Senegal is a country in Western Africa. With the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Senegal has Guinea-Bissau to the south, Guinea to the southeast, Mali to the east, and Mauritania to the north. The Gambia is almost an enclave of Senegal in the middle of the western coast.
Tropical; hot, humid; rainy season (May to November) has strong southeast winds; dry season (December to April) dominated by hot, dry, harmattan wind; Natural hazards : lowlands seasonally flooded; periodic droughts.
Generally low, rolling, plains rising to foothills in southeast
Highest point : unnamed feature near Nepen Diakha 581 m
Independence : 4 April 1960 (from France); complete independence was achieved upon dissolution of federation with Mali on 20 August 1960
National holiday : Independence Day, 4 April (1960)
Independent from France in 1960, Senegal joined with The Gambia to form the nominal confederation of Senegambia in 1982. However, the envisaged integration of the two countries was never carried out, and the union was dissolved in 1989. Despite peace talks, a southern separatist group sporadically has clashed with government forces since 1982. Senegal has a long history of participating in international peacekeeping.
Constitution : a new constitution was adopted 7 January 2001
No visa is required for citizens of Canada, ECOWAS, European Union (except 12 new member countries), Israel, Japan, Mauritania, Morocco, Malaysia, South Africa, Taiwan and US for up to 90 days.
Delta Air Lines flies to Dakar on most of their US-Africa services, service from Atlanta takes roughly 8 hours. South African Airways flies direct from New York and Washington-Dulles in just about 7 hours (8.5 on the return trip). Other airlines route through Europe such as SN Brussels Airlines (Brussels), Air Senegal International (Paris-Orly), Air France (Paris-CDG), Alitalia (Milan), Royal Air Maroc (Casablanca), Iberia (Madrid), TAP (Lisbon) and others (5.5 to 6 hours). There are flights from various parts of Africa operated by Virgin Nigeria (Lagos), Kenya Airways (Nairobi), Air Ivoire (Abidjan) and others.
It is possible but a little bit difficult to get into Senegal by car. Senegal prohibits the import of cars that are more than five years old, but if you are only staying for a short while, and agree to take your car out of the country, you should (eventually) be allowed through, but this cannot be guaranteed.
According to the customs of Senegel is it since 2008 again allowed to import cars also older than five years.
A railway connects Dakar and Koulikoro in Mali. It stops at many cities in Senegal, including Thiès. Stops in Mali include Kayes and Bamako .
Taxi, taxi-brousse, taxi-clando, car-charette, and transport commun (cars rapides) Buslines in Dakar and around Dakar are maintained by SOTRAC (Société des Transports en commun de Cap Vert), now managed by a private company and called Dakar Demm Dikk. Car hire is available in Dakar (city and airport) and sometimes in MBour and Saly Portudal. A list of the car hire companies can be found here: .
The main method of travel around the country is by sept places (from French for "seven seats," literally questionable station wagons in which they will pack seven people so that you are basically sitting on the next person's lap throughout the journey). You can also come with a group and rent out an entire sept place, but this will be expensive. If you are obviously a tourist, they will try to rip you off, so make sure to set a price before you agree to a driver. There are set prices to often-travelled locations.
Keep in mind that if you wish to drive your own car, there are few street signs (mostly speed limits) and almost all of them are disregarded. Many streets are considered one way, but are never marked as such, and there are almost no stop signs. Heavy traffic areas such as Dakar are best left to experienced drivers and the bold. To get around, one must be willing to dart into traffic, or else, stay stuck at an intersection for a while.
Wolof is the native language of some Senegalese people, but you will find that almost everyone speaks it. Knowing the basic Wolof greetings and phrases will go a long way in getting you better service and prices.
The Senegalese people learn French in school and it is a very useful language for travellers to know. While some Senegalese merchants speak English, most business is conducted in French or Wolof. Other languages used in Senegal include Sereer, Soninke, Pulaar, Jola, and Mandinka are spoken.
The basic Muslim greeting is often used: Salaam Aleikum - Peace to you. The response is Waleikum Salaam - And unto you peace.
Tourist maps are available at the tourist offices (see au-senegal.com for that one).
If you want to explore the country by (rented) car, you need one.
A yellow fever vaccine is required (and proof) to enter the country.
Buy at least a mosquito net (preferably permethrin-impregnated) and a good repellent (preferably DEET-based). Also, many outdoor retailers in the US sell bottles of Permethrin that can be washed into clothing and will remain in the garment for a month before the effectiveness of the product wears off and should be reapplied.
Be careful with food prepared by the road, as it could be cooked in unsanitary conditions. Western-style meals are available and can be found at restaurants in various parts of Dakar, Thies, Saint Louis and other towns and near the big hotels in the Petite Côte and in some other touristic regions of the country, too. If you really want to try the genuine Senegalese food, you can buy it at restaurants serving Senegalese dishes; or alternatively, you can make it yourself with the food gathered fresh from the markets or supermarkets.
The official dish of Senegal is ceebu jen (or thebou diene) -- rice and fish. It comes in two varieties (red and white -- named for the different sauces). The Senegalese love ceebu jen and will often ask if you've ever tried it, and it is definitely part of the experience. Even better if you get the chance to eat with your hands around the bowl with a Senegalese family! Keep your eyes out for the delicious, but elusive ceebu jen "diagga", which is served with extra sauce and fish balls. Other common dishes are Maafe, which is a rich, oily peanut-based sauce with meat that is served over white rice. "Yassa" is a delicious onion sauce that is often served over rice and chicken, "Yassa poulet" or with deep fried fish "Yassa Jen."
If you intend to explore the arid area of Senegal (Saint-Louis & Ferlo), you need to drink several liters of water a day. Even in Dakar, dehydration is possible during warmer months if you do not drink enough water each day.
It might also be a good idea to learn some basic Wolof, since not everybody can speak French. In addition there are many other languages such as Toucouleur, Serere, peuls, etc.... However almost everyone can speak wolof. Therefore knowing wolof would be a big help.
There are many opportunities for people to make a difference in Senegal. Projects Abroad is a volunteer organisation based in St Louis with opportunities to help out teaching English, caring for underprivileged children, teaching sport or being a human rights advocate amongst other things. Volunteers get to stay with local host families, which is a huge honour.
Although highly exaggerated, there is still fighting going on in the Casamance region of Senegal.
The "struggle" goes on between the government and the MFDC or mouvement des forces démocratiques de la Casamance. It would be wise to avoid travel to this area. If this is not possible or if you really want to see this region, then at least first check with the embassy for the latest situation. To find out how much the situation has improved look at this IRIN News report:
In Dakar, take care when walking the streets - petty theft and scams are abundant. You will be approached by aggressive street vendors who will follow you for several blocks. If refused, often accusations of 'racism" will be leveled at non-local, non-buyers. Also, pickpockets use the following two-person tactic - one (the distraction) will grab one of your pant's leg while the other (the thief) goes into your pocket. If someone grabs your clothing, beware of the other one on your other side most. Wear pants/shorts with secure (buttons or snaps) pockets and leave your shirt untucked to cover your pockets.
Be cautious of people claiming to have met you before or offering to guide you. Often at times, you will be led to a remote location and robbed. Women need to be particularly alert as they are frequently targeted at beaches or markets.
Finally, there have been instances of street stall vendors grabbing cash out of non-local shoppers hands and quickly stuffing the money into their own pocket. After the money is in their pocket, they claim it is their's and the victim is not in a position to prove otherwise or protest effectively. Be careful with your cash - do not hold it in your hand while bargaining.
Be sure to carry some sort of identification on you. Police pull over vehicles and check for proper papers occasionally. If caught without your passport (copy of a passport is recommended) the police may try to bribe you of money; they may even go as far as to take you to the station. While most of the time they are bluffing and one should not give into such corruption, some officials may be wicked enough to do so. Use this advice with caution. The simplest way to prevent this is just to carry identification!
Get necessary vaccines before arrival. Officially, certification of yellow fever vaccine is required upon arrival if coming from a country in a yellow fever zone, but it is not commonly checked.
Avoid tap-water, and all dishes prepared with them. Bottled water, such as Kirene which is most common and bottled in Senegal, is widely available and inexpensive.
To prevent serious effects of dehydration, it is wise to carry around packets of rehydration salts to mix with water, should you become dehydrated. These are widely available at pharmacies and are inexpensive. Alternatively, a proper mix of table salt and sugar can replace these.
The primary religion in Senegal is Islam, and most Senegalese are extremely devout Muslims. It's important to be respectful of this because religion is very important in Senegalese life. However, don't be afraid to ask questions about Islam -- for the most part, Senegalese people love to talk about it!
Greet everyone when entering a room with "Salaam Aleikum." Always shake hands with everyone. Do not enter mosques and other religious places with your shoes.
Foreign women can expect to get many marriage proposals from Senegalese men. Handle this with a sense of humor - and caution.
As far as dress goes, be aware that anything shorter than knee length is inappropriate. Tank tops are generally accepted in larger towns, but should be avoided as much as possible.