I travelled to Senegal recently (May 2022). It wasn’t a country on my travel bucket list, and the trip wasn’t planned. I’ve wanted to travel since my last travel experience during the pandemic. I couldn’t go anywhere outside my home country for several reasons last year. This year has been very fast, and the plan was to travel at some point. So, I jumped at it when the opportunity presented itself for me to visit a country I’ve never been.
I planned this trip in three days. I bought the ticket first, and there was no going back. Luckily, a friend of mine had just been to the country, so she gave me some tips, and I found helpful information on social media.
As usual, whenever I visit a new place, I always share fun or not fun facts. Here are ten fun or not fun facts about Senegal.
1.) Senegal’s Currency is Shared Among 7 Countries
The currency in Senegal is the CFA franc (XOF), and this same currency is that of seven other independent states in West Africa (Togo, Benin Republic, Mali, Ivory Coast, Niger, Guinea-Bissau, Mali). It must be cool for people that live in these other countries to move freely without changing money.
Travel tip: Don’t change money at the airport. The rate at the hotel and other places were cheaper.
2.) French is the Official Language of the Senegalese People
Unlike Mauritius, French is not just spoken predominantly; it is the only spoken language. “Bonjour” and “cava” are words I heard like clockwork every time. The staff of the hotels and tourist sites could barely speak English, and at some point, I had to download a translator app to help me communicate.
3.) Baobab Trees Are Everywhere
The baobab tree is a big deal in Senegal. Everywhere you go, you spot the tree. Baobabs are along all the roads and are considered the country’s pride. The tree is the nation’s symbol, and it’s on souvenir items. I had Baobab juice on one of my nights, and it was yummy.
4.) Islam is the Predominant Religion in Senegal
Besides “bonjour” and “cava“, “As-salamu alaykum” is a popular greeting as well. There are mosques and prayer grounds everywhere, and I heard the call to prayer a couple of times during my trip. The country gave me northern Nigeria vibes.
5.) Senegal is Home to Goree Island
Goree Island is an island off the coast of Dakar, the country’s capital. It is a popular tourist destination known for its role in the 15th to 19th century Atlantic slave trade. The slave house still exists, and it was tearful to see what the enslaved people endured. About 1500 people currently live on the island. People visit the island to learn about its history, and besides the slave house, the island boasts of many restaurants, hotels, a school, church, mosque, shops and others.
6.) It Gets Cold in Senegal
Though Senegal is a hot country, it gets cold. The temperature gets as high as 31ºC, but the breeze that blows is cool and not hot like Nigeria’s. The other cities I visited, like Pointe Sarene and Mbour, are cooler during the day, unlike Dakar. It would be best if you had on a hoodie or jacket to stay outside.
7.) Horses and Donkeys are Means of Transportation
I was surprised to see a horse and cart behind it. Later, I realized that this was a regular thing because they move along freely like other vehicles on the roads. The horses and donkeys carry everything, including building materials, groceries, supplies, veggies, etc.
8.) Electricity Meter is Visible Outside All Houses
The prepaid meter boxes cannot be missed outside every property in Senegal. It must be a requirement because it’s hard not to notice them. Even uncompleted buildings have it. As long as there’s a power source, the meter is located on the wall outside.
9.) Nigerian Music is Popular
I won’t say that I was surprised the first time I heard Nigerian music on the radio, but the frequency of the Nigerian songs alarmed me. The people that can’t communicate in English know all the lyrics of the Nigerian songs that are in English. I was proud to be singing along with my cab drivers. It was nice to bond with them on that level.
10.) Senegal is Visa Free for Nigerians
As a Nigerian citizen, you don’t need a visa to be allowed into the country. All you need is your proof of vaccination, yellow card and Nigerian passport. The immigration officer asked me where I was staying and the purpose of my trip. Then, he took my fingerprints and stamped me in. It wasn’t a complex process, but my ability to speak French would have made the experience better.
Overall, Senegal is a great place to visit in West Africa. It’s not nearly as populated as Nigeria, and there are a lot of unused lands. However, it’s pretty expensive in comparison to other African countries. If you don’t know how to bargain, you will be cheated.
The people are warm and friendly, their melanin is popping, there are international standard resorts and hotels, and it’s not too hot. I hope to visit again at some point in my life.