Planning a trip to Senegal

with 13 Comments
How do we choose our next destinations? Sometimes they choose us. This is exactly what happened with Senegal. The westernmost country in Africa chose us. After a two-day hackathon event about tax administration of Senegal we were planning to stay a bit more and explore the countryside and the people. So from a place we knew almost nothing about, Senegal transformed into a place where we have to plan a trip. Even more, a trip that will take just one week and aims to explore as much as possible. Yep, we have to enjoy fast again.

 

Senegal - boats and flags at the Pink lake, Lac Rose

 

 

Senegal, Popenguin, beach
360 degree view in Popenguine, Senegal   l Photo credit: Martina Galabova

 

Why go to Senegal?

As we knew nothing about the country, the main reason for visiting it was our approval for participation in a hackathon event aiming to bring innovation and collaboration in Senegal’s tax administration. And we love to combine work and travel, as all of you already know!

Then a look in one of our favorite books – the Lonely planet’s The world inspiration was just enough to inspire us to know that staying after the event will be totally worth it!

 

Tax administration hackathon in progress in Terrou-bi, Dakar, Senegal
Working with the best teammates from team number 3.

 

Сенегал, Мбур, плаж
Digital nomads working on the beach of Mbour while other are working out | Photo credit: Martina Galabova

 

 

Security

Because of the many stereotypes promoted by media, educational systems, etc. some of us would never consider Africa as a continent to visit freely. But, you know, decease and crimes happen everywhere so check carefully while planning a visit and ditch stereotypes.

That’s what we did in terms of security. We tried to find up-to-date information about the current security state in the country. So we started with the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria (although some might find this really masochistic) as the official source to provide information for traveling Bulgarians. So the website said we should be careful and check the current situation – that’s why we tried to get in touch with the Bulgarian embassy in Morocco (there isn’t one in Senegal). It’s been two months and there’s no response to our email. At least we didn’t rely on them. But what would have happened if we really did need them?

Let the journey take you to  Europe – Asia – Africa within 24 hours

Different sources online repeated “be careful, take precautions” with no specific reasons why. Even authority websites sounded somehow generalizing and not giving information on current situation.

For our relief, we found some bloggers explaining how nice and peaceful it was (well, in 2014) in the country. The hackathon organizers assured us we’ll be most secured during our time in Dakar. That was enough for us. We decided to listen to concrete information from people who are actually there and ignore the general negative feedback online. Just like we do every time. 🙂

 

A policeman in Senegal.
Day one – traffic patrols stopped us three times. | Photo credit: Martina Galabova

 

policewoman from our trip to Senegal
Policewomen are there for your road security! | Photo credit: Martina Galabova

 

Visas

Once more, the Bulgarian MFA site held outdated information saying Bulgarians need to apply for a visa before their arrival in Senegal. Once more, we did a quick online search and any other source of information said that there is no visa rule for Bulgarians. Once reassured by the hackathon event organizers, all we needed to do is reissue our yellow fever vaccination passports. All the sources online stated that you need this vaccination certificate to be able to enter the country.

 

As some of you may know, we were robbed in Brasil two years ago and we didn’t have our yellow fever passes with us anymore. We magically managed to enter Bolivia (land border control…) but for Senegal we were afraid that entering by air would mean better border control. And there the saga for reissuing our certificates began. Some weeks and nerves later, after terrible fight with bureaucracy, we had them!

Let the journey take you to  Kenya, Watamu – in Italy or Kenya?

P.S. It turned out no one asked for them at the border!

 

yellow certificates for a trip to Senegal in Africa
Yellow fever passport – check!

 

yellow certificate work when entering Bolivia
Entering Bolivia fearlessly … without yellow certificate!

 

Flights

As not a typical tourist destination, Senegal was supposed to have some terrible flight fares. Checking in Skyscanner confirmed that.

If you fly from Europe, don’t forget to explore low-cost options from Casablanca, Milan, Lisbon and Madrid. Connections from Sofia turned out to be a challenge so we took AirFrance Sofia – Paris – Dakar flight. If you plan ahead of time and you’re flexible with times, you can easily get from some of the hub-airports to Dakar for 400 euro or even less.

 

inside the aircraft : Paris - Dakar

Baggage belt at the Dakar airport, Senegal
All the luggage at Dakar airport arrives in one belt only! Good luck with waiting! 🙂

 

Itinerary – what to see and what to do

We knew one week is not enough to feel all the vibes of Senegal so we chose not to waste time figuring out transportation and so on and started searching for a decent local agency to help us with all the logistical things. We did find some local and foreign tour guides and agencies but we didn’t like their fares at all.

One lucky day we discovered a website that provided insight and suggestions on many different areas of the country. Because of the nice inspiration they gave us, we contacted them. We received super nice proposal for a custom itinerary with affordable prices so we instantly knew we will work with Andaando Travel Tours of Senegal and Gambia. Later we would have even found out that their itinerary contained some cool surprises we wouldn’t be able to arrange ourselves.

Thanks to that simple, yet comprehensive, website we were educated about what is special about Senegal. We knew that we needed to visit it!

Let the journey take you to  Kenya – picnic in the Maasai Mara National Reserve

 

Senegal map of POIs
Our map of POIs in Senegal

 

Senegal, Pink Lake, camels on the road
Sometimes this is what you can see! | Photo credit: Martina Galabova

 

Do It Yourself

  • search forums/blogs for helpful things like cab fares within Dakar, neighborhoods for safe partying, hotels that are not expensive.

  • get acquainted with specifics – power outages, slow internet, mosquitoes; rainy season…visiting the country inland vs. the coastline.

  • the local currency is CFA franc. It could be used in many West and Central African countries. You can draw from ATMs in Dakar or exchange euro in the currency exchange bureaus or banks.

  • drinking tap water is not recommended. Use bottle mineral water and plenty of beer.

 

Gazelle ananas drink - Senegal gazelle pineapple refreshment
Keep calm and drink La Gazelle pineapple!

 

Senegal, Pink Lake, salt
Working hard in the salt industry

 

 

Stay tuned for our adventures in Senegal! Let’s see if we managed to dive in the local culture and to enjoy our week in the westernmost country in Africa!

 

 

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13 Responses

  1. […] The Magic of Traveling: Planning a trip to Senegal […]

  2. Joe
    | Reply

    Didn’t realise that Senegal was the Western-most country in Africa! Learn something new every day. Sorry to hear you had a bad experience in Brazil, so it’s great to hear it hasn’t deterred you from visiting some of the world’s more off the beaten track destinations. I agree that Lonely Planet’s ‘The World’ book is a great thing to get your wanderlust juices flowing 😀

    • Bistra Yakimova
      | Reply

      Senegal is amazing! Definitely recommend it. We’re working on the series of posts about our adventures there, they will be available soon under the Senegal category https://www.themagicoftraveling.com/c/senegal/ .
      Brazil challenged us but after all we had great time there. I miss the beaches so much!

  3. FocusedTravels
    | Reply

    It looks like quite an experience you had!

  4. Sounds like an interesting trip with a lot of snags at first. Great that you gave yourself time to do the prep work and research!

  5. Such a comprehensive and informative post. Props to your patience in putting this (and the whole trip!) together!

    • Bistra Yakimova
      | Reply

      Thank you! Now we need even more patience to finish all the posts about Senegal 🙂

  6. Sheena
    | Reply

    I’d also recommend Senegal as a destination to visit, I spent a few weeks here a few years back while travelling through the region & it was one of my favourite countries. There is lots of fantastic practical information here for interested travellers, I look forward to reading more about your travels in Senegal 🙂

    • Bistra Yakimova
      | Reply

      Thank you, Sheena! I wonder how Senegal changed through years and still managed to stay favorite country for travelers. What other countries did you like most when you traveled the region? Any recommendations?
      Cheers!

  7. papaleguas
    | Reply

    I am afraid your Google Map is not working for me, which is a pity, info about Senegal is scarce and I could use some ideas.

    • Bistra Yakimova
      | Reply

      Hey 🙂
      The map is now fixed and you should be able to open it. Let me know if it worked this time:-)
      Enjoy the rest of the info about Senegal – it’s an amazing place to explore!

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