Southern Senegal

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

K in Motion Travel Blog. Southern Senegal. Swamp and Birds

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.

Blog. Southern Senegal. Roadside Swamp Area

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!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Cheap Eggs in Ziguincor, Southern Senegal
Cheap eggs in Southern Senegal

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.

Blog. Southern Senegal. Luxury Transport From Ziguinchor
The chariot awaits..

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.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Southern Senegal. Sealed Road

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!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Southern Senegal. Paved Road

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 – ?????

—————————————————————————————————————————————-

If you liked this post, please let your friends know and click the picture below to Pin It for later :o)

Super Social Senegal

I had made the short journey across the Senegal River with a Swedish couple, Anna and David, that I had met in Mauritania. We had taken a cheap canoe from Mauritania to Senegal. I was officially transitioning from northern to western Africa and was about to find out how super social Senegal really was.

Welcome to Senegal! Give Me Money

A friendly immigration officer at the dock ushered us to the passport window. Inside was a plump old man who was more interested in chatting to unseen people than checking passports. When the man took my passport, he tried to tell me that I needed a visa. Of course, I’d checked beforehand that this was not the case. I’d prepared a screenshot in case something like this happened. Mr Plump ignored it.

He then produced a French document showing my country on a list that gets a free visa on arrival. You’d think that seeing as he is the immigration guy, he’d be the one giving it to me, right?. He wanted to argue instead that it wasn’t his job. As I don’t speak French, this was all being relayed through a nice Senegalese man, Mumoudou. I’d just met him in the van from Mauritania. After several minutes, Mr Plump shooed me to the side.

Playing the Game

This was obviously to give me time to think about paying the bribe he was indirectly asking for. I was one step ahead. I’d read that this border was notorious for these kinds of tricks. They think foreigners are willing to pay extra or ‘bribe’ the officer to make the trouble go away. Not this foreigner. So I waited.

Mr Plump eventually motioned for me to come back to the window. He stamped my passport and told me I’d need a visa to enter Senegal next time. (Click here to see why that’s not true). Let’s just forget about the fact that letting someone who requires a visa into the country without a visa makes absolutely no sense at all.
Kez = 1; African border corruption = 0

Finding Transport in Super Social Senegal

K in Motion Travel Blog. Super Social Senegal. Transport Station

The transport station near the border was buzzing with craziness. Mumoudou said to keep close to him and not talk to anyone. That was easier said than done. People gathered around us, trying to get us to buy toothpaste or get into their car. Mumoudou found the car to St Louis and organised tickets for it. We put our bags in the car and relaxed a bit because our transport was sorted. Mumoudou went off to buy some water and as soon as he left, the driver took our bags out of the car. He told us we had to pay extra for them. We of course protested but as soon as Mumoudou came back and we told him the situation, our bags were back in the car. We did not pay any extra.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Super Social Senegal. Shared Taxi at the Transport

On his little walk, Mumoudou had found a car going straight to Dakar, so I decided to swap to that one. It was the same price as the car to Saint Louis, which was much closer to the border. At that point, I bid farewell to Anna and David. They will visit the same West African countries as me, just at a slower pace. You can see a chronicle of their adventures here.

K in Motion Travel Blog, Anna, David and I near Senegal Border
Anna, David and I
Kids of Super Social Senegal

While waiting for the seats in the car to fill up, little kids were constantly approaching me. They would put their hand out for money, but I found when I put my hand out, they were kind of confused and walked away. Once the word got around that I was doing that, other kids started just coming up and doing it for fun, then walked off laughing. They eventually stopped approaching me altogether, which was the aim!

Colourful Clothing

One thing I instantly noticed about Senegal is that women’s hair and clothes were very bright and colourful. After travelling for weeks through conservative Muslim countries, it was nice to see a splash of colour. I think their clothes would be considered stereotypical traditional African clothes. Senegalese women are also not afraid to show off their bodies and a bit of cleavage. I’m a fan!

On the Road Again in Super Social Senegal

Once our car was ready to go, the little boy that had been sitting in it had disappeared. His mother was laying down on her husband’s lap like she was sick. It turns out that her son didn’t have papers to show the police just outside the station. He had sneakily walked through the back of the station to a point down the road out of sight of the police post. Mum was pretending to be sick so that if asked, she could say she paid for 2 seats due to illness. Clever.

Whilst making our way to Senegal’s capital Dakar, a lovely Mauritanian man in the car started talking to me. When he left the car a little before Dakar, he instructed the driver to call my host on arrival at the station in Dakar. How lovely of him! The trip was mostly pleasant, if not a tad longer than I had hoped. There was certainly a lot to look at on the way, like the wild goats roaming around. They seem to be the stray dogs of Africa. Some people even walk them on leads as if they were dogs.

K in Motion Travel Blog, Shared Taxi near Senegal Border
A rather squeezy car ride
Prayer Stop

After a few hours on the road, we stopped at a town called Gueoul. Most of the others in the car went off to pray. I was glad to have a bit of respite from sitting in an uncomfortable car. I’d noticed a lot of speed bumps on the road as we approached towns. Even though we were travelling on a highway. I thing we lost an hour on speed bumps over the whole journey! By the time I reached Dakar, it was dark. That meant I’d spent the whole day getting from Nouakchott in Mauritania to Dakar in Senegal. All I wanted to do was eat and rest, so I met My host and got some food. my host lived in the ‘ghetto’ area called Grand Medine.

Dakar – The Capital of Super Social Senegal

Dakar is a bit of an assault on the senses. It’s next level chaotic. Cars going in any direction they please. Walking and stationary vendors trying to sell you their wares. Dust everywhere. With random puddles of mud, probably due to the small bit of rain we hit on the way in. Everyone was very eager to chat, even if they didn’t speak English. I had a lot of people start talking to me as I was walking. Many of them gave me their phone numbers in case I needed their help while I was in Senegal.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Super Social Senegal. The Ghetto

One of my missions while in Dakar was to my Guinean visa from the Guinean Embassy. It was my best visa experience yet. After looking at all the stamps in my passport and asking me few questions, the officer decided that I could have the visa. It was placed in my passport within 10 minutes. He then started giving me a lesson about the geography of Guinea and was so happy about getting to practice his English that he took me to lunch. Of course, he gave me his phone number and told me to call him if I needed anything while in Guinea.

Walking Around Dakar

K in Motion Travel Blog. Super Social Senegal. Roadside Street Art

Dakar is definitely colourful. There are many things that make it this way. The street art. The different coloured buildings. The many coloured items being sold on the roadside. But especially the bright clothes that people wear.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Super Social Senegal. Street Art

While walking around Dakar could be a little overwhelming, the friendliness is amazing. I could never walk far without someone offering to help me. People would often just start walking with me and chatting. There were plenty of invites to roadside tents for tea or food. One guy tried to help me, but wasn’t sure where the place I wanted to go was. He went to a random shop for assistance. The shop owner was only too happy to oblige.

K in Motion Travel Blog, Sex Sells? Dakar, Senegal
Sex sells?

I’d aimed to explore the city by myself, but I was never alone for long enough to do it. Even when eating a meal, it wouldn’t be long before a local joined me. While sometimes you just want some alone time, it’s nice to be in a place where everyone has time for other people. Not only that, but they are also willing to offer their help so freely.

Getting to the Border

A kind person I’d met along the way had secured a taxi to Gare Routiere des Baux Maraichers (inter-city bus station) for me. He’d even asked the taxi driver to show me where to go when we got to the bus station. Upon arrival, a guy from the bus to ‘Gambia’ tried to get me to run. He wanted to leave urgently. I was surprised to find that the bus was only about half full. Normally in Africa, buses won’t leave the station until they’re full.

The driver had decided to pick up passengers on the way. This was a great theory to get going faster. The problem with that approach was that it required driving around side streets and constantly stopping. It took us 2 hours just to get the airport area. An area that was only about 40 kilometres from the bus station. Even though I’d gotten to the station in the morning, I still hadn’t left the city by the start of the afternoon.

Life’s a Beach

K in Motion Travel Blog. Super Social Senegal. Kids Playing at the Beach

Along the way, the road followed the coast for a little while. I wouldn’t say the beach was anything special. It did look like people were living there in small wooden shacks. In some places, you could see families just hanging out underneath washing that they’d hung up on a makeshift wire placed between their shack and the nearest power pole.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Super Social Senegal. Hanging at the Beach

There were a lot of stops on the way, as many people in the bus were going to towns between Dakar and the border. Every stop would inevitably start with local sellers almost climbing over each other in an effort to get people on the bus to buy their stuff. Then some poor passenger would have to push their way past the vendors to exit the bus.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Buy My Stuff! Dakar, Senegal.
Buy my stuff!

With all of these stops for people to alight, the bus had become considerably more comfortable and quiet the closer we got to the border. That combined with the increasingly greener scenes outside the window were making the ride much more pleasurable.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Super Social Senegal. Getting Greener away from Dakar

Bus Swap

When we got to a town called Kaolack, about 100km from the border, the driver inexplicably made us leave his nice roomy bus for another overcrowded bus. I’m guessing the bus we were switched to was should’ve only held 20 people. I counted 36 at one stage!

K in Motion Travel Blog. How Many People Were Squeezed in This Van From Dakar to the Border in Senegal?
Can you count how many people have been squeezed in?

The 270km trip from Dakar had taken around 8 hours, so by the time we got to the border, it was after 6pm. I was a bit worried as I’d been told that this border closed at 6. Luckily, it was looking very open. I joined the long line, thinking that I’d be waiting for quite a while. The wait was shortened considerably when the officer processing entries into Senegal, ushered us into his lane. Even though he didn’t speak any English, he was very friendly. He even asked where to place the stamp. Overall, exiting through this border was quite easy. Plus it had the best signage of any African border so far!

Stay tuned for the next installment as the African adventure move into Gambia

————————————————————————————————————————————————-

If you’ve been enthralled by this adventure in super social Senegal, please let your pals know and Pin It for later :o)