets.
  • Do expect a culture shock in very many ways. No matter how much traveling you’ve done or how many multi-cultural events/activities/persons you’ve been exposed to, nothing will prepare you for what you’ll experience. You’ll be amazed at:
    • traffic
    • sanitation
    • availability of water, electricity and fuel
    • living conditions
    • road conditions
    • poverty of material possessions
    • lack of order
    • different cultural expectations
    • educational settings

and many other things that we take for granted in our comfortable western lifestyle. You’ll go through many emotions, including guilt, despair, etc. However, try to embrace this experience and understand that people do their best with what they have the world over. Learn that you have a limited understanding of how most people live in this world, and that the reason you are traveling is to broaden your knowledge. Accept people for who they are, even if their cultural practices seem antiquated/foreign to you. You don’t have to want to live in a place to enjoy being there.

  • Do remember- you are America’s representative. Regardless of your political beliefs, you may be one of the few Americans that someone you interact with has met. You have the ability to affect how that person views Americans and you may better that perspective.