The Beginner’s Travel Guide to Dakar, Senegal

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In this travel guide, you will learn everything you need to know to enjoy your trip to Senegal.

Overview

Senegal is a small Western African country next to Mauritania & The Gambia. It’s a popular tourist destination for French tourists because Senegal was colonized by France hundreds of years ago. The official language is French and you’ll find it difficult to get around the city with only English.

I spent almost 3 months living in Dakar so I got pretty familiar with the city. I even got the chance to live with a local Senegalese family that showed me exactly how local people live.

It wasn’t the easy trip I ever took. Senegal is much different from places like Brazil, Thailand or Panama. It’s quite underdeveloped and I really struggled with my French speaking skills.

If you don’t speak French, then you better start practicing because it’s the #1 biggest tip I can give you in advance.

Visas

In order to attract tourists, Senegal offers US residents a 90 day free visa to enter the country. If you want to extend your visa, then you need to apply for an extension at the US Embassy in Les Almadiees.

Culture

Senegalses people are made up of several indigenous tribes including:

  • Wolof
  • Sedi
  • Fula
  • Madinka

Although Dakar is a melting pot of tribes, everyone speaks Wolof. Wolof is a spoken language that’s indigenous to the Wolof tribe. It’s only spoken though; French is the dominant language for written and business affairs.

Most Senegalese people are devout Muslims and I found myself waking up to prayer calls on a daily basis. Prayer is one of the 5 pillars of Islam and many muslims pray up to 4 times a day.

You will see people praying everywhere – at homes, at mosques, on the street, at the market, etc. I definitely changed my views on Islam after visiting Senegal. I think the mainstream media paints Muslims in an evil light but I didn’t experience any of this negativity during my stay.

Food

The staple food of Senegal is white rice, sauce, and meat. I had more rice during these 3 months than in my entire life combined. I actually got sick of rice and ended up eating at restaurants during the end of my trip.

It’s hard because many Senegalese people are kind and will offer you food ALL THE TIME (even if you’re not hungry). I admire their persistence and they will be offended if you reject their foods.

Most dishes come with meat so if you’re a vegan/vegetarian then you will be eating a lot of salads. Most Muslims love meat and they don’t understand why people don’t eat meat. They say in the Quran that Allah says it is okay to eat meat.

Most meat dishes come with little chunks of chicken/fish along with a sauce. They mix this sauce into a big bowl of rice and eat together. Up to 8 people will eat from the same bowl at a time using a small spoon.

Each person carves their own little section in the bowl and you will receive some anger stares if you invade other person’s section. Always eat with your right hand since Islam forbids people to eat with their left hand. They say it’s better for the heart that way.

Nightlife

Dakar nightlife is made up of nightclubs, restaurants and live music. Many Muslims refuse to drink alcohol because they say it destroys your liver. Most locals head over to the upscale neighborhood of Les Almadiless, a wealthy neighborhood along the Senegalese Coast.

They have a large strip of clubs & restaurants where you can find extremely beautiful Senegal women to hook up with. This is not like the most of Dakar. Most of these girls come from wealthy families so you need to come correct. If you dress and smell nice, you will do major damage in Dakar.

Outside of the main strip, you’ll find reggae clubs and other live music bands. I went to a reggae club with a $4 cover charge to listen to a reggae band. The night ended early because the power went out (power outages are common in Dakar).

If you’re into P4P, then Dakar has many clubs where you can find a lady for the night. Prices can vary so what you negotiate is your business. Sometimes, it’s best to get a girl’s number then follow up with her later.

Getting a woman’s number in Dakar means something. She will answer the phone and talk. Senegalese women don’t lead on men like western chicks do. If she gives you her number, then she likes you. All lights are green. Proceed naturally. No game needed.

Jobs & Business Opportunities

With a growing middle class, I spoke with many entrepreneurs who had big ideas for business in Senegal. If you are a businessman, then you can thrive in West Africa by offering services like:

  • Visa travel services
  • Importing goods from China
  • Website Creation & Optimization
  • Mobile phone data & storage
  • Teaching English & Chinese
  • Selling goods from USA
  • Boutique stores selling women’s fashion products
  • Opening western styles restaurants

Africa will be responsible for a tremendous amount of GDP growth in the next few years. Dakar is the most modern city in West Africa and you will notice many luxury vehicles (BMW and Mercedes), sprawling villas and large mansions.

Many brothas should consider either working or opening businesses in Senegal because you have the opportunity to grow your business without facing financial & racial barriers.

Just $1,000 is enough to launch a small sized business. Think global!

Things to Know Before You Visit Senegal

Here’s a list of things I wish I knew before I arrived in Senegal.

Learn French

French is very important in Senegal. Grab a copy of BOOK and start learning today. If you don’t speak French, you will have a rough time in Dakar.

Use Cash

There are ATMs around Dakar but many are either out of service or don’t accept US credit cards. Cash is king in West Africa. Most vendors and stores accept cash only. Only supermarkets and major hotels accept credit cards.

Bring a good smartphone

I didn’t bring a good smartphone so I had to buy a cheap Chinese knockoff from a local vendor for $50. It was a fake Samsung galaxy that kept crashing.

Everyone will ask for your phone number and you need it to hook up with women. I wrote about the best smartphones for international travel so check out that article.

Beware of random people asking you for money

When random people discover you aren’t from Senegal, they will often ask you for a little bit of money (usually 50 cents or a dollar). Now, I know this may seem like a little but over time it really does add up.

Salaries in Senegal are improving but still extremely low compared to western wages. Many Senegalese people work 5 days a week for only $100 per month.

You don’t have to give money if you don’t want to. It’s up to you. Just realize that your money goes a lot further in Senegal and the locals know it.

Do not talk about the government or police

Senegal is not like America or the UK. People take threats against the government very seriously. Living in Africa taught me to bite my tongue and be careful with my words.

You never know who is eavesdropping on your conversations. Talk too much about politics and you’ll have the local police paying you a visit. Or worse you could be labelled a terrorist.

I wish I were kidding but it is a serious problem. Senegal is a bit on edge ever since the Paris terrorist attacks. The police use bomb detectors to scan vehicles before they enter a hotel.

Every major hotel uses x-rays to scan your luggage. Don’t get labelled as a threat to the government.

Be Patient

Things in Senegal break down all the time. Sometimes a vendor doesn’t have change for your money. The power goes off at any moment. Your friend didn’t call you back right away because they spent all their cell phone credit.

These experiences made me a lot more patient and understanding. Stuff doesn’t always go the way you planned. Don’t let your emotions control your thinking.

Focus on the big picture and stick with your goals. Everything else in the world is just noise. Senegal taught me this key point and I am forever grateful.

Conclusion

Life in Senegal is a unique experience. It’s a much more raw experience. Many friends and family (including Africans) think I was crazy for living there. It isn’t the easiest place to live because West Africa has a lot of growing to do.

Would I recommend it to brothas? Of course. It’s one of the safest countries in West Africa and Senegalese welcome you with open arms. Just be prepared to live in a black country with a more relaxed, easy going lifestyle.

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