Dakar is the capital of Senegal.
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. Petty crime here is relatively high, be cautious.
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.
While rumored to soon be opening a new airport, as of February, 2013, the Léopold Sédar Senghor International Airport is relatively small and can be bustling if more than one plane arrives at a time. When departing, do not be fooled into thinking that with so few terminals you can arrive later than usual--emigration can be very slow, and you should leave as much time as you would at any airport.
Be prepared to refuse touts and taxi drivers. See Stay safe for details.
From South Africa: SAA (Johannesburg)
From Dubai: Emirates
From Europe: Air France (Paris-CDG), TAP Air Portugal (Lisbon), Alitalia (Milan), Iberia (Madrid, Las Palmas), Brussels Airlines (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), Brussels Airlines (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)
The rail service connecting Dakar and Koulikoro in Mali, once stopping at many cities in Senegal, has been cancelled indefinitely.
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!
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. The number 1 bus runs along the VDN.
Cars Rapides. These are the usually blue, yellow or white 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. As of 2011 150
CFA would cover most destinations. 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, on the roof 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.
Cheap and safe and everywhere. All taxi fares are negotiated beforehand and will require bargaining. If you're not from Senegal, it is best to check with locals before to get an idea of what they pay, in order to know what you will be able to get. Make sure your taxi has the right change as well before departing. Leave tips when you feel the service was good.
- 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 d’Art 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. Ferries can be taken from the terminal north of Place de l'Independance and cost 5000 CFA. The trip takes 10-20 minutes. There are many small restaurants and a handful of places offering lodging. 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. It's a small island, so you can easily stroll around it in an hour. You can buy cheap beer and lounge on the beach when you're done, or stroll some more and buy 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Birdwatch. Senegal is a great country for birdwatching, and Dakar is no exception. Les Almadies is a good place to see seabirds, and the Iles de la Madeleine is the only African nesting site of the red-billed tropicbird.
- 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 metres of fabric. A reasonable price for local 'African decorated' cotton fabric is 1000CFA/yards, rather than meters. There are several types, qualities and styles and the price range is 3,500cfa/4,000cfa for 6 yards of 'wax,' Sotiba, Afritex and a few others are 1,000cfa a yard, imported tye dye called 'thioup' from Mali is 9,000cfa for plain colors, 15,000cfa/18,000 up to 25,000cfa for best quality elaborately hand dyed fabric. It comes in plastic packages, 4 yards with two pieces of cloth. The price is based on quality rather than decoration.
- Marche Kermel, near the city centre in the area across the street from Casino supermarket, Marche Kermel is a smaller market than Sandiga but has better quality artisanal goods, from ostrich leather attaché cases, crocodile belts & camel wallets, to antique African masks and beautiful bronze sculptures both made locally and imported from Burkino Faso. There are also high quality (expensive and beautiful) imported handmade textiles from Ghana. This market also has an extensive fresh seafood market featuring the largest shrimp (Cameroon) and lobsters to be found in Dakar as well as grouper (called thiouf), red snapper (called rougette), organic chicken (free range from farms) and meat. The market is clean and well kept and the vegetables, fruit and fresh flowers are also sold there as well. Marche Kermel, although it is a traditional African market, the design of the building (round) makes it an interesting place to shop and the quality of the goods are as you would expect in any grocery store anywhere in Dakar.
- Soumbedioune, a popular evening fish market. There is also a "Village Artisanal" nearby where especially tourists can buy hand-made African jewellery, wooden decoration elements and much more. Be prepared to bargain.
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  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. 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 good ice cream.
- 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. There is a jazz club across the street.
- L'OzioItalian cuisine. 33 823 87 87
- Patisserie Laetitia Located along the street of Cafe du Rome towards La Corniche (the sea) - away from the centre - two blocks up on your right hand side. Serves fresh, warm croissants, pain au chocolate and pain ain au raisins. The coffee is good and the fruit juices freshly squeezed. You will be surrounded by locals in beautiful Muslim outfits, reading the paper and discussing the latest news.
- 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 plenty 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.
- 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.
- Le N'Gor. A brightly painted open-air restaurant overlooking the sea. Several terraced patios give it a good feel. Portions are small, but the food is delicious. Expect to pay 10,000 CFA for a full meal with beer and dessert. It is located in Les Almadies past the Hotel de Almadies from the new US embassy, set back from the road behind an often empty parking lot. Look for poorly lit painted signs for "Ile de Le N'Gor".
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!
- 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.
- My Ice Cream. A Senegalese owned gelato chain, they are located in various places within Dakar. There is a large variety of flavors and the price is affordable, between 800f and 1,500cfa for 2 huge scoops. The portions are very large and 2 scoops in a waffle cone is difficult to eat in one sitting. They offer foil wrap ups to take it to go! Locations are: Marche Castor, Grand Dakar, Yoff, Ngor and others.
There is a wide selection of hotels, form the basic to the best 4* chains. Many first time visitors stay at the expensive Meridien. There are however, some good and reasonably priced places to stay.
- Oceanium, Route de la petite corniche Est, ☎ +221 3384240, . Enviromentally friendly hostel/diving center, the Oceanium is also home for the Senegalese Ecologists Federation (FEDES). This very well located hostel works like a family and will give you many chances to meet the local culture. The fisherman's village Terrou Bye Sogui is next to the hostel so you can easily have a nice and affordable grilled fish for dinner. CFR 15,000 double room.
- Onomo hotel, Airport, . 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.
- Hôtel du Phare Les Mamelles -36 cité Magistrats Les Mamelles -Ouakam- Dakar +221 33 860 30 00 email [email protected] web  -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  Le Poulagou is a nice small hotel, 2 kilometres 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  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, 8 euros for a 6 dorm room). The restaurant serves decent dinner and breakfast and a nearby cafe has good coffee and food. There is also a small grocery store 5min by foot along the VDN.
- Hotel Oceanic - 9, rue de Thann. +221 822-2044 (fax +221 821.5228) - 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:[email protected] Central location. Rooms with air-co, TV, mini-bar, safe and free internet access. Good quality/price.
- Al Afifa Hotel, (city centre), Clean air-con rooms. WiFi works most of the time and is free. Small outdoor pool, the main restaurant/bar along side it. Food is good and the breakfast excellent with fresh croissants. Ask a waiter to prepare a mango or other fruit at the buffet. Expect to pay around CFA 45,000 for a single room plus CFA 3,600 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.
- Pullman Teranga - (Former Sofitel) 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, Les Almadies (next to the airport), ☎ +221 33 820 12 33 ([email protected]), . Comfortable guesthouse run by an enthusiastic Belgian lady. WiFi access, swimming pool and, important in Dakar, a backup generator. Very clean and very well kept.
- Radisson Blu Hotel Dakar, Fann Corniche (6 km from Dakar city), . Trendy neighbourhood offering picturesque views of the Atlantic Ocean
- King Fahd Palace. (Former Le Meridian President') Top class hotel, and offer a free shuttle service to and from the airport. Though their in house restaurant offers a smart menu of meals, ordering a well done steak will result in a piece of near raw meat being served. Sending it back will just upset them.
- Hotel Terrou-Bi. On the Corniche Ouest not far from the Radisson. Almost as nice as the Radisson, but a bit of a walk to anything. You'll need to take a taxi everywhere, but there's a great private beach, and a fantastic restaurant.
- SenegalStyle Tours (SenegalStyle B&B Budget Hostel), Ouest Foire, Cite Air Afrique, Immeuble Kine' Unit B, ☎ +221777915469, . 24/7. SenegalStyle is an American owned multifaceted enterprise that allows budget travelers and Anglophone visitors (English speakers) to expand participate in various reasonably priced cultural activities. As Senegal is a Francophone country (French speaking) it is sometimes difficult to find English speaking establishments online. Starting at €23 for walking tours in the city and to Goree Island & €100+ for car and driver excursions out of town, SenegalStyle local drivers and guides speak English, French, Spanish, Italian and Japanese. In addition, there is a language program for French, Wolof or Arabic and based in the B&B Hostel taught by certified instructors with an opportunity to volunteer at no fee, as English club counselors or other tasks while in Dakar. from 10,000cfa per person a night (about $20).
Petty 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.
Crime around the airport is extremely high. Do not change money at the airport. Con artists wait inside the arrival terminal by the baggage carousel. They inform you that they work for the airport and that they do not need any money from you. They snatch your bags out your hands, and lead you to a restaurant where you are told the kitchen is closed. They will all sit around you and demand money before they let you or your bags go. Some may offer to take you to "an affordable hotel" such as Hotel Tahiti. They then lock themselves in the room with you and demand money. They do not settle for anything less than $US10-25. They do not care if you have enough money for food or to get back to the airport. They will threaten you. Be warned.
Avoid the beaches at night. Try not to wear any outwardly expensive items of clothing or jewelry. Generally, the Senegalese are not violent. Some people turn to stealing so that they can drink and eat. Overall, though, the Senegalese are an incredibly friendly and hospitable people and you will meet many people who are interested in talking to you.
Senegal is one of the most politically stable countries in 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.
There are many beggars 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 & Consulates
- Canada, .
- Egypt, Rue 1, Villa 1, Fann Residence, B.P 474, ☎ +221 338695544 (fax: +221 338647744), .
- Greece, 15 Bis Rue Jules Ferry, Dakar B.P. 1810, ☎ +2219 571120/571149/572648 (fax: +2219 571504).
- United Kingdom, 20 Rue du Dr Guillet, BP 6025, Dakar, ☎ (221) 33 823 7392/823 9971 ([email protected]), .
- United States, .
- Israel, .
BBC World Service radio broadcast in English and French in Dakar on 105.6MHz.
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 centre, Touba makes a great day trip. Unfortunately, non-Muslims are no longer allowed inside the mosque, which is enormous. Women will be asked to wear long skirts and cover their heads to tour the grounds.