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Senegal travel guide

About Senegal

Senegal is often known as 'The Country of Teranga'. Teranga means hospitality in the local tongue of Wolof, and you will indeed find Senegal to be one of the friendliest spots in West Africa. The locals are hospitable - once you get to know them, you may find yourself being invited to share a steaming cup of tea or even some delicious home-cooked meals.

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. It is also worth checking out bustling restaurants that serve up rich Senegalese cuisine influenced by the Maghrebis (inhabitants of northern Africa), French and Portuguese.

Most visitors land in Dakar, the chaotic, fast-growing capital, packed with great nightlife and restaurants. However, Senegal also offers beautiful, untouched rural scenery, along with golden beaches, tropical rainforests and semiarid grasslands. Suffice to say, Senegal offers something unique for every traveller.

Indeed, the diversity of Senegal is perhaps its best feature. The southern Casamance region boasts palm-fringed tropical beaches. The western region is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean, featuring a series of wetlands teeming with biodiversity, including one of the largest concentrations of migratory birds in the world. Then you have the relatively flat plains which give way to the mountainous region in the southeast – this is where the highest point of Senegal is found, reaching an elevation of 581m (1,906ft) near Népen Diakha.

Adventurous travellers come to Senegal to surf some of the best waves in West Africa in year-round warm waters, hike through lush tropical rainforest-clad mountains, discover towering waterfalls or go deep-sea fishing in the depth of the continental shelf. With birds, giraffes, elephants, hippos, rhinos, lions and panthers abound, wildlife viewing is also high on the agenda among some travellers.

Highbrow tourists won't be disappointed either. There are year-round music and art festivals such as the Saint-Louis Jazz Festival, as well as well-managed museums displaying some of the most interesting artefacts found in the region. You'll also find well-preserved colonial ruins and sites that remember the dehumanising Transatlantic slave trade.

Senegal is easily accessible from Europe and the USA. The country offers an array of experiences, has warm temperature year-round and one of the best infrastructures in the region, so it is time to put Senegal on your radar and come for a visit.

Key facts

Area:

196,712 sq km (75,951 sq miles).

Population:

16,657,759 (UN estimate 2020).

Population density:

87 per sq km.

Capital:

Dakar.

Government:

Republic.

Head of state:

President Macky Sall since 2012.

Travel Advice

Coronavirus travel health

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Senegal on the TravelHealthPro website.

See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

International travel

Air, land and sea borders are open, apart from the land border with Guinea.

If you are travelling between the UK and Senegal and transiting via a third country, check our travel advice for that country.

If you’re transiting another country between Senegal and the UK, you should check travel advice of the countries on your route for the latest transit requirements.

You should contact your airline and your travel company for the latest information.

Entry and borders

See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in Senegal.

Returning to the UK

When you return, you must follow the rules for entering the UK.

You are responsible for organising your own COVID-19 test, in line with UK government testing requirements. The Senegalese Ministry of Health has issued a list of testing facilities (only available in French).

Be prepared for your plans to change

No travel is risk-free during COVID. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.

If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.

Plan ahead and make sure you:

  • can access money
  • understand what your insurance will cover
  • can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned

Travel in Senegal

There is currently no restriction on travel between regions, and authorisation is not needed to travel between regions. Internal flights have also restarted. However, from 18 July all inter-regional services have been suspended by the Dakar Dem Dikk public bus service. Further restrictions may be announced at short notice.

Masks must be worn at all times in public areas and when travelling, including in a private car if there are two or more people in the car.

Accommodation

Hotels are open.

Public places and services

Masks must be worn in all public areas throughout Senegal, including in supermarkets, on public transport (which is still operating with reduced capacity), in taxis, and when on public streets.

Healthcare in Senegal

For contact details for English speaking doctors visit our list of healthcare providers.

The government of Senegal is encouraging those with any information or concerns about Coronavirus to call +221 800 00 50 50.

If you suspect you might have Coronavirus, the advice is that you may self-isolate at home if you have mild or no symptoms although the health service are likely to offer you a bed in a government-designated facility. If you need medical care, the government have designated a specific Coronavirus health care centre in each region. If you go to a government designated health care centre, you may wish to take extra toiletries, sheets and towels.

If you are leaving Senegal, you can pay for a COVID-19 test, at a cost of 25,000 CFA at locations in Dakar. The Senegalese Ministry of Health has issued a list of COVID-19 testing facilities (only available in French).

All over Senegal, you can find pharmacies in the big cities. Pharmacies accept UK prescriptions. Pharmacies are the only places where you can buy medicines. Please note that pharmacies in Senegal do not have accreditation with UK insurance companies so make sure you speak to your insurance company beforehand if you need a refund.

Your emotional and mental wellbeing is important. Read guidance on how to look after your mental wellbeing and mental health

View Health for further details on healthcare in Senegal.

See also the guidance on healthcare if you’re waiting to return to the UK.

COVID-19 vaccines if you live in Senegal

We will update this page when the Government of Senegal announces new information on the national vaccination programme. You can sign up to get email notifications when this page is updated.

The Senegal national vaccination programme started in February 2021 and is using the AstraZeneca and Sinopharm vaccines. The Government of Senegal has stated that British nationals resident in Senegal are eligible for vaccination if they choose to join the programme. Further information on the vaccination programme is available on the Government of Senegal Ministry of Health website.

Find out more, including about vaccines that are authorised in the UK or approved by the World Health Organisation, on the COVID-19 vaccines if you live abroad.

If you’re a British national living in Senegal, you should seek medical advice from your local healthcare provider. Information about COVID-19 vaccines used in the national programme where you live, including regulatory status, should be available from local authorities.

Finance

For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.

Help and support

The government of Senegal is encouraging those with any information or concerns about coronavirus to call +221 800 00 50 50.

If you need urgent consular assistance, contact your nearest British embassy, high commission or consulate. All telephone numbers are available 24/7.

Security situation

Since confirmation of cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Senegal, there have been reports of a limited number of incidents of increased hostility towards foreigners. You should be aware of this, take sensible precautions in your daily movements and avoid confrontation. There remains heightened political tensions and risk of protests following the unrest at the beginning of March 2021.

Crime

Pick pocketing and street crime are risks in common parts of Dakar, particularly around Place de l’Indépendence, the central area of the Plateau and the Western Corniche as well as Gorée Island. This type of crime is more common in the run-up to religious festivals, including Tabaski 20/21 July. They can also increase early in the month after salaries are paid. There has also been an increase in crime in the context of COVID-19. Recent examples of street crime have also included attackers grabbing bags whilst driving scooters or motorbikes. You should be vigilant and take sensible precautions: e.g. avoid walking alone in the evening and after dark, be alert if using a mobile phone in public and avoid carrying valuables and bags in public.

If you’re expecting someone to collect you at the airport, make sure they properly identify themselves before you set off.

Home robberies and armed robberies are becoming more frequent. Assaults usually take place early in the morning and after dusk.

Be cautious when changing cash given the risk of false money circulating.

British nationals are increasingly being targeted by scam artists operating in West Africa. Scams come in many forms (romance and friendship, business ventures, work and employment opportunities) and can pose a 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. This includes requests 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.

Political situation

President Macky Sall was re-elected for a second term in February 2019.

Strikes by teachers’ unions and student bodies, and demonstrations about political issues and the cost of living, are a relatively frequent occurrence, particularly in Dakar but also other cities. These are normally peaceful, but can sometimes turn violent. Political tensions remain heightened following the unrest at the beginning of March 2021 and further protests can take place with little notice. You should exercise caution and avoid areas where demonstrations and large gatherings are taking place, monitor the local media for information about forthcoming protests, and follow the instructions of local authorities.

Local travel

Due to the current unrest, you should remain vigilant, avoid large gatherings and monitor local media for information.

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 Ziguinchor, Casamance region in the south of Senegal. There are occasionally violent incidents, including armed attacks on travellers, businesses or villages.

There are sometimes military operations in the region.

Land mines remain a hazard in certain areas of the Casamance, and have caused several hundred deaths since 1990. On 15 June 2020, a military vehicle hit an anti-tank mine, killing three Senegalese soldiers. This came two days after another military vehicle hit a landmine.

De-mining operations are ongoing. Stick to paved roads where possible.

You should be vigilant when travelling in the Casamance region and monitor the local security situation before travelling. Where possible you should avoid travelling at night, stick to main roads and travel in a convoy when you can. There is a lower level of risk in the main tourist areas of the Casamance.

Road travel

You can drive in Senegal with a valid UK driving licence for up to 6 months, or on a valid International Driving Permit. If you’re staying longer or living in Senegal, you’ll need to get a Senegalese driving licence.

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.

Traffic congestion also increases throughout Senegal in the run up to and during religious festivals. 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 in order to report the incident.

Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in Senegal.

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out more about the global threat from terrorism.

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.

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.

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, and penalties for drink driving are severe. Kissing as a greeting is acceptable but kissing romantically in public is not.

Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are severe. Convicted offenders can expect lengthy jail sentences and heavy fines.

Homosexual activity is illegal and not tolerated in Senegal’s conservative society. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Senegal on the TravelHealthPro website

See the healthcare information in the Coronavirus section for information on what to do if you think you have coronavirus while in Senegal.

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. You should check whether you need a yellow fever vaccine certificate. 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.

While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).

Medical treatment

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.

Heath risks

Malaria, Dengue fever and other tropical diseases are common in Senegal, especially during the rainy season (June-September). You should take steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. There are occasional outbreaks of cholera.

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

The UNAIDS 2018 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic estimates the prevalence percentage of HIV in Senegal as at around 0.4% 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.

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.

Entry rules in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)

Entry to Senegal

The government of Senegal has said airlines are not allowed to carry foreign nationals from countries who have put in place travel restrictions for Senegal unless they are ordinarily resident in Senegal, diplomats, military, health professionals and other specific professional categories. Senegalese authorities have confirmed that British nationals are not subject to these entry restrictions.

Despite this, some airlines are only allowing foreign nationals with proof of residency in Senegal to travel. It is important to note that some airlines only accept a full residency card, and not a ‘récépissé’, although the government of Senegal have confirmed that a ‘récépissé’ is proof of residency. You should check with your airline before travelling.

Several airlines are now requesting a letter of support from the Senegalese Embassy in London (or elsewhere if you are not travelling from the UK) before boarding flights to Senegal. An application form for this purpose can be found on their website here. This completed form needs to be sent to the Senegalese Embassy at senegalembassy@hotmail.co.uk together with a copy of your passport, air ticket and relevant supporting documents. Please note this will take 2 – 3 working days to process. To enter Senegal, you must provide a negative test dated no more than 5 days earlier, issued in the country where you started your trip and authorised by that country or a recognised health organisation.

You should not use the NHS testing service to get a test in order to facilitate your travel to another country. You should arrange to take a private test.

You must also complete and submit a ‘Public Health Passenger Locator’ form on arrival in Senegal. You’ll need to submit this form at border control. You can access the form on the Dakar Airport website.

Regular entry requirements

Visas

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’étranger’.

Carte d’étranger

From 29 June you can now obtain a “carte d’étranger” from the local authorities if you’ll be staying in Senegal for longer than 3 months. If your visa has expired because of the coronavirus crisis, you should report to the Police des Étrangers et des Titres de Voyage in order to renew your visa.

Passport validity

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.

The currency in Senegal is the CFA franc (XOF). Avoid exchanging large quantities of CFA francs for foreign currency anywhere other than reputable exchange bureaus. ATMs are widespread and reliable in Dakar but banking facilities are infrequent in the rest of the country, and withdrawal limits may be quite low. Credit cards are accepted in larger establishments that cater for tourists. Commission is often added for their use.

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, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in London on 020 7008 5000 (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.

Travel safety

The FCDO 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 FCDO 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 FCDO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice team a request.

Further help

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.

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