Currently, there are no direct flights taking passengers from the United Kingdom to Senegal. However, the quickest possible and prefered route to this West African country is via TAP Air Portugal, which takes no more than 8 hours to reach its destination. These flights are available from both London Gatwick and London Heathrow Airports. Not only are they the swiftest flights, but they are also low-cost.
TAP Air Portugal or Transportes Aereos Portugueses, as it is known in the Portuguese language, is the best airline to visit Senegal, even for last minute flights. The cheap rates they offer, the short stopovers and the fastest plane ride make TAP Portugal the ideal choice to travel to Senegal, at any time of the year. Understandably, your journey to Senegal would be in two halves: one from the UK to Lisbon and then onwards from Lisbon to Senegal.
Twenty-one flights are leaving for Lisbon from London Heathrow Airport alone. From London Gatwick Airport, TAP Portugal flight TP 1339 is flying for Lisbon every day at 11:00 AM. However, flight number TP 1337 takes off only every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday at 4:30 PM. Manchester also has two flights leaving for Lisbon every day, on TP1317 and TP1319.
From Lisbon, the Portuguese airline boards passengers on the TP 1481 or TP 1483 for the journey to Dakar. Flight TP 1481 takes off every day at 9 PM, but TP 1483 is operated only on Fridays and Sundays.
Senegal celebrates lively festivals in its full spirit. Among other festivals of the year, International Art Festival and Traditional Dance Festival are the most notable and happening at the same time. St. Lious Jazz Festival, Goree Diaspora Festival, du Sahel, Dak’Art Biennale stunningly display Senegalese culture.
For British passport holders, there are no restrictions to enter Senegal. You do not need a visa to visit the country if your stay is less than three months. The British government strongly advises every tourist and traveller to Senegal on getting a yellow fever vaccination before embarking on the journey. Please keep your travel documents on your person at all times and apply for an international driving permit if you wish to drive a car in Senegal.
November to May is the best time to visit Senegal. Senegal goes through an intense rainy season from June to October, which can be a drain on your vacation. Coming to Senegal in the winter months can bring you more joy. There would be less rainy days and you could take your time exploring the country. The average temperatures remain in that goldilocks range: from 25°C to 30°C. The warmth does become a little excessive after mid-April with the highs going beyond 35°C, but that Senegalese sun can warm up your bones for the coming winter in the UK. The humidity is Senegal, generally, also remains low during these times so from November to May, the traveller can breathe fresher air, while going about the country.
Senegal has only one international airport. Blaise Diagne International Airport (DSS) replaced the Léopold Sédar Senghor International Airport only a few years ago and now serves the city of Dakar. The new Dakar airport is 53 kilometres further inland from the city centre. Getting there takes an hour by car via A1 Autoroute through the Sabikotane Forest. Blaise Diagne International Airport was designed to handle approximately 3 million passengers each year.
The cheapest months to tour Senegal are September, October and November. In these two to three weeks, the rains are about to dissipate. The cooler air and the open skies are ideal for a great trip out and about, through the streets of Senegal. There is a sizeable Senegalese community living in the United Kingdom and France, and most of them plan to return to their home country over the school holidays. It can be a bit expensive, coming to Senegal in June and July. However, the fall is the cheapest time to visit the city, with hotels lowering their rates and airlines offering deals to attract more business during the low season. Take advantage of the lower cost and come to Senegal for an African Halloween.
Being a former colony of France and having a rich African Muslim culture, Senegal has developed distinct architecture and design. The savannah in the southern strip of the country, known as Casamance, also has a few natural wonders that attract foreign tourists to this part of Senegal each year.
- Lake Retba is approximately 30 kilometres from the horn of Dakar and is not that far from the oceanfront. Sand dunes trap the lake’s saline waters from the sea. Due to the continuous evaporation and reintroduction of seawater into the lake, this water body has become so saline that only a stubborn alga can survive in the saltwater. The Dunaliella salina alga releases a red pigment into the lake turning it pink, the colour of which deepens in the dry season. Local divers rub shea butter before swimming down to the lakebed to collect the salt crystals to preserve the fish for traditional delicacies.
- The Senegalese are proud of their African heritage. On the hills of Collines des Mamelles - a place right outside Dakar - there is the African Renaissance Monument. The monument has the largest statue in Africa and depicts a strong African man holding his baby over his shoulder, with his wife in his arms. This imposing statue is 47 meters high, and the tourist can climb the stairs up to the observation deck in the crown of the man. When the monument was unveiled on the Senegalese Independence Day in 2010, the then President of the country called it as a masterpiece which belongs to all the African people, wherever we are.
- The Niokolo-Koba National Park is located further inland and preserves the forests of the upper Gambia River valley. This protected reserve contains many species of animals and plants, some of which are endangered. The park is a UNESCO heritage site as well and has conservation projects running under the banner of MAB Biosphere Program. There are belts of gallery forests that shelter the birds and the reptiles that include four types of land-dwelling tortoises. Antelopes, baboons, monkeys and warthogs living in the wild frontiers of Senegal can be seen from a distance, but with a guide, you can take a closer look. Niokolo-Koba National Park has one of the largest concentrations of lions in West Africa as well and has a conservation unit also on the park premises for these big cats.
Senegal offers a few means to travel across the country. There are minivans called ‘Taxi-brusse’, and the regular taxis are called ‘taxi-clando’. All taxis in Senegal are “seven-seaters”, so people usually sit in each other’s laps to save money. A British tourist can rent out the entire taxi, which can be a bit expensive. It is highly advised that you bargain with the driver and finalize the cost before taking the ride. A more comfortable way of travelling in Senegal is via car-charette, which is a rented car. People speak French in Senegal, so brush up on your French lessons to at least be able to get around Dakar and ask for directions if need be.