GOOD TO KNOW

Airport

In December 2017, the new Blaise Diagne International Airport opened.
It’s located about 50 km from central Dakar, and in addition to the airport, a new conference center, hotels and more are being built in the same area in hope to boost the country’s economy.

If you want to rent a car, major companies like Hertz are present at the airport.
As a tourist, the most common way to get to and from the airport is by a regular yellow taxi.
You can expect to pay something like 25.000 CFA for a one way trip.
One of the reasons for this relatively expensive fare is that the road to Dakar has several tolls.
Once you’re in the city, the taxi prices are much lower.
A railway link between the airport and Dakar is under construction.

Read more on the airport’s website.


Beaches

The city has several beaches, some of them occupied by hotels.
If you don’t stay at the hotel, you can pay an entrance fee and get a full day access to the beach and swimming pool area (if the hotel has one).

Some of the public beaches tend to be crowded and/or dirty.


Culture

Senegal is a fairly liberal Muslim country.
Alcoholic beverages are being served at restaurants and can be bought from supermarkets.
When it comes to dress and behaviour, use common sense and respect religious and local traditions.


Islands

Dakar is surrounded by three nearby islands which can be visited, all with it’s unique charm.
Theese are all perfect for a day trip.


Laws

It’s prohibited to photograph official buildings, such as military facilities and police stations.
It’s also forbidden to photograph soldiers, police officers and others who work on behalf of the government.

The police can make random ID controls, so you should always carry a copy of your passport.

Sexual relations between individuals of the same sex is illegal.


Money

The currency in Senegal is West African CFA franc (XOF).
Even though major shops, restaurants and hotels accept card payment, cash is still the most common payment method.
If you want to buy something from the street, take a taxi or buy a boat ticket, cash is what you need.
There are plenty of ATMs spread across the city.


Religion

Islam is practiced by approximately 94 % of the country’s population.
4 % are Christians, and the remaining 2 % practice indigenous religions and traditions.


Safety

Even though Senegal is considered a relatively safe and politically stable country, one should keep in mind that poverty is widespread and the unemployment rate is high. Petty crimes are common. As a tourist in Dakar, you should especially be aware of pickpockets and bag snatchers. Sometimes bag snatchers operates on motorcycles, so keep your bag and belongings away from the road. One should also avoid walking outdoors at night.

Sometimes demonstrations occur in the streets, which can become violent when protesters and police clash.
If you want to keep an eye on the news, Al Jazeera is one of the websites that has a news section for Senegal written in English.

Casamance, the region located south of Gambia, has suffered for decades from low intensity separatist violence.
There are also land mines in parts of the Casamance region.

Always consult your Ministry of Foreign Affairs before traveling to Senegal.


Seasons

The country has a tropical climate with a dry season from about November to May.

Dakar’s rainy season occurs between June and October, however it isn’t really that rainy.
Most of the days are sunny, and when it actually rains, it usually passes by quite quickly.
During the rainy season, water temperatures rises to 28 °C / 82 °F.

Since Dakar is located on a peninsula, temperatures are in general lower than the rest of the country, thanks to the nice breezes from the ocean. If you come here during the rainy season, be prepared of temperatures well above the average maximum of 32 °C / 90 °F during daytime.


Shopping

Dakar is filled with markets. Some of them focuses on one particular thing (like fish or textiles), while others have a more varied range of goods (clothes, bags, shoes, African masks, etcetera). Larger markets, like Sandaga, can be really crowded, so one should be aware of pickpockets. As a foreigner, people will do everything to make you buy something, meaning they can follow you around for a very long time. This can be annoying, especially if you tell them over and over that you’re not interested. Other markets, like Soumbédioune, is less busy, and you can stroll around without someone walking after you all the time.

A vibrant market experience can of course be wonderful, just be prepared on being a target for salesmen.
Remember to bargain, otherwise you’ll pay several times more than the actual value.

If you want a more peaceful, western kind of shopping, visiting a place like Sea Plaza is a good choice.


SIM card

Orange is the largest mobile network operator in Senegal and the company offers a well functioning 4G connection in central Dakar.
A SIM card costs 1.000 CFA and can be bought from the company’s own shops (you’ll find one in Sea Plaza).
Once the SIM card is inserted in your device, you can load it with credits.
Credits can be bought both from shops and from people selling it on the street.

Note: You must bring your passport in order to buy the SIM card!


Supermarkets

There are two major supermarket chains, Auchan and Casino.
Both have a good assortment of all the goods one would expect from a grocery store.


Tipping

Tipping is not expected but highly appreciated.


Toubab

As a foreigner in Dakar, you might here people call you toubab.
It’s a word for people of European descent, however it’s used on Westerners in general.

The origin of the expression is unclear, but one theory is that it’s a corruption of the Arabic word tabib, which means doctor.
Another explanation is that Europeans during the colonial era used to tip “two bob” (two shilling) to locals running errands.

The term itself is not derogatory.


Traffic

Traffic in Senegal, especially in Dakar, can be really chaotic compared to the traffic in Western countries.
Drivers tend to follow other cars closely and exceed speed limits.
Traffic lights are uncommon, which means intersections can be really messy with cars honking and people waving.
The highways are in quite good condition.
During the rainy season, roads can be flooded.


Transportation

Dakar’s public transportation mainly consists of white, regular buses and the colorful minibuses called “car rapide”.
Not speaking French or Wolof makes it almost impossible to figure out the routes and timetables of the buses.
When it comes to the iconic minibuses, they are not concidered safe in a Western context since they lack seat belts, are often poorly maintained, and so crowded that people hang outside the open back doors.

Car Rapide
Car rapide.

If you don’t walk, taking a taxi is by far the easiest and most common way to get around as a tourist in Dakar.
Taxis are yellow and you don’t have to wait long to get one on the street, since the city is filled with them.
Always agree on a fare before entering a taxi. As in the markets, be prepared to bargain.

If the driver says no to the price you suggest, just walk away from the car.
Eventually he will honk and wave you back to the car.
If the driver thinks the price is too low, he will just drive away.
You’ll soon notice that this charade is the normal way of negotiating with taxi drivers.

Down below are some examples of how much we usually pay when we go by taxi to different places from our office in Point E.

Note: Taxi fares might be higher during nighttime and when traffic is heavy.

Point E – Sea Plaza (3 km): 1.000 CFA
Point E – Voile d’Or (5 km): 1.500 CFA
Point E – Marché Sandaga (6 km): 1.500 CFA
Point E – Sharky’s (10 km): 1.500 – 2.000 CFA
Point E – Marina Bay (12 km): 2.000 CFA