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Senegal

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Summary

  • Exercise a high degree of caution because of the threat of criminal activity and civil unrest. Pay close attention to your personal security and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.
  • Reconsider your need to travel to the Casamance region of southern Senegal, where the security situation is volatile. Risks are somewhat lower in Cap Skirring, Ziguinchor and the main road connecting the two cities. Exercise a high degree of caution in these areas of Casamance.

  • Armed bandits operate in the Casamance region and travellers have been attacked. Armed clashes between separatist groups and the Senegalese Army are also possible. There are landmines in some parts of the region. On 6 January 2018, 13 people were killed during clashes in the Ziguinchor area. If you decide to travel to the Casamance region despite the risks, exercise extreme caution. See Safety and security.

  • Terrorism is a threat. An attack could happen anywhere and at any time, including in places visited by foreigners. Take particular care in remote areas of Senegal near the border areas with Mauritania and Mali, and to the east of the city of Podor as far as Kidira. See Safety and security.

  • Expect increased levels of security screening in Dakar. Be alert to possible threats. Report any suspicious activity or items to police. Take official warnings seriously. Follow the instructions of local authorities. See Safety and security.

  • Public demonstrations are common in Senegal, including at government buildings. Avoid demonstrations, political rallies and other large gatherings as they can turn violent. Monitor the media for news of planned and possible unrest. Avoid affected areas. See Safety and security.

  • Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Senegal. The Canadian Embassy in Dakar provides consular assistance to Australians in Senegal and can issue Provisional Travel Documents. The Australian High Commission in Accra, Ghana, can also help you.

Entry and exit

Visas

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact an Embassy or Consulate of Senegal for up-to-date information.

Other formalities

You'll need a valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate to enter Senegal. Yellow fever is common in Senegal. If you don't present a Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate on arrival, you could be detained in a quarantine facility and/or mandatorily vaccinated on arrival, at your own expense.

Strict customs regulations apply to the import of certain items including auto parts, computers and computer parts, stereo equipment and video cameras. You may need to get customs clearance for equipment you plan to take before you travel.

More information: Embassy or Consulate of Senegal

Passport

Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months from the date you intend to return to Australia.

Your passport is a valuable document and attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place.

Be aware of attempts to get access to your passport by deception.  If you are forced to hand over your passport, contact the Embassy for advice.

If your passport is lost or stolen, you must notify the Australian Government as soon as possible.

Money

The local currency is the Central African Franc (known as the CFA Franc, or XOF). Australian dollars are not easily exchanged in Senegal. USD and Euros are readily exchanged at commercial banks and exchange bureaux in major centres.

Credit cards are accepted at major hotels in Dakar. There are ATMs in Dakar but banking facilities are sporadic outside the capital. Plan ahead and take sufficient cash to meet your needs. Contact your bank to make sure that your cards will be accepted. Credit and debit card fraud is prevalent.

Safety and security

Civil unrest and political tension

Demonstrations are relatively common in Senegal, especially at government buildings and in other public areas. Demonstrations, political rallies and other large gatherings can turn violent with little warning.

There is some local conflict near Senegal's border with Guinea, a region that hosts a high number of displaced persons and refugees. Military operations occur in the area.

The security situation in the Casamance region is volatile. Armed bandits operate in the area and travellers have been attacked. Armed clashes between separatist groups and the Senegalese Army are possible. Landmines have been used in the region and the ongoing conflict has resulted in displaced people and the loss of lives.  

  • Avoid protests, rallies, and other large public demonstrations.
  • Monitor the media and other sources for news of planned and possible civil unrest. Avoid affected areas.
  • Be particularly vigilant if travelling to the border region with Guinea.
  • Reconsider your need to travel to the Casamance region in southern Senegal, except Cap Skirring and Ziguinchor, where security risks are somewhat lower.
  • Exercise a high degree of caution in Cap Skirring and Ziguinchor. If you travel to Cap Skirring or Ziguinchor, travel directly by air, sea or only on the main road between the two locations.
  • If, despite the risks, you decide to travel elsewhere in the Casamance region, travel only during daylight hours and take appropriate personal security measures.

Crime

Pickpockets, bag snatchers and thieves on motorbikes are particularly active in large crowds. Muggings and robberies are common in the restaurant district of Dakar (La Petite Corniche), along the Corniche d'Ouest, Dakar's Leopold Senghor International Airport and the restaurant area of St Louis. Criminals target foreigners, especially at night. Home robberies also frequently occur.

  • Carry only what you need. Leave other valuables, including your passport, in a secure location.
  • Don't tempt thieves – avoid displaying expensive watches, jewellery, phones and cameras.
  • Avoid carrying bags that are easy to snatch.
  • Pay close attention to your personal possessions at all times
  • Avoid walking in isolated areas or along dark streets at night
  • Secure your accommodation against intruders, including when you're in it.

Scams

Internet scams come in many forms, including romance, friendship, business and employment opportunities. Victims have suffered financial loss. Victims who travel to West African countries to meet a friend or prospective marriage partner they have met online, or to seek restitution for money they have lost, are at risk of kidnapping, assault and robbery. Some victims have been killed.

Commercial internet fraud is common and often originates in West African countries. Criminals are known to seek details of 'safe' bank accounts overseas to transfer large sums of money (as a donation or for a percentage of the amount involved). They may also provide fake cashier cheques for 'urgent' shipments of large quantities of goods, request sizeable fees for a fake government contract and extort money from individuals they have convinced to travel to Africa for a business opportunity.

Bogus internet friendship, dating and marriage schemes are operating from West Africa. These scams typically result from connections made through internet dating sites or chat rooms. Once a virtual friendship develops, you'll typically be asked by your 'friend' or prospective marriage partner to send money to enable them to travel to Australia. In some cases the relationship is terminated with very little chance that any funds can be recovered. In other cases, foreigners are lured to Africa to meet their friend or prospective marriage partner and become victims of crime including kidnapping, assault and robbery.

  • Scrutinise all approaches originating in Senegal (or other West African countries) from people you don't know.
  • Don't send money to anyone in Senegal until proper checks are made.
  • If you are the victim of a scam, get legal advice. 
  • Don't travel to Senegal to seek restitution.

More information: Scams

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world, including in Senegal. A terror attack could happen anywhere and at any time, including in places visited by foreigners.

In October 2017, the US Government advised its citizens to be vigilant when visiting establishments and staying at hotels frequented by Westerners due to a credible threat of potential terrorist activity in Dakar. Some enhanced security measures are in place, including increased levels of security screening in Dakar.

Remote areas of Senegal near the border areas with Mauritania and Mali, and to the east of the city of Podor as far as Kidira, are particularly vulnerable to terror attacks, including by groups stationed in neighbouring countries.

No westerners have been kidnapped in Senegal in recent years but westerners have been kidnapped in countries bordering Senegal. The Australian Government's longstanding policy is that it does not make payments or concessions to kidnappers. The Australian Government considers that paying a ransom increases the risk of further kidnappings, including of other Australians. Read Kidnapping before you travel to Senegal, especially if you plan to visit regions bordering Mali and Mauritania.

  • Be alert to possible threats, especially in public places.
  • Avoid crowds, places frequented by foreigners, and other possible targets for terror attacks.
  • Avoid unnecessary travel to remote areas of Senegal, especially near the borders with Mauritania and Mali, and to the east of the city of Podor as far as Kidira.
  • If you must go to a crowded place or other possible terror target, have a clear exit plan if there is a security incident.
  • Report any suspicious activity or items to police.
  • Monitor the media for any new or emerging threats.
  • Take official warnings seriously and follow the instructions of local authorities.
  • If there is an attack, leave the affected area immediately if it is safe to do so. 
  • Avoid the affected area in the aftermath of an attack because of the risk of secondary attacks.

More information: Terrorist threat worldwide

Local travel

Landmines

Landmines are a danger in the Casamance region, particularly along the border with Guinea-Bissau.

Road travel

Driving can be dangerous. Hazards include poor quality roads, unsafe driving practices, poorly maintained vehicles and inadequate street lighting. Pedestrians and animals on the road pose additional safety risks.

Penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol are severe and include imprisonment.

  • Familiarise yourself with local traffic laws and practices before driving.
  • Drive defensively.
  • Be alert to possible hazards, especially at night.
  • Don't drink and drive.
  • Keep your vehicle doors locked and windows up at all times, including when driving – see Safety and security.

More information: Road safety and driving

Driver's licence

You can drive in Senegal with a valid Australian driver's licence and an International Driving Permit (IDP). You will need to get your IDP before departing Australia.

Motorcycles

Check with your travel insurer whether your policy covers you when using a motorcycle, quad bike or similar vehicle. Your policy may not cover you for accidents that occur while using these vehicles. Wear, and ensure your passenger wears, a correctly fastened and approved helmet.

Taxis

Only use registered taxis and limousines, preferably those arranged through your hotel.

Public transport

Avoid using public transport in Senegal due to road safety issues and the poor state of maintenance of minibuses, buses and trains.

Boat travel

Ferry travel is risky due to generally low safety standards and adverse weather. Vessel passenger limits are sometimes exceeded and, in many cases, insufficient life jackets are carried.  Always wear a life jacket, even if others don't.

More information: Travelling by boat

Air travel

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See instead the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Senegal.

More information: Air travel

Laws

You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling.

If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we cannot get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Drug laws

Possession or trafficking of illegal drugs can result in severe penalties, including long jail sentences.

More information: Carrying or using drugs

Other laws

You must have personal identification on you at all times. If you don't produce identification when requested, you could be detained.

The following activities are illegal in Senegal:

  • driving under the influence of alcohol
  • homosexual acts – more information: LGBTI travellers
  • importing certain items such as auto parts, computers and computer parts, stereo equipment and video cameras without prior approval – see Entry and exit.
  • taking photographs of government buildings, airports or other official facilities.
  • crossing the Senegal River by pirate pirogue (it is also very dangerous).

Australian laws

Some Australian criminal laws apply overseas. If you commit these offences, you may be prosecuted in Australia. Laws include those relating to:

  • bribery of foreign public officials
  • child pornography
  • child sex tourism
  • female genital mutilation
  • forced marriage
  • money laundering
  • terrorism.

More information: Staying within the law

Dual nationals

Senegal recognises dual nationality. If you're a dual national and you're arrested or detained, Senegalese officials may restrict the ability of Australian officials to provide consular assistance to you. Travel on your Australian passport at all times.

If you're an Australia-Senegal dual national, you may be required to fulfil civil or military service obligations in Senegal. Check with an Embassy or Consulate of Senegal before you travel.

More information: Dual nationals

Local customs

There are conservative standards of dress and behaviour in Senegal, particularly outside Dakar. Take care not to offend.

The Islamic holy month of Ramadan occurs between early May and early June. In 2019, Ramadan is expected to begin on or around 5 May. During Ramadan, take care to respect religious and cultural sensitivities, rules and customs. In particular, avoid eating, drinking and smoking in public and in the presence of people who are fasting.

More information: Ramadan

Health

Travel insurance

Take out comprehensive travel insurance before you depart to cover overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. Make sure your policy includes adequate coverage for any pre-existing conditions.

Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for your medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs. This can be very expensive and cost you many thousands of dollars upfront.

Confirm:

  • what circumstances and activities are and are not covered under your policy
  • that you are covered for the whole time you will be away.

More information: Travel insurance

Physical and mental health

Consider your physical and mental health before travelling, especially if you have an existing medical condition.

  • At least eight weeks before you depart, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and implications for your health.
  • Get vaccinated before you travel.

More information:

Medication

Not all medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia are available in other countries. Some may be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.

Before you leave Australia, check if your medication is legal in each country you're travelling to and find out if any quantity restrictions or certification requirements apply. Consult your doctor about alternatives well in advance of travel

Take legal prescription medicine with you so you remain in good health. Carry copies of your prescription and a letter from your doctor stating what the medicine is, how much you'll take and that it's for personal use only.

More information: Prescription medicines

Health risks

Mosquito-borne diseases

Senegal is listed by the WHO as common for yellow fever. Yellow fever is a potentially fatal viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes, which is preventable by vaccination.

Malaria is also common throughout the year in Senegal. Other mosquito-borne diseases, including dengue fever, can occur in the region. 

Protect yourself against mosquito-borne illnesses:

  • ensure your accommodation is insect proof
  • take measures to avoid insect bites, including using insect repellent and wearing long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing
  • get vaccinated against yellow fever before you travel
  • consider taking malaria prevention medication
  • seek medical advice if you have a fever, muscle pain, rash or severe headache.

More information:

HIV/AIDS

The rate of HIV/AIDS infection is high. Exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in activities that expose you to risk of infection.

Other infectious diseases

Water-borne, food-borne, parasitic and other infectious diseases (including cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, leptospirosis, meningitis, tuberculosis and rabies) are common with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time.

  • Use good hygiene practices including frequent handwashing.
  • Boil all drinking water or drink bottled water.
  • Avoid ice cubes.
  • Avoid raw and undercooked food.
  • Don't swim in fresh water to avoid exposure to diseased such as bilharzia (schistosomiasis) and other water-borne diseases.
  • Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering diarrhoea.

Medical facilities

Medical facilities in Senegal are limited, especially outside Dakar.

You'll usually need to pay upfront, before you receive treatment.

If you become seriously ill or injured, you'll need to be evacuated to a destination with appropriate facilities. Medical evacuation costs can exceed A$100,000.

Natural disasters

The rainy season is July to September when flooding may occur and road conditions deteriorate.

If a natural disaster occurs:

  • secure your passport in a safe, waterproof location or carry it on you at all times (in a waterproof bag).
  • closely monitor local media and other sources such as the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System
  • follow the advice of local authorities
  • contact friends and family in Australia with regular updates about your welfare and whereabouts.

More information: Severe weather

Where to get help

Depending on what you need, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurer. Your travel insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.

Emergency phone numbers

  • Fire: phone 18
  • Medical emergencies: phone 15 or go directly to the hospital
  • Criminal issues: phone (221) 33 860-3810 (Tourist Police) or visit the nearest police station

If the Tourist Police can't help you, the general police hotline numbers are 800-00-20-20; 800-00-17-00 and 33-821-2431.

Always get a police report when reporting a crime.

Tourism services and products

For complaints relating to tourism services or products, contact your service provider directly.

Australian Government

Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.

Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Senegal. The Canadian Embassy in Dakar provides consular assistance to Australians in Senegal and can issue Provisional Travel Documents.

Canadian Embassy, Dakar

Corner of Gallieni and Amadou Cisse Dia Streets
Dakar, SENEGAL
Phone: (221) 33 889 4700
Fax: (221) 33 889 4720
Email: dakar@international.gc.ca
Website:  canadainternational.gc.ca/senegal/index.aspx

You can also get consular assistance from the Australian High Commission in Accra, Ghana:

Australian High Commission, Accra

2, Second Rangoon Close
(cnr Josef Broz Tito Ave)
Cantonments
Accra, GHANA
Phone: (+233) 302 216 400
Fax: (+233) 302 216 410
Email: AccraHC.Enquiries@dfat.gov.au
Website: ghana.highcommission.gov.au
Facebook: Australian High Commission, Ghana
Twitter: @AusAmbGHA

Check the High Commission website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

If you are unable to contact the Embassy or High Commission in a consular emergency, contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 from overseas, or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Additional resources