What you need to know about Senegal before you travel

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Senegal is a Muslim country, however, I have come to learn that like any other religion, in different countries the practice of religion is up to the people.
You don’t have to dress in a hijab but it is advisable to be dressed appropriately. I use the word appropriate loosely as this often depends on where you go around the country. In certain communities, your shorts would not be appreciated but in the city, you are free to dress as you wish. In the evenings, your short shorts are encouraged as this is one party place you will not be able to keep up with.

The official language in Senegal is French. With other ethnic languages such as Wolof widely spoken.

The currency that is used is the West African Franc (CFA) – USD 1 : 546 CFA (be advised this changes often so you would have to check the exchange rate before your date of travel.
Senegal is very hot. The mosquitos are militant. Bring loads of sunscreen and mosquito repellent. You will have a fan on anytime you are indoors. I don’t advise make up in the evenings because even if you are at a beach party, your face will be running and no one really wants that now.

Nobody parties like the Senegalese really, parties usually start after 1am. Best time to get to the club is around 2am and you will leave the club for early morning breakfast run or one of the restaurants as this seems to be a tradition.

You will easily find alcohol around while partying. You will realise most of the locals do not drink because of the religion. The nightlife is pricey. Everything seems to be priced for tourists around the city. I cannot advise drinking the local water, rather stick to bottled water. I had a friend who attempted to drink the tap water and it didn’t end well, be like Katchie and stick to bottled water.

Getting around is easy, the cabs are yellow and you will have to negotiate the price before you use the taxi. Make sure not to ride without negotiating. The cabs will usually not cost you more than 5000 CFA but whatever the price the driver gives you, negotiate him to half the price if you can’t speak French cos they will extort you for being foreign.
There are other modes of transport such as the local busses that go around which are a lot cheaper and do look good but during peak hours they are jam packed.
The other optionis to use a car rapide – this is a sharing mini bus and there is nothing rapid about it. To say the seats are uncomfortable is a pure understantement as they are not designed with big butts in mind. These are a lot cheaper and here at any moment you will be squashed in like a sardine.

Senegalese food is exciting. I would definitely advise eating at the local small restaurants that’s you will find all around the city. This is fantastic for boosting local small businesses and meeting the locals. Do try some Thieboudienne. This is basically the Jollof rice.
Yes this will be by far the best Jollof you will taste as this is the home of Jollof.
African country passport holders do not need a visa into Senegal. You can fly into bole International Airport and your visa will be issued upon arrival. Should you enquire with your embassy you will be told you will need a visa and can apply for it free of charge. This is a waste of resources as you will spend time and money going to the embassy for nothing. However, should you choose to go to Senegal overland, I highly advise you get a visa. Seems the officials at the border, the embassy and the airport have different memos on this. The officials at the border might not also recognise the stamped visa as they had never seen one from South Africa before so be patient.

You need a yellow fever certificate to travel to Senegal. do yourself a favour and just allow your travel doctor to give you all the necessary jabs if you will be traveling through a few different countries.

As you travel there will be a lot of police stops where you will be searched. This is routine but they somehow can pick out who the foreigners are in the bus, they will always want a brie. Always have an embassy number at hand to threaten them to call it should the want a bribe. The locals may also advise that you need to pay a bribe to move swiftly through the borders. Do not do it, the officials don’t even know your visa was free.

Cell phone connection is fantastic in Senegal and most places in the city will have Wi-Fi. I highly recommend sticking to the Orange network for connection across West Africa as its good for calls and internet connection. You will need to register your Sim card when you buy it from an authorised vendor, use your passport for this. The guys in the markets do sell ready registered sim-cards, they will cost you about 3000CFA but it is worth the money if you consider the lengthy process of dealing with service providers and how customer service is not a priority around West Africa. If you fail to get Orange, you may use MTN but be warned that they are notorious for your data depleting and your airtime vanishing without warning just like in South Africa. When it comes to connection, use this advice as the rule of thumb. Don’t bother phoning a call centre should you have any issues, deal with it and move on.

To get money, you can withdraw up to 200 000CFA and I have found EcoBank to be the best for my international card across West Africa. Try other banks at your own risk.

This post will be updated with more relevant information as time goes by.

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