Travel to Senegal

Malika Beach outside Dakar

One of the first times I heard about Senegal was when I watched a documentary about a famous car race across the desert from Paris to Dakar. Funnily enough, when we visited the Pink Lake, we saw the sign which marked the end of the race. However, it was cancelled after 2007 because there was too much risk for terrorism along the way. Travel to Senegal was not so easy from London, but luckily it is easier from Paris due to the former French connection. Since I was already in Paris at the time, I started the trip from there via Casablanca to Dakar.

Our travel to Senegal started in Dakar, then we visited Gorée Island, Saly, Touba, Kaolack, Toubacouta, and Fathala before crossing into the Gambia. We had an excellent guide, Mika, owner of Trip Tour Senegal and driver, Samba. We had such a varied adventure seeing the capital city, natural attractions like the Pink Lake, beaches, Gorée Island, Touba Mosque, and animal safaris. I also had a chance to practice some French with the locals, and we learned a few words in Wolof. We enjoyed the fresh fish and had a delicious thieboudienne (fish, rice and vegetables) made by our driver’s wife. They gave us such a warm welcome, and the whole extended family came by to greet us.

Some people have asked me if I felt safe. Yes, definitely most of the time and especially since we had our guide. The only time I felt slightly uncomfortable was when I decided to walk on the beach by myself and got followed by a few men. We were also there during the highly contested presidential election. Before we arrived, there had been violence. Luckily, the election itself went peacefully. We just had to leave Dakar the night before we had planned because movement between regions was restricted on election day. Overall, I’d highly recommend a visit to Senegal! There is so much to see and do, people are friendly, and it is beautiful.

Pink Lake (Le Lac Rose)
Gorée island beach
Fathala Wildlife Reserve


  • Dakar, the coastal capital
  • The western most point of mainland Africa is Les Almadies, Dakar
  • Tasty fresh fish and seafood and the local cooking like thieboudienne
  • Le Lac Rose, Pink lake and salt harvesting
  • Gorée Island, infamous history for the slave trade
  • Saly, coastal city
  • Bandia Reserve animal safari
  • Giant Sacred Baobab tree
  • Seashell island and boat trip through the mangroves
  • Touba Mosque, one of the largest in Africa
  • Fathala Wildlife reserve and a unique experience to walk with the lions

Before you go

  • US and UK citizens can visit for 90 days without a visa
  • French is the official language and there are many local languages and dialects including Wolof
  • Malaria is present so taking anti-malarial medication is advised, especially during the rainy season
  • Weather is generally warm and there is a rainy (Jun-Oct) and a dry season (Nov-May)
  • The best exchange rates are via the black market, which your guide can help you with. Otherwise, you can try banks or hotels but the rates will not be as good
  • At the Senegal-Gambia northern border, it is chaotic to gather the stamps and documents you need, especially for the Gambia. Be patient and ask where you need to go next
Bandia Reserve giraffe
Sacred Baobab
Dakar rooftop view


  • We opted to have a private guide and driver to take us one way with lots of stops from Dakar to Banjul, The Gambia
  • However, there are group taxis and buses that are a cheap way to travel and we did see some tourists on those
  • There are also some trains though not to more remote places


  • Luckily, our guide booked all of the accommodation for us. The rating system is probably not equivalent to Europe, although I would recommend looking for at least three-star ratings for a comfortable hotel
  • In the specific city or region posts, I will give some more details about specific hotels
Seashell Island from Sessene
Great Mosque of Touba
Hotel Keur Saloum in Toubacouta


The official currency of Senegal is the West African Franc (CFA). As of May 2004, one British pound is equal to 768 francs

I recommend to check the currency conversion just before you leave as this fluctuates

5000 Central African Francs (CFA)
Poulet Yassa and rice at Chez Salim
Restaurant Kiki on Gorée island, Daurade and rice
Homemade thieboudienne by our driver’s wife
Tchiof (grouper) fish at La Taverne du Pêcheur
Bissap, hibiscus juice
Blue bird restaurant in Kaolack Grilled monkfish


Part of the reason I wanted to travel to Senegal was for the food! Some friends from Senegal and Mauritania had given me some recipes. I had also tried Senegalese food at a restaurant in the past. However, it is always nicer to try the original version. This is a brief guide about the cuisine, although I will write more specifics in the following posts.

One of the most well-known dishes is thieboudienne, which is a rice based dish with fish, vegetables and spices. We were lucky to have a home-cooked thieboudienne made by our driver’s wife. It was flavourful and delicious! Also, we ate family style, sharing one big platter while sitting on a blanket on the floor.

In general, fish is very popular and Senegal’s long coastline means that there are many fishermen out at sea. They seem to base their cooking on the catch of the day.

I also had poulet yassa, which is a tasty chicken dish with a side sauce made of caramelised onions. Fish yassa is also very similar.

At some restaurants, there were beef and pork dishes, but I didn’t tend to choose those since the fish was so delicious and fresh.

Bissap is a popular drink, and it is made from hibiscus and sweetened with honey or sugar. Another unique drink is baobab juice, which reminds me of tamarind with a sour flavour.

Dessert does not seem to be too popular, although the desserts we had tended to resemble European cakes. For example apple tart, coconut cake and chocolate marble cake. While eating out our driver’s home, we had fresh fruits for dessert.


Q: Do I need a tour guide?

A: Although it is not absolutely necessary, I would definitely recommend it. We learned so much more that way, and it was stress-free because our awesome guide had a lot of local knowledge and contacts.

Q: Do people speak English?

A: No, for the most part the second language of most people is French not English

Q: Can I travel solo?

A: Yes, you can though you may get a lot of stares. Also, as a woman I would not feel very comfortable. I was followed a lot, especially near the beaches if I was not with my male friend

Q: How easy is it to send postcards?

A: It was not very easy to find postcards, but a few shops and museums had them. The ferry port to Goree had some shops. However, getting stamps was very difficult. We never found an open post office, so my guide took them and mailed them after our tour. See Sending Postcards from Abroad for details on cost and the time it took to reach the USA.

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