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SafetyTravel Safety: Africa: Senegal

Senegal: Republic of Senegal
Capital: Dakar
Population: 10,589,571
Currency: Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (XOF)
Languages: French (official), Wolof, Pulaar, Jola, Mandinka
Religions: Muslim 94%, indigenous beliefs 1%, Christian 5% (mostly Roman Catholic)
Borders: The Gambia 740 km, Guinea 330 km, Guinea-Bissau 338 km, Mali 419 km, Mauritania 813 km

Senegal is a developing West African country. Facilities for tourists are widely available but vary in quality.

Although there has been a decrease in fighting between Casamance separatists and the Senegalese military over the past three years, the U.S. Embassy in Dakar advises U.S. citizens to plan carefully all travel to the city of Ziguinchor and the area of Cap Skirring and to defer non-essential travel to other parts of the Casamance region of southern Senegal. Throughout the history of the insurgency, there have been few incidents of fighting within the city of Ziguinchor and the resort area of Cap Skirring. In recent years, however, rural areas have been the sites of sporadic violent attacks on Senegalese military and civilian personnel and, on rare occasions, tourists.

U.S. citizens contemplating travel to the Casamance area are urged to contact the U.S. Embassy in Dakar for the latest safety and security information. U.S. Government personnel are periodically subject to clearance by both U.S. and Senegalese authorities prior to travel the Casamance area. In addition to a prolonged insurgency, armed bandits and land mines present a threat to American citizens in rural areas of the Casamance. The U.S. Embassy recommends that U.S. citizens not drive in the Casamance outside of Ziguinchor. Two airlines operate flights between Dakar and Ziguinchor, and charter flights are available to Cap Skirring from Europe.

Due to the potential for violence, U.S. citizens should avoid political gatherings and street demonstrations, and maintain security awareness at all times.

Street crime in Senegal poses high risks for visitors. Most reported incidents involve pickpockets, purse-snatchers, and street scam artists, who are especially active in large crowds and around tourists. In Dakar, there has been an increase in purse snatchings and pickpocketing in the downtown area.

Perpetrators of business fraud often target foreigners, including Americans. While such fraud schemes in the past have been largely associated with Nigeria, they are now prevalent throughout western Africa, including Senegal. The scams pose a danger of both financial loss and physical harm. Recently, an increasing number of American citizens have been the targets of such scams.

Typically, these scam operations begin with an unsolicited communication (usually by e-mail) from an unknown individual who describes a situation that promises quick financial gain, often by assisting in the transfer of a large sum of money or valuables out of the country. A series of �advance fees� must then be paid in order to conclude the transaction: for example, fees to open a bank account, or to pay certain taxes. In fact, the final payoff does not exist; the purpose of the scam is simply to collect the advance fees. One common variation of this scheme involves individuals claiming to be refugees or other victims of various western African conflicts (notably Sierra Leone) who contact U.S. citizens to request their help in transferring large sums of money out of Senegal. Another typical ploy has persons claiming to be related to present or former political leaders who need assistance to transfer large sums of cash. Other variations include what appear to be legitimate business deals requiring advance payments on contracts.

The best way to avoid becoming a victim of advance-fee fraud is common sense - if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Any unsolicited business proposal originating from Senegal should be carefully checked out before any funds are committed, any goods or services are provided, or any travel is undertaken.

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Senegalese law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Senegal are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

Under the PROTECT Act of April 2003, it is a crime, prosecutable in the United States, for a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien, to engage in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18, whether or not the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident alien intended to engage in such illicit sexual conduct prior to going abroad. For purposed of the PROTECT Act, illicit sexual conduct includes any commercial sex act in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18. The law defines a commercial sex act as any sex act, on account of which anything of value is given to or received by a person under the age of 18.

Under the Protection of Children from Sexual Predators Act of 1998, it is a crime to use the mail or any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transmit information about a minor under the age of 16 for criminal sexual purposes that include, among other things, the production of child pornography. This law makes it a crime to use any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transport obscene materials to minors under the age of 16.

Several hospitals and clinics in the capital, Dakar, can treat major and minor injuries and illnesses. There is inadequate inpatient psychiatric care, though there is very good office-based psychiatry. Public hospitals do not meet U.S. standards, but several private clinics are at the level of small European hospitals, and even approach U.S. community hospital standards. The Embassy maintains a list of physicians and other health care professionals who may see U.S. citizen patients. The Embassy does not guarantee their services or recommend any of the physicians. Medical facilities outside Dakar are limited.

French medications are far more readily available than American drugs, and the limited selection of American drugs in stock are often listed under the French trade name. Medications may be obtained at pharmacies throughout Dakar and in other areas frequented by tourists, and are usually less expensive than those in the U.S. Travelers should carry a supply of any needed prescription medicines, along with copies of the prescriptions, including the generic name for the drugs, and a supply of preferred over-the-counter medications.

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions, which differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Senegal is provided for general reference only and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Road travel between Mauritania and Senegal is restricted to several designated border crossing points, and long delays at the border are normal.

For specific information concerning Senegalese driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the Senegalese national tourist organization offices in New York via the Internet at

As there is no direct service to the U.S. by Senegalese-registered carriers, or economic authority to operate such service between the U.S. and Senegal, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Senegal's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards. Air carriers from countries meeting international safety standards are allowed, however, to conduct direct flights from Senegal to the U.S. As such, direct commercial air service to the U.S. provided by South African Airways began in Jan. 2003. (The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) of South Africa has been assessed by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration as Category 1 - in compliance with international safety standards.) For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618) 229-4801.

Please also refer to the separate Worldwide Caution Public Announcement.

July 21, 2004

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