Senegal travel tips - Your 'must knows' to stay safe

Public photography, sexual politics and health issues are things travellers need to face when travelling to Senegal

When traveling around Senegal, keep in mind that it is a mostly Muslim country. While many Senegalese show incredible tolerance for other religious backgrounds and practices, it is still a conservative society that praises modest dress codes for both men and women.

Women should avoid short skirts and shirts and men should not wear shorts. Just as a warning, Muslim Senegalese might also be offended by public drunkenness and romantic kissing.

(No miniskirts, ladies)

Local Laws

You cannot take pictures of some buildings, including government institutions, military structures, police stations or embassies.

Travellers are required by law to carry their identification with them and are subject to questioning by police. Authorities are allowed to question suspicious behavior and ask you to produce documents proving your identity.

Specific Problems

Gays, lesbians and bisexuals may encounter problems in Senegal, particularly where a certain part of the penal code, called Article 319, is concerned. It forbids "unnatural acts" and states that such offenses are punishable by up to five years in jail or a several-thousand-dollar fine.

Individuals were prosecuted for offenses under this article in 2008 and 2009, including a group of anti-AIDS activists who received eight years in prison for committing "unnatural acts" and supposed criminal conspiracy. They were later released, but other arrests and charges related to sexual orientation and gender identity took place in 2009.

Health Concerns

In terms of health and natural hazards, those with breathing problems should take precautions during the dry season between November and May. The Sahel region of northern Senegal gets very dry during this time and often produces strong winds, called the harmattan, which cause dust storms.

(Dry and dusty...not good for the lungs)

The dust may produce a severe cough in those with respiratory issues. Bring your medication or breathing apparatuses if you suffer from asthma or another breathing issue. Sand from these winds can also affect those without breathing problems, as it has an annoying tendency to get into orifices, eyes and clothing.

There are several diseases you could catch in Senegal, including polio, rabies, typhoid, malaria, yellow fever and meningitis. Travelers will want to get the proper vaccinations before embarking on their trip. The AIDS population is much lower in Senegal than in other African countries.

Insect-borne illnesses include dengue fever, river blindness, filariasis and leishmaniasis. Travelers can develop schistosomiasis from parasites in fresh water.

The Lassa virus, spread through rat urine or feces, is also possible in more traditional dwellings. Highly pathogenic avian influenza (H5N1) can crop up in chicken in Africa, so travelers should use caution when eating this meat and avoid farms.

Senegal's health system has improved in recent decades, but many of the facilities and doctors are located in Dakar. Those traveling to more remote areas may struggle to find health care.

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