Travel Guide Africa Mali Bamako



Bamako is Mali's capital and largest city, located in the southwest region of the country. It has been dubbed a "sprawling village"[1].

Bamako has been continuously inhabited by humans since prehistoric times. In 1883 it was conquered by French troops, and in 1908 became the capital of French Sudan. The city has only a few paved main roads (goudrons), the rest of the city's roads are unpaved, and get dusty during the dry season (November to May) and muddy during the rainy season, offering breeding grounds for malaria-carrying mosquitoes.




Bamako has a hot and generally dry semi-desert climate with a short rainy season from June to September when there can be severe thunderstorms with occasional flooding. Rains can be unpredictable though and sometimes the rainy season means just a few showers now and then. The coolest time is between July and January during the rainy season and shortly afterward. Temperatures still are between 30 and 35 degrees Celsius during these months. March to May are very hot with average daytime temperatures of 39 degrees Celsius, but maximums of 47 have been recorded. Nights average between 16 in January to 24 degrees Celsius in April and May.

Avg Max33.4 °C36.4 °C38.5 °C39.6 °C38.5 °C35.3 °C32.1 °C31.1 °C32.2 °C34.6 °C35.3 °C33.4 °C
Avg Min17 °C19.9 °C22.9 °C25.2 °C25.4 °C23.6 °C22.2 °C21.8 °C21.6 °C21.3 °C18.4 °C16.8 °C
Rainfall0.6 mm0.7 mm2.1 mm19.7 mm54.1 mm132.1 mm224.1 mm290.2 mm195.9 mm66.1 mm5.2 mm0.5 mm
Rain Days0.



Getting There

By Plane

Bamako Senou International Airport (BKO) is the main airport in Mali. It serves flights to destinations throughout Africa and Paris. Domestic destinations include Mopti, Timbuktu, Kayes, Yelimané, Gao, Kidal and Sadiola.

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By Train

Theoretically, a weekly train travels between the capitals of Senegal and Mali. The train is supposed to leave Dakar on Saturdays around 10am, arriving in Bamako just under 48 hours later. In the opposite direction, the train leaves Bamako on Wednesdays at 9.15 am, taking about the same amount of time. Because of works on the railway, the train now (since 2008) leaves every 8 or 9 days and there is no fixed schedule at the moment, so ask around in both cities when the next train is supposed to leave.

By Bus

Bamako has international buses to Senegal, Cote d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Ghana and Niger. Regular connections go to Bobo-Dioulasso (15 hours) and Ouagadougou (21 hours) in Burkina Faso. There is a weekly bus to Conakry in Guinea, but there are more frequent connections from Bamako to Siguiri by bush taxi's.

Bittar Transport is one of the major bus companies, with scheduled domestic services travelling to all major cities and towns, including Mopti and Timbouktou.



Getting Around

The city can be hard to navigate through due to the lack of road signs, the complicated layout of the streets and the one way system in the city. The roads are very crowded both with motor vehicles and motorcycles who appear to fill every available space possible. Traffic police are particularly vigilant and will sometimes appear to enforce very arbitrary traffic rules. They are usually on motorcycles as well so it is unwise to try and outrun them in your vehicle as they will easily catch up.

Often the best way to navigate around the city is to hire a taxi-motorcycle to lead you to your destination. These are relatively cheap and depending on the distance can be as low as CFA 100. There is no meter and price is negotiated upfront.




The French have left one decent legacy in West Africa: bread. Fresh delicious baguettes are ubiquitous, and travellers should not be worried about becoming sick because of the bread.

Vegetarians will have a hard time in Bamako. Asking for a meal without meat will usually be met with the kind of look reserved for children and elderly relatives one does not wish to upset. In a country where poverty is common and food is often scarce, turning down meat is an oddity.

That said, mornings beans, fries, and fried plantains can be found street-side throughout the city. Morning, noon, and night you can find small street-side "cafes" where you can get a fried egg sandwich and some nescafe. Several varieties of fried dough are also easy to stumble upon. Lunch- rice and groundnut stew is most easy to find, in local restaurants a plate with meat shouldn't cost more than CFA 500, but can range up to CFA 1,500. Evenings you can find acheke (cassava dish), spaghetti, beans, boiled eggs, and fries relatively easily.

Meat eaters will be pleased to learn beef and fish are exceptionally good. Beef kebabs and grilled Capitaine, a freshwater fish from the Niger river, are always a good choice. Chicken are usually left to fend for themselves, and tend to be on the scrawny side, especially compared to North American chicken. Although the situation is improving, you might want to avoid disappointment and just give chicken a miss while in Bamako. To avoid food borne illness, stay away as much as possible from fresh vegetables, and make sure your food is piping hot before eating it.

You can eat like the locals for a few hundred francs CFA a day, or shop in one of the western-style supermarkets. There is one main market, in the centre of town, and several smaller markets in Bamako. Supermarket-style stores are generally run by Lebanese businessmen.
There are many restaurants where you can get nice omelette sandwiches for about CFA 250. Many street vendors sell bread, rice, fries, salad, grilled meat; however, use precautions while eating on the street.




The Evasion Jazz Club can be pretty cool on Fridays and Saturdays. The Hippo d'Or (close to Hippodrome) is also a nice place for enjoying non-stop live music on Fridays and, even more, on Saturdays. There is a big casino near the Hotel L'Amitie. Ibiza, Blyblos and Terrace are still the hippest places to dance and drink. For some less seedy drinking establishments, try No Stress & Jet Set (formerly Privledge), which both have pool tables as well. Bla Bla and its twin in Badalabougou are known to get pumping on weekends.




Due to the dramatic decline in the number of tourists/visitors due to the conflict in northern Mali, many hotels in Bamako have closed temporarily, including a few high-end ones. Travellers should keep in mind that the hotel where they plan to stay may be closed and plan appropriately.

You can use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)



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Quick Facts


  • Latitude: 12.652950
  • Longitude: -7.986482

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