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.
Last updated: 22 January 2019
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.
Preparations for the February 2019 Presidential election have now begun in Dakar and across the country. Key dates include 20 January when the final list of candidates is published, and 3 February when the campaigning period opens. There are likely to be political rallies and demonstrations in Dakar in the run up to elections, with a risk of potential unrest. Avoid any protests, demonstrations and areas where large public gatherings are likely.
Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in Senegal. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners.
The Casamance region has suffered for decades from low intensity separatist violence, largely directed at Senegalese security forces. While the security situation has improved significantly since 2012, there are occasionally violent incidents. On 7 January 2018, 14 Senegalese nationals were killed, and a further seven injured in an attack by gunmen in the Casamance region in the south of Senegal. The incident took place in the forest of Boffa-Bayotte, in the département of Ziguinchor. On 5 August 2018, 4 Senegalese nationals involved in gathering wood disappeared in Boussoloum forest, Zinguichor. There’s a lower level of risk in the main tourist areas of the Casamance.
You should be vigilant when travelling in the Casamance region to the west of Kolda, and where possible you should avoid travelling at night, and stick to the main road from Ziguinchor to Cap Skirring and the main road north of the Guinea-Bissau/Senegal border from Sao Domingos to Ziguinchor.
Pickpocketing and street crime are common in parts of Dakar, particularly around Place de l’Indépendance, the central area of the Plateau and the Western Corniche.
Be cautious when changing cash given the risk of false money circulating.
Most visits to Senegal are trouble-free.
UK health authorities have classified Senegal as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. For information and advice about the risks associated with Zika virus, visit the NaTHNaC website
The UNAIDS 2016 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic estimates the prevalence percentage of HIV in Senegal as at around 0.5% of adults aged between 15 and 49 years, compared to the prevalence percentage in adults in the UK of around 0.25%. You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
Safety and security
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 and the Western Corniche. 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) has suffered for decades from low intensity separatist violence, largely directed at Senegalese security forces.
The security situation has improved significantly since 2012. The main faction of the separatist MFDC (Movement of the Democratic Forces of Casamance) declared a ceasefire in 2014, and political discussions with the government are ongoing. Armed separatist groups are however, still present in Casamance, and the region continues to suffer from banditry. On 7 January 2018, 13 Senegalese nationals were killed, and a further seven injured in an attack by gunmen in the Casamance region in the south of Senegal. The incident took place in the forest of Boffa-Bayotte, in the département of Ziguinchor, where the victims were reported to have been gathering wood.
There’s a lower level of risk in the main tourist areas of the Casamance, notably Cap Skirring, the city of Ziguinchor, and the residential areas along the Casamance River.
You should be vigilant when travelling to the west of Kolda. Where possible avoid travelling at night and stick to the main road from Ziguinchor to Cap Skirring (which is frequently 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. On other roads you should travel in convoy where possible. The N4 and N5 roads in the Casamance region are closed each night from 10pm to 6am.
Land mines remain a hazard in certain areas of the Casamance, and have caused several hundred deaths since 1990. De-mining operations are ongoing. You should stick to paved roads. If you must leave paved roads, seek local advice.
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.
Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in Senegal. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners. Take particular care in remote areas of Senegal near the border areas with Mauritania and Mali, and to the east of the city of Podor as far as Kidira.
On 18 October 2017 the US Embassy in Senegal issued a security message related to potential terrorist activity in Dakar. Take extra care when visiting locations, including hotels, frequented by Westerners.
Terrorist groups in West Africa have demonstrated their capability and intent by mounting attacks in Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Mali since late 2015 and 2016. Targets have included leisure facilities, beach resorts, hotels, cafes and restaurants visited by foreigners. Be especially vigilant in these locations.
Senegal contributes to the UN peacekeeping initiative in Mali (MINUSMA) and is therefore considered a legitimate target by terrorist groups including Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM) and their associated groups.
JNIM mainly operate in the Sahel.The Sahel region includes Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad but the threat may extend to other neighbouring countries, including Senegal, and the wider region due to the porous nature of the borders and the desire from these groups to demonstrate capability and influence across the wider region. Read more about the threat from terrorism in the Sahel region.
There is a threat of kidnapping in the wider Sahel region. You should take particular care in remote regions and border areas. The long-standing policy of the British government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage-takers. The British government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners increases the risk of further hostage-taking and finances terrorist activity. The Terrorism Act (2000) also makes payments to terrorists illegal.
There’s considered to be a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
Local laws and customs
Local laws reflect the fact that Senegal is a predominantly Muslim country. You should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times and be aware of your actions so that they don’t offend others, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas.
In 2018, the holy month of Ramadan is expected to start on 16 May and finish on 15 June.
You should dress and behave modestly in public outside the main tourist areas. Bars and restaurants usually serve alcoholic drinks but drunkenness is considered offensive. Kissing as a greeting is acceptable but kissing romantically in public is not.
There is no gay scene in Senegal and article 319 of the penal code states that “an indecent or unnatural act with an individual of the same sex is punishable by 1-5 years imprisonment”. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.
General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
Malaria, Dengue fever and other tropical diseases are common in Senegal, especially during the rainy season (June-September). As of mid-October 2018, an outbreak of dengue fever has been reported in Touba, in Senegal’s central region. If you’re visiting the city or surrounding area, including during the Magal de Touba religious festival on 27 October, you should exercise caution and take steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. For more information on the outbreak, visit the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) website.
Health facilities in Dakar are reasonable but are limited in the rest of Senegal. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
UK health authorities have classified Senegal as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. For information and advice about the risks associated with Zika virus, visit the National Travel Health Network and Centre website
There are occasional outbreaks of cholera.
The UNAIDS 2014 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic estimated that around 44,000 adults aged 15 or over in Senegal were living with HIV; the prevalence percentage was estimated at around 0.5% of the adult population compared to the prevalence percentage in adults in the UK of around 0.25%. You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
You don’t need a visa to travel to Senegal. If you intend to stay in Senegal for longer than 3 months, you’ll need to register with the local authorities in order to obtain a ‘Carte d’Etranger’.
Your passport should be valid for at least 3 months from the date of entry into Senegal.
Evidence of return or onward travel
You may be refused entry if you don’t have evidence of return or onward travel.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents are accepted for entry into, transit through and exit from Senegal.
Yellow fever certificate requirements
Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.
Credit cards are accepted in larger establishments that cater for tourists. Commission is added for their use. There are ATMs in Dakar, but banking facilities are sporadic in the rest of the country.
Travel advice help and support
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCO travel advice
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.