EN / FR / NL

Name:
Niel Van Herck 
Blog:
www.tjoolaard.be  
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What type of traveler would describe yourself?

One who gets lost all the time, but mostly gets saved by technology and bribing with chocolate. With an urge for strange places, weird happenings, extreme conditions and untrodden paths. I seek thrills, want to meet interesting people and if there's no story to be found, I'm out.

Which are your go-to websites or blogs to look for destinations tips?

Vice.com. Shows the world in a different way. And Google with the search query 'weird things to do in...' I sure like Days On The Road and the EveryWhereIst. And Atlas Obscura of course.

Which apps do you use when you travel?

Google Maps baby! And their translator as well. Saved me from eating cat instead of chicken (bloody Chinese!). Instagram and Snapchat to share the travel love and What's App to tell mommy I'm safe. Afterlight for foto editing and Fake GPS to do some local research. Ow yeah and Mobile Postcards to send some personalized cards. Triposo is a good one for to do's, Tinder to find locals, Unit convertor to ... well ... convert units.



DAKAR, THE PRACTICAL SIDE

I struggle, I fight, I get 20 centimeters ahead. Bodies everywhere, loud voices and wild waving sellers. That strong smell of spices, roasted meat and tanned leather, no idea whether I should find it disgusting or delicious. I can't do anything else then to surrender to the energy of Medina. To be absorbed by the mini streets, to be accosted at almost every booth and especially a lot of toubab (white person). This is the heart of Dakar.

To get straight to the point from the beginning, Dakar is a hornet's nest! But once you see the structure in the chaos, or if you have the courage to completely surrender to the dynamics of the city, you will have an amazing time. But here already a few tips and tricks. You will get my "must see places" the day after tomorrow.

search-512 Look for a guide!

Dakar has a strange shape making it quite vast. Many districts and one airport are simply located in the middle of the city. Not easy to find your way smoothly. So look for a guide, and I mean a human one. Lonely Planet and associates will help you out but the real corners and alleys can only be discovered with a local.

How? Talk to the receptionist at your hotel, start swiping on Tinder or just randomly talk to someone on the street. Dakari are known for their sense of doing business, so they will always know someone who can guide you through the city. Or they just do it themselves.

We were even approached by a young guy at "Place De L'indépendance". By Amadou. At first, we had a strange feeling about it, but having him as a guide, eventually proved to be a great decision. Amadou showed us Dakar and surroundings, took us to "La lute", he let us eat in his home with his family and arranged transportation as well as tickets. One night, we even ended up with his friends in a tiny room drinking some tea and watching Jean-Claude Van Damme movies.

Eventually we even went on a trip together to discover the rest of Senegal. For a reasonable price, with the required deep conversations, unique spots, special characters along the road and tips. Look for him if you are in Dakar. Or I can simply give you his personal details, of course.

amadou

bus Transport

I flew with and for Brussels Airlines to Dakar and back as a Brussels Airlines Reporter. Very comfortable and unbelievable how friendly the staff is! I, for instance, forgot my laptop on the plane and the staff did everything in their power to find it as quickly as possible! Much appreciated. Oh yes, they serve ice cream with nuts on board, how awesome is that! Brussels Airlines daily operates flights to Dakar and you can already find promo tickets around 500 euros.

In the city you should take a taxi. It is really affordable in terms of price, especially if you have good negotiating skills. There are regularly ferries to the islands and if you want to get out of the city, then book a taxi somewhere. Public transportation is a real adventure, but especially difficult to understand. There are no real stopping places.

covered-food-tray-on-a-hand-of-hotel-room-service_318-61182 Food

I am not really a foodie, so don't judge me too harshly. There's one certainty; if you go to Senegal, you have to eat Ceebu Jën. A sort of fish with rice, carrots, onions, turnip, garlic and a sweet sauce. Hard to describe what it tastes like exactly but everyone loves it. Especially Dakari people. Personally I also liked mafé, which is a dish made with peanuts. There was also a stew of goat which intrigued me; we ate a lot of seafood and fish, but also the local kebabs.

dakar ceebu je

Besides all that, there is street food on every corner. You should definitely try fataya (stuffed and fried pastry) and acara (fried bean curd on a bun).

Bissap juice (hibiscus) is a popular drink and attaya (local tea) is something you may actually never refuse. Shame it is like diabetes in a cup, due to an excessive amount of sugar.

Coffee addict? Little carts drive throughout the city, selling cheap instant coffee, once again with loads of sugar. But do try a café touba. The beans are roasted with a kind of black pepper, so the coffee will give you that extra kick in the nuts. For sure, sugar inclusive. But ultimately, there's not a lot of good coffee in Senegal.

Furthermore, I can't really recommend a lot of restaurants. My brother and I mostly ate in people's homes and from the street. Not literally from the street, but from stalls. TripAdvisor is your friend if you are still looking for some restaurants.

icon_6393 Sleep

Plenty of choice in Dakar, but it isn't cheap. European prices are still the reference. You have the very posh seaside hotels, often with a private beach, a few chains and some boutique hotels in the center. There is a cool surf camp on the island of Ngor, but hostels are really hard to find. Other backpackers and better prices can be found at Chez Nizar. My preference is to stay with a local family in the city. By doing so you are immediately in the right mood, you have a guide at your disposal and you do not have to pay a big amount of money. You can find the families on senegalchezlhabitant.com.

22-512 Money

In Senegal, you mostly pay with CFA (100 CFA = 0,15 euros), but here and there you can pay with euros too. There are plenty of banks in Dakar to withdraw money from but keep your bank limits in mind. Especially if you plan to travel into Senegal afterwards. There, an ATM is rather nonexistent. At the airport, and in fact just about anywhere, you will find a male carrying out an exchange of euros for CFAs. Count carefully and check the rate.

How much? This is tricky especially since everything depends on your negotiating skills. Chances are big they'll try to rip you off, so haggling is your new hobby. They say 5000, then you should start at 500. Just do it. Especially in the markets, souvenir shops and taxis.

For food you have to count on a standard meal of €10 in a restaurant. Street Food packs will cost you way less. For 500 CFA (pronounced ceifa) you can already buy a sandwich accara. Guys, that is 75 cents ! I bought a "silk" scarf for 1,000 CFA, a wooden turtle for one euro, funky Africa pants for 2000 CFA and so on.

You're wasting a lot of money on transportation, entrance to museums / tourist attractions and hotels. Basically everything that is primarily intended for tourists.

cfa

impThe struggles

Each country or city has its dark side too. For Dakar it is the business people, the garbage and the traffic. The latter is a killer. There are cars and motorbikes everywhere, few rules and lots of chaos. Finding a taxi without dents and a cracked windshield is almost impossible and please never simply cross the street.

You will also encounter business people every once in a while. And they are motivated. It's like everyone wants to do business with you in Dakar. And boy, that can be annoying. They smell money anywhere. "Lost? Otherwise I will walk with you a bit, and then we can also stop at the shop." This eventually leads to instantly distrusting people, "because they probably want to sell you something." And that's a shame because friends are harder to find like this.

But this being said, you still have to go. Stay a few days in the madness of Dakar and travel to the South of Senegal afterwards to relax and enjoy the beautiful nature. But more about this later!

 

Niel is the last of our 7 Brussels Airlines Reporters. They will all follow in the footsteps of Belgian's most well-known reporter: Tintin! Just like the world famous comic book character, the Brussels Airlines Reporters will leave on an adventure to help you discover the most beautiful places abroad.


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