What you should know about Senegal to stay safe

Senegal is generally politically stable however travellers need to watch out when travelling near borders with Mali & Guinea

Compared to some other West African countries, the political climate in Senegal is pleasantly stable. Few insurgent attacks or incidents of banditry occur here. However, over the last year, an increase in politically-linked crime has emerged in a few areas, often near unstable border countries.

Areas of Concern

Reports indicate an uptick in conflicts between Senegal's army and the separatist Movement of the Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC) faction. Both injuries and fatalities have occurred, including the deaths of seven soldiers during a December 2010 attack.

In addition, armed separatist groups continue to attack and rob in the region of Casamance in southwestern Senegal, particular in the Bignona and Sindian areas. Due to the high kidnapping risk in Mali, travelers are advised to avoid the area bordering that country. Mauritania presents a similar risk.

(Basically just stay away from the borders)

Rural areas of Senegal east of Podor to Kidira, near these borders, pose significant risks of both abduction and terrorist activity. Other border areas to avoid include those near the Republic of Guinea, which has experienced political tensions in recent years.

Politics

In urban areas of Senegal, you might happen upon strikes and protests. They are mostly peaceful and are generally announced a few days in advance, but they may start suddenly and lead to violence and tear gassing by authorities. You should stay away from such displays and leave the area if they begin unexpectedly.

Common areas for demonstrations include the University on Route de Ouakam, Colobane and Medina. The most recent protests have centered on constitutional amendments in Central Dakar's Place de L'Independence, a major tourist hub.

Getting Around

When trying to get around Senegal, watch out for armed bandits on buses and in cars. Violent ambushes have been known to occur on different roadways around Senegal.

Public transportation, particularly mini-buses, tend to move slowly because of these dangers and may not always be reliable. Sept-place taxis can take you to other parts of Senegal or to bordering countries. There are also train options and boats to take you to nearby islands.

(Probably not a passenger boat, but it never hurts to ask!)

With the exception of the main road going from Ziguinchor to Cap Skiring, avoid travel in the Casamance region, particularly to the west of Kolda, to guard against potential security incidents. If you must travel here, do so in the daytime, as the N4 and N5 roads close at 6 p.m.

Main roadways are generally paved and well-maintained, but secondary and remote ones are dangerous, especially in the rainy season from July to October. There are both good and bad drivers in Senegal, and some cars, taxis and mini-buses are poorly-maintained.

Driving at night can be unsafe due to poor lighting. Dakar suffers from heavy traffic that ups the accident risk. If you do get in an accident, call the police and wait for them to come.

Unnatural Hazards

Landmines can pose another hazard in certain areas like Casamance. Several hundred people have died since 1990 due to these landmines. Only driving on paved roads will significantly reduce your chances of encountering these explosives. Potholes and roaming animals present other road dangers when driving in Senegal.

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