Senegal Basic Facts:Senegal is one of West Africa's most popular destinations. The capital Dakar is a vibrant, lively city with colorful markets, plenty of hustlers and good nightclubs. Senegal is culturally rich, famous for its excellent musicians and story tellers. There are fine beaches, pretty colonial towns, lagoons and rivers to explore and much more.
Location: Senegal is located in Western Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Guinea-Bissau and Mauritania; see map
Area: Senegal covers an area of 196,190 sq km (about half the size of Sweden and slightly smaller than South Dakota).
Capital City: Dakar
Population: Just under 13 million people live in Senegal.
Language: French (official), Wolof, Pulaar, Jola, and Mandinka
Religion: Muslim 94%, indigenous beliefs 1%, Christian 5% (mostly Roman Catholic)
Climate: Senegal has a tropical climate and is generally hot and humid. There's a rainy season (May to November) with strong southeast winds. The dry season (December to April) is dominated by hot, dry, harmattan wind (lots of sand blowing around).
When to Go: During the dry season, from November to April is the best time to go.
Currency: CFA Franc, click here for currency converter.
Senegal's Main Attractions:
- Dakar -- Senegal's vibrant capital might take a few days to get used to, but once you're in the groove there's plenty to see and do. Colorful markets, excellent music, and good beaches (ask the locals).
- Goree Island (Ile de Goree) -- is a small island just off the coast of Dakar. Goree Island is a big tourist attraction because of its history as a major slave-trading center. You can see the "House of Slaves", and several other interesting museums. More about Goree Island...
- Sine-Saloum Delta -- lies in the south of Senegal. It's a large area of mangrove forests, lagoons, islands and rivers. A highlight for visitors to this region is taking a boat ride up the rivers to spot pelicans and flamingos and enjoy the lovely fishing villages along the way.
- St Louis -- The former capital of French West Africa, St Louis was established in 1673. Lots of interesting decaying French colonial architecture to admire, as well as good beaches and some excellent bird reserves close by.
Travel to SenegalSenegal's International Airport: The Dakar-Yoff Leopold Sedar Senghor International Airport (airport code: DKR) is 11 miles from the city center of Dakar.
Getting to Senegal: Dakar is a major West African hub, there are plenty of regional flights as well as direct flights from all major European capitals as well as NY and Washington DC.
Senegal's Embassies/Visas: Many nationalities do not require a tourist visa to enter Senegal, but check with the embassy closest to you for confirmation.
Senegal's Tourist Information Office: Senegal has a tourist office in New York -- Tel: (212) 695-9630, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org . Check the Tourism Ministry web site for more information as well.
Senegal's Economy and PoliticsEconomy: As a member of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), Senegal is working toward greater regional integration with a unified external tariff and a more stable monetary policy. High unemployment, however, continues to prompt illegal migrants to flee Senegal in search of better job opportunities in Europe. Senegal was also beset by an energy crisis that caused widespread blackouts in 2006 and 2007. The phosphate industry has struggled for two years to secure capital, and reduced output has directly impacted GDP. In 2007, Senegal signed agreements for major new mining concessions for iron, zircon, and gold with foreign companies. Firms from Dubai have agreed to manage and modernize Dakar's maritime port, and create a new special economic zone. Senegal still relies heavily upon outside donor assistance. Under the IMF's Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) debt relief program, Senegal has benefited from eradication of two-thirds of its bilateral, multilateral, and private-sector debt. In 2007, Senegal and the IMF agreed to a new, non-disbursing, Policy Support Initiative program.
Politics and Brief History: The French colonies of Senegal and the French Sudan were merged in 1959 and granted their independence as the Mali Federation in 1960. The union broke up after only a few months. Senegal joined with The Gambia to form the nominal confederation of Senegambia in 1982, but the envisaged integration of the two countries was never carried out, and the union was dissolved in 1989. The Movement of Democratic Forces in the Casamance (MFDC) has led a low-level separatist insurgency in southern Senegal since the 1980s, and several peace deals have failed to resolve the conflict. Nevertheless, Senegal remains one of the most stable democracies in Africa. Senegal was ruled by a Socialist Party for 40 years until current President Abdoulaye Wade was elected in 2000. He was reelected in February 2007, but complaints of fraud led opposition parties to boycott June 2007 legislative polls. Senegal has a long history of participating in international peacekeeping.
More About Senegal and SourcesSenegal Map and Geographic Facts
Goree island Guide
CIA Factbook about Senegal