A guest post by Angela (@Honoluluskye)
I will preface this entry by saying that this was a very short trip for a conference, held at a luxury hotel. Being very busy with conference events, I was unable to travel out of the hotel environment more than a couple of times. Hence, I know that this is a skewed perspective of the country, but hope it helps!
Getting There I flew the most direct route available from Nairobi to Dakar via Kenya Airways. We stopped in Mali on the way over and stopped in Ivory Coast on the way back. Including the one-hour stop to refuel, the entire flight from Nairobi to Dakar took approximately 9 hours. The roundtrip flight cost of $1,450 was more than it costs me to fly to the US from Kenya!
There were no unexpected taxes upon arrival. As an American citizen, I was lucky in that I also did not need a visa, and they simply stamped my passport upon entry. It was not as easy for my Kenyan colleagues as some had not arranged for a visa’s prior to leaving Kenya and therefore had to leave their passports at the airport. But at least they were able to enter the country! Not sure if they had to pay some fees on their way out…
Language: French is used everywhere. There is also mother tongue for many people though and I heard some Wolof being spoken in downtown. I believe there may be an English newspaper though I did not see one. It was difficult for me to communicate because I don’t speak French and most don’t speak English.
Getting aroundI had a free hotel transport van waiting for me so don’t know the real cost of taxi from airport. But I found out that from the Radisson Blu back out to the airport via taxi, (flagged down from the hotel), was about 5,000 CFA (~ 10 USD). I know that this was expensive, and it’s the maximum that you pay.
I hired a taxi to take me to the various markets in Dakar for three hours. The driver started out saying 20,000 CFA; we haggled and he was pretty stubborn, until we finally agreed to 12,000 CFA. But he accompanied me around to all of the markets and also acted sort of like a bodyguard/escort the entire time, which I appreciated. Therefore, I ended up giving him 18,000 CFA for about 3.5 hours of driving around. Usually, reasonably short, one-time, taxi rides should cost about 1,000 CFA (and if you can speak French you can probably get it down to about 850 CFA).
Popular transport for locals are walking and also a matatu-looking bus (see picture). These are usually brightly painted, and the doors open up on the back of the vehicle making them sort of look like police vehicles. I am not sure the French name for these vehicles…
It felt very safe walking around, even at night, as is the case in many Muslim countries, however the advice given was to take a taxi. There were also many MANY joggers/runners alongside the beach during sunrise, and sunset and you’d observe many practicing Muslims, washing their feet and faces in the street.
- CommunicationsInterestingly enough, upon immediate exit from the airport, all of the touts waiting outside were trying to sell… ORANGE SIM cards for mobile phones. I had a Safaricom line, but did not activate it for international use, and so it did not work in Senegal. The Wi-Fi in the hotel was not as good as I would have expected.
- Roads: They were smooth tarmacked roads, with NO TRAFFIC! Woah! And it’s 4 pm on a Wednesday! How is that even possible??
- Hotels: I stayed at the Radisson Blu which was incredibly expensive, in the range of 200-450 Euros/night. It had reliable electricity, but I don’t know if it was run on a generator.
Shopping & Sight-Seeing: Some of the major shopping markets are Cour des Maures, Sandaga, Tileene, Colobane, HLM. Sightseeing places were the National monuments and Institut Francais. The beach is two minutes out of the airport, and as soon as you get off the airplane you can smell the salt in the air… nice!
Getting around, I spent 10-20 USD on food and about 100 USD on gifts. I learned that Senegal has very nice silver jewelry. Here is an artisan/jewelry maker whom I was impressed with by his creative designs and reasonable prices.
- Food & Drink: The main local dishes were fruits, vegetables, and rice. There are some nice French places to eat as well.
Summary: Similar to Cairo but more African/French.