Must knows

Today’s post is about knowing essentials before moving to Senegal.

  • Vaccines

Senegal is not a risky country to travel but there are some vaccines that are obligatory. Yellow fever is one of them. It is also highly recommended to take hepatitis A and B and tetanus vaccines before coming. Malaria is endemic in Senegal but it’s not as spread as in other African countries more in the south. Also, there’s no way to prevent an infected mosquito from biting you so just cross your fingers and wish it doesn’t happen to you!

  • Hospitals

There are several hospitals here like Hospital Principal or Clinique Pasteur but I had the (dis)fortune to have to stay the night in one of them. I chose La Madeleine because it’s known as the best hospital in Dakar and it really is. Good doctors and nurses, good attention, everything was really clean and looked after. I had a room for myself with wifi, tv, Air Conditioning and modern medical furniture and tools (photo).

Madeleine

  • Food

Thiemboudienne is Senegal’s traditional dish. Similar to the spanish “paella” it’s made out of rice, fish and tomato sauce. It’s usually spicy so be careful if you’re not used to it. If a Senegalese person invites you to eat at his house, know that the normal way to eat is to sit around a huge pan filled with thiemboudienne and eventually everyone eats from the same pan with their hands. Normally, the housewives prepare the fish for the guest and leave it on your side of the pan for you to eat it.

Thieboudienne

Apart from this, there are all types of foods that can be found here. There are international supermarkets such as Casino (french) and Dia (spanish) where you can find all sorts of european food.

If you love pastry, La Royaltine (photo) has great cakes and other pastries. It also has a tea salon in its outside terrace.  La Gallette is also an excellent pastries shop.

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Be careful with water and ice. It’s really important to drink bottled water and even though taking all precautions, it’s very likely that you get stomach aches. Remember I told you about sleeping in the hospital? The doctor told me it was very common within foreigners to get sick while living in Senegal because we’re not used to their food/water.

  • Prices

Dakar is an expensive city. There is no middle class; so you either live in a senegalese way or you spend fortunes in food and living. There are several good restaurants (La Fourchette, La Parrilla, Fuji, Lagoon, Alkimia…) but normally cost around 30€/person, if not more.

Renting an apartment is also really expensive. If you think that by moving to Africa you will live as a “maharajah”, then you should probably choose another destination. The prices of the flats in the center of Dakar (one of the best neighbourhoods, Plateau) are really high because of the poor constructions they’ve been doing here. So if you want to live in a nice flat in the city center (european standard), it will cost you at least 1500€/month.

Other activities that are common in Europe such as hairdressers, manicures, getting a massage, partying (alcoholic cocktails cost around 10-12€ each), going to the swimming pool, etc are also expensive. If you want to spend your day in a hotel’s swimming pool, note that the entrance will cost you about 17€ (at the Radisson Blu hotel, photo) and the “best” gymnasium here (which has nothing to do with the best gymnasium elsewhere in Europe) costs about 130€/month depending on the subscription.

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As you can see, Dakar is not cheap at all.

  • Culture and Religion (several woman, musulmans)

90% of Senegalese people are muslims and can get married with more than one women. Be careful with what clothes you wear, try not to dress too extreme.

Photo: Mosquée Avenue du Président Lamine Guèye.

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Every friday, at 1pm several spiritual leaders wonder the city with a loud speaker to let people know that it’s time to pray. Muslims leave their work, clean their faces and hands and walk to the center of Dakar where the streets are covered with people praying the Quran.

The majority of senegalese people don’t have a long term vision. It’s difficult to make them understand the importance of doing things well done for the future. That’s why streets are filthy and sidewalks broken and filled with cars (you have to walk around the city through the road because there’s no space in the sidewalks for pedestrians). Also, be careful not to get hit by a car, they drive without looking and obviously don’t care if there’s a pedestrian crossing the road. Photo: Avenue du Président Lamine Guèye.

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Things are slow here and difficult to explain. They usually say they understand but actually haven’t understood a word you’ve said, be patient. Sometimes being white is a reason for them to make you wait more than expected or to treat you as if you were rich. They don’t hesitate to ask for money, normally it’s because families here are really big and there’s always someone who is in trouble, getting married (dowries here are really high), needing some kind of medical attention or they just need money to buy a goat for the Tabaski religious festivity. They always help themselves between families. They’re not used to having tourism so make sure you ask when to take a photo to someone, they get really upset if you photograph them without consent.

Senegalese people (always talking in general) are often stubborn and arrogant. They get offended when a white person suggests a change or advises them on something. They have a low self-conscious regarding white people, that’s why they feel attacked when they don’t have the impression of controlling the situation.

  • Language

Their official language is wolof although the great majority speak also french. If you don’t speak french and want to learn it, the best place is the Institut Français of Dakar http://www.institutfrancais-senegal.com/ . People from all around the world meet there and share their experiences in Senegal.

  • Commerces

The majority of sales are done in the streets. Street vendors walk all through the city to sell you all kind of things. Once I was waiting on a traffic light and it amazed me how many different things they tried to sell me in 5 minutes;  hangers, games for kids, chairs, pots, fruits…

You will often see during mornings improvised bars on the sidewalks serving coffee with a wooden bench and a table for their guests to be seated, people doing sandwiches in little establishments and women selling peanuts and other fruits.

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  • Weather

Senegal has tropical climate, temperatures stay almost the same throughout the year. There are two seasons: warm and humid season between june and october (october is really really warm) with temperatures rounding 28ºC and rains in august and july, and a colder season between november and may in which the temperatures lower a bit, around 23ºC.

Hope you enjoyed the post! 🙂

xxx

Claudia.