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.
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!
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?
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. 🙂
Once more, the Bulgarian MFA site held outdated information saying Bulgarians need to apply for a visa before their arrival in Senegal.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!
P.S. It turned out no one asked for them at the border!
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.
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!
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.
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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