Like it or not, bargaining is part of the travel experience in Senegal. You'll have to haggle over prices at market places and agree on a taxi price before getting in. Transport prices on sept-place taxis and other long-distance vehicles are fixed, but you'll still have to bargain over the luggage surcharge – which can range from CFA1000 to over CFA3000, depending on the distance travelled and size of your bag(s).
Dangers & Annoyances
The main concern for visitors is street crime and annoying hustlers in Dakar. Civil unrest in the Casamance is no longer a threat, though it's best to seek out the latest advice before venturing to this southern region.
220V. Plugs have two round pins (same as continental Europe)
Embassies & Consulates
The embassies listed are located in Dakar. Most close late morning or early afternoon Monday to Friday, so set off early.
UK Embassy One block north of Hôpital le Dantec.
Emergency & Important Numbers
|Senegal's country code||221|
|International access code||00|
|Ambulance (SOS Médecins)||33 889 1515|
Entry & Exit Formalities
Aside from illegal items and limits on currency, there few restrictions on what you can bring out of Senegal. For currency, the limit is CFA200,000 for other countries that use the CFA (such as Benin and Côte d'Ivoire), and CFA20,000 for other destinations.
Visitors from the EU, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and 80-plus other countries can enter Senegal without a visa for stays of up to 90 days.
- You'll get more respect if you greet people first before getting down to business (asking for directions, making market purchases, etc).
- The standard greeting country-wide is as salaam alaykum (peace be upon you). The reply is malaykum salaam' (peace with you also).
- If eating with your hands, use only the right hand – never the left, which is considered unclean. Use the right hand when handing someone money or shaking hands.
Gay & Lesbian Travellers
In Senegal things feel a little less severe than in neighbouring The Gambia (where gay travellers have been arrested, and the former president promised violence against gays). However, homosexual acts are still illegal in Senegal and can carry a prison sentence of one to five years. Violence and discrimination against gays is a very real threat. Gay travellers need to be extremely cautious travelling here. Being out is simply not an option in Senegal.
Internet cafes are a dying breed in Senegal. Free wi-fi is available in many places (particularly in Dakar), and common in most accommodation catering to foreign tourists.
There are heavy penalties against drug use in Senegal, and it's ill-advised to use any illegal substances, including marijuana, while in the country. If you are arrested, your first point of contact should be your embassy.
- Newspapers Le Soleil (www.lesoleil.sn) is the main daily paper.
- Television RTS (www.rts.sn) is Senegal's public broadcasting channel, featuring independent programming (sometimes delving into culture and history).
Senegal uses the West African CFA (SAY-fuh) franc. All larger towns have banks with ATMs. US dollars and euros are the most easily exchanged currencies.
Banks and exchange bureaux tend to offer similar rates.
|The Gambia (dalasi)||D10||CFA133|
|Guinea (Guinean franc)||GF1000||CFA66|
- Tipping is not expected at budget eateries. At pricier restaurants, a 10% tip is customary, though this is sometimes included in the bill.
- It's uncommon to tip taxi drivers. If you hire a guide or a driver for the day, however, you should plan on tipping (assuming the service wasn't abysmal).
Banks 9am to 4pm; only a few open Saturday morning.
Bars 5pm to 2am.
Business and Government Offices 8.30am to 1pm and 2.30pm to 5pm Monday to Friday.
Cafes 8am to 7pm.
Clubs 10pm to 5am; most open only Thursday to Saturday.
Restaurants Offer lunch from noon to 2.30pm and dinner from 7pm onward; many are closed on Sunday.
Shops 9am to 6pm Monday to Thursday and Saturday, to 1pm Friday; most close on Sunday.
Senegal's postal service is fairly inexpensive, though not entirely reliable. The main post office is in Dakar.
As well as Islamic religious holidays, Senegal celebrates a few principal public holidays.
New Year's Day 1 January
Independence Day 4 April
Workers Day 1 May
Assumption 15 August
- Smoking As of 2016, smoking is now prohibited in all public places in Senegal, including bars and restaurants. The law isn't evenly applied, as some bars still allow smoking.
Taxes & Refunds
Senegal's VAT of 18% is already included in the price of goods. Hotels carry a 10% tax, plus an additional tax of CFA1000 per person per night. This isn't always included in the listed price, so it's best to inquire before committing.
- Good mobile phone coverage means that most of the public télécentres have now closed.
- The country code is 221. For directory assistance dial 1212.
It's wise to buy a SIM card; these cost around CFA1000. Top-up credit is available anywhere. Network coverage (especially for Orange) is excellent across the country.
Senegal is on GMT/UTC, so when it's noon in Dakar it's noon in London, 7am in New York, 1pm in Paris, 9pm in Tokyo and 11pm in Sydney. There is no daylight saving time.
- Most hotels catering to foreign travellers will offer sit-down flush toilets.
- In rural areas, you'll find squat toilets, which can sometimes be little more than a deep hole in the ground with some loose boards on top.
- Regardless of where you go, it's always handy to travel with a supply of tissues in case there's no toilet paper.
There isn't much official tourist information available for travellers. One exception is the Office de Tourisme in Ziguinchor, which is an excellent source of info on the Casamance.
Given the lack of tourism posts (and online info), your best bet is to get local information from your guesthouse or hotel.
Travel with Children
Travel in Senegal can be difficult for families with children. There is the worry of infectious and vector-borne diseases (malaria chief among them), the lack of tourist infrastructure and the general challenges of travelling in a developing country. That said, those who come with children will find a warm welcome: the Senegalese generally go out of their way to make young ones feel welcome.
Good bases for kids are the resorts of Saly, Cap Skirring and Lac Rose, where you can arrange all manner of activities. Other good accomomdation options include Keur Saloum (for adventures in the Siné-Saloum Delta) and the beautifully set Lodge des Collines de Niassam.
Travellers with Disabilities
Senegal provides no accommodation for travellers with disabilities. Cracked or missing sidewalks, sandy streets, and buildings without lifts all pose challenges no matter what part of the country you visit. You'll need to improvise if you travel here.
SenExperience+ (www.senexperienceplus.com) accepts volunteers for projects around Senegal, in the fields of medicine, education and media.
It's helpful if you can speak some French before you offer your services in Senegal.
Weights & Measures
- Weights & Measures Senegal uses the metric system.
In a country with over 40% unemployment, work can be hard to come by. French skills are essential. It's also helpful if you have specialised skills in a field like medicine or technology.