Difference between revisions of "Senegal"
Revision as of 18:49, 24 February 2009
Senegal  is a country in Western Africa. With the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Senegal has Guinea-Bissau to the south, Guinea to the southeast, Mali to the east, and Mauritania to the north. The Gambia is almost an enclave of Senegal in the middle of the western coast.
There are 11 regions:
Tropical; hot, humid; rainy season (May to November) has strong southeast winds; dry season (December to April) dominated by hot, dry, harmattan wind; Natural hazards : lowlands seasonally flooded; periodic droughts.
Generally low, rolling, plains rising to foothills in southeast
Independent from France in 1960, Senegal joined with The Gambia to form the nominal confederation of Senegambia in 1982. However, the envisaged integration of the two countries was never carried out, and the union was dissolved in 1989. Despite peace talks, a southern separatist group sporadically has clashed with government forces since 1982. Senegal has a long history of participating in international peacekeeping.
Passport and Visas
No visa is required for citizens of Canada, ECOWAS, European Union (except 12 new member countries), Israel, Japan, Mauritania, Morocco, Taiwan and US for up to 90 days.
Delta Air Lines flies to Dakar on most of their US-Africa services, service from Atlanta takes roughly 8 hours. South African Airways flies direct from New York and Washington-Dulles in just about 7 hours (8.5 on the return trip). Other airlines route through Europe such as SN Brussels Airlines (Brussels), Air Senegal International (Paris-Orly), Air France (Paris-CDG), Alitalia (Milan), Royal Air Maroc (Casablanca), Iberia (Madrid), TAP (Lisbon) and others (5.5 to 6 hours). There are flights from various parts of Africa operated by Virgin Nigeria (Lagos), Kenya Airways (Nairobi), Air Ivoire (Abidjan) and others.
Taxi, taxi-brousse, taxi-clando, car-charette, transport commun (cars rapides) Buslines in Dakar and around Dakar are maintained by SOTRAC (Société des Transports en commun de Cap Vert), now managed by a private company and called Dakar Demm Dikk. Car hire is available in Dakar (city and airport) and sometimes in MBour and Saly Portudal. A list of the car hire companies can be found here: .
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.
Wolof is the native language of some Senegalese people, but you will find that almost everyone speaks it. Knowing the basic Wolof greetings and phrases will go a long way in getting you better service and prices.
The Senegalese people learn French in school and it is a very useful language for travellers to know. While some Senegalese merchants speak English, most business is conducted in French or Wolof. Other languages used in Senegal include Sereer, Soninke, Pulaar, Jola, and Mandinka are spoken.
The basic Muslim greeting is often used: Salaam Aleikum - Peace to you. The response is Waleikum Salaam - And unto you peace.
Tourist maps are available at the tourist offices (see au-senegal.com for that one)
International Driving Permit (IDP)
If you want to explore the country by (rented) car, you need one.
No vaccines are required to enter the country, however a yellow fever vaccine is highly recommended.
Buy at least a mosquito net (preferably permethrin-impregnated) and a good repellent (preferably DEET-based). Also, many outdoor retailers in the US sell bottles of Permethrin that can be washed into clothing and will remain in the garment for a month before the effectiveness of the product wears off and should be reapplied.
Avoid cooked food prepared by the road, these often cause diarrhea. Western-style meals are available and can be found at restaurants in various parts of Dakar, Thies, Saint Louis and other towns and near the big hotels in the Petite Côte and in some other touristic regions of the country too. If you really want to try the genuine Senegalese food you can buy it at restaurants serving Senegalese dishes or alternatively, you can make it yourself with the food gathered fresh from the markets or supermarkets.
The official dish of Senegal is ceebu jen (or thebou diene) -- rice and fish. It comes in two varieties (red and white -- named for the different sauces). The Senegalese love ceebu jen and will often ask if you've ever tried it, and it is definitely part of the experience. Even better if you get the chance to eat with your hands around the bowl with a Senegalese family!
If you intend to explore the arid area of Senegal (Saint-Louis & Ferlo), you need to drink several liters of water a day. Even in Dakar, dehydration is possible during warmer months if you do not drink enough water each day.
It might also be a good idea to learn some basic Wolof, since not everybody can speak French. In addition there are many other languages such as Toucouleur, Serere, peuls, etc.... However almost everyone can speak wolof. Therefore knowing wolof would be a big help.
Although highly exaggerated, there is still fighting going on in the Casamance region of Senegal.
In Dakar, take care when walking the streets - petty theft and scams are abundant. You will be approached by aggressive street vendors who will follow you for several blocks. If refused, often accusations of 'racism" will be leveled at non-local, non-buyers. Also, pickpockets use the following two-person tactic - one (the distraction) will grab one of your pant's leg while the other (the thief) goes into your pocket. If someone grabs your clothing beware of the other one on your other side most. Wear pants/shorts with secure (buttons or snaps) pockets and leave your shirt untucked to cover your pockets.
Be cautious of people claiming to have met you before or offering to guide you. Often times you will be led to a remote location and robbed. Women need to be particularly alert as they are frequently targeted at beaches or markets.
Finally, there have been instances of street stall vendors grabbing cash out of non-local shoppers hands and quickly stuffing the money into their own pocket. After the money is in their pocket, they claim it is their's and the victim is not in a position to prove otherwise or protest effectively. Be careful with your cash - do not hold it in your hand while bargaining.
Get necessary vaccines before arrival. Officially, certification of yellow fever vaccine is required upon arrival if coming from a country in a yellow fever zone, but it is not commonly checked.
Avoid tap-water, and all dishes prepared with them. Bottled water, such as Kirene which is most common and bottled in Senegal, is widely available and inexpensive.
To prevent serious effects of dehydration, it is wise to carry around packets of rehydration salts to mix with water, should you become dehydrated. These are widely available at pharmacies and are inexpensive. Alternatively, a proper mix of table salt and sugar can replace these.
The primary religion in Senegal is Islam, and most Senegalese are extremely devout Muslims. It's important to be respectful of this because religion is very important in Senegalese life. However, don't be afraid to ask questions about Islam -- for the most part, Senegalese people love to talk about it!
Greet everyone when entering a room with "Salaam Aleikum." Always shake hands with everyone. Do not enter mosques and other religious places with your shoes.
Foreign women can expect to get many marriage proposals from Senegalese men. Handle this with a sense of humor - and caution.