Senegal is one of the less-traveled countries by tourists and foreigners. If you don’t know anyone that has been to Senegal, you might be wondering what rules you need to follow and what proper etiquette is while in the country.
Senegal is considered to be an underdeveloped country, so you might be wondering what to expect from the people and the food. Once you get to Senegal though, you won’t want to leave. Senegal is full of amazing culture, welcoming locals, and Senegal piece.
Senegal is Safe
As an underdeveloped country, Senegal worries many people. Your friends and family might even be telling you not to go because of scary stories or stereotypes they have heard about. The truth is though, Senegal is very safe.
As with any time you travel though, you want to make sure you take proper precautions. Keep your belongings close to you and make sure to avoid going out late at night when alone. Many people travel to Senegal solo though and do not experience any problems.
All the locals are very welcoming, so feel free to ask them questions or strike up conversations with them.
You Can Dress However You Want
Many people think they need to cover all their body parts and head when in Senegal since the locals are predominantly Muslim. In the larger cities though, you don’t have to worry about covering from head to toe or wearing a hijab if you are a woman.
You should still dress with some level of modesty though. Most of the local women wear skirts that are at least to the top of the knee. Shoulders can be exposed with no issues. Most local men wear long pants and button-ups or t-shirts.
However, foreign men can wear shorts and t-shirts with no problem. Senegal is very hot so you might want to pack thin items to be more comfortable.
You Might Need to Speak Some French
Most locals you encounter, especially outside of the city, will speak English. Tour guides and drivers speak English though very well. If you want to be able to talk to locals or venture out alone without a translator, you might want to learn a few phrases in English.
You can also let the people know that you only speak some French and ask them to speak slowly. Most locals want to speak to tourists and will try their best to help you understand what is going on.
Senegal tends to see more tourism from Europe than from the United States and Asia. So, you might also find some locals that speak Spanish or Italian.
Using a Guide is Best
There are some countries where it’s easier to go places by yourself. However, Senegal is best explored with a guide. If you don’t speak any French, booking tours is ideal. You can book excursions at the airport or through your hotel.
There are also many tour companies that allow you to book online in advance. Make sure the company has plenty of reviews though and that they are reputable and professional. If you booked your flight and hotel through an agency, you can also book your tours through them as well. It might even be cheaper if they offer you a package deal.
The Airport is Different
The airport in Senegal is one of the most confusing parts of traveling to the country. Especially since most of the flights from the US or Europe arrive in the very early morning hours. You will most likely be jet-lagged and exhausted.
The immigration lines are often very long and the mosquitoes are terrible. Since the airport doesn’t have air conditioning, all the windows are usually left open so you will find many different critters.
Make sure to stay calm through the immigration line even though you might be feeling hot and miserable. Once you exit the airport, there will be tons of people yelling and offering you taxi rides.
Most of them will be speaking French and you will need to haggle prices with them since many will try to overcharge you. It’s recommended you arrange transportation with your hotel if you can. It’s easier and they will be waiting for you outside with your name on a sign.
You’ll Be Surrounded By Delicious Food
You can’t visit Senegal without trying all the local foods. Street food is the best and cheapest option. Many hotels and diners also offer local food where you can sit down and relax if you prefer.
Almost all street vendors have fresh fish that is caught the same day. There is also plenty of spicy food to choose from as well as fresh juices to keep you hydrated. Most of the local dishes are French-inspired with African touches added.
To be like a true local, you and your friends can order fish and rice to share just like local families do. You can also find friend spring rolls, peanut stew, and many other fish dishes.
Make sure to eat with your right hand. Most people do not eat with a fork and spoon. You can wash your hands before the meal and then eat with your right hand. Sometimes food is even served in one large bowl in the middle of the table.
If you are sitting on the floor, make sure to keep your feet away from the food platters.
Senegal is Home to UNESCO World Heritage Sites and Beaches
Senegal has seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites including national parks and one of the largest slave-trading centers to ever exist. There are also amazing beaches with pristine sand and beautiful water.
Make sure to make time in your schedule to visit some of these sites rather than just staying in the larger cities the whole time you’re in Senegal.
Hopefully, this guide has helped you plan your trip to Senegal by giving you some etiquette and cultural tips to make your stay much easier.