Senegal travel guide
Senegal is ‘The Country of Teranga’. Teranga, if you didn’t know, means hospitality in the local tongue of Wolof, and you will indeed find this to be one of the friendliest spots in West Africa. Don’t be surprised to find yourself being invited into someone’s home to eat one of many mouthwatering dishes.
A simple wander around the local markets will unearth handmade fabrics and authentic arts and crafts, while on almost every street corner in the towns and cities you’ll find musicians full of energy. You’ll also be tempted into bustling locales serving up rich cuisine influenced by the Maghrebis, French and Portuguese.
Most visitors land in Dakar, the chaotic, fast-growing capital, which despite its great nightlife and restaurants, can give you a bad first impression of the country. Golden beaches are a stone’s throw away, however, while to the north are the mighty Baobab trees of the Sahel.
Indeed, the diversity of Senegal is perhaps its best feature. In the southeast is the mountainous region of Fouta Djallon, home to secretive tribes and beautiful waterfalls. The southern Casamance region boasts palm-fringed tropical beaches and islands. The west is populated by mangroves and one of the largest concentrations of migratory birds in the world. Top of the country’s selling points is perhaps the wildlife, which apart from birds includes giraffes, elephants, hippos, rhinos, lions and panthers.
Senegal is also an exciting place for outdoor adventure types. Surf some of the best waves in West Africa in year-round warm waters, hike through lush tropical rainforest-clad mountains and discover towering waterfalls, or go deep-sea fishing off the continental shelf.
Culture vultures won’t be disappointed either. There are year-round music and art festivals such as the St Louis Jazz Festival, and well-managed museums displaying some of the most interesting artefacts found in the region. You’ll also find well-preserved colonial ruins, as well as reminders of the infamous trans-Atlantic slave trade.
Easily accessible from Europe and the US, offering an array of experiences, with up to eight months of sun a year, and one of the best infrastructures in the region, what’s not to like? Whatever you’re after, Senegal probably has it.
196,722 sq km (75,955 sq miles).
15,589,485 (UN estimate 2016).
71 per sq km.
President Macky Sall since 2012.
Prime Minister Mohammed Dionne since 2014.
230 volts AC, 50Hz. Various plug types with two or three round pins are in use.
Last updated: 13 March 2017
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Pick pocketing and street crime, including in taxis and occasionally violent, are common in parts of Dakar, particularly around Place de l’Independence, the central area of the Plateau, the Western Corniche, and at the airport. This type of crime is especially common in the run up to religious festivals. Recent examples have included attackers grabbing bags whilst driving scooters or motorbikes. You should take sensible precautions, avoid walking alone in the late afternoon and after dark, and avoid carrying valuables in public.
If you’re expecting a greeter or driver to collect you at the airport, make sure they properly identify themselves before you set off. Fake greeters are known to operate at the airport.
British nationals are increasingly being targeted by scam artists operating in West Africa. The scams come in many forms (romance and friendship, business ventures, work and employment opportunities) and can pose great financial risk to victims. You should be cautious about requests for funds, a job offer, a business venture or a face to face meeting from someone you have been in correspondence with over the internet who lives in West Africa, including from people who claim to be victims of various Western African conflicts (notably refugees from Sierra Leone) or relatives of present or former political leaders.
The Casamance region of south-western Senegal (between the southern border of Gambia and the northern border of Guinea-Bissau) remains affected by a small number of incidents involving armed separatist groups and banditry.
There have been periodic clashes between the Senegalese army and suspected elements of the armed separatist group MFDC (Movement of the Democratic Forces of Casamance) over the last few years resulting in injuries and deaths. However these types of attacks are infrequent and where they have occurred, have not been aimed at foreigners.
You should be vigilant when travelling in the Casamance region to the west of Kolda. Where possible you should avoid travelling at night and stick to the main road from Ziguinchor to Cap Skirring (which is often used by groups of tourists during daylight hours) and the main road north of the Guinea-Bissau/ Senegal border, from Sao Domingos to Ziguinchor (N4 bis (Route National 4 bis). You should monitor the local security situation before travelling. The N4 and N5 roads in the Casamance region are closed each night from 6pm to 6am.
Land mines remain a problem in Casamance. De-mining operations are ongoing. Organisations operating in Casamance have recorded several hundred deaths from land mines since 1990. You should take local advice and stick to paved roads.
While some main roads are of good quality, other roads can be poor especially during the rainy season from June to September. Torrential rains can cause floods and landslides. Monitor local weather reports and expect difficulties when travelling during the rainy season.
Driving standards are unpredictable. Some taxis and public mini-buses (‘car rapide’) are not roadworthy by UK standards. The government is planning to phase out car-rapides
by 2018 because of their age and the need to have buses that can hold more passengers.
Traffic in the Dakar area is heavy and you should take particular care and attention to avoid accidents. Driving after dark is more dangerous because of poor street and vehicle lighting. If you do have an accident you must contact the police and wait for them to arrive at the scene. In more remote areas you may need to go directly to the nearest police station to report the incident there.
Avoid any demonstrations or large gatherings of people.
The French Embassy provides important security updates to French and other EU nationals, including British nationals. If you would like to take advantage of this service, please contact the British Embassy, Dakar.