Senegal Uncovered: Elevating Your Experience with Insider Tips and Top-Ranked Destinations”

Senegal, West Africa

Senegal, a vibrant country in West Africa, is a treasure trove of unique cultural experiences. Its capital, Dakar, is a bustling city surrounded by five countries: Mauritius, Mali, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, and Gambia. Senegal, a predominantly Muslim country, is home to the warm and hospitable Senegalese people, known as ‘Teranga.’ Their culture and traditions are sure to captivate any traveler. 

Hurtigruten Cruise Lines

Photo Credit: Hurtigruten Photographer

Did you know you can explore Africa by boat while sailing on the Atlantic Ocean? If not, now you know. I want to thank Hurtigruten Cruise Lines for the invitation to join the African Expedition. However, this article will only cover the land portion of the cruise. 

After landing at the Blaise Diagne International Airport in Dakar, our group was transported to the Pullman Hotel Dakar by private van. We explored Dakar by land on our expedition, which took us to Goree Island and Bandia Reserve. 

Senegal Visa Requirements

 If you are an American citizen and staying less than 90 days, you do not need to obtain a visa.

Languages of Senegal

French is the official language and a mandatory subject in school. Wolof is also widely spoken in Senegal. I struggled with the language barrier as I do not speak French and found few Senegalese who spoke English. I recommend downloading Google Translate or hiring a tour guide who speaks English and French. 

Currency: West African CFA Franc

The currency used in Senegal is the West African CFA franc, which is pronounced “say-fa.” Depending on the location, you can retrieve money from ATMs, send money through the Wave App, use debit/credit cards, and bring US dollars to exchange in local currency. 

Transportation in Senegal

Taxis are widely used and can be utilized all around town. It may be just my taxi driver, but I noticed he accepted the ride but was not of the destination and did not utilize a GPS. We stopped several times to ask people on the street for directions, which resulted in being late to the venue. Be sure to ask the driver if they know the location and negotiate pricing before entering the taxi. 

If your budget permits, consider hiring a private driver or car. Hiring a personal driver is especially helpful if you travel long distances and want to save money.

If you want to feel like a local, hop aboard a minibus. Be sure to know where you are going, as you will call out your destination before getting off. 

Ferries and boats are also available to certain islands. 

Commonly Used Phrases in Senegal

  1. Salaam Alaikum (Sa-laam-a-lay-kum): Hello.
  2. Nanga def? (nan-ga def)- “How are you?” It is a standard greeting in Wolof.
  3. Jërejëf – (Jai-rruh-jef )”Thank you.” It’s always good to express gratitude!
  4.  Waaw / déedéyt (wao / dey-dey): Yes / No ..
  5. Dégg naa / dégguma (deg-na / deg-goo-ma): I understand / I don’t understand …
  6. Ba suba? – “What’s your name?” It helps to get to know someone.

Popular Senegalese Dishes

  1. Thieboudienne is a flavorful rice dish cooked with fish (usually grouper or red snapper), vegetables, and tomato sauce. It is considered the national dish of Senegal.
  2. Yassa: Yassa is a marinated grilled chicken or fish dish. It is often served with rice or couscous and is known for its tangy and savory flavor.
  3. Maafe: Also known as Groundnut Stew, it is a hearty dish made with meat (commonly beef, chicken, or lamb) and vegetables. Maafe is frequently eaten with rice.
  4. Chere is a traditional Senegalese dish consisting of millet couscous served with a sauce made from baobab leaves, peanut butter, and various spices. 
  5. Thiou Tii is a fish stew made with vegetables cooked in a flavorful tomato-based sauce.
  6. Dibi is a popular street food in Senegal, consisting of grilled lamb or beef. 
  7. Bissap: is a refreshing drink made from hibiscus flowers and sugar and sometimes flavored with ginger or mint.

Must see attractions in Senegal

Fathala Wildlife Reserve

 I took a road trip to Fathala Wildlife Reserve. The cost was 25,000 CFA per lion interaction. Please check the times as the tour only runs 3x a day. You will have the opportunity to be up close and personal with these majestic animals. I felt very safe with the guides, who have been with the lions since birth. While walking with the lions, the only rule was to stay behind them. After about 30 minutes, the excursion ended as the lions were hot and sleepy. Don’t forget to post photos of this one-in-a-lifetime opportunity. 

Le Monument de la Renaissance

The Bronze statue is 171 feet tall and showcases a man holding his baby on his arm and his wife by the waist. Be warned: You must climb 198 steps to the top, but you can stop on the side to rest. Most people walk to the top and take a photo but remember to go inside. For a small fee, you can take an elevator to the top of the statue and check out the small museum, which has several interesting facts and history. 

I am the author of Hues of Africa: Journey Between the Lines. This book highlights various countries in Africa through coloring or activity pages. For the Senegal section, I chose the Renaissance statue as my coloring page. It was amazing to see the statue in person.

Goree Island

We took a Ferry to Goree Island. The ferry is an adventure, as so many people, cargo, and even cars are on board. On the island, our first stop was the Door of No Return, where we learned about the history of the enslaved people. Afterward, we went shopping, and I bought a beautiful necklace and a laptop protector. We then went to have a lovely lunch with live music. 

Bandia Wildlife Reserve

I took a road trip to Bandia Wildlife Reserve, where I shared an open-air truck with three other ladies from Spain. I saw rhinos, zebras, giraffes, antelopes, deer, monkeys, and alligators.

Ngor Island

Take a small boat to the island for a day of people-watching, seafood lunch, and beach vibes. 

Grand Mosque  

Even if you are not religious or Muslim, you should visit because the architecture is beautiful.  If you are not fully covered, staff will provide you with something to wear, such as a sheet or scarf.

Hair Braiding 

Getting your hair braided on the continent is a unique experience as the raiders are quick and inexpensive for various hairstyles. I went to a salon and had my hair washed and braided by two hair stylists. I had my hair washed and individuals installed for $65. Be advised that most people are Muslim; the braider took a 45-minute break to pray. 

Dakar Fashion Week

If you are in Dakar during December, attend a three-day event that includes fashion shows, discussions, and after-parties. It was great to see how the fashion designers put awesome collections together. 

Market Shopping

I went shopping at the markets and bought clothes and jewelry. It is normal to haggle with prices, so be ready to use your negotiation skills. 

Coat/Shirt I bought from the market

Simone, Senegal

I traveled to Simone, Senegal, and stayed at Chez Fatima et Hervé. I arrived late in the evening and grabbed a buffet dinner at Hotel Africa Queen, within walking distance of my hotel. If I had stayed longer, I would have taken a trip to the Lagoon at the beach.

Senegal Hotels

Hurtigruten Cruise Line provided a stay at the Pullman Hotel Dakar before the cruise began. The breakfast buffet is included in the cost of the stay. For other hotel options, check out Radisson Blue, Ibis, or Novotel.

Senegal Airbnb

If you’re looking for an inexpensive Airbnb with an interactive host, look no further than Boucar. I had my room with a shared bathroom. For dinner, I ate outside with the host and their friends. On other nights, they have an in-person cook who can cook authentic food. In addition, when I lost my phone, he offered to let me use his phone while I was there. I also decided to travel outside Dakar, and he arranged my transportation.

Safety in Senegal

Please be careful and hold onto your belongings. A thief stole my phone from my purse while I was at a hotel nightclub. Unfortunately, the phone was never found, and my photos were not backed up on the Apple cloud, resulting in a loss of photo content. If someone steals your phone, go to the nearest police station and make a report to see if it can be found. It is essential to obtain a police report to file an insurance claim. 


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Tiffany Heard

Proud graduate of Howard University where she obtained a Masters of Social Work. She has currently traveled the world to over 20 countries and gives back selflessly by volunteering abroad.