Work and Travel in Mali

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Mali is a country that has been in the news for all the wrong reasons, with the recent Islamic insurgency in the country. But it’s not true that the whole country is currently a warzone.

Even today intrepid backpackers still decide to travel in Mali and have a great time. If you want to find out more about the volunteering opportunities in Mali to extend your stay and get to know this country more, this is the travel guide to Mali you want.

Read on and find out how even today Mali is open to foreigners coming to sample the country.

1. Help Disable Children in Bamako

Bamako is the capital of Mali and home to much of the French culture of the country. Disability is poorly understood in Mali and it’s not uncommon for many disabled children to be abandoned on the streets to fend for themselves. Centres have been setup across Bamako to care for children with physical and mental disabilities.

Spend some time as you travel in Mali working with these children and make a real difference to their lives.

2. Integrate Yourself in Local Village Life in Rural Mali

The rural villages of Mali are often forgotten by the progress sweeping through the country’s cities. Start integrating yourself into local village life in Mali through a volunteer programme.

You’ll be helping the village dal with projects that have been designated as a priority. For example, you may be embarking on a project like building a grain bank. These are real differences you’re making as you work and travel in Mali.

3. Support Small Mali Farmers in Rural Mali

The farmers of Mali are often impoverished if they don’t have large operations. Their goal is usually just to have enough food to feed their families.

Projects are available for backpackers in Mali who want to help these local farmers. You’ll be helping them by providing them with seeds, fertiliser, and technical assistance. Some initiatives even support farmers in their commercial interests by helping them get market access for their goods.

This work and travel in Mali initiative is all about helping rural farmers move out of poverty.


Mali has many of the same issues as most African nations. They make it extremely difficult for most nationalities to enter the country. The only countries that can enter for 90 days without a visa are ones in West Africa and certain third world countries in the Far East. Every other country in the world requires a formal visa from a Malian embassy.

Getting the visa from an embassy is not particularly complicated, but it does take a long time. African bureaucracy is highly visible throughout the visa process and you should be prepared to wait for some months to obtain your visa.

On a side note, if you’re volunteering through an organisation prior to entering the country they will be able to support your visa application.



The spring partly takes up the dry season and the wet season. Due to the shorter rainy season in the north, which is close to where the Sahara is, this is where you should work and travel in Mali throughout spring.

Any projects in the desert, including conservation, research, and community development with the Bedouin people, are all needed skills throughout this season.


The summer season in Mali is the worst time to be anywhere in the country as there tends to be longer and more intense rainstorms across the whole country. If you do find yourself travelling in Mali in summer, you should opt for educational projects.

These take place indoors and allow you to get to the less isolated urban areas. At this time of year you could be teaching English or participating in teaching for young children. The more experience you have the more chance you have of securing a long-term work position.


The rainy season lasts until September in the northern regions and October in the southern regions. Until the end of the rainy season, you should look into the ‘Summer’ section as the same volunteer opportunities in Mali apply.

Backpacking in Mali throughout the autumn season as volunteer isn’t ideal, though, as there is no specific backpacker skills needed until the main winter season. Consider using this time of year as the opportunity to travel around the country and see what it has to offer.


The winter season is the main tourist season and it’s when many of the locals open their doors to foreigners. Travel in Mali in winter and aim for homestays and guesthouses. Throughout the dry season, you can work in guesthouses in Mali in exchange for food and accommodation.

Another reason to help out in guesthouses is you’ll be able to discover Mali and gain a deeper insight into the locals and how normal people live.

There are few hostels and few English speakers in Mali, so you should already know a certain amount of French to take on these positions.


The first thing you need to know about volunteering in Mali right now is that the northern regions are dangerous as they’re bordering the northern regions of the lawless desert. Islamic terrorists are present here and most nations advise against travelling to North Mali.

You also need to remember that this is a poor country and few tourists visit Mali these days. Remember that people will see you as rich because you’re from a developed country. So be prepared to have to deal with people trying to wring money from you in the major cities.

But work and travel in Mali does present a real challenge, so if you’re not up for that sort of challenge this isn’t the country for you. If, on the other hand, you want to experience a unique culture that’s truly off the beaten track, you’ll find nowhere better.

Are you ready to work and travel in Mali?

Recent Contributors

  • Edited on May 22 2018 by

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