Dakar has always been a dream, but flight tickets from Nigeria are stopping this reality. We still don’t understand why we have to spend almost $600 to travel to a West African country. Being an ECOWAS country, Dakar is visa free for Nigerian passport holders. Not going to lie, it hurts and we need to stage a protest about these ridiculous flight prices soon, lol.
We’ve figured out a temporary way to travel to Dakar for now. We will be traveling through Chineme eyes and this post gives insight to this beautiful West African country. Having lived in three continents and worked in various sector, Chineme is a Naija-American Nomad who lived in Dakar. She loves exploration, black beauty, photography, music, people (especially melantated ones), and food. Chineme blogs at Traveling with Chi. Follow her Instagram on Chi Story.
Visa requirements: Thanks to ECOWAS (and Senegal’s general openness and promotion of tourism) Nigerians do not need a visa to enter Senegal.
Flights: Generally flights between Nigeria and Senegal are LUDICROUSLY expensive, especially when one considers that both countries are in the same ECOWAS community. With that being said the cheapest flights are on Fly Mid Africa. Asky Airlines and Air Cote’ Iviore are also options too.
WHERE I STAYED
I’ve never stayed in a hotel in Dakar and cannot personally vouch for them. I have colleagues who annually stay at Radisson Blu, because they enjoy the location and services. I have visited the Radisson and I they have hospitable, professional, attentive, and English-speaking staff. Others include the Pullman Dakar Teranga Hotel and King Fahd Palace Hotel.
There are many Airbnb listings ranging from one-room accommodations as low as $10 and going up to renting out an entire villa. For those on a tighter budget, I would personally recommend Joseph Gaston. His listing should state Amitié neighborhood in Dakar. He is very resourceful, accommodating, and hospitable.
EATING IN DAKAR
Yasss! I’ve been waiting for this question. I’m a big foodie, but at the same time I don’t like spending too much money. There are tiers of food in Dakar, just like there are in Nigeria with the mama puts on the lower end up to the posh restaurants.
I wan chop: On average, a typical dish, which usually consists of a meat or fish option with at least one side ranges from 5,000 – 15,000 CFA or approximately $8 – $27. There is a strip of restaurants on la Corniche des Almadies for those who prefer to eat by the seaside. Noflaye Beach, Chez Fatou, Creperie La Prainha, and Estendera Vivier Beach are some popular options. I would definitely recommend checking out their Facebook page (or website if they have one) to peruse their menu.
The thirst is real: Try EVERY local juice that you can!!! Use this opportunity to enjoy delicacies you won’t be able to easily find back home. My favorite local juice is ginger followed by bissap (zobo), maad, ditakh, and bouye in that order.
Don’t let Islam’s prominence fool you. There is a wide range of alcohol that you can purchase in Senegal. Local beers at restaurants usually range from 1,000 – 3,000 CFA and cocktails average around 5,000 CFA. There are the typical Coke carbonated drinks as well as water that can range from 500 CFA to 2,000 CFA depending on whether you’re eating at a fast-food joint or fancier restaurant.
Local Cuisine: Ceebu jen ( rice and fish), Ceebu ginaar (rice and chicken) or Ceebu yapp (rice and beef): The best ceeb (rice) is homemade. If you don’t have Senegalese friends, make some! And make sure they invite you to their house, so that you can eat original (i.e. Senegalese) jollof rice. Other local cuisine you should try are Mafe and Caldou.
THINGS TO DO
Island vibes: You have to visit at least one of the three islands accessible from Dakar.
Gorée Island: It’s cliché, but has a lot of history. The round trip ferry to Goree costs 5,200 CFA with a non-African passport and 2,700 CFA with an African passport. You also have to pay a 500 CFA tax and 500 CFA fee for the slave museum. There is a beach and various restaurants and artisans from which you can purchase their wares. There is even a sand art building where you can watch the process and buy finished pieces.
Iles de la Madeleine: (Île aux Serpents) is serene and less commonly visited. It costs 5, 000 cFa for the small boat accompanied by a tour guide. This will take you to the island and back to Dakar mainland. There are no eating establishments there.
Ile de Ngor: is a popular surfing destination. The round trip boat ride to the island from Ngor beach costs 1,000 cFa. There are restaurants and other activities one can do here.
Don’t be a beach: There are so many beaches in Dakar, you would literally have to try to avoid them to not go to at least one. They all have their positive sides, but I would definitely recommend Virage beach. Not only do you have the option to lounge on the beach all day, they also have pretty nice waves. The people at Copacobana give surfing lessons at affordable rates. They also have a restaurant that serves food and local juices.
Shake body: Night life in Dakar is popping. Here are a few of my recommends;
Fool Moon: This is a re-occurring beach party that usually takes place on Saturdays during the ‘summer’ months. Sometimes they have them in November and December. The music ranges from various types of “Blackness”: Afrobeats, Coupe decale, Makosa, American Hip hop/R&B. Entry is usually 3,000 CFA with the ability to purchase alcohol on site.
Terra Nostra: On some Fridays around midnight Phillipe Monteiro, a Cape Verdian artist based in Dakar, performs his music and Afrobeats covers live at Terra Nostra. It is a black AND woman-owned bar/restaurant. #AfricanGirlMagic. The food also isn’t bad. You can either come earlier and eat dinner or come around 12am and pay an entry fee of 3 000 CFA.
Just 4 U: This restaurant is known for hosting live music concerts with famous Senegalese artists, such as Cheikh Lo, Pape et Cheikh, Souleymane Faye, and other African folk musicians. They usually have weekly dinner/concert specials from Thursday to Sunday. Their concert/dinner special goes for an average of 10,000 CFA.
Sightseeing: For this section I’ll just list out some popular sites, and let you figure the rest out (i.e. explore) on your own;
- Monument de la Renaissance (Mamelles/Ouakam)
- HLM market (HLM)
- Tilene Market (Medina)
- Le Phare “light house” (Mamelles)
- Mamelles beach (Mamelles)
- Lac Rose “Pink Lake” (less than one hour from Dakar)
- Place de l’Independence (Plateau/downtown Dakar)
CULTURE SHOCK INCIDENCES
Yessss! Although Senegal is located in West Africa, in my personal opinion, various aspects of the culture, such as food (ex: plantain isn’t a staple food in traditional Senegalese diet) greatly differ from other countries in the region to which I’ve traveled (Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire, Benin, etc). Here are the top three culture shock(s) I experienced:
Dark Chocolate galore: I love me some dark chocolate on any given day, but I was NOT expecting to be bombarded by melanated beautiful men every second of every day. There were so many deep ebony men walking, but often times running past. Dakarians are known for exercising, especially along the Corniche. For me, the blacker the berry the sweeter the juice, so I was enjoying. Less tasting, but definitely more seeing God’s goodness and masterpieces. Definitely a pleasant surprise!
Language Barrier: If you’re Francophone you’re already at a great advantage. However, it is important to note that Wolof is a national language and the lingua franca of Senegal. This is not to be confused with the official language which is French. Even those who are fluent in French, may at times have difficulty communicating with taxi men or other locals who may not speak French. If you don’t speak French, you may be lucky enough to run into some English speakers, but I would definitely advise that you have at least intermediate French under your belt. Also, even when Senegalese are fluent and functional in French, they still often revert to Wolof when conversing among themselves.
Being Mistaken For A Local: If you’re black, some Senegalese may assume that you’re Senegalese. Funny enough, for me this was rarely the case because of my complextion. When people guessed that I was Senegalese, they assumed that I must be Fulani. Most times people assumed I was from Togo or Cameroon.
Whenever I told people that I was Nigerian they would be shocked. This is because, according to them, Nigerians in Senegal don’t usually care to speak French. I’ve known Black people with no recent ties to the continent who have felt frustrated when visiting Dakar. Their identity was occasionally questioned for example not African enough, but also not “insert Western country” enough. Although this might not relate to you it is a wonderful opportunity to start a dialogue, have a teachable moment, and break down barriers.
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO!
As Nigerians, sometimes we tend to hold on to our own culture(s) and experiences so closely that we expect to see the same things elsewhere. Drop that at the border biko!!! Senegal, specifically Dakar shares some similarities with Nigeria- it’s diversity. However, Senegal’s population is 99.9% Muslim. It’s overall very peaceful and if you have any preconceived notions about Islam please check them, or don’t. Either way, depending on your exposure, you’ll likely see a side of Islam and tolerance of religious diversity that you may never have seen before or at the very least is not commonly promoted on a national scale back home.
MY BIGGEST TAKE HOME.
I love the freedom and the ability to live the lifestyle I want in Dakar. I have been able to live in a way that makes me happy. Living without being worried about judgment or unrealistic expectations from others. As a female, I could leave my house at 1 a.m. and enter public transport alone without fear for my security. Generators are not common in households and power outages would occur once a week for a maximum of 5 minutes. Less noise and air pollution. Hallelujahhhh!
The things that I’ll take back home are food/drink recipes. I love to eat well no matter where I live. I’ll also be taking with me the beautiful clothes which my tailor sewed for me. Memories I made and the people are for sure my biggest take homes.
Did you love it or did you LOVE IT? Right now we feel like getting on the next flight to Dakar! It’s great to know its a 99% Muslim country, yet everyone lives in peace and harmony. It also looks/sounds like a great place for a foodie adventure! So much to eat, drink, see and do. We cannot wait to explore this beautiful West African country.