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Flag Source: CIA World Factbook
Getting In and Around
: If you are a citizen of the United States, the European Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Canada, South Africa, Japan, or Israel, you do not need a visa. Tourist visas are modestly priced but cannot be purchased at the airport.
Your passport must be valid for three months after your intended stay. If you are coming from an infected area, you will need certification that you have been vaccinated against yellow fever.
: Dakar is a sprawling city, and you won’t be able to walk everywhere that you want to go. The most reliable and convenient ways to get around are by taxi, or the city’s two bus services, DDD and Senbus. Adventurous travelers might try one of the crowded minibuses that careen around the city: these are cheape
r, but know that the drivers can be reckless, and the routes are difficult to understand if you don’t know the city.
Safety and Security
Dakar is one of Africa’s safer large cities, but as when traveling anywhere, use your common sense and stay alert. Pickpockets are especially problematic in the city’s open-air markets, so don’t flash your money, and try to use a bag or pockets with zippers. Travel by foot at night is not recommended, especially in the Rue de la Corniche-Ouest, the Petite Corniche, Hann, and the beaches.
The U.S. Department of State’s consular website has a great deal of information about safety in Senegal. Additionally, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation has created a security ratings system called the Ibrahim Index, wherein scores are based on each country’s quality of government. Before traveling to Senegal or anywhere on the continent, check the index.
The Top 4: Local Advice
1. Although Internet cafés are dwindling, it is still possible to get online at several locations around the city if your hotel does not offer wi-fi (and most upper- and mid-budget ones do). Many of the nicer coffee shops, which you will find around the City Centre and the university, have wireless connections as well.
2. Although most of Dakar speaks French and it is the official language of commerce, if you are planning on a longer stay, consider taking courses in Wolof! It is offered as a second language at the Université Cheikh Anta Diop and by the Baobab Center, run by Africa Consultants International.
3. If you need to exchange cash, the best place to do it is at one of the large banks in the City Centre, which also have guarded ATMs.
4. As in many parts of the developing world, street food is ubiquitous in Dakar, with vendors offering sandwiches, beverages, peanuts, and a variety of other Senegalese snacks. We suggest avoiding these merchants, particularly if you are coming from North America or Europe, where food is pasteurized to an extent unheard of in Africa. If you do decide to try street food, make sure it is very hot (ideally, watch as it is prepared), and choose a vendor that seems to have a lot of local customers. If you’re willing to take risks and indulge wholeheartedly in street food, make sure to bring proper stomach and digestive medications with you.