Visiting Senegal soon? Here are some useful tips to make your trip go smooth.
September 9, 2019Niry Fidelis
The ultimate travel guide for Senegal: 16 facts I wish I knew before visiting the westernmost point of Africa.
Senegal, the country located in the westernmost point of Africa, is filled with breathtaking nature, heart touching history, art and also beautiful architecture.
If you are travelling to Senegal for the first time, you need to read this. There are some travel tips that will make your trip go more smoothly and help you avoid some mistakes on things that can be unpredictable the first time you go to Senegal.
Bridge connecting Joal to Fadiouth
Senegal is undoubtedly a great starting point to approach Africa since it allows travellers to go around serenely and peacefully. Even though that is true, making it a stress-free trip could be quite hard if you are not sufficiently prepared. Based on our experience, I have put up my 16 things I wish I knew before visiting Senegal.
Sunset in Saly
1. Even though the official language of Senegal is French, it is not widely understood. Only those who go to school speak French and since education is not compulsory, only a few know their official language. You must know that the language of the state is therefore Wolof. Learn these two phrases to help yourself.
Na nga def (nan-ga-def): how are you? Respond with maa ngi fi (man-gi-fi): I’m fine, thanks.
This does not mean that you don’t need to brush up on your French before you leave since knowing a few words in French can be really helpful.
2. Senegal doesn’t have a reputation of being a safe country but in our experience we have never felt fear. We always travelled by the public transportation and we never experienced a feeling of danger.
House of Slaves in Goreè
3. As soon as you move away from the tourist areas, people are not friendly at all. They are antisocial; they don’t want to interact with you.
4. Even if you are an experienced driver, taking a taxi or hiring a driver is the best option for tourists trying to get around the country since apart from the main road, the streets are unpaved with no indications. It is even worse during the rain season. Also, make sure you are clear on the price before getting in to avoid disappointments.
5. While travelling in Senegal, keep in mind that photography is a very sensitive topic. Almost everyone gets very angry when you take their photo, some even threaten you with wide eyes and finger pointed.
6. Gays, lesbians, and bisexuals may encounter problems in Senegal. “Unnatural acts” are forbidden and offenses are punishable by up to five years in jail or a several-thousand-dollar fine.
7. Corruption among public officials is very frequent. You could find yourself fined for reasons that you don’t even understand. This is commonly seen at the border. Just giving some money is enough to fix the situation.
8. In touristic areas, it’s slightly common to find people who might understand and speak some Italian, Spanish, or even German so pay attention when you guys are talking.
9. Keep in mind that the street vendors will stress your soul in the touristic areas. Ignore them in advance if you are truly not interested. It is the only way!!! Even a little confidence is enough to make them follow you for hours.
10. Senegal is well connected with public transportation but the vehicles are very old so, break downs are quite frequent. Consequently a journey which is two hours trip could easily turn into six or even seven hours. In this case just keep calm and remember that not only the destination but also the journey is a part of your travel.
11. The food is very basic in Senegal, definitely it is not among my favourite. You will eat a lot of rice, chicken and fish. You will find a little more in areas attracting high number of tourists but nothing special though. After all, you don’t go to Senegal if you are looking for a delicious food and well-presented dishes. (maybe you go to Italy?) 12. Senegalese are a big football enthusiastics. You can see them playing everywhere. If you gift them a ball or an old Football T-shirt, they will be really grateful.
Senegal on the road
13. Border crossing in Senegal is a true test of the mettle of any overland traveller though, it remains an adventure which will turn your life richer. 14. The only one western style supermarket is in Saly. Here you can find almost everything, including mosquito repellents which are a necessity in Senegal; specially during the wet season.
People collecting clams during the low tide hours in Joal Fadiouth
15. The most dangerous moment is the arrival at the airport, everything is a rip-off. Take your time to decide or you’ll be screwed bad. 16. Buying a SIM card is very easy in Senegal; no documents are required. Do it upon your arrival at the airport and start keeping yourself connected. (Pay attention because they will try to charge you as more as they can).
Once you get the logistics part settled, Senegal is a gorgeous country. You can enjoy the sun and parties on the beach, visit colourful markets and fishing villages, birdwatch, go on boat trips in the lagoon among the mangroves, do asafari, visit monuments of touching historical value, visit some of the UNESCO World Heritage sites, float on the pink lake, try the camel ride in the desert, visit the green forests. Senegal has really everything. I’d love to return one day! Visiting Senegal again is certainly on my backetlist.
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