Getting Around Senegal
Senegal Airlines (www.senegalairlines.aero) offers domestic flights linking Dakar to the southern region of Casamance via Cap Skirring and Ziguinchor, gateways to the beautiful stretches of golden sands on the coast. The flight times are around 45 minutes.
By far the most used and safest way to travel is by road. There are a number of local transport options depending on your budget and comfort requirements. It's also possible to rent vehicles from private companies or individuals as long as you have a valid driving licence that allows you to drive in this country.
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Asphalt roads link the major towns and the coastal region. The network of roads in the interior is rough and may become impassable during the rainy season. It's not advisable to drive at night.
There are often police checkpoints at the entrance and exit to villages to enforce speed restrictions; fines are paid on the spot.
There are three road classification categories in Senegal: international highways, national roads and regional roads.
The capital, Dakar, is the end point of three routes in the Trans-African Highway network starting in Cairo, crossing the edge of the Sahara Desert, Ndjamena, linking the countries of the Sahel together, and Lagos, linking the ECOWAS community states together.
National roads are the most important roads in Senegal and are classed by number from 1 to 7. They are prefixed with the letter ‘N’. Regional roads are prefixed ‘R’.
You can find hire car companies such as Hertz and Europcar in Dakar and the main towns. Pick-up points are available at Dakar Airport and at several depots throughout the city.
Available in most towns; fares are metered. Rates increase after midnight. It's cheaper to hail a taxi in the street than arrange to be collected from the hotel. Taxi prices are theoretically fixed. However, standard practice is to bargain with the driver through the passenger window. To get the best price, you need to refuse the driver’s ‘final’ offer and pretend to hail another taxi; by the time you make it to the back of his car to wave your arm, he’ll honk at you to get in at your final offer. Be ready to have exact change and to help direct your driver to your destination; often, they don’t know how to get there.
‘Bush taxis’ are good for journeys into the interior. By far the quickest and safest way of getting around the country is by sept-place taxi (shared taxi) – battered Peugeots that negotiate even the most ragged routes of the country.
Bicycle hire is available in certain smaller towns around Senegal, and is a great way to explore the town and the surrounding countryside. Your best bet to find bicycles is in beach resort towns such as Saly Portudal or Cap Skirring, or in places where community-based tourism projects have been implemented such as Kedougou or Tambacounda. It's not advisable to hire a bike in the hustle and bustle of Dakar.
Unlike a lot of West African countries to the south of Senegal, there are nearly no motorbikes present on the streets. However, in Dakar, you can rent scooters or small bikes. The best bet is to find a reputable garage in town, and keep talking until you are referred to a place that feels OK with you.
Make sure you bring your own helmet and other safety gear. Senegal can be muddy during rainy season, and very dry and dusty the rest of the year. Most rural roads are in poor condition so you need to find an off-road type of bike. Riding in leather might be hot but is generally safer. You might be able to find a bike there, but you will not find the safety gear.
Regarding inter-city travel, apart from the Sept-place taxi mentioned above, there is the option of taking a minibus, which is often crowded or uncomfortable, or a coach that will often be delayed for departure until it is full. Sometimes you may wait half a day more than the stated time before it leaves.
In villages and towns, the speed limit is 50kph (31mph). Outside of towns the limit is 130kph (80mph). Seatbelts are obligatory for both driver and passenger, but most commercial vehicles do not have seatbelts.
If you are driving, it is imperative to have a valid driving licence or Internationlal Driving Permit.
It's useful to carry your passport to show officials, as they usually ask for it at check points. However, it's advised to also carry a photocopy of your passport to show instead of the real document as this could avoid frustrating scenarios with corrupt police officials.
Breakdown service companies in Senegal are non-existent, and people are used to repairing the car by themselves; everyone usually has some kind of mechanical skill. However there are many mechanics in big, medium and small towns that can be relied on to at least get you back on the road again.
If you are renting a car, it's advisable to ask what the options are for breakdown cover from the car hire company you are using. They will probably give you a number to call and will most definitely have their own breakdown service.
A national driving licence or International Driving Permit and Green Card are required.
Roads in Senegal are of mixed quality. In and between major towns, roads are asphalted and of relatively good quality, with the odd pothole. The less frequented roads are, most of the time, beaten earth or clay with all the faults that come with it. During the rainy season, the beaten earth roads get very muddy, making them harder to drive.
Bus and minibus services operate in Dakar. Blue public buses come every 30 to 60 minutes during the daytime. Smaller white public buses come more often but these buses do not stop at many places.
The colourful blue and yellow car rapide is one of Senegal’s iconic symbols. Each one is painted differently, and they all state 'ALHAMDOULILAH' (Praise be to God) across their fronts. Car rapide costs vary depending on where you’re going.
All rail services are currently suspended.
It is often quicker to travel by sea than road. A ferry line runs from Dakar to Ziguinchor, arriving the morning after departure. Sea shuttles depart regularly from Dakar harbour to the Île de Gorée. The L'Express du Senegal links Banjul, Dakar and Ziguinchor.
There are also boats, or pirogues, linking N’Gor Island, a popular Caribbean-like island near the airport, to N’Gor beach on the mainland, that depart on a regular basis from the far left-hand side of the beach when facing the island.
All commercially run boat transport has strict health and safety regulations and should come equipped with life jackets. On other non-commercial transport, the responsibility for safety lies with the passenger.
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