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Senegal - Travel and visas
From July 2013 to April 2015, biometric visas were required of all nationalities except ECOWAS (CEDEAO) citizens and applications had to be made online prior to arrival in Senegal. As of 1 May 2015, this requirement has been scrapped entirely. Today, visas are issued on arrival at Dakar airport and all official land borders free of charge for stays of up to three months to holders of more than 100 different passports, including all EU/EEA states (except Cyprus), USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. This gloriously simple policy is intended to encourage tourism after the combination of visa confusion and the Ebola crisis saw a sharp decline in tourist numbers for 2014. It could conceivably change again, so we’ve included some information about the former application procedure in case it’s reintroduced in the future (though signs indicate it won’t be). Under the new procedure, visitors must still have six months' remaining validity on their passports, and may need to provide proof of yellow fever vaccination if arriving from a country where it’s endemic. Longer-stay visas of six months or one year are also issued for €120 and €150 respectively, but require proof of approved employment, training or study in Senegal. Visa extensions are also possible once in Senegal, but you will have to satisfy some of the same conditions. Inquiries should be directed to the Territorial Surveillance Directorate (Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire, DST) in Dakar, located at ‘Cité police’ on Avenue Malick Sy and Corniche Ouest.
Alternatively, it’s typically easier to pop over to a neighbouring country and renew your stay for another three months. If you plan on driving, be sure to organise an international driver’s licence from the country where your original licence is issued. These are typically issued by motoring organisations like the AA in the UK or AAA in the USA.
Stepping into the breach left by the collapse of Air Senegal International in 2009, Senegal Airlines has developed an extensive West African network since it started flying in 2011, but as of spring 2015, the company was reported to be bankrupt and in the midst of negotiations over possible nationalisation and restructuring of the airline once again. As this book went to print, routes were either irregularly served or cut entirely, but the government came out strongly in support of saving the airline, so if they’re flying by the time you read this, they will probably serve some combination of the following from their hub in Dakar: Banjul (The Gambia), Cotonou (Benin), Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso), Douala (Cameroon), Praia (Cape Verde), Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire), Libreville (Gabon), Conakry (Guinea), Bissau (Guinea-Bissau), Bamako (Mali), Niamey (Niger) and Nouakchott (Mauritania).Regional carriers including Gambia Bird, Arik Air and ASKY cover routes to Dakar from Banjul (The Gambia), Freetown (Sierra Leone), Monrovia (Liberia), Lagos (Nigeria), Accra (Ghana)and Lomé (Togo). To Praia (Cape Verde), TACV is your best bet.
The best places to arrange car hire for either saloon cars or 4x4s are in Dakar, the Petite Côte and Saint-Louis. Rates vary, but 4x4 hire can range from €95 to €160 per day depending on the vehicle, while a saloon car will be somewhat cheaper. You may or may not be asked for it, but an international driver’s licence is technically required. Depending on the firm, it’s also common practice for a driver to be included with the car hire, which adds somewhat to the cost but may represent savings on insurance fees. If fuel isn’t included in the price, remember that you’re looking at an average cost of over €1.20/litre. Driving is on the right in Senegal. Be sure to check out your rental car thoroughly before heading off, including for two safety triangles, a fire extinguisher (check the bottom to ensure it’s not expired) and a first aid kit. Police may ask you for any of these at checkpoints and being able to produce them eliminates an easy pretext for bribe seeking, though it should be stated that most road checkpoints are reasonably low-hassle, assuming that your papers are in order. It’s possible to cross The Gambia with a hired car, but this raises a number of issues vis-à-vis insurance, import permits and other paperwork. If you plan to cross from northern Senegal to Casamance via The Gambia, be sure to ask the car hire firm for specifics on what paperwork you might need, as well as if it would be allowed under your rental agreement in the first place.
Many self-drivers cross Senegal via Tambacounda to avoid these hassles altogether. Most main roads in Senegal are surfaced and in reasonable condition, with a few notable exceptions. The RN1 begins as a traffic-choked nightmare running parallel to the (reliably empty) new toll road leaving Dakar, and continues as a simple tarmac road all the way to Kidira on the Mali border. It’s surfaced the whole way, but some stretches, notably from Fatick to Kaolack, are terribly potholed. The RN2 picks up at the village of Diamniadio outside Dakar, heads north to Saint-Louis, then follows the northern border eastwards all the way down to Kidira, where it meets the RN1 again. It’s in fair to excellent shape until Ndioum, from where you’re back in pothole country all the way to Kidira. The RN3 begins in Thiès and connects to Touba, Linguère, and eventually Ourossogui. It’s in good shape to Touba, rougher to Linguère, and fantastic for the last stretch to Ourossogui. The RN4, otherwise known as the Trans-Gambia Highway, picks up at Kaolack and is fair to good tarmac all the way through The Gambia to Ziguinchor, with the notable exception of a deplorable 25km from Nioro du Rip to the Gambian border. The RN5 also originates in Kaolack, but starts its journey towards Toubacouta and The Gambia in rather rough shape. It’s good, newish tarmac from The Gambia’s southern border to the terminus at Bignona, though. The RN6 is beautiful new tarmac from Tambacounda to Manda, terrible potholes to Vélingara, and a mixed bag of roadworks until you reach Kolda. Westwards from Kolda, the RN6 is in such deplorable shape that nearly all traffic to Ziguinchor goes via Bounkilling and Bignona (though comprehensive road works on this stretch began in 2014). Finally, the RN7 is in good shape, some of it brand new, from Tambacounda to Kédougou.