October 2013

Travel: Dakar

Our tips for business travel to Senegal’s capital city

By Krystyna Lagowski

Welcome to Dakar, a city of one million stretched out along Senegal’s Cap-Vert Peninsula, where the traditional culture and colourful local garb meet urban life and sharply tailored suits. Here, French mixes with Wolof and other native dialects. And visitors will soon discover that above all, it is the city of “teranga,” the traditional Senegalese term for hospitality. Dakar is the closest major centre to Teranga Gold’s Sabodala mine and just 150 kilometres from TiZir’s Grande Côte mineral sands project.

Where to stay

Button_Radisson-Blu-Hotel-DakarThe best hotels line the waterfront in the upscale Fann Corniche neighbourhood. These include the Radisson Blu in the embassy district which is 13 kilometres from the airport. The hotel has access to the beach and features an Olympic-sized pool, a poolside bar and an underground shopping mall. Four kilometres further from the airport, the Terrou-bi Dakar is also in the Fann Corniche and features a private beach. The waters off Dakar boast marlin and sailfish, and the hotel concierge can help you arrange a day out on the water.

Where to dine 


There are plenty of good dining options in the plateau neighbourhood, a 10-minute cab ride from Fann Corniche. Traditional Senegalese food takes advantage of abundant fish but also offers many types of meat stew, usually served with rice or couscous. 

La Fourchette (4 rue Parent) combines French, Asian and Mexican cuisine. Here, a sushi or sashimi starter can be followed by a chilli main. Meals from $29 to $60 Toukouleur (122 rue Moussé Diop) features ample patio seating, dark red interior and an open-plan kitchen, so you can watch as dishes like carpaccio of thiof (white grouper) and shoulder of lamb with aubergine are prepared. Meals from $21 to $26. Button_Market_Jose_Pereira

Chez Loutcha (101 rue Moussé Diop) is a historic downtown Dakar eatery, where you find local fare in generous portions. Sample everything from Cape Verdian to Senegalese and other African dishes. Meals from $4 to $15 

Presse Café (at the corner of Boulevard des Madeleines and rue Carnot) is a Canadian-owned coffeehouse that serves the tastes of home.

How to get there

Delta, South African, Air Canada, KLM, United, and Air France fly to Dakar from Canada, with one or more stops. The trip is between 14 hours to 27 hours in length, and ranges from about $1,600 for economy to around $8,400 for first class.

Where to explore

Button_Dakar_Panorama_urbainDiscover Senegal’s history at L’île de Gorée, just a 30-minute ferry ride from Dakar. Here, the pace is slower and the handsome streets are lined with pastel-coloured colonial buildings. La Maison des Esclaves, one of the oldest buildings on the island, is a museum that recounts the story of the notorious slave trade that haunts the island’s past. L’île de Gorée is designated a UNESCO World Heritage site and includes “the Castle,” a fortress originally built by the Dutch in the 17th century. The stunning Botanical Gardens, planted by the French in 1667, and the Hostellerie du Chevalier de Boufflers, a quaint hotel and restaurant named after the first French governor of Senegal are both worth the visit.

Getting around

Travel_Tip_2Start by purchasing a small phone and get a local number to avoid expensive charges. Use Wi-Fi and Skype wherever possible. Check with your Canadian provider to get the best package for Africa.

Cash is king. However, credit cards are accepted, and ATMs usually work, although not always. Although the euro is the most commonly exchanged currency, you can exchange both Canadian and U.S. dollars. It is wise not to take more than 50,000 XOF (West African CFA francs – about C$100) out of the country. If customs officers threaten to confiscate your cash, simply ask for a minute to call your friends at the Canadian Embassy.

At the airport, most people must take a shuttle bus to customs. Lines can be long, especially if the plane is landing in the evening. Try to be last on the bus, so you can be first out! Ensure your customs form is completed.

Travel_Tip_3The customs process is fast – you will be asked for an electronic fingerprint of your right index finger, and your photo will be taken.

Pre-reserve a shuttle to the airport with your hotel concierge.

The best way to get around is by cab. Many are in need of repair but can still be safe. Use good judgement.

The cab ride from the airport to the Radisson Blu should not be more than 5,000 XOF, or about C$10. A trip into town should be about 2,000 to 3,000 XOF.

How to fit in

Some general tips for business communication:

  • If you are handed a business card, study it for a moment before tucking it away.
  • Avoid writing on your or someone else’s business card.
  • Eye contact, especially with elders, can be seen as arrogant.
  • Business meetings are quite formal, especially at the outset.
  • The Senegalese are non-confrontational and may avoid an unpleasant topic for as long as possible.
  • Senegalese business-people may agree to unrealistic deadlines in order to close a deal.

Who to contact

Icon_Canada_flag Canadian Embassy | Rue Galliéni x Amadou Cissé Dia, +221 (0)33 889 4700, dakar@international.gc.ca

Icon_US_flagU.S. Embassy | Route des Almadies, +221 (0)33 879 4000, dakar.usembassy.gov

Icon_airplaneLéopold Sédar Senghor International AIRPORT | +221 (0)33 820 07 80, +221 (0)33 820 10 41

Icon_HospitalClinique du Cap Hospital | Avenue Pasteur BP 583, +221 (0)33 889 0202

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