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A Taste of Africa: All You Need to Know About Travel in Senegal

  • Post last modified:October 27, 2023
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If you're reading this, chances are you love adventure. Travel in Senegal is not common as it is not a huge tourist destination, but it is definitely worth visiting.


As one of the biggest hubs in Africa, Senegal is much more accessible than you think. It still is one of the most off the beaten path countries we have been, but it really was such an interesting country!


There is a lot to know before visiting Senegal, so that's why we're here to help! Here is everything you need to know before traveling to Senegal.

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Where is Senegal?

Senegal is located in Western Africa, just two countries south of Morocco. It borders Mauritania to its north, Mali to its east, and Guinea to its south. The east coast borders the Atlantic Ocean, and Senegal also has a country located inside of it, which is The Gambia. You can check the map below to see exactly where it is.

travel in Senegal

Senegal is off the western coast of Africa.


Travel in Senegal: Getting There

The capital of Senegal is Dakar, and the main airport is Blaise Diagne International Airport (DKK), which is located 60 kilometers east of the city. This is the only international airport, and the other small airports are just domestic.


While the country of Senegal isn't so popular wordwide, Dakar is actually one of the biggest hubs in Africa, and has plenty of International cities that fly to it.


Flying to Senegal

International cities that fly to Dakar include Abidjan, Accra, Algiers, Bissau, Bamako, Banjul, Barcelona, Brussels, Budapest, Cape Verde (Espargos & Praia), Casablanca, Conakry, Cotonou, Dubai, Dusseldorf, Gran Canaria, Istanbul, Lagos, Lisbon, Lome,  Lyon, Madrid, Marseille, Milan, Nantes, New York, Nouakchott, Ouagadougou, Paris, and Tunis.

Flight Tip: Using Skyscanner you can check the calendar to see which are the cheapest dates for flying to Senegal!

Search for a flight to Dakar:

Getting From the Airport to the City of Dakar

Now that you have arrived, it is time to get to the city. The capital is about 50 km away from the airport, and takes 45 minutes in car. Dakar has pretty crazy traffic, so sometimes it could actually take double that.


The two options (other than a rental car) are taxi and public bus. Taxis are more expensive, (13,000 CFA during the day and 18,000 CFA at night) but will get you there much faster. The bus has a few stops, but is definitely cheaper. Ubers are not available in Dakar.

Price chart Dakar airport to city

These are the official prices to get from the airport to the city.

There are two different buses, one is a small van and the other is large bus, The large bus (AIBD) costs 6,000 CFA (about $11 USD), and drops you next to Stade Leopold Sedar Senghor, which is 15 minutes from Place de L'Independeance. 

Bus from Dakar airport to city

There are buses right outside the airport that go to the center of Dakar.

Visiting Senegal Via Land

Traveling throughout Africa via land borders isn't super advisable. The reason is that many borders are dangerous, and there is a lot of corruption in this area of the world. We visited The Gambia via land border, and it was truly not our favorite experience. We heard that the border of Mauritania is extremely dangerous, and traveling to Senegal via Mali or Guinea doesn't make much sense since the highlights of the country are super far from those borders.


However, if you do want to travel in Senegal and are already by a neighborhood bring country, make sure to consult reputable locals to get their advice for the best way to do so.


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Entry Requirements to Travel in Senegal

First things first, let's get into what you need to actually enter the country! With everything going on since Covid started, things are always changing. Here are the current restrictions in Senegal:


Covid Requirements to Travel in Senegal

This was an area that was not very clear to us, and also for plenty of other passengers! There are some sites saying that you need to fill out a certain form, and to pay the site (for example ivisa.com). This was not the case when we went, and it seems to just be an internet scam.


Do I Need A Covid Test To Enter Senegal?

In order to enter Senegal you must have a negative Covid test. It must be a PCR test, and it can be taken within five days of arrival.


Note: These requirements may have changed, so please check official sites before going.

travel in Senegal

Visa Requirements to Travel in Senegal

Now that you are covered Covid-wise, let's not forget the normal entry requirements to visit Senegal!


How Much Is A Visa to Travel in Senegal?

The Visa situation to travel in Senegal is super confusing. This is because they cannot be gotten online, and there is little information out there explaining who does and does not need a visa. 


As an American, I was not asked for a visa at all. However, as an Argentinian, Fede was asked for a visa. They did not make him get one at the airport, but when we came back in through the land border, he was denied entry. They wouldn't let him purchase it on the spot, and he had to get it from the embassy in Banjul (we were crossing from The Gambia).


On the website of Dakar, it shows that residents of Argentina are exempt, but at the land border they had an old and worn list that said Argentina needs a visa. The truth of the matter is we really don't know who is right and who is wrong.

Customs in Dakar, travel in Senegal

Double check your entry requirements to travel in Senegal.

Going Through Immigration in Senegal

Well this is a fun one! This was one of those huge culture shock moments for us, as the police in Senegal (and Western Africa in general) are super corrupt and unprofessional.


Basically the custom goes that people bring coffee, food, or money to the officers so that they can go through without issues. Having an easy or hard time in customs depends entirely on luck (or how well prepared you are with bribes).


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Local Adjustments

Here are some of the basics to help you while you travel in Senegal.


Language

There are actually many languages in Senegal. So if you travel through the country you could hear up to 39 different languages! The official language of Senegal is French, and yet only 12% of the population speak it as their  mother tongue.


Very few people speak English in Senegal, so it is definitely helpful to try to pick up some French before traveling there.


Currency

The currency in Senegal is the West African Franc, also referred to as CFA. For every one USD, you get about 550 CFA. We suggest going to an ATM to take out money, as there are very few places who will exchange your money, or give you a decent rate to do so.


Another important thing to note is that almost NOWHERE in Senegal accepts credit card. Inside Dakar there are a select few restaurants and hotels that will, but not even the hospital or gas stations accepted card.


Travel outside Dakar and you may as well put your credit card away completely. Make sure to carry plenty of cash at all times, as sometimes we had to drive a few hours before finding a bank to take out money.


Outlets 

The outlets in Senegal are European, and operate on 230V supply voltage and 50Hz. If you plan to travel to The Gambia (a small country inside of Senegal) then the outlets change to the UK, so make sure to have an adapter for both if you plan on visiting there during your stay in Senegal.


Water Potability

The water quality in theory should be good enough to drink throughout the country of Senegal. However, some locals recommend to stick to bottled water.


Tipping

There is a lot of people who say different things about tipping in Senegal. While it's not mandatory, locals suggest to leave up to 7.5% extra on the bill.

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Travel in Senegal: The Best Places to Visit

Dakar is definitely where you will want to spend most of your time in Senegal. There are museums, mosques, beaches, and some really cool spots in and around the city to check out.


Don't have time to read the whole article and want to save it for later? Just pin it!

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Travel in Senegal Pin
Travel in Senegal Pin

While in Dakar, you should make sure to go to the area of Almadies for artisanal market, great restaurants, and some cool beach spots. Climb to the top of the African Renaissance statue, and visit the Mosque of Divinity Finally, take some day trips to the islands of Goree and Ngor, and Lac Rose (the pink lake).


Things to do in Dakar, things to do in Dakar, Senegal
Mosque of Divinity in Dakar Senegal
Museum of SLaves, Goree Island

Dakar is where you will want to spend most of your time traveling in Senegal.

Some other cool places to check out in Senegal include St Louis, Touba, Somone, Fadiouth, Sine- Saloum. Travel through The Gambia, and also discover some interesting places in the south like Cap-Skirring, Kafountine, Casamance, and Kedougou. (These you will need more than two weeks to visit from Dakar).

Mosque in Touba, travel in Senegal

Touba is a sacred city in Senegal, featuring a stunning mosque.

Want to learn more about all of the best places to visit in Senegal? Make sure to check out the article below!


Travel in Senegal: Getting Around

Now that you are ready to travel in Senegal, let's get into how to navigate! We're not going to lie to you- getting around is either very expensive, or very uncomfortable. So take your pick. We chose the expensive option, and we have mixed feelings about it.


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Public Transportation

Public transportation is somewhat limited in this country. There are no underground or train systems, so the only form of public transportation is a bus. This will definitely be a cheap option, and quite the experience. 


We only saw from the outside, but public buses were crowded and chaotic. There were even people hanging off the back and piled on the top while driving along a highway! It could definitely be fun, but probably not the most comfortable or safest option.


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Renting a Car

We had a true love hate relationship with driving in Senegal. Rental companies don't give you unlimited mileage, so for the extensive itinerary we planned, we ended up spending almost $1,000 for our two week trip. 


Renting a car to travel in Senegal does however give you much more freedom to stop at anytime. We loved this aspect as there were some pretty cool landscapes like sand dunes and giant Boabab trees that had us stopping quite often.

The roads in Dakar are great. Travel outside of the main highways though and you will truly suffer (or not make it) without a 4x4. We think if you are adventurous like us, it is crucial to get a high clearance vehicle. We have a full article about everything to know when driving in Senegal. Check it out below:

Hiring a Driver

This was what we were recommended, and we probably should have taken the recommendation. Drivers are not cheap by any means, but are a good way to go if you plan on basing yourself in Dakar and just doing some day trips.


If we didn't stay in The Gambia for a few days, then this would have been a good option to avoid some of the stresses of driving. We have some phone numbers of drivers that we can share. Just shoot us an email!

Travel in Senegal

These Boabab trees are found everywhere iSenegal.

Taking an All-Inclusive Tour

We usually like to explore on our own. However, we do think that our trip would have gone much more smoothly and been a bit less costly in the long run if we had signed up for a longterm tour package. 


Here are a few of the top tour packages around Senegal that you can choose from:


Travel in Senegal: Food & Drink

When it comes to food, Senegal has such flavorful dishes! It's pretty rare to see street food, but there are always tons of women selling fruit and corn on the cob. 


We definitely suggest trying their amazing seafood. All over Dakar (especially Almadies) there are tons of restaurants with delicious and fresh seafood. 


They also have some local dishes that are a bit heavier, but packed with flavor. We absolutely loved the dish "thiebou guinar" which was a large paella like dish with a spicy rice and chicken or seafood.

Food in Senegal

Thiebou guinar is a popular dish in Senegal that people share while sitting in groups on the floor.

Senegal also has a pretty heavy French influence so in Dakar you will find plenty of bakeries with croissants, baguettes, and small pastries. Outside of the city a typical breakfast is usually an entire baguette served with jam and butter. This (and coffee) is what you'll normally get if you stay at a hotel with breakfast included.

french bakery in Dakar Senegal

A French bakery in Dakar


How Safe Is Senegal for Travel?

Africa doesn't have the best reputation when it comes to safety. However, Senegal is a very safe country. People are extremely friendly, and normally very helpful. Travel in Senegal outside of Dakar, and you will definitely get a lot of weird looks, and maybe even people laughing! But this is simply because some of the villages don't experience tourism.


Locals Asking For Money

There is a basic assumption that if you are a foreigner then you have money. When you travel in Senegal it is completely normal for people to randomly approach asking for money. It's in no way in an intimidating fashion. It's more like they try and if you give it to them- great. If you don't- no problem.


Children Begging

There is a sad culture when it comes to the children, because girls are forced to sell, and boys are forced to beg. In many cities, if they don't bring money back to their "master" they are beaten. But the money is used by the masters to purchase young girls.


If you are in a car, it is pretty common that children will plaster their faces to your car trying to sell to you or to get a donation. We suggest giving snacks, as it is thoughtful and makes more sense to us.

Children in Senegal

A group of young boys and man we met in St Louis Senegal told us the story about why the children beg for money.

Police Corruption

The police in Senegal and (Western Africa in general) are extremely corrupt. If you followed our adventures driving in Mexico, we had plenty of experience with this. Luckily, we caught on quickly to how things work.


Despite what it may seem, the police are normally pretty friendly. However, they have been raised in a culture of bribery. So many people give a small donation or snack to get by. Military and police are always expecting something. We used cookies as our bribery, and it seemed to work pretty well.

Always smile and attempt to speak French. This usually lightens the mood and keeps the peace when dealing with police in Senegal.

If you plan on traveling to The Gambia, then check out the article below! We have some pretty funny and weird stories about our experiences, and they were very particular in comparison to Senegal.

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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Other Things to Know For When You Travel in Senegal

Now that you know almost everything you need to know about travel in Senegal, here are a few final details to keep in mind.


How to Dress When You Travel in Senegal

We were actually surprised when we arrived to Senegal. The country is Islam, and 95% of the population follow the religion.


Being Islamic, there are tons of women that you will find covered from head to toe. Unlike the Middle East though, there are also plenty of women that are not dressed like this. So there isn't really a lot of attention from what you wear as a women.


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How to Dress at the Mosques

If you are entering a mosque though, they are extremely fixated on what you are wearing. Not only must you be covered from head to toe, but you cannot even show your hair!


It was actually pretty funny when there were about 5 women trying to cover my head, not knowing what to do with my hair. Even a women left me with her head scarf and didn't even ask for it back! That's another thing with the Senegalese- they are extremely generous, and give without thought to people they don't even know.

what to wear when you travel in Senegal

A kind family gifted us with their own clothes so that we could visit the mosque in Touba.

At some mosques you are expected to leave your shoes outside (don't worry no one will take them). Also men and women pray in different areas, and are not allowed to be seen together at the mosque. (We photoshopped us together in our Instagram post).

travel in Senegal to Touba

In Senegal women and men are separated at the mosques.

Weather in Senegal

We were so surprised to learn that Senegal is not always hot! I guess our assumption of most countries in Africa always being hot was wrong.


There are actually two seasons in Senegal- rainy and dry. The dry season runs from October to June in the north and from November to May in the south. Just a side note- rainy season will definitely make the roads less pleasant to drive on if you plan on renting a car.


August is the wettest month, and October is the warmest. It never really gets too cold in Senegal, but in February temperatures can drop to low 60's Fahrenheit. Throughout the year the temperatures can rise up to over 100 degrees. Travel to the south and you will experience hotter and more humid weather than Dakar and the north.


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Things to Pack When You Travel in Senegal

As Senegal is such a hot place most of the year, we definitely recommend bringing a good sunscreen, as well as super light clothing and a hat. For religious sites make sure you have a few things to cover up with, and make it light so you don't get too hot.


Bring a bathing suit if you want to swim at one of the many beaches that Senegal has.


Another thing to note is that toilet paper is not something that everyone uses in Senegal. They actually use a hose to wash off after going to the bathroom. We suggest carrying a roll of toilet paper, tissues, or wipes with you just in case.

toilets in Senegal

Toilets in Senegal have a hose on the side, and are often without toilet paper.

Packing List to Travel in Senegal:

  • Sunscreen 
  • Bug Repellent
  • Reusable Water Bottle (we use this water bottle from Cafago because it holds the temperature)
  • Umbrella or Poncho (if you visit in the rainy season)
  • Flip Flops (we personally always get Havaiana flip flops, as they are comfy and long lasting)
  • Zippered Bag or Backpack - take a look at these backpacks for travelers!
  • Power Bank (we use Anker power banks, as they are super long lasting and sturdy)
  • Bathing Suits
  • Light Clothing
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Towel
  • Long skirts/ dresses, pants, & long sleeved clothing (for the mosques)
  • Drone (especially for the pink lake and salt ponds!) We use the Mavic Mini Pro 3 because it's super light and doesn't sacrifice quality
  • Action Camera (we use the Insta 360 X3 because it's small & waterproof)
  • Waterproof Phone Pouch (we use the Cafago Waterproof Phone Pouch)
  • Travel Adapter (we use Tessan travel adapters as they are affordable and reliable)
  • Wipes and tissues (for the bathroom)
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Plenty of Cash!

Looking To Travel Somewhere?

Off The Beaten Trips is our travel agency.

But this isn't anything like you've ever experienced before. You'll have an epic trip without having to break the piggy bank.

Unique locations. Epic adventures. Lifetime memories.


Now you are good and ready to travel in Senegal! This country is definitely one that we received a ton of culture shock, but really enjoyed as well. Make sure to stay tuned for more articles coming up about our driving adventures through Senegal, and some of the unique spots in Senegal that we encountered.


Do you like traveling off the beaten path? Well we do, and we have plenty to share!


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