After clearing Gambia immigration, we drove for probably 5 minutes before reaching the Southern Senegal immigration area. There, the officer asked if I had a visa. All I could think was, oh no, here we go again with the bribe game that happened when I first entered northern Senegal. I decided I could stop it before it started by showing him the 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
The Greener Part of Senegal
I could instantly see that the landscape of Southern Senegal was much less dry and a lot greener than 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 Gambian Dalasis (GMD250, €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. I’d just realised I was feeling a little peckish. I also 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!
Next Stop in Southern Senegal – Ziguinchor
Once we were on the road to Ziguinchor, I started talking to a guy from Guniea-Bissau, named Amadou. He and the driver had earlier helped get my seat back. You see, seats are assigned when you buy a ticket for a taxi in Senegal and the driver gets strangely irritated if you don’t take the assigned seat. I was assigned a window seat, but a Senegalese guy had taken it by mistake. I’m not completely sure why these seat assignments matter so much though. Another African quirk, I guess.
It was a relatively short and uneventful drive to Ziguinchor in Southern Senegal. We only had a few small stops for the driver to put water in the car’s radiator. You could say it broke up the monotony. When we arrived at the station in Ziguinchor, the driver took me to the ‘man of the station’. This man’s name was Mustafa and he was the man to see for all your needs. He spoke English too, which was a nice bonus!
Zipping Around Ziguinchor
Mustafa took me on his bike to the Guinea-Bissau Embassy to check if I had the right visa. We had both forgotten that it was a Saturday though. I blame my travel brain, (it’s totally a thing!). So, as you’ve probably guessed, the embassy was closed. Mustafa didn’t seem worried about this at all and nonchalantly pulled out his phone to call the number on the gate.
The embassy staff said they would be there in two minutes. I figured we would be waiting at least ten minutes because it was Africa. Imagine my surprise when a white 4WD pulled up less than 2 minutes later and opened the embassy gate. They checked my visa and advised that it was not valid for overland entry. The whole process of getting the visa took less than ten minutes and only cost €20. Once it was done, the staff closed the embassy and drove back off to enjoy the rest of their weekend. On a side note, I was refunded by the Guniea-Bissau government a week later when they realised that the first visa they’d issued me hadn’t been used, so win-win!
The Roads in Southern Senegal
As I mentioned in my previous post about Senegal the roads varied in quality from sealed to dirt. The roads in Southern Senegal also varied, but in a slightly different way. For the most part, roads were sealed and a little more well maintained than their counterparts in Northern Senegal.
As we got closer to Guinea-Bissau, the road turned from sealed to paved. Paved like a backyard. It was a rather interesting sensation driving on the paved road after being on the sealed road for so long. it was definitely a lot noisier!
On To Guinea-Bissau!
Once we got back to the station, Mustafa helped me find a black market currency exchange guy. I needed to get some more CFA to pay for transport 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. You really wouldn’t expect more from a transport station in Africa though!
Thankfully, the car from Ziguinchor went straight to Guinea-Bissau. There was no need to change at the border. Every other border I’d crossed in Africa beforehand had required a change of cars. It’s a lot less hassle when you can just get back into the same car! The crossing was rather uneventful. 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 several kilometres from the Senegal immigration post. The driver kindly pointed out the actual frontier at a junction between the 2 immigration areas, then welcomed me to Guinea-Bissau.
??Northern and Southern Senegal Summary??
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 great on a budget! 100 CFA (€0.15) can get you 2 hard boiled eggs. 500 CFA (€0.7) can get you just about any snack imaginable. 2000 CFA (€3) can get you a meal in a small eatery.
Checkpoints – ?
I only saw one checkpoint in Senegal, 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, Senegal would’ve scored much better in this category. The exits into Gambia and Guinea-Bissau were 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 – ?????
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