We have all of the visas we need for our trip, except one: our Mauritania visas. And according to many overland websites, the place to get this visa is in Rabat, Morocco. Below is our experience, and we’ve summarized the important information at the bottom of the post.
There’s been a fair amount of blogs documenting the chaos that appears to be obtaining a Mauritanian visa in Rabat, and we came in rather nervous. The most recent information we could find was from this January 2013 thread on Horizons Unlimited, and it did not sound super promising (long lines, limited number of visas issued per day, people arriving at 2am to wait for the embassy to open). But since then, we haven’t heard any updates. So when we arrived in Rabat yesterday, we decided to visit the Mauritanian Embassy to check it out for ourselves.
At 5pm yesterday, there were about 20 people waiting outside of the embassy to collect their visas. We spoke to a couple of them, and one said he arrived at 9am to apply for the visa and there was a fairly long line, but he got his application in. A couple Spanish tourists said they arrived at 11am and were the last ones to get their application in, not because of a limited number of visas because they only accept applications until 11am. Apparently a number of passports had been returned at 3pm, but a group of people were still waiting at 5pm, and as we stood there, we saw the ambassador return to the building, presumably to hand out the rest of the passports. According to a very friendly guy in a bright yellow vest (who looked like he was a nearby guard), Mondays are fairly busy and we shouldn’t have too much trouble applying on a Tuesday. There were also two signs outside of the embassy with a bit more information (in French, see below).
So today (a Tuesday), we tried our luck. Rather than waking up at 4am like we had planned, we showed up at 7am. There were about 10 people there, most of whom looked like they had slept in their cars parked by the embassy the night before. Contrary to what we had read, these people were not mostly Senegalese car dealers, but rather travelers from a variety of West African countries. People were surprisingly not pushy in line. Our group established our own line order (we were #7), and some of the people who slept in their cars joined the line behind us. It seems that being present in the line mattered more than being there early. By 8:30am, there were probably about 25 or 30 people there.
At around 8:45, the door opened and a man handed out application forms (each is now signed and dated, so don’t try to buy the form ahead of time). As he did this, he walked everyone through the line. Thus, the first line that we formed was essentially worthless. We scrambled to fill out our form as quickly as possible (note there’s a front AND back to the form, and we definitely left some sections blank), and got back in line. Aron pushed his way in between two of the guys we had been standing next to in the old line who had already grabbed spots towards the front. He made it back in line right before the man from the embassy sent anyone not standing behind the barrier to the back of the line (including people who had been at the very front). Jackie had to go in a separate line for women that was much shorter.
Then the embassy started accepting applications. Jackie ended up being #3 to go in, and Aron came with her (we just explained that we were traveling together [“ensemble”] and Aron doesn’t speak French). The man was very nice, stamped our applications, gave us a piece of paper with our numbers, and told us to come back at 3pm to get our passports. The full application included: our application form, one photocopy of our passports, two passport photos (one of which we glued to the form, and the other of which we just handed over and the man stapled to our form), and 340 Dirham per application. He handed us a ticket with stamped numbers on it that corresponded to our applications – we got one ticket with both our application numbers (which was useful for picking up our passports later). We were done by 9:17am.
Contrary to what we read about in January, the whole process was rather orderly and quick (except for the fact that the first line means basically nothing). There were no hawkers, although there were two guys who set up chairs across the street and were helping people fill in their applications and stapling photos, presumably for a small fee (to the right below).
We arrived back at 2:45pm to pick up the visas (the door opened was supposed to open 3pm, and actually opened at about 3:05pm). The line was pretty long, and Aron had to go to the back of the long men’s line (see below). Jackie had to go to the back of the women’s line, which meant she was 2nd in line, and got to go in before all the men did. It was quick and easy to pick the passports – just give the man your ticket and he’ll give you the passports – and we were out by 3:07pm. The men’s line also seemed to be moving along reasonably well. And despite not filling out the forms in their entirety because we didn’t know how to answer a few questions, we got the two 30-day visas that we had asked for. Success!
In summary, the process for getting a Mauritanian visa in Rabat seems to be much easier and more reliable than it was in January 2013. We don’t know if this is because it is low season or Ramadan is approaching, but we’re going to credit the Mauritanian Embassy with cleaning up the visa application process significantly. It was a relatively painless and straightforward process and can be accomplished in the same day.
Summary of important information:
- The application includes: a form that is handed out around 8:45am (it has both a front and a back), one photocopy of your passport (black and white is fine), two passport photos, and your passport.
- Applications are accepted starting at 9am
- Pick-up is the same day at 3pm
- You can line up before 9am, but this line will be disbanded when the application forms are handed out. The real line starts once you have the application form.
- The embassy has cracked down on hawkers – there were only two guys there who mostly were helping people fill in the form if they didn’t understand it. You need to get an application form from the embassy yourself because each form is signed and dated.
- It seems that one person = one passport now.
- There is a separate line for women, and the order of the line goes: 1 man, 1 woman, 1 man, 1 woman, etc. This is true for both applying for the visas and for picking up your passports.