Although highly exaggerated, there is still fighting going on in the Casamance region of Senegal.
The "struggle" goes on between the government and the MFDC or Mouvement des forces dÃ©mocratiques de la Casamance. It would be wise to avoid travel to this area. If this is not possible, at least first check with the embassy for the latest situation. To find out how much the situation has improved look at this IRIN News report: (http://www.irinnews.org/r...)
In Dakar, take care when walking the streets: petty theft and scams are abundant. You will be approached by aggressive street vendors who will follow you for several blocks. If refused, often accusations of 'racism" will be leveled at non-local, non-buyers. Also, pickpockets use the following two-person tactic: one the distraction will grab one of your leg while the other the thief goes into your pocket. If someone grabs your clothing, beware the person on the other side more. Wear pants/shorts with secure buttons or snaps pockets and leave your shirt untucked to cover your pockets.
Be cautious of people claiming to have met you before or offering to guide you. Often at times, you will be led to a remote location and robbed. Women need to be particularly alert as they are frequently targeted at beaches or markets.
Finally, there have been instances of street stall vendors grabbing cash out of non-local shoppers hands and quickly stuffing the money into their own pocket. After the money is in their pocket, they claim it is theirs and the victim is not in a position to prove otherwise or protest effectively. Be careful with your cash: do not hold it in your hand while bargaining.
Be sure to carry some sort of identification on you. Police pull over vehicles and check for proper papers occasionally. If caught without your passport copy of a passport is recommended, the police may try to bribe you of money; they may even go as far as to take you to the station. While most of the time, they are bluffing and one should not give into such corruption, some officials may be wicked enough to do so. Use this advice with caution. The simplest way to prevent this is just to carry identification.
Get necessary vaccines before arrival. Officially, certification of yellow fever vaccine is required upon arrival if coming from a country in a yellow fever zone, but it is not commonly checked.
Avoid tap-water, and all dishes prepared with them. Bottled water, such as Kirene which is most common and bottled in Senegal, is widely available and inexpensive.
To prevent serious effects of dehydration, it is wise to carry around packets of rehydration salts to mix with water, should you become dehydrated. These are widely available at pharmacies and are inexpensive. Alternatively, a proper mix of table salt and sugar can replace these.
No visa is required for citizens of Canada, ECOWAS, European Union except those members that joined in May 2004, Israel, Japan, Mauritania, Morocco, Malaysia, South Africa, Taiwan and US for up to 90 days (http://www.senegalembassy...).
See also: Wolof phrasebook
Wolof is the native language of some Senegalese people, but you will find that almost everyone speaks it. Knowing the basic Wolof greetings and phrases will go a long way in getting you better service and prices.
The Senegalese people learn French in school and it is a very useful language for travellers to know. While some Senegalese merchants speak English, most business is conducted in French or Wolof. Other languages used in Senegal include Sereer, Soninke, Pulaar, Jola, and Mandinka are spoken.
The basic Muslim greeting is often used: Salaam Aleikum - Peace to you. The response is Waleikum Salaam - And unto you peace.
The primary religion in Senegal is Islam, and most Senegalese are extremely devout Muslims. It's important to be respectful of this because religion is very important in Senegalese life. However, don't be afraid to ask questions about Islam -- for the most part, Senegalese people love to talk about it!
Greet everyone when entering a room with "Salaam Aleikum." Always shake hands with everyone. Do not enter mosques and other religious places wearing shoes.
Foreign women can expect to get many marriage proposals from Senegalese men. Handle this with a sense of humour - and caution.
As far as dress goes, be aware that anything shorter than knee length is inappropriate. Tank tops are generally accepted in larger towns, but should be avoided as much as possible.