Anyone who tells you that Dakar, Senegal, is not a good place to visit (maybe they put it in more frank terms than that) either needs their head tested, or their eyes opened, to the colourful, bustling, exciting, culturally diverse city that this is.
OK, it’s not pretty like Santa Maria, there are not beaches to compare to ours here, it is polluted, it is very busy, there are a great deal of cars (none without dents as far as I could see), and yes, you are hassled in the streets by people who want you to buy things, but (i) they immediately leave if you say no and (ii) they are only trying to make a living in this highly competitive city.
I had to go to Dakar mainly to visit the British Embassy with my companion, and here is the story of the trip which might interest anyone who is thinking of going over.
Getting to Senegal from Sal is easy, but of course, difficult…
The Santiago experience:
You have to fly from Sal to Santiago, the capital island of Cape Verde in order to take the flight to Dakar, and in our case this involved an overnight stay in Praia. The first flight was straightforward enough, Sal to Praia, approximately 45 minutes, arriving in Praia at around 11p.m. We had previously decided to sleep at the airport for fun as the flight to Dakar the next day called for an early check-in. On arrival and viewing the customary hard airport chairs we decided to check in to Residence Hollanda on Achau, San Antonio thinking that 5 hours sleep was better than none. Which it was.
Hardly a moment had elapsed from my head hitting the pillow, the alarm sounded, my dreams of Tony my cat on the plane were disrupted as I staggered half awake into the waiting cab and arrived exactly at the appointed time of 06.10 at Praia airport……………… (empty!)…….to be told, no flight to Dakar today. ‘Here we go’ I thought, remembering previous TACV incidents too stressful to contemplate.
On further investigation we were informed that there was a flight to DAKAR but at 11am, not 8.30a.m……… ‘it was delayed’!
Thoughts of the hastily departed clean warm sheets and the included breakfast that we had not had time to eat filled my head. So did the fact that we were asked to check in at the SAL desk , and again, remembering previous TACV incidents I had visions of our luggage going back to Sal and not having our paperwork for the Embassy appointments at 8am the next day (the whole reason for our trip.)
I cheekily asked the desk official if TACV would pay for a taxi back to my warm hotel bed for 3 more hours sleep, and the aforementioned breakfast, and was told ‘no’ but given a voucher for breakfast which was gracefully accepted.
After managing to fill 5 hours wait at Praia airport it was time to board the plane. We encountered several ‘problems’ regarding visa issues/leaving the country, which do not need to be detailed here. A few tears and 60 euros later we were allowed to board, blissfully unaware of what was to happen at arrival in Dakar………..
Dakar airport experience:
The one and a half hour flight from Praia was pleasant enough and we dined handsomely on a triple-decker cheese sandwich and lumpy banana yoghurt. Dakar airport is large and official and our first human contact was a charming uniformed gentleman who waved us through all the officials to the toilet, after which we returned for customs and passport and that was where the trouble started…
For more on our trip click here: Onward and out in Dakar