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Senegal Travel Guide: All you need to know to visit Senegal in 2023

Senegal Travel Guide: All you need to know to visit Senegal in 2023

Welcome to Senegal

Welcome to Senegal

Senegal is known for its diverse culture, rich history, and beautiful landscapes, such as the pink lakes of Dakar and Gorée Island. This West African Nation can be the perfect destination if you love lively cities and vibrant nightlife but also for those looking for golden beaches and tropical rainforests.

This ultimate Senegal travel guide will provide valuable tips to plan your trip to this country in mainland Africa.

Document checklist for Senegal

  • Visa (if applicable)

  • Valid passport (must be valid for at least six months from the date of entry and have two blank pages)

  • Sufficient funds to cover your trip

  • Return or onward ticket

Essential Senegal travel information

  • Currency - West African CFA franc (CFA). $1 is equivalent to approx. CFA 611.

  • Daily budget for 1 person - Allow a daily budget of CFA 25,878 ($42).

  • Languages - French is the official language. Additionally, Wolof, Sereer, Pulaar, Joola, Malinké, and Soninké are recognized as national languages.

  • Number of travelers per year - According to the World Bank, 1,376,000 travelers visited Senegal in 2017. It’s one of the main destinations in French West Africa.

  • Socket type - Types C, D, E, and K, 230V supply voltage, and 50Hz.

  • Time zone - Greenwich Mean Time (GMT±00:00).

  • Top 3 cities to visit - Dakar, Saint-Louis, and Ziguinchor.

  • Top 3 landmarks/monuments - The Museum of African Arts, the Faidherbe Bridge, and Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary.

Visa information for Senegal

Most nationalities are visa-exempt, which includes the United States, countries in the European Union, and most African nations.

You can use our Visa Checker Tool to find out which document you need for this trip. If a visa is required, we recommend you contact your nearest Senegalese embassy.

Visa difficulty index for Senegal

Accessibility: 4/5 Most countries do not need a visa for stays up to three months. However, those that do, must apply for a paper visa in a Senegalese embassy near you. Consult the embassy office to check the documents you need and how to apply.

Time to get your visa: 3/5 The processing time for your Senegal Visa depends on your nationality and the country from which you are applying. Some diplomatic missions can process a visa in 2 or 3 days, while others may take a week or longer.

Costs: 4/5 The fee may vary depending on your nationality. The visa fee is affordable, around USD 50 for most travelers.

Typical costs and budget for Senegal

A guide to what you'll spend on a daily basis traveling through Senegal on a mid-range budget.

  • Daily spending - Around CFA 25,878 ($42) per person daily. This includes:

  • Meals - Expect to spend about CFA 9,102 ($15) in total for three meals per day.

  • Transport - Depending on your travel plans and standard of travel, local transportation may cost up to CFA 2,514 ($4.17) per day.

  • Hotel - The average hotel price in Senegal for a couple is CFA 28,191 ($47).

On average, a trip to Senegal for two people for one week can cost up to CFA 366,832 ($600).

Transport and best ways to travel around Senegal

Let’s explore the many ways to get to and around Senegal! Here are some tips for exploring the capital city and the countryside safely.

Flying to Senegal

Air Senegal is the national airline, and you can use their services to travel to the country from several major cities in Europe and Africa. The main airlines to offer international flights to Senegal are:

  • Air France

  • Royal Air Maroc

  • Iberia

  • Turkish Airlines

  • TAP Portugal

Direct flights are available from various cities, such as Paris, Madrid, Lisbon, Verona, and New York. Dakar Airport is the main entry point, and from Dakar, you can take domestic flights to Saint Louis or other destinations in the country.

Arrival and immigration tips for Senegal

Léopold Séadar Senghor International Airport in Dakar is the first destination for many international travelers in Senegal. Check out below some advice to prepare for the immigration process on arrival:

  • Make sure your passport is valid. It must be valid for at least six months from the arrival date.

  • Ensure that you have a visa and all the right travel documents (if applicable). Also, review all entry requirements before departure, such as customs and health declarations, since these can change quickly.

  • Immigration authorities can sometimes request evidence of return or onward travel. So make sure your return tickets are easy to find and printed.

  • Try to pre-book an airport transfer with your accommodation or a trustable local company. It is one less thing to worry about on arrival in a busy city.

  • When departing, arrive at the airport at least 4 hours before boarding. This will guarantee you have enough time to face traffic jams, check-in, and pass through security.

Renting a car in Senegal

You can rent a car to explore the country if you prioritize your autonomy. Many car hire companies offer different car options so you can choose according to your comfort requirements and budget. However, keep in mind that Senegalese roads require extra caution as traffic can be chaotic in major cities, and you may face roads in bad condition in the countryside.

Taxis in Senegal

There are a few different taxi services: normal taxi, motor taxi, and bush taxi. Yellow car taxis in Dakar are readily available 24/7, and they're generally the safest and most reliable transport option. Once you and your driver agree on the price, your driver will get you there fast and securely. Motor taxis are cheap and can avoid traffic jams, but can be dangerous.

Bush taxis are the brightly decorated mini buses used mainly by locals. They only depart whenever it's full, so departure and arrival times can be hard to predict.

Express trains in Senegal

You cannot count on a rail network to travel around Senegal. However, there is an express train that serves Dakar and the surrounding suburbs. This new public transport option was introduced in 2022, offering safer and faster transportation in the city, although it is more expensive than the usual mini buses.

Boat travel in Senegal

There are ferries going from Dakar to destinations such as Ziguinchor or Île de Gorée. We also recommend doing a cruise on the Senegal river. Many local tour companies offer this service, whether for big tourist groups or in small boats. It’s an excellent option to explore the region and learn about Senegalese history from local guides.

Buses in Senegal

Senegal has an extensive long-distance bus network, and offers comfortable and modern buses. Each bus company has its own bus station. In addition, bush taxis are another option to get around the country. These mini buses are slow and unpredictable, but cheap.

Safety in Senegal

Senegalese people are very friendly, and you will feel welcome in this unique country. However, it’s essential to be cautious and alert regarding security. Here are some travel tips:

  • The southern regions of Casamance and the borders with Mali, Mauritania, and Guinea-Bissau are experiencing unstable security conditions, so avoid travel in these areas.

  • Protests are common in cities such as Dakar and can sometimes turn violent. Remain vigilant and avoid large gatherings.

  • Pickpockets, bag snatchers, and thieves on motorbikes are common in large crowds. So be cautious and don’t carry valuables and jewelry on you.

  • Don't walk the streets at night, especially alone. If you go out for dinner, take a taxi to the restaurant and come back. Also, travel insurance is an important security measure for emergencies. Insurance is not mandatory to travel to Senegal, but it would be helpful in case you need medical services

Weather in Senegal

The country has a tropical climate, offering high temperatures year-round. The best time to visit Senegal is in winter, from November to March when the weather is dryer. Also, temperatures can be slightly cooler, around 26°C (78.8°F), and the Saharan harmattan wind blows away the humidity.

June to October can be hard to enjoy outdoors due to the rainy season. The temperature stays around 30°C (86°F) or over during this period.

Must do and see in Senegal

Senegal used to be a French colony, and it preserved a lot of historical sites and colonial architecture from that time. Plus, the tropical country offers beautiful natural landscapes and wildlife spotting. Make sure you don’t miss these remarkable sights on your trip to Senegal:

  1. Observe pelicans and flamingos in the Djoudj Bird Sanctuary in Saint Louis. This beautiful park provides a range of wetland habitats, very popular with migrating birds, many of whom have just crossed the Sahara.

  2. Enjoy a beach day at La Petite Côte, south of Dakar. The Cap-Vert and Sine-Saloum islands protect this charming beach from the wind, contributing to pleasant weather and a calm sea.

  3. Visit the Mosquée de la Divinité. This impressive religious building is an important Muslim pilgrimage site and a must-see for travelers. You can’t go inside as a non-Muslim, but the exterior offers gorgeous architecture and amazing views over the ocean.

  4. Explore the Niokolo Koba National Park. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Senegal's largest national park, perfect for seeing wildlife.

  5. Swim in the Pink Lake on Goree Island. The lake is known for its original and changing watercolor and for being the final stage of the Paris-Dakar rally.

Typical Senegalese food to try

  • Thiéboudieune - This is a traditional dish made of rice cooked with tomato sauce and nokos, a mixture of spices and herbs. After that, the same tomato sauce is used for cooking fish and many different vegetables, such as carrots, cabbage, cassava, eggplant, okra, and turnip. They are served together.

  • Soup Kandia - Most restaurants in Senegal have this dish on the menu. It’s a stew of okra, palm oil, fish, and white rice. For a good kandia soup, it’s essential to count on quality ingredients, such as meaty fish and juicy okra.

  • Domoda - This dish can be made with beef, veal, lamb, or fish. The meat is cooked in a sauce of tomato paste, onions, vegetables, and lots of lemon. Next, the sauce is thickened with flour and a water paste.

Vaccine information for Senegal

It's important to know what routine vaccines and COVID-19 measures to visit Senegal before departure. It’s highly recommended to take the yellow fever vaccine before traveling around the country. You should consult the CDC website for more details about vaccine requirements and any recommended medicine lists.

Safari in Senegal

Senegal has several national parks where you can spot wildlife. Fathala Reserve and Niokolo Koba Park are some of them. However, the best place to enjoy this experience is the Bandia Wildlife Reserve, located between Dakar and Mbour.

It’s a small private reserve that hosts large African mammals. They deliberately *reintroduce animals into the habitat** after the species has disappeared from the region due to poaching and demographic pressure. It’s a great opportunity to observe amazing wildlife, such as giraffes, zebras, rhinos, gazelles, buffaloes, antelopes, crocodiles, and monkeys. It’s just 3,500 hectares, so animals are easy to spot with a local guide.

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