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Dakar

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Senegal : Cap Vert-Thies : Dakar
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The big, controversial African Renaissance Monument

Dakar is the capital of Senegal.

Understand

The Senegalese are very proud of their reputation for "teranga" -- hospitality. Locals are extremely friendly and helpful, but as anywhere else, watch out for scams and pickpockets. Crime here is relatively low, but it still happens.

Get in

Dakar is a major West African hub, so there are lots of flights coming from and going to Europe, North America and other African cities. Be prepared to arrive and leave at anytime of the night or day - many flights come in at around 2 and leave at around 4 AM.

By plane

From South Africa: SAA (Johannesburg)

From Europe: Air France (Paris-CDG), TAP Air Portugal (Lisbon), Alitalia (Milan), Iberia (Madrid, Las Palmas), SN Brussels (Brussels), Turkish Airlines (Istanbul)

From Africa: TACV Cabo Verde (Praia and Bissau), Royal Air Maroc (Casablanca), Air Ivoire (Abidjan), Ethiopian (Addis Ababa via Lomé and Abidjan or via Ndjamena), Kenya Airways (Nairobi via Bamako), Virgin Nigeria (Lagos), SN Brussels (Banjul), Tunisair (Tunis), Air Algérie (Algiers), Air Mali International (Bamako), Air Mauritanie (Nouakchott), Bellview Airlines (Lagos), Delta Airlines (Luanda begins January 21, 2011)

From North America: SAA (Washington-Dulles and New York-JFK), Delta (Atlanta beings January 21, 2011), Delta (New York-JFK)

From Asia: Emirates (Dubai)

By rail

The rail service connecting Dakar and Koulikoro in Mali, once stopping at many cities in Senegal, has been cancelled indefinitely.

By road

The main method of travel around the country is by sept places (from French, "seven seats," literally questionable station wagons in which they will pack seven people so that you are basically sitting on the next person's lap throughout the journey). You can also come with a group and rent out an entire sept place, but this will be expensive. If you are obviously a tourist, they WILL try to rip you off, so make sure to set a price before you agree to a driver. There are set prices to often-travelled locations. The main sept place station in Dakar is Gare Routieres de Pompiers. Watch out for pickpockets!

Get around

Place de l'Independance

By Bus

The Dakar bus system, known as Dakar Demm Dikk (Dakar coming and going), is fairly dependable. Fares are 150 CFA, and there are no transfer. Unfortunately, for newcomers, there's not much in the way of a map of the bus system, so you'll have to figure it out on your own. The number 10 bus runs along the Corniche de l'Ouest and turns into the suburbs at Rue Aime Cesaire.

Cars Rapides. These are the usually blue and yellow mini-buses that careen through Dakar and some of Senegal's other cities. There are somewhat fixed rates for certain distances, but you need to check with a Senegalese beforehand. To find out where one is going, flag it down and shout out your destination at the apprenti, the boy in charge of collecting fares who hangs out the back. If she shouts back at you the destination you want, signal it to stop and hop aboard. To stop, bang loudly on the side of the bus or signal to the apprenti you want off. Apprenti's don't always speak French, so be prepared to communicate otherwise if you do not speak Wolof.


By Taxi

Cheap and safe and everywhere. Just don't mind the broken windshields. All taxi fares are negotiated beforehand and will require bargaining. If you're not from Senegal, you will probably have an outrageous price proposed, so check with locals before to get an idea of what they pay, in order to know what you will be able to get. Even if you have negotiated a price, once you arrive your taxi driver will pretend he has no change on him, even if he previously assured you he had.

See

Goree Island
  • African Renaissance Monument. Opening its doors in December 2010, this colossal monument is dedicated to Africa's emergence from the oppressive European regimes that once ruled the continent and the end of slavery. It is also meant as a display of African pride to shirk foreign perceptions of Africans as lesser people. The monument is rather controversial, with some Africans feeling the sense of pride it is meant to envoke while others criticizing it as a foreign (it was made by North Korea), completely un-African Stalinist statue. From base to the top, it reaches taller than the Statue of Liberty.
  • IFAN Museum of African Arts (Musée Théodore Monod dArt Africain).
  • Ile de Goree. Goree Island in English, it was named by the Dutch after taking over the island from the Portuguese in the late 1600s. Goree was a minor location used for the transport of slaves headed to the Americas, though its prominence is often overplayed. The island has interesting colonial architecture, mostly in ruins, including the landmark "House of Slaves" museum. This is a place with a great atmosphere, because it gives you kind of an pirate-island (with friendly folks all-over kind of feeling). Just walk around and explore. Its a small island, so you can easily stroll around it in an hour. Buy some cheap beer and chill at the beach when youre done. And then stroll some more and buy cheap art-work from the locals.
  • Les Almadies (Les pointes des Almadies). The Western tip of the African continent where plenty of seafood restaurants are located.
  • Dakar Grand Mosque. Built in 1964.
  • Dakar Cathedral.
  • Hann Park and Zoo, 832.38.75. Tues-Sun 10AM-12:30PM and 3PM-6:30PM. The public gardens were built in 1903 and thee arboretum was built in 1947. The gardens feature a wide variety of Senegalese plantlife and the zoo contains over 130 animals.

Do

  • Check out the incredibly rich musical scene.
  • Lake Retba (Lac Rose). Also called the "Pink Lake", the high concentration of cyanobacteria indeed gives the lake a pink tone. During the dry season and when the sun is brightest the color is said to be especially vivid. The lake has a high concentration of salt, so while you admire the beauty of the lake, you can also observe the salt harvesters who still gather salt in the traditional way.

Buy

  • Islam Couture/ Embroidery Dakar has some amazing (and amazingly expensive) stores specialised in haute-couture, embroidered traditional west African Muslim clothes.
  • Marche Sandaga Madness. A decrepit concrete structure that has - despite appearance - three levels of activity: meat and vegetable stalls on the main floor, fish in the basement dungeon and - surprise - restaurant stalls on the roof. You will need to brave the crumpled stairs and step around guys cleaning dead chicken to make it up. Around the market building a sprawling network of stalls offer everything from copied music CDs, Manchester United shirts, electronic gadgets and islamic books - but be aware the hawkers can be very aggressive. The place is also famous for pickpockets, so take only the amount of money you need and keep it in a safe place.
  • Marche HLM A smaller market geared primarily towards fabric vendors, Marche HLM is slightly less crazy than Sandaga. Hundreds of options for fabric that you can buy and then get tailored into perfectly fitting traditional Senegalese wear (if you will be in Dakar for awhile, ask a Senegalese person who his or her tailor is, and go there. A little less convenient for travellers who will only be staying a week). Most vendors won't sell less than 3 to 6 meters of fabric. A reasonable price is 1000CFA/meter.
  • Marche Kermel, near the city centre.
  • Soumbedioune, a popular evening fish market

Eat

Sunset over Dakar from Hotel de l'Independance
  • Ali Baba: Greasy Spoon where you can get cheap Lebanese food. Good falafel sandwiches with french fries and lots of tahina sauce, shwarma, kebab and all sorts of other delicious (also western) snacks. Find it halfway up Ave. Pompidou.
  • Centre Culturel Francais [1] Ask for the local food they serve for lunch (not on the menu) during the week. On weekends you must ask nicely to convince them to let you try what they prepare for the staff.
  • Café de Rome (City center) Welcome to Cafe du Rome, authentic French food (as a matter of fact, you ARE in France), from oysters to steak tartar, and the famous Sole Meuniere that doesn't disappoint. It is pricey by Dakar standards, but the food is great.
  • Chez Ndeye / Ker Ndeye (On a street parallel to Ponty) Overpriced (4000 CFA per meal, 2000 CFA for a bissap drink). Mediocre Senegalese food. Besides the lovely Thiebou Dien, the place features home-made Tamarind juice. Try to catch the excellent Kora player. For that price, there are much better options in Dakar.
  • Glacier/ Nice Cream: City centre: Over 30 flavours of the best ice cream you will ever eat.
  • Hotel de l'Indépendance Eat here for the magnificent views from the restaurant on 16th floor.
  • Hotel Farid/ Lebanese Restaurant Drink a gigantic Arrak (made from anis) as an aperitif and then order the 20 Mezze.
  • La Fourchette Stylish place serving international cuisine (Mexican, Japanese, Moroccan, etc.) at moderate prices. Next to Marche Kermel.
  • Lalibela Little Ethiopian restaurant with a fantastic rooftop dining area. The ambiance alone would be worth coming here, but luckily the food is great too. A little difficult to find -- between the VDN and Avenue Cheikh Anta Diop at the intersection with the Mobil-On-The-Run and la Poste Fann.
  • Le Jardin Thailandais Huge menu of delicious Thai food, great atmosphere. A little pricey, but worth it. Across the street from UCAD (Universite Cheikh Anta Diop) off of Avenue Cheikh Anta Diop/Rue de Ouakam. After eating, check out the jazz club across the street!
  • L'Ozio Ozio is the embodiment of serious Italian cuisine original recipes and techniques alongside the freshest products, and carefully selected Italian flavors.ncandescent and radiant are the interior, lounge and New York Style bar. Ozio is the perfect place for friends and family to gather - be it at the bar with a drink, an appetizer in the lounge or dinning alfresco while tasting your way through the wine list and menu, whatever your pleasure or your mood, Ozio can make it happen. 33 823 87 87
  • Patisserie Laetitia Walking along the street of Cafe du Rome towards La Corniche (the sea) - away from the center - two blocks up on your right hand side, you find the ultimate place for breakfast in Dakar. No, they don't serve eggs, bacon or sausage, but fresh, slightly warm croissants, pain au chocolat, and (my personal favourite) pain au raisins. The coffee is good and the juices freshly squeezed. Sit in the little room to the right of the counter, it features the most amazing orange and yellow lamps and little triangular tables with stools to sit on. You will be surrounded by locals in beautiful Muslim outfits, reading the paper and discussing the latest news. What a great place. In fact, a reason to move to Dakar.
  • Peanuts: The roasted peanuts you can buy on the street or get with your order of beer in any bar are delicious. These nuts are not greasy at all and have just the right amount of salt - and sometimes they are still slightly warm from being roasted.
  • Other Street Food: You can find all sorts of street food practically anywhere in Dakar. Apart from peanuts, there are other nuts, lots of fruit, and other special Senegalese treats and snacks. There are also a ton of sandwich shops and little bread stands, where you can get egg sandwiches or quick and cheap food.
  • Chez Loutcha, 101 rue Moussé Diop, 338210302. Chez Lutcha is a Cape Verdian restaurant that serves huge portions of excellent food. Cape Verdian (Portuguese inspired) dishes, Senegalese food and international cuisine. Cozy courtyard or AC dining room. Excellent service.
  • Zaika Nicely located on Cornish road serve good India food. Reasonable price. Sea View from terrace is excellent
  • Indiana Located near Place de Independence offer Indian food. Monday to Friday they offer buffet lunch just at 4500 F CFA. Food not very good but good for change.

Drink

Gazelle is the local favourite beer - it comes in serious bottles, or Flag, which is stronger and more expensive.

  • Le Hanoi You can't go wrong with a bar that has palm trees painted on one wall, a French military guy (opinions differ if he was secret service or just a regular drunk) behind the bar who insists the black waitress is his "little sister".
  • Le Viking On the Ponty, in the midst of Sandaga madness, Le Viking is a popular spot for expats and tourists. Pricey drinks, but great atmosphere. Live music on weekend nights!
  • Zaika Nicely located on Cornish road serve good India food. Reasonable price. Sea View from terrace is excellent
  • Indiana Located near Place de Independence offer Indian food. Monday to Friday they offer buffet lunch just at 4500 F CFA. Food not very good but good for change.

Sleep

There is a wide selection of hotels, form the basic to the best 4* chains. Many first time visitors head towards the vastly overpriced Meridien. There are however, some good and reasonably priced places to stay.

  • Onomo hotel, Airport, [2]. One of the latest additions to Dakar and very usefull too for people that need to catch very early morning planes to other places. It is not uncommon that your flight to say Europe or Nigeria leaves at 3 am! You can book on line and their advertized rate is CFA 30,000 ($ 60).

Budget

  • Hôtel du Phare Les Mamelles -36 cité Magistrats Les Mamelles -Ouakam- Dakar +221 33 860 30 00

email info@lesmamelles.com web [3] -booking online - Airport transfers - 24-hr security and sheck-in – Free wi-fi Internet 24-hr check in check out 1PM price from €30. The Phare hotel, named after the landmark Lighthouse is ideally located in "Les Mamelles", a quiet residential beach district, just 15 minutes from the city, 10 minutes from Leopold Sedar Senghor airport and close to "Les Almadies", "Ouakam", "N'Gor". The Phare Hotel has 10 Rooms surrounding an open air Flower Patio. The Rooms vary from Single to Quadruple each with ceiling fan and/or air conditioner. Hotel Phare is also close to Public transportation, Commercial banks, Restaurants, Bars and Night Clubs.

  • Auberge Poulagou - Yoff Tonghor Plage. +221 8202347 [4]

Le Poulagou is a nice small hotel, 2 kilomters from the airport. Ideal for the first days in Senegal and to escape the madness of Dakar. Free Internet access. Poulagou is advised by most of the tourist guides. Good report quality/price

  • Auberge Kingz Plaza - Villa 10504 Sacré-Cœur 3, VDN Extension. +221 33 860 40 19 [5]

Close to the airport, Kingz Plaza is in an area with lots of construction going on. Staff is friendly, the rooms are decent, the prices are reasonable (26 euros for a double room with shared facilities). The restaurant serves decent dinner and breakfast and a nearby cafe has good coffee as well as good food.

  • Hotel Oceanic - 9, rue de Thann. +221 822-2044 (fax +221 821.5228)[6] - Océanic is a budget option for around €30 (roomrate). Centrally located. Rooms and beds are (a bit) run down but the bathroom is OK. Good breakfast at neighbouring self-service restaurant. See videoclip on internet.
  • Hotel Farid - 51, rue Vincens. +221 33 823 6123, email:hotelfarid@orange.sn.

Central location. Rooms with AC,Tv,Minibar,Locker safe and Free Internet Access. Good quality/price.


Mid range

  • Al Afifa Hotel (City Center) Clean air-conditioned rooms at reasonable prices. Not budget though! Wireless internet works most of the time and is free. There is a small outdoor pool, with the main restaurant/bar along side it. Food is good and the breakfast excellent with fresh croissants. Ask one of the waiters to expertly prepare a mango or other fruit at the buffet. Expect to pay around CFA 45,000 ($90 or €70) for a single room plus CFA 3600 for a breakfast. This hotel also has an "American bar" and a nightclub attached. Walking distance to the main attractions in Dakar and the best restaurants such as Cafe de Rome and Chez Loutcha.
  • Sofitel Teranga - Between Independent Square and the Atlantic Ocean (City center). Very good setting. It is a good (although not cheap!) starter for medium budget travellers to acclimatize in Senegal. Comfortable rooms, cosy atmosphere. Roomrate round €100. Breakfast is €15 and splendid!
  • Seneganne €65 (Les Almadies area next to the airport). A comfortable guesthouse run by an enthusiastic Belgian lady. Wifi internet access, swimming pool and, important in Dakar, a backup generator. Very clean and very well kept. Comes highly recommended on several traveller websites. [7] mail : seneganne@orange.sn, Tel : + 221 33 820 12 33

Stay safe

Crime in Dakar is relatively high; crime against tourists is common, even around Place de l'Independance. Use common sense: women should not walk around alone after dark. Watch your pockets in crowded places, such as Sandaga, and keep a close eye on your belongings. There are many different scams to get money from tourists, so be wary. The African favourite 'I work at your hotel and have run out of fuel, please can I borrow €10' etc are common, so don't be fooled.

Avoid the beaches at night. Try not to wear any outwardly expensive items of clothing or jewellery. The Senegalese people are in no way violent. Some people turn to stealing so that they can drink alcoholic beverages and eat. Overall, though, the Senegalese are an incredibly friendly and hospitable people and you will meet many people who are genuinely interested in talking to you.

Senegal is one of the most governmentally stable countries on the continent of Africa. The police force is useless for your safety, although they all speak French hence are good to ask directions.

You should particularly avoid walking in the evenings (or nights) along the Corniche, particularly the stretch between the International School of Dakar and the Club Olympique.

Cope

In Dakar, you will find many beggars, usually handicapped people or young children (called "talibes"). There are 300,000 talibes in Dakar, and so this can be an uncomfortable situation. One way to handle it is with a simple, polite "ba BEN-een yohn" ("next time" in Wolof). They may be persistent, but be firm without being rude. Another option is to give the talibes food. Also, keep in mind the Islamic tradition of giving daily - after you've given once, you can say, "sah-RAHK-sah AH-gah-nah," which means "charity has already been done."

Embassies

  • Ca-flag.png Canada, [8].
  • Gr-flag.png Greece, 15 Bis Rue Jules Ferry, Dakar B.P. 1810, +2219 571120/571149/572648 (fax: +2219 571504).
  • Uk-flag.png United Kingdom, 20 Rue du Dr Guillet, BP 6025, Dakar, (221) 33 823 7392/823 9971 (), [9].
  • Us-flag.png United States, [10].

BBC World Service radio broadcast in English and French in Dakar on 105.6MHz.

Get out

Travelling outside of Dakar can be manic and harrowing, but is definitely worth it.

  • Saint-Louis — The old French capital of Senegal, St. Louis is on the northern border, near Mauritania, and has fantastic colonial architecture and nightlife. Popular destination for travellers. Near many bird parks.
  • Sine Saloum Delta — Just north of the border with the Gambia, the Delta has amazing mangrove forests that you can tour by pirogue (essentially a motored canoe). Negotiate a fair price with a guide, and remember that once you get into the Delta, it's difficult and expensive to get around any way besides by pirogue.
  • Casamance — The southernmost region of Senegal, the Casamance boasts some of the most spectacular beaches and friendliest people in the country. The capital is Ziguinchor -- nice to visit but not much to do. Cap Skirring is the main tourist destination, and there are many hostels as well as a Club Med ("Club Merde" as the locals call it). The Casamance has been involved in a secessionist conflict for years; though the warring factions do not purposely attack tourists, there have been tourist deaths. The overnight ferry from Dakar to Ziguinchor is affordable and comfortable.
    • Details on the ferry: The boat leaves from Dakar on Tuesdays and Fridays at 8PM and from Zig on Thursdays and Sundays at 3PM, arriving 15-17 hours later. Office hours in Dakar are M-Friday, business hours with a break for lunch. To purchase tickets, you must go to either the port in Dakar or the one in Zig. You cannot buy tickets online, or over the phone. Bring your passport to purchase. Advance purchase is advised, if possible, but not always necessary. Price for a couchette in a two person room is 30,500 and for a four person room is 28,500. Both include private bath and breakfast. Phone # for the Dakar ticket office is +221 33 821 29 00. They will be able to give you information on availability, prices, and office hours.
  • Touba — Senegal's religious center, Touba makes a great day trip. Unfortunately, non-Muslims are no longer allowed inside the actual mosque, which is enormous. Women will be asked to wear long skirts and cover their heads to tour the grounds.



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