This section is dedicated to take away all your "I wish someone had told me that before I went!" experiences. This way, you are better prepared for what to expect, what not to expect and can spend less time settling in, and more time making new friends in your chosen hostel. We share our insider knowledge of tips, tricks and important things to look out for in Dakar. To help you make friends with Dakar before you visit, we've included a few helpful and fun things you should know about the area. Enjoy!
Dakar is both the capital as well as largest city of Senegal. Situated at the most western stretch of Africa’s mainland and part of the Cap-Vert peninsula, this port city sees a lot of ships come and go. It is the center of trans-Atlantic trading with Europe as well as a financial hub filled with banks, international companies and NGOs. As such, it entertains a lot of foreigners who visit the city on business or even for pleasure.
Dakar has a rich French infusion dating back to its colonial times. While speaking French definitely allows smoother sailing for the visiting tourist, Dakar’s residents are certainly used to foreigners within their city’s walls and will find a way to communicate with visitors in one language or another.
The budget traveler has several hostels available in Dakar. A night in one of the capital’s hostel beds is on the more affordable side of the spectrum. Previous hostel guests seem to echo the finding that the hosts are extremely warm and welcoming. Dormitories tend to be clean and spacious. Small breakfasts as well as fans and/or air conditioning are typically included in the price tag. Many of the establishments even will help arrange your transportation to and from the airport.
Once you are settled into the Dakar hostel of your choice, you will be able to get around quickly and comfortably by taking taxis through the town. You can choose to head into the center to immerse yourself in the local life, walk to the beat of Dakar’s mbalax music, or relish some of the local French fusion cuisine.
If you like to get to know the history of your host city, then you can head over to the Musée Théodore Monod. An exhibition of more than 9,000 items, including clothing, instruments, tools, carvings, masks and other African artifacts, will create an intricate image in your mind of the city’s history.
Alternately, you can take a twenty-minute ferry for a two-mile (three kilometer) ride to Ile de Gorée. This island is the location of the Maison des Esclaves, the house where slaves were kept before their onward travels along the Atlantic slave trade route. The building was restored and opened as a museum and memorial in 1962 to commemorate the human rights abuses of the past. It earned the title of UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978.
If you prefer, on the other hand, to visit aesthetic points of interest to take pictures and check off your bucket list, then you may opt to view the Grande Mosquée de Dakar. You will feel awe-struck at the sight of this mosque’s lofty, ornate pillar which towers 220 feet (67 meters) high in the sky and embodies a mélange of French and Moroccan architecture.
For a break from the hustle and bustle of life in the capital, you can head 1,300 feet (400 meters) offshore to Ile de N’Gor in order to explore the island village and relax on the beach.
Written by local enthusiast for Dakar hostelsJakob Lombardi