After clearing Gambia immigration, we drove for probably 5 minutes before reaching the Senegal immigration area, where the officer asked if I had a visa. All I could think was, oh no, here we go again with the bribe dance. I decided I could stop it before it started by showing him the previous Senegalese stamps in my passport. That worked and after writing down my details in his record book, he stamped me out and I was gone.
Kez = 3, African Border Corruption = 0
I could instantly see that the landscape of the south of Senegal was much less dry and a lot greener than that of the north. Also, probably because of the proximity to an English speaking country, there seemed to be a lot more people that could speak at least some basic English. This included the guys working for the shared taxi company. They let me pay for my seat in Dalasis (250, €4.40) then exchanged my remaining Dalasis back to West African Francs (CFA), for a pretty good rate.
As I had time to kill waiting for the seats in the van to fill up, I walked around the station and decided to buy a couple of hard boiled eggs because I was a little peckish, but mainly because I wanted to get rid of my 100CFA (€0.15) change. They came with a little packet of mixed spices because plain eggs are just boring!
Once we were on the road to Ziguinchor, I started talking to a guy from Bissau, named Amadou. He and the driver, had earlier helped get my seat back when a Senegalese guy had taken it by mistake. Seats are assigned by the company at the time you buy the ticket and they get very annoyed if you don’t take the seat assigned to you. I’m not completely sure why it matters though. Another African quirk, I guess.
It was a relatively short and uneventful drive to Ziguinchor in Southern Senegal. Only the driver stopping a few times to put water in the radiator broke up the monotony. When we arrived at the station in Ziguinchor, the driver took me a man at the station, called Mustafa, who spoke English and was apparently the man to see for all your needs.
Mustafa took me on his bike to the Guinea-Bissau Embassy to check if I had the right visa, but we had both forgotten that it was Saturday and the embassy was therefore closed. He called the number on the gate and the embassy staff were there a minute later. They checked and advised that the visa I had was not valid for overland entry, so they opened the embassy for 10 minutes to give me the proper visa. I couldn’t imagine something like that happening back home!
Once we got back to the station, Mustafa helped me find a black market currency exchange guy, so I could get local currency to pay for the bus to Bissau. He then insisted that I eat some food as I had a long trip ahead. Most of the food on offer at the stalls at the station was pretty unappetising, but I wasn’t really expecting much from a bus station!
Thankfully, the car from Ziguinchor went straight to Guinea-Bissau, so there was no need to change to another car after the border. The crossing was rather uneventful and for the first time in a while, no one tried to bribe me or give me their phone number! I spent less than 5 minutes on each side. The actual border was quite a distance from the Senegal immigration post, but the driver kindly pointed out the actual frontier at a junction between the 2 immigration areas, then welcomed me to Guinea-Bissau.
In a few words – Hot women and helpful men
Language – French and local languages
Currency – West African Franc (CFA)
WiFi availability – 📶📶📶
Decent WiFi is available, but it can take a bit of searching to find.
Transport – 🚗🚗
🚘 All European cars from the 60s and 70s moved to Senegal to start new lives as very squeezy shared taxis. You will wonder if these cars are roadworthy, or if they’ll even stay together for the whole trip. Somehow they do.
🚐 Many vans are available for intercity routes starting in the capital, Dakar. They should seat around 15 people, but don’t be surprised if the driver just keeps picking up fares until the number of people in the van is double that.
Roads – 🛣 🛣 🛣
Intercity roads can be good in some places and terrible in other places, which means that travel times can be a lot longer than expected.
Most suburban roads seemed to be composed of dirt, with the exception of major arterial roads, which were in very good condition.
Scenery – 🏜🌳🏖🌳🏞
The northern part of Senegal is quite dusty, but the further south you go, the tree to dust ratio increases drastically. By the time you get close to Guinea-Bissau, you’re surrounded by lush greenery and marshes.
Prices – 💰
Senegal is another great place to visit on a budget. In some places, 100 CFA (€0.15) can get you 2 hard boiled eggs, but 500 CFA (€0.7) can get you just about any snack imaginable on the side of a road, while 2000 CFA (€3) can get you a meal in a small eatery.
Checkpoints – 🛑
I can only recall hitting one checkpoint in Senegal, right after leaving the transport station near the Rosso (Mauritanian) Border.
Border efficiency – 🛃🛃
If it wasn’t for the immigration officer spending an hour trying to get a bribe out of me at the Rosso border, Senegal would’ve scored much better in this category. Entering Senegal seems to be the time officers will try for a bribe, but I found that opening your passport to the page with the previous Senegal stamp, helps you get through more quickly.
Exiting into Gambia and Guinea-Bissau was very efficient and the officers were very nice.
Corruption level – ⚠⚠
Officers will try to bribe you on entry, but will eventually give up and let you through.
Overall – 👍👍👍👍👍