Traveling to Senegal and curious what you need to know about visiting Senegal? In this post, I’ll be sharing my best firsthand tips from a 12-day trip to Senegal with my husband.
I’ve found that people can be hesitant to visit Africa and other third-world countries, but honestly, you have nothing to fear. Most issues can be avoided by taking basic precautions. While a lot of what I’ll share is advice for Americans traveling to Senegal, everyone will benefit from these pointers.
Let’s dive in.
Where is Senegal located?
Senegal is a country on the West African coast. Its neighboring countries are Mauritania, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Mali, and The Gambia.
The official language in Senegal is French, but most locals speak Wolof and other ethnic languages. The country’s currency is the CFA Franc (XAF), and its capital city is Dakar.
Is Senegal safe?
⚠️ Unfortunately, with the unrest beginning in June 2023, Senegal may not be safe for travel at this time.
Senegal is very safe. Locals are friendly and ready to help. Senegalese are conflict-averse by nature, much like Ghanaians. We never once felt unsafe during our visit–and we spent a fair amount of time with the locals.
Is Senegal tourist friendly?
Yes, Senegal is tourist friendly. I define tourist-friendly countries as easy to navigate without a tour guide, and Senegal is.
Google Maps works well wherever you are, and you can use Google Translate to communicate if your French is poor. I speak a little French, so I was never completely lost for words.
The locals are really friendly, and we saw many tourists in Dakar and the other smaller towns we visited.
Is Senegal cheap or expensive?
Senegal is an affordable destination. One dollar is worth about 600 CFA Franc, so your dollar will go a long way.
We’re not budget travelers and we spent roughly around 15,000-30,000 CFA per two-person meal (less than $35) at fancier places. You can get away with spending less than $50/day on food per person–even less you cook at your rental.
Traveling to Senegal
All your questions about traveling to Senegal.
Why do people go to Senegal?
Senegal is a divine beach destination. In the cooler seasons, the weather is perfect, and the skies are a stunning blue. The pace of life is slow, especially in smaller towns like Saly and Saint Louis.
Besides the beaches, you can also see some wildlife and cool monuments and historical sites in Senegal. There’s plenty to do! See our full post on what to do in Senegal.
How many days are enough for Senegal?
At least one week. Senegal has several different towns and cities worth seeing, so I recommend at least 5-7 days to see as much as possible without fatiguing yourself.
Can I wear shorts in Senegal?
Yes! Although most Senegalese are Muslim, people of other religions live and worship freely in Senegal. I wore shorts during our visit and held hands with my husband without any concern.
So, there’s no need to stress about what to wear in Senegal. Just be respectful and dress appropriately for your location. Don’t wear beachwear at a mall in Dakar.
What language do they speak in Senegal?
French is the official language of Senegal. Most locals speak Wolof and other native languages like Mandingo.
Do US citizens need visas for Senegal?
No, US passport holders do not need a visa for Senegal. You do need a valid passport with at least six months before expiry and at least one blank passport page.
Citizens of the EU, United Kingdom, and ECOWAS countries, among others, also do not need a visa to enter Senegal.
Do I need a yellow fever vaccine for Senegal?
If you live in a country where yellow fever is endemic, you will need a yellow fever vaccine to enter Senegal. This applies to travelers who are nine months and older.
Life in Senegal
Got questions about life in Senegal? I’ve got answers.
Can you drink alcohol in Senegal?
Yes, you can! Alcohol is available to purchase at restaurants, supermarkets, and hotels.
What is Senegal’s special food?
Thiéboudienne (also fondly called “thieb”) is Senegal’s national dish. It’s a lot like Nigerian jollof rice but cooked with shorter rice grains. The rice is cooked in a tomato sauce and served with chicken or fish.
What is a typical drink in Senegal?
A typical drink in Senegal is baobab juice (also called bouye). Another popular drink is bissap juice (made from the hibiscus plant). Both are worth trying, although baobab juice was not my particular favorite.
How much money should I bring to Senegal?
This is totally subjective and depends on how much time you plan to spend and whether or not you’re bringing a credit card.
You can pay for major things like accommodation and restaurants with your card. But you will need some petty cash to buy souvenirs, pay taxis, and pay for experiences. So bring what you think you’ll need.
What are the most beautiful cities in Senegal?
Saint Louis and Saly are beautiful. Saint Louis has a unique charm, and Saly has that small beach-town vibe.
Dakar is largely under construction and has mostly high-rise apartment complexes. It’s shaping up to be a modern city, but it’s not quite there yet. Still, it has the loveliest ocean views and is in my top three Senegalese cities.
Where are the best beaches in Senegal?
Saly has fantastic beaches and fewer crowds, but really every beach in Senegal is beautiful. If you’re in Dakar, go to Ngor beach. If you’re in Saly, any of the beachfront hotels will provide you access to stunning views–and they’re pretty cheap compared to those in other cities.
What is the best time to visit Senegal?
Anytime between November to March. February is perfect! The weather in Dakar is cool in the mornings and evenings and pleasantly warm during the day.
Senegal has two seasons: dry season from October to May and rainy season from June to September. The trick is to go earlier in the dry season before it becomes unbearably hot.
Should I get a SIM card in Senegal?
YES. Having a SIM card is necessary especially if you plan to move around the country. There aren’t a ton of public wifi areas and you will need wifi to use ride-hailing applications and even Google Maps and Google Translate (if you don’t download language packs).
I recommend Orange because they have a wide network coverage and we had network access pretty much everywhere we went in Senegal. You can buy a SIM at the airport.
How to get around in Senegal
Public transportation is not great in Senegal and there’s no Uber service. Senegal has two main local ride-share services Yango and Heetch. Heetch is newer and glitchy while Yango is fairly reliable in Dakar–but not in Saly.
There are also local taxis, and most hotels can connect you to a local taxi driver. To avoid getting overcharged, check the estimated price on Yango and try bargaining with your driver to reach a suitable price.
How to get from Blaise Diagne Airport to Dakar
The main international airport in Senegal is Blaise Diagne airport, located in Ndiass. Ndiass is about two hours away from Dakar (with traffic), so try to arrive during the day and prepare for a long car ride.
Expect to pay between 15,000 – 25,000 CFA for your road trip to Dakar. Most hotels and resorts offer airport pickup for a fee. If yours doesn’t, just take one of the yellow taxis at the airport. They’re totally safe.
Keep the distance in mind while booking your return ticket. We had to move to an accommodation closer to the airport one day before our departure to ensure we didn’t miss our 8 am flight.
Where to stay in Senegal
Senegal has plenty of accommodation options to choose from, including inexpensive (but amazing) boutique and chain hotels, AirBnB stays, and lush resorts. We stayed at three hotels (BOMA Dakar, Palm Beach Hotel & Resorts, and RIU Baobab) and one guest house.
See a full list of places to stay in Senegal.
Senegal is worth a visit
If you’re still unsure, I’ll say it: Senegal is worth a visit! There’s plenty to see and do and many great stays for a steal. If you plan to visit soon, check out our itinerary and what to pack for your trip to Senegal.
Got any more questions about things to know before visiting Senegal? Leave them in the comments for me!