Backpacking Senegal

Looking for important travel information while backpacking around Senegal? Here you will find information on working in Senegal, entry visas, Senegal hostels, and much more.

Table of Contents

Facts About Senegal

Senegal is probably best known in the West for producing one of the African continents most successful football teams. What most people don’t realise is that Senegal, seated on the western coast of Africa is a backpacker’s paradise. This country has history and culture in the form of remnants of the French colonial times and the slave trade, as well as stunning beaches and six national parks. Despite its small size Senegal manages to offer everything that a visitor could want.

It should be noted that the Casamance region should be avoided due to recent violence caused by bandits and separatist rebel factions. There are also occasional outbreaks of fighting along border with Guinea-Bissau between government forces and rebel. You should check with the FCO on the latest travel advice.

  • Currency: CFA Franc (CFA Fr) = 100 centimes
  • Time Zone: GMT
  • Language: French
  • Telephone Services: Country code +221, International access code 00
  • Emergency Numbers: Not present, call the embassy on 8237 392

Climate

Senegal has a warm climate with two distinct seasons. The dry season is warm and runs from December to May. The wet season is much hotter and very humid and runs from May to November. The Sahelian region experiences the least rainfall and tends to be slightly warmer than the rest of the country, the Casamance region and the southeast experience the most rain.

Senegal climate map including average rainfall and temperature by month. Find the best time to backpack Senegal based on your climate preferences.

Things to see and do

The capital of Senegal is Dakar; the city itself has quite a small central area with most of its million strong population living around the edges of the city. This makes it an ideal location to explore on foot, cutting down on those bus and taxi costs. There a plenty of cheap hotels in Dakar although if you plan to visit in the tourist season you should book in advance as hotels can quickly fill up. There are two large markets that are worth visiting in the city, the first is Marche Kermel which is the main tourist market, the second is Marche Sandage which has more fruit and day to day items, you will however still find a small amount of souvenirs and a fantastic amount of clothing and cloth. The main tourist attraction of the city is undoubtedly the IFAN museum which has an enormous number of artefacts from across Africa; its exhibits of tribal masks are particularly impressive. Once night falls you will also find Dakar’s nightlife excellent with a large number of bars and nightclubs, the price might be a bit higher than elsewhere in Senegal but there is definitely the best choice of establishments in the capital city.

St-Lois is a historically and culturally interesting town situated on the Langue de Barbarie peninsula. The city in fact encompasses an island which can be reached via the 500m long Pont Faidherbe bridge. Before the split of Senegal-Mauritania St-Louis was the capital city, as a result the city is full of French colonial influence. The former European quarter was on the island part of the city and as such is full of large colonial houses. The mainland part was formerly the African quarter and today is mostly a fishing community. Attractions include the governor’s palace which was used as a fort during the 18th century, the St-Louis Cathedral which is the oldest surviving church in Senegal and the Muslim cemetery. Just outside the city there is a range of good beaches along the Langue de Barbarie peninsula and slightly further south is the Parc National de la Langue de Barbarie which is a prime location for spotting flamingos, pelicans and other indigenous water birds.

Travel

There are two domestic airlines in Senegal, Air Senegal and Gambia Air Shuttle. Air Senegal operates routes between all of the major towns whereas the Gambia Air Shuttle operates only between Dakar and Banjul. These services may be a little expensive for simply travelling around Senegal but can be invaluable when putting together a tour of several African nations.

Train services in Senegal are poor and currently the only service available is a twice weekly train between This and Tambacounda. The service does run on into Mali however so it can be useful if you want to spend some time in Bamako. There are plans to upgrade and expand the network, although things seem to proceeding at a somewhat leisurely pace. Children under three are entitled to free travel, those under nine pay only half price.

The main way to get around Senegal is by bus or minibus; these are run by a variety of local companies and individuals and are very much subject to demand. The standard varies immensely from well maintained modern buses to battered ancient vehicles somewhat ironically called “cars rapides”. Local buses especially can be incredibly crowded but the good news is that fares are reasonable.

Accommodation

The Senegal government has been actively trying to promote tourism and as a result there is a steadily increasing number of hotels in Senegal. There are several international standard hotels and several luxury resorts but the majority of hotels are quite basic. It is advisable to book ahead especially during the busy dry season during which it can be quite difficult to find a room.

The government operates campsites in/around the national parks and reserves and even offers bungalows or small huts in some of the sites. You will be expected to provide your own bedding and the standards are extremely basic. If you intend camping you will also have to provide your own tent.

Some villages will offer tourists accommodation in one of the village’s huts. Keep in mind that this is done as a courtesy to travellers and you should not expect it much less demand it. If you are luckily enough to be offered a hut please be respectful and courteous to those offering you accommodation.

Health

The standard of healthcare in the capital, Dakar, is reasonable and there is a ready supply of western medicines. However elsewhere in the country healthcare provision is very poor. Health insurance is absolutely essential if you want to be able to get treatment and we advise that you take out a policy which covers the cost of repatriation should this become necessary.

A vaccination against typhoid is recommended before visiting Senegal, this can be obtained from your local GP for around CFA Fr40. Cholera is also present in Senegal and you should consult your GP about the necessity for taking a vaccination or other preventative treatment. Malaria is present throughout the country mostly in the falciparum form, there have been some reported cases of resistance to chlorquine so you should consult you doctor about the most appropriate treatment to use.

There are also several other health risks to consider when visiting Senegal, schistosomiasis is present so swimming and paddling in areas of freshwater should be avoided. Chlorinated swimming pools are safe. Hepatitis A, B and E are all widespread so the appropriate precautions should be taken. In addition rabies is present in the country; those likely to be at risk (i.e. handling animals) should be vaccinated before arrival. Anyone bitten by an animal should seek immediate medical advice.

All water should be considered potentially dangerous and should be boiled or sterilised before use for any purpose. Milk is unpasteurised and should be boiled before use, dairy products should be avoided since they are unlikely to have been made with properly sterilised milk. Meat should be well cooked and eaten hot, fruits and vegetables should be washed and where possible peeled and/or cooked before consumption.

Useful Links

Air Senegal is the major domestic airline in Senegal

Senegal Online is an excellent source of tourist information for visitors to Senegal

Entry Visas for Senegal

All foreign visitors to Senegal require a valid passport and evidence of a return ticket. Visitors who are EU or US nationals do not require a visa for a tourist visit of up to 90 days. For visits with any other purpose or for longer visits you should contact the nearest local Senegal Consulate for details of the appropriate visa and the application requirements.

Addresses

All visa and immigration related enquiries should be directed towards the Embassy of the Republic of Senegal:

Embassy of the Republic of Senegal 
39 Marloes Rd. 
London 
W8 GLA 
Tel: (020) 7 938 4048 
Fax: (020) 7 938 2546

If you require UK representation while you are abroad you should contact the British Embassy:

British Embassy 
20 Rue du Docteur Guillet 
(Boite Postale 6025) 
Dakar 
Senegal 
Tel: + [221] 823 7392 
Fax: + [221] 823 2766

How to Say Common French Phrases

Meeting People

English
French
yes
oui
no
non
thank you
merci
you are welcome
de rien
please
s’il vous plaît
excuse me
pardon
hello
bonjour
goodbye
au revoir
good morning
bonjour
good night
bonne nuit
I do not understand
Je ne comprends pas
Do you speak…?
Parlez-vous…?
English
anglais
French
français
What is you name
Comment vous appelez-vous?
Nice to meet you
Enchanté de faire votre connaissance
How are you
Comment allez-vous?
Good
bon
bad
mauvais

Directions

English
French
map
carte
left
à gauche
right
à droite
straight on
tout droit
far
loin
near
près

Methods of Transport

English
French
Where is…?
Où se trouve…?
How much is the fare?
Quel est le prix du billet?
Ticket
billet
A ticket to…, please
Un billet pour …, s’il vous plaît
Where are you going?
Où est-ce que vous allez?
Where do you live?
Où habitez-vous?
Train
le train
bus
un autobus
underground
le métro
airport
un aéroport
train station
la gare
bus station
la gare de bus
underground station
la station de métro
departure
le départ
arrival
une arrivée
parking
le parking

Time

English
French
What time is it?
Quelle heure est-il?
Today
aujourd’hui
yesterday
hier
tomorrow
demain

Accommodation

English
French
hotel
un hôtel
room
une chambre
reservation
la réservation
Are there any vacancies?
Avez-vous des chambres disponibles?
No vacancies
Complet
Passport
le passeport

Places

English
French
post office
la poste
bank
la banque
police station
le poste de police
hospital
hôpital
chemist
la pharmacie
shop
le magasin
restaurant
le restaurant
museum
le musée
church
une église
square
la place
street
la rue

Shopping

English
French
How much does this cost?
Combien cela coûte?
I will buy it
Je le prends
I would like to buy…
Je voudrais acheter…
Do you have…?
Avez-vous…?
open
ouvert
closed
fermé
postcard
la carte postale
stamps
des timbres
little
un peu
lot
beaucoup
all
tout

Meals

English
French
breakfast
petit déjeuner
lunch
le déjeuner
dinner
le dîner
vegetarian
végétarien
cheers!
à votre santé!
the bill please
l’addition s’il vous plait

Drinks

English
French
drink
la boisson
coffee
le café
tea
le thé
juice
le jus
water
l’eau
beer
la bière
wine
le vin

Food

English
French
meat
la viande
fish
le poisson
vegetable
le légume
fruit
le fruit
potato
la pomme de terre
salad
la salade
dessert
la dessert

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Senegal Hostels

Hostels are a cheap form of accomodation, and so they are essential to backpackers and other budget travellers.

Sorry, no hostels have been registered for this country yet.

There you have it, the ultimate Senegal backpacking guide. We hope you have found all the information you need for backpacking around Senegal.

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