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Many times cows, pigs, or goats will randomly cross in front the your car.

Renting a Car in Senegal: Everything You Need to Know

  • Post last modified:October 25, 2023
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  • Post category:Africa / Guides

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Renting a car in a new country can be scary. The laws can differ, road conditions may vary, and they may not even drive on the same side of the road. To rent a car in Senegal was a truly unique experience, and something we will never forget. We're here to share everything with you- the good, the bad, and the ugly.


We love renting cars in foreign places, because we truly get a look into life in the more authentic places, and it gives us much more freedom. There are some countries where renting a car is a must, and some where it becomes a waste of time and money.


For us, renting a car in Senegal had both positive and negative sides to it, so we're going to share both with you. Here is everything that we learned while renting a car in Senegal, so that you can decide how you prefer to get around the country.

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How to Rent a Car in Senegal

First thing's first- we'd like to share about the booking process. Here are a few things to know about how to rent a car in Senegal.


Where to Rent a Car in Senegal

The easiest place to rent a car is from the airport in Dakar. Keep in mind though, that if you rent from the airport, there could be an extra charge. The best thing is to ask upon arrival.


There are also plenty of car rental companies inside the city of Dakar. We rented with Hertz, and it was the most legitimate looking of all of the companies.


Rent a car in Dakar:

Documents Needed to Rent a Car in Senegal

In order to rent a car in Senegal, you don't need any special kind of license. You just need a regular driver's license, and a credit card to put a security deposit on your rental.

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Driving Around Senegal

Now that you are ready to rent, here are a few things to know for when you rent a car in Senegal.


Road Conditions

The road conditions in Senegal were amongst the worst we have ever seen. We can't even count how many times the GPS would bring us to a "highway" that was essentially just a bumpy dirt road.


What appear to be "big towns" on the map are often a few dirt roads or a tiny village. This is important to know, as it makes a big difference in the type of car you'll want to rent, where to go, and how much time to give yourself traveling.

roads in Senegal

Many "highways" in Senegal are just dirt roads.

Parking

Parking is pretty relaxed in Senegal. In the city, it can of course be a little bit more difficult to find a spot. But once you're out of the capital, Parking is never something that we struggled with. Simply pull to the side, and just make sure you're not blocking anyones drive way.


Parking is pretty much always free, unless you are in a private parking lot. The only time that we actually had to pay for Parking was when we took the ferry to the Island of Goree. We left our car in the lot of the ferry terminal for a few hours, and paid just 1,000 CFA (a little under $2 USD).


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Gas Stations

It's important to note that gas stations aren't that frequent to come by. So if you happen to pass one, we suggest filling up. There was not a single gas station that we found that took credit card, so also make sure to have plenty of cash on you.

rent a car in Senegal- gas stations

Gas stations are far and few between outside of Dakar, and only accept cash.


Important Things to Know When You Rent a Car in Senegal

We certainly learned a lot from our road trip through Senegal. Here are a few important things to know before you book yourself a rental car.


Bribing Is a Thing

As we mentioned before in Gambia, it pretty much is the same for Senegal. While you won't necessarily get stopped by officers for a bribe, it is still something to keep in mind while traveling around Senegal.


Our suggestion is to have snacks on you. Offer them with a smile. This surely isn't what they're looking for. But the gesture is nice, and often gets you by in a better way. We don't like to support the idea of bribery, as for us it is pretty corrupt. But sometimes you have to learn to play the game in your own way.


Bargaining is Also Thing

Just when you thought renting a car in Senegal was confusing, there's more. However, this can be a good thing!


When we first arrived at the airport in Senegal, we saw a Hertz. Now this may be a large reputable company, but they definitely have their own twist on things. After asking for prices for cars, the employee started to bargain with us to try to get us to rent. Now when it comes to renting cars, this isn't really something you see in many other parts of the world.


Prices for renting a car in Senegal are certainly expensive. But the good thing is that you can bargain to they to get a better deal. It's important to go over all info, such as models, price per day, and mileage. Learn to bargain and you'll come out with a much better deal.

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More Things to Know When Renting a Car in Senegal...

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Miles are Limited

This one really killed us. We were short on cash, and wasted a lot of miles looking for banks and gas stations. Our limit was 300 km a day, which is more than many rental companies allow. Still, we surpassed this by a lot, and ended up having to pay a great deal of money afterwards.


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Unfortunately, there are no companies in Senegal (and the west of Africa in general) that offer unlimited miles. We suggest you to travel slowly, or try to negotiate a deal where you get a very large amount of miles.


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Rent a Car That is a 4x4

If it's one thing we did right, it was renting a 4x4/ high clearance vehicle. The roads are rough in Senegal. Once you leave the capital expect to find "roads" that are basically just dirt and grass. We can't even count how many times Google Maps turned us onto a "highway" that was far from one.


It can be especially difficult to navigate these roads during the wet season (summertime), as the potholes become deeper, and some roads are full of water and mud. Having a high clearance vehicle will allow you to get around without having to be super stressed out.


Watch For Animals

There were so many areas in Senegal where we found more animals than we did people! Numerous times we needed to stop short because a group of goats or herd of cattle had randomly decided to cross the road. Keep your eyes peeled if you rent a car in Senegal, because you never know what surprises are waiting for you.


Note: While Senegal is in Africa, it is not an area with much crazy wildlife. There aren't lions, elephants, giraffes, or any other safari animals. You will however see a lot of farm animals such as goats, cows, and pigs.

rent a car in Senegal

Many times cows, pigs, or goats will randomly cross in front the your car.

People Will Beg

Having a car will attract a ton of people. The assumption from locals is that "if you have a car" you have a lot of money. While this may not be the real case, you will have plenty of people coming up to your car trying to sell to you, or to beg for money.


There is a sad story about the reality of children begging in Senegal, which you can read in our article "21 Things That Gave Us Culture Shock in Western Africa".


We suggest offering snacks or physical items rather than cash. This is a way to help out without encouraging the use of children in this way.


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Driving to Gambia

Did you know that there is an entire country located within the country of Senegal? Being that it is smack dab in the middle of the country, traveling to Gambia is very popular. Some people take a day trip from Dakar, while others drive themselves, and spend a night or two. In our case, we drove there and spent a couple of nights.


Driving to Gambia sounds easy right? Well there's more to it than you're probably thinking. Here are a few thing to keep in mind if you rent a car in Senegal and drive to Gambia.


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Taking the Ferry

If you want to go to Gambia via Banjul, you will need to take the ferry. The good thing, is that the ferry does take cars. Keep in mind that the line for cars to get in can be quite long, and you'll have a ton of people coming up to your window while you wait.


Make sure to leave a few extra hours in your itinerary in anticipation for the ferry. The timetable isn't really a thing, and it takes a while to embark and disembark. Prices for cars with a Senegalese registration differ from those with Gambian plates. It didn't make any sense to us, but that's the way the system works there.

Ferry from Gambia to Senegal

Expect long lines for the ferry if you have a rental car.

Registering Your Car

As soon as you arrive at the border, you must register your car. Being that the plates are from Senegal, you will have to pay a small fee to enter Gambia with your rental car. You will have to bring your paperwork, license, and cash in order to pay for the registration.


We were also told by our car rental company that a special paper is needed from the rental company itself. The paperwork is free of charge, you just need to make sure you let the car rental company know your travel plans, so that they can get you the proper paperwork for driving into Gambia.


Tolls in Gambia

Gambia has an interesting structure. There is one main highway that goes around a big loop through the country, and in the middle is a river and lots of jungle.


There are a few bridges that cross this river, so that you don't need to circle around the entire country to get to the other side. The bridge is more expensive if you have a plate outside of Gambia, and the tolls are all given in cash to a guard at the beginning of the bridge.


Keep an eye out- as you may not see a person and continue to drive. If this happens, you will be stopped at the end of the bridge and forced to turn around. In this case, you will then have to pay each toll twice.


Police Check Points

This was probably the most frustrating thing that we had encountered while traveling from Senegal to Gambia.


As soon as you enter Gambia, there are very few roads. There is pretty much one main highway that circles the whole country, which makes it extremely easy to navigate. However, this highway has police checkpoints every few kilometers! Yes, you read that right. Expect to stop every 5-10 minutes that you are driving- sometime even less.


There are two types of checkpoints- the police and the military. The residents of Gambia stop for two seconds, and are on their way. But if you rent a car in Senegal, and are clearly a foreigner, the process is not so fast. The conversation usually goes the exact same, and is pretty much just like this:


Police Check Points in GambiaWhat To Expect

First, the military or police will let you know who they are. They will then ask "What's good for the soldier/ officer?". This means that hey are asking what kind of "bribe" you are bringing them. They are expecting cash, coffee, food, or some other type of incentive. But why? You are probably wondering why you need to give something when you haven't done anything wrong right?


Well the system is pretty corrupt in the west of Africa, and members of authority always expect something so that they don't give you a hard time. This is purely normal there, and something we just kind of learned how to deal with in our own way, which we are about to share.


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Police Check Points in Gambia: Dealing With the Cops

There are some officers that are super friendly and will simply ask for your documentation, and wait for their "bribe". They will ask you where you are from, and that is your cue to smile, and strike up a conversation. The friendlier you are, the better. In our case, whenever they insinuated something about a bribe, we offered cookies. They would then push for money, but we would say that we didn't have any (which a lot of the time was true). 


Chances are, that after the conversation about the bribe, they will then continue to talk to you, seeking friendship. They almost always asked for our phone numbers. We would of course give it, and they would sometimes even call to make sure we weren't lying. Following that, we would receive tons of calls, messages, etc. These were harmless, and purely a friendly way of trying to connect with foreigners. 


Police Check Points in GambiaHow This Will Effect You

Being stopped by the police every few minutes means a few things. 1- you will have to stop every few minutes. 2- you will continuously be expected to give something (we urge you not to give money). 3- you will be giving your number out quite a bit. But most importantly- 4- you will lose a ton of time.


If somewhere is supposed to be an hour away, expect it to be two. The stopping really adds up, and we lost a lot of time along the way. Be mentally prepared for this if you rent a car in Senegal and come to Gambia.

Have you ever thought to visit The Gambia? We know what you're thinking- why is it called The Gambia, and not just Gambia? Well we were thinking the exact same. The Gambia is the smallest country in mainland Africa, and is located completely inside the country of Senegal. When another small

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Is It Worth It to Rent a Car in Senegal?

At the end of the day, there is no right or wrong answer here. The question you really need to ask yourself is how much you want to explore.


If you plan on just staying in the area of Dakar, we think you'll be better off without renting one. However, if you plan on moving all around the country, then we do think it's worth it to rent a car in Senegal.

Rent a car in Senegal for the best landscapes

Renting a car gave us freedom to visit places like this.


We hoped this help you in your decision of whether you'd like to rent a car in Senegal, or to choose a different mode of transportation.


Want to know more about the great places to see in Senegal? Or maybe you'd like to know more about what to expect as a foreigner in the West of Africa. Well we have plenty of guides to share with you to make your travels go more smoothly.


Need help planning your next travel adventure? We are now providing our customized Travel Planning Services! Explore more, spend less, by checking out our different travel planning services.


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