Mali's 6.8 million voters are choosing from among 27 candidates for president. Should no clear winner emerge, voting goes to a second round Aug. 11, the BBC reported.
International observers say they are worried about whether the voting will be fair, as Islamist militants in the northern part of Mali have warned people not to take part and have threatened to attack polling stations.
U.S. ambassador to Mali Mary Beth Leonard said the country is ready for its interim government to end.
"A month ago, there were a lot of doubts [over the election]. But it has come together," she said.
A front-runner in the election, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, called Friday for a calm day of voting and vowed to ensure that "no-one will make fun of Mali again."