196,722 sq km (75,955 sq miles).
13.6 million (2014).
69.3 per sq km.
Head of state:
President Macky Sall since 2012.
Head of government:
Prime Minister Mohammed Dionne since 2014.
230 volts AC, 50Hz. Various plug types with two or three round pins are in use.
Known as ‘The Country of Teranga’ – Teranga meaning hospitality in Wolof, the most wide-spoken language in the country – Senegal is probably one of the friendliest and most hospitable countries in West Africa.
Picture colourful markets displaying multicoloured fabrics and authentic arts & crafts; golden, white and yellow sandy beaches stretching as far as the eye can see; energetic music playing on every street corner; and mouthwatering food enticing your senses with exotic aromas. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
There’s the Sahel to the north, dotted with mighty Baobab trees; the mountainous region of Fouta Djallon in the south east, hiding secretive tribes and beautiful waterfalls; winding mangroves in the west, harbouring one of the largest concentrations of migratory birds in the World; and palm-fringed tropical beaches and islands in the southern Casamance region. There’s no doubt Senegal can satisfy even the most demanding of visitors.
Senegal’s diverse regions offer an abundance of awe-inspiring landscapes, wonderful experiences and a good chance of spotting some of the most interesting wildlife West Africa can offer, including giraffes, elephants, hippos, rhinos, lions and panthers.
It’s also an exciting place for those looking for outdoor adventure. Surf some of the best waves in West Africa in year-round warm waters, hike through lush tropical rainforest-clad mountains to discover towering waterfalls, take a bicycle ride along red clay roads to explore the breathtaking Sahel countryside, navigate the mysterious mangrove swamps to look for freshwater oysters, go deep-sea fishing off the continental shelf with a chance of catching the next record-holding tarpon or sword-fish, or even take a ride on a Micro-Light, and fly over awesome landscapes.
Culture vultures won’t be disappointed either. With year round music and art festivals such as the St. Louis Jazz Festival, well managed museums displaying some of the most interesting artefacts found in the region, well-preserved colonial ruins and reminders of the infamous trans-Atlantic slave trade, as well as impromptu street festivals displaying intoxicating music and dance routines that will get you dancing, Senegal is a constant reminder of human imagination, creativity, resilience and ‘joie de vivre’ found in this part of the World. You’ll find that the Senegalese are some of the most smiling and friendly people you’ll ever meet. Don’t be surprised to find yourself being invited into someone’s home to eat one of the local mouthwatering dishes.
Senegal’s good at beach vacations too. If you want to kick back, relax, and enjoy the sun, sea, a few cocktails and some lovely food, then there are all sorts of options: perhaps an all-inclusive resort? Or a quaint little beach bungalow with a view? How about a community-owned campsite? An eco-lodge with good environmental and social credentials? There are even tree-houses available if you prefer your accommodation quirky.
Easily accessible from Europe and the US, offering an array of experiences that will satisfy the most demanding of travellers, and with up to eight months of sun a year and one of the best infrastructures in the region, Senegal is a sure-fire winner the first-time visitor to West Africa.
Last updated: 18 October 2015
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Pick pocketing and street crime, including in taxis and occasionally violent, are common in parts of Dakar, particularly around Place de l’Independence, the central area of the Plateau, the Western Corniche, and at the airport. You should take sensible precautions, avoid walking alone in the late afternoon and after dark, and avoid carrying valuables in public.
If you’re expecting a greeter or driver to collect you at the airport, make sure they properly identify themselves before you set off. Bogus greeters are known to operate at the airport.
British nationals are increasingly being targeted by scam artists operating in West Africa. The scams come in many forms (romance and friendship, business ventures, work and employment opportunities) and can pose great financial risk to victims. You should be very cautious about any requests for funds, a job offer, a business venture or a face to face meeting from someone you have been in correspondence with over the internet who lives in West Africa, including from people who claim to be victims of various Western African conflicts (notably refugees from Sierra Leone) or relatives of present or former political leaders.
The Casamance region of south-western Senegal (between the southern border of Gambia and the northern border of Guinea-Bissau) remains affected by incidents involving armed separatist groups and banditry, particularly in the regions of Bignona and Sindian.
There has been an increase in clashes between the Senegalese army and suspected elements of the armed separatist group MFDC (Movement of the Democratic Forces of Casamance) resulting in injuries and deaths. Cars and local buses have been ambushed and their passengers robbed, sometimes violently, by armed men.
You should avoid all road travel in the Casamance region to the west of Kolda, other than on the main road from Ziguinchor to Cap Skiring (which is often used by groups of tourists during daylight hours) and on the main road north of the Guinea-Bissau/ Senegal border, from Sao Domingos to Ziguinchor (N4 bis (Route National 4 bis). If you travel on either of these two routes, you should do so only during daylight hours and monitor the local security situation before travelling. The N4 and N5 roads in the Casamance region are closed each night from 18:00 to 06:00.
Land mines remain a problem in Casamance and de-mining operations are continuing. Organisations operating in Casamance have recorded several hundred deaths from land mines since 1990, most of which have been of civilians, including a foreign national who was killed when her vehicle hit a newly placed mine on an unpaved road. You should take local advice and stick to paved roads.
Take care if you are travelling near the border with the Republic of Guinea as there is an increased military presence.
While some main roads are of good quality, other roads can be poor especially during the rainy season from July to October. Torrential rains can cause floods and landslides. Monitor local weather reports and expect difficulties when travelling during the rainy season.
Driving standards are unpredictable. Some taxis and public mini-buses (‘car rapide’) are not roadworthy by UK standards.
Traffic in the Dakar area is heavy and you should take particular care and attention to avoid accidents. Driving after dark is more dangerous because of poor street and vehicle lighting. If you do have an accident you must contact the police and wait for them to arrive at the scene. In more remote areas you may need to go directly to the nearest police station to report the incident there.
Avoid any demonstrations or large gatherings of people.
The French Embassy provides important security updates to French and other EU nationals, including British nationals. If you would like to take advantage of this service, please contact the British Embassy, Dakar.