Bamako is the capital city of Mali, a vast country in West Africa which is largely made up of the Sahara Desert. Bamako resides in the fertile south of the country, and it attracts numerous Malians from the northern villages and tribal areas, who come to the city in search of work.
As a former French colony, French is still the official national language, although Bambara is more widely spoken.
Mali is a Muslim country and is extremely conservative. All work stops during the five daily prayers, and expats can expect to be woken each morning by the call to prayer. Women should dress respectfully in long skirts and long sleeves.
Expats and visitors can apply for a visa through their nearest Malian embassy. The visa process is inexpensive but it may take some time — it is worth planning this out in advance of your trip, just in case there are any delays.
Depending on your nationality, you will be allowed to enter the country without visa or to issue it upon arrival; in any cases you will be asked to obtain your visa before travelling to Mali. The visas are generally tourist or business visa, depending on the nature of the stay.
Accommodation in Bamako ranges from four star hotel chains (such as Sofitel and Radisson Blu) to real life shanty towns. Most expats settle somewhere in between.
It is not easy to find somewhere to live in the city without some insider knowledge. You need to make sure that you choose somewhere with all the facilities which you require (running water, electricity, and a security system), in a relatively safe area. Daoudabougou, Djicoroni and Badalabougou are fairly quiet, safe and well-serviced options with some good apartment accommodation.
If you are moving to Bamako with your family, you may prefer to seek accommodation in one of the city’s secure compounds. These are very popular with missionaries and aid workers, and can sometimes include space for several different families.