Mali

As the birthplace of unique music movements, distinct mud-brick architecture and great African empires, modern-day Mali has its roots richly planted in the past. Ancient relics, centuries-old buildings and timeworn, tribal traditions intermingle with the contemporary in Mali's cities, towns and villages. From traversing desert landscapes to trekking to remote villages, witnessing ritualistic dance and kicking back to melodic beats in city cafes, Mali is full of engaging, soul-stirring experiences.

Mali Tours & Travel

Articles on Mali

west africa’s gift

Posted on Wed, 04 Nov 2009 by Sue Elliot

Since Jacquie Burnside joined Intrepid as a group leader many moons ago, she’s seen the company grow to be one of the world’s most respected adventure travel operators. You can [...]

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Mali Highlights

About Mali

At a glance

Trips Available:
0
Capital city:
Bamako (population 750,000)
Population:
13.7 million
Language:
French
Currency:
XOF
Time zone:
(GMT) Casablanca
Electricity:
Type C (European 2-pin) Type E (French 2-pin, female earth)
Dialing code:
+223

Best time to visit Mali

November, December and January are popular months to visit Mali as the weather is warm (but not oppressively hot) and the wet, humid season is over. Between March and May the temperatures soar and with Mali being one of the hottest countries on the planet, expect extremely hot conditions in these months. A hot, dusty wind known as the 'harmattan' blows from January to June which can reduce visibility at times.

Mali Weather chart

Geography and environment

Urban life
As the largest country in West Africa, landlocked Mali shares thousands of kilometres of land borders with many other nations, including Mauritania, Senegal, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Algeria, Niger and Cote d'Ivoire. With the majority of Mali's terrain being arid or semi-arid desert, arable land isn't commonly found, with estimates that less than 5% of its land is farmable. The Niger River (and to a lesser extent the Senegal River) has a multitude of uses - as a transport route, irrigator, food and water provider. The people of Mali live in vastly different ways - from city dwellers living in lively urban centres like Bamako, to the nomadic Touareg of the sparse desert to the traditional Dodon people who have inhabited the same isolated villages for centuries.

Top Picks

Traditional drummer

Top 5 Souvenir Finds of Mali

1. Bogolan Fabric

Mali's Bogolan fabric (commonly known as mud cloth) is a popular souvenir find for visitors to West Africa. Made from cotton dyed in fermented mud, this entirely organic, patterned textile has multiple uses - as clothing, wall hangings, throw rugs and bed spreads.

2. Silver Jewellery

While many tribal groups hand craft jewellery, the sub-Saharan Toerag people are known for making exceptional silver jewellery. Large, embossed earrings, necklaces, cuffs and rings make great statement pieces for those into heavy, tribal accessories.

3. Traditional Musical Instruments

While not cheap, and sometimes difficult to get home, budding musicians will love the range of traditional musical instruments available in Mali. From Djembe drums to the kora, Mali has many handmade instruments available in shops and markets.

4. Masks

Mali's Dogon people are known for crafting elaborate tribal masks used in dance and ritual for centuries. The distinct, bold designs make Dogon masks an interesting piece to hang on the wall back home and a memorable reminder of Mali.

5. Music

As the birthplace of African blues and rousing tribal songs, Mali's rhythmic music is an important source of national pride and cultural identity, so hearing some local music isn't hard when travelling through the country. Fans should buy a CD or two to support local artists and take a piece of Mali's musical heritage to play back home.

FAQs on Mali

Tipping isn't mandatory or customary, however tipping restaurant staff, bar staff, guides (and other service providers) to show your appreciation for good service is considered polite.
Travellers will be able to access the internet at cyber cafes in Mali's large cities and towns frequented by tourists. Expect little to no internet access in remote and rural areas.
Mobile phone coverage is generally available in Mali's large cities and tourist towns. Rural and remote areas may have less network coverage. Remember to activate global roaming with your service provider before leaving home.
Mali has a mix of squat toilets and flushable toilets. As a developing nation, expect to adjust to different levels of sanitation. Always carry your own toilet paper and hand sanitiser as these are rarely provided.
A mango or banana = 75-100 CFA
Can of soft drink = 500 CFA
1 hour at an internet café = 750-1000 CFA
Street food meal = 500-1,000 CFA
Basic restaurant meal = 2,000-4,000 CFA
Tap water isn't considered safe for tourists to drink. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying bottled water. Ask your leader and accommodation provider for local advice on where drinking water can be accessed. Also, avoid ice in drinks and peel fruit before eating.
Credit cards are used in Mali, but not all establishments will accept credit. Large hotels, restaurants and tourist service providers usually accept credit cards, but expect smaller operators and shops to accept cash only.
ATMs can be found in Mali's cities and areas frequented by tourists. If travelling through rural and remote areas, be aware that there will be limited access to ATMs. Visa cards are generally the best choice, since other international cards may not be accepted by ATMs in Mali.
Absolutely. All passengers travelling with Intrepid are required to purchase travel insurance before the start of your trip. Your travel insurance details will be recorded by your leader on the first day of the trip. Due to the varying nature, availability and cost of health care around the world, travel insurance is very much an essential and necessary part of every journey.

For more information on insurance, please go to: Travel Insurance
Jan 1 New Year's Day
Jan 20 Armed Forces' Day
Feb 4 Mawloud (Prophet's Birthday)
Mar 26 Day of Democracy
Apr 9 Easter Monday
May 1 Labour Day
May 25 Africa Day
Aug 19 Korite (End of Ramadan)
Sep 22 Independence Day
Oct 26 Tabaski (Feast of the Sacrifice)
Dec 25 Christmas Day

Please note these dates are for 2012. For a current list of public holidays go to: http://www.worldtravelguide.net/Mali/public-holidays
MALI (from Senegal):
Visas will be obtained en route in Dakar, Senegal. Please bring at least 6 passport photos. The cost is approximately US$25. MALI: Visas will be obtained en route in Accra, Ghana. Please bring at least 6 passport photos. The cost is approximately US$25.

Health and Safety

Intrepid takes the health and safety of its travellers seriously, and takes every measure to ensure that trips are safe, fun and enjoyable for everyone. We recommend that all travellers check with their government or national travel advisory organisation for the latest information before departure:

From Australia?

Go to: http://www.smartraveller.gov.au/

From New Zealand?

Go to: http://www.safetravel.govt.nz/

From Canada?

Go to: http://www.voyage.gc.ca/

From US?

Go to: http://travel.state.gov/

From UK?

Go to: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/

The World Health Organisation

also provides useful health information:
Go to: http://www.who.int/en/

Responsible Travel

Mali Travel Tips

Intrepid is committed to travelling in a way that is respectful of local people, their culture, local economies and the environment. It's important to remember that what may be acceptable behaviour, dress and language in your own country, may not be appropriate in another. Please keep this in mind while travelling.

Local man wearing a turban

Top responsible travel tips for Mali

1. Be considerate of Mali’s customs, traditions, religion and culture.

2. Dress modestly and respectfully. Shoulders to knees should be covered, especially when entering places of worship.

3. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying bottled water. Fill a reusable water bottle or canteen with filtered water.

4. Always dispose of litter thoughtfully, including cigarette butts.

5. When bargaining at markets, stay calm, be reasonable and keep a smile on your face. It's meant to be fun!

6. Learn some local language and don't be afraid to use it - simple greetings will help break the ice.

7. Shop for locally made products. Supporting local artisans helps keep traditional crafts alive.

8. Refrain from supporting businesses that exploit or abuse endangered animals.

9. Please ask and receive permission before taking photos of people, including children.

10. When on community visits or homestays, refrain from giving gifts or money to locals.

11. Ramadan is the fasting month for all Muslims. During this month no food, drink or smoking is permitted during daylight hours. While non-Muslims aren't expected to fast in Mali, it's recommended to try to avoid eating, drinking or smoking in public during daylight hours.

Further reading

Recommended reading

Title Author
Monique and the Mango Rains: Two Years with a Midwife in MaliKris Holloway
The Cruelest Journey: Six Hundred Miles to TimbuktuKira Salak
Desert BurialBrian Littlefair
Sundiata: An Epic of Old MaliD T Niane
A Spirit of ToleranceAmadou Hampate Ba