If-You-Go Guide: Tips on Traveling to & Staying in Senegal’s Saly

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We don’t claim to be experts on Senegalese travel – but sometimes it’s difficult to piece together adequate information about this happy little country from online resources. Here’s some (hopefully) helpful info about Saly, Senegal.

The little beach town of Saly, Senegal, is a welcome respite from the loud, chaotic capital city of Dakar. The good news for Dakar travelers is that Saly is only about a 50-mile, hour-and-a-half drive from the big city – though it can easily be more depending on traffic.

Saly: The Good
As I said, Saly is a pleasant escape from Dakar. It’s quieter, with far fewer honking taxis, and the beaches are far less crowded and quite a bit cleaner. If you live in Dakar or spend a decent amount of time there, you’ll appreciate how much sleepier Saly is by comparision. Lodging is relatively affordable and accommodations can be quite large and often include a private pool.

Saly: The Bad
Although Saly is known as a beach town to Dakar-ites and others, don’t expect a fancy, resort-like atmosphere. There are nice hotels and decent restaurants, but if you’ve been to Senegal or other West African countries, you know about the persistent problem of trash and a general run-down look and feel. Saly is no different. That’s not meant to sound overly harsh, because we and many others find Saly enjoyable; it’s merely an honest assessment so that the traveler is prepared for what he or she will find.

How to Get There
If you’re renting a car during your time in Senegal (or if you live here and own one), then great – getting to Saly will be pretty easy, if not peppered by a few stops and starts in traffic. Autoroute N1 takes you basically all the way from Dakar to Saly and back, weaving through some roundabouts and a few villages in between. Get a detailed map of Dakar and its surrounding regions and you should be able to find the N1 – the only nice, paved road connecting Dakar and Saly – and get there without problems. If you think you might be taking the wrong route, stop and ask for directions.

If you don’t have a vehicle handy or aren’t too keen on braving Senegal’s often-crazy roads, taking a taxi to Saly is another viable option. A fair price for the one-way trip is around $80 USD, plus or minus a few dollars. Negotiate with your taxi driver before hopping in; not all drivers are willing to make the trip.

Where to Stay
There are numerous options for lodging in Saly. Here are a few choices that have been well-reviewed by expatriate travelers:

  • Regie Vacances de Reve: Rent multi-bedroom apartments with pools and private gardens. Great place to bring pets. About $120 USD a night, depending upon the size of the accommodations and the time of year.
  • Hotel Espadon: Awesome poolside dining and a private reserved beach area. Around $140 USD a night.
  • Residences Saly: An all-inclusive option that features household help and meals. The company can arrange for transportation to and from Dakar as well. Only weekly rates are listed, but it may be possible to rent one of the villas or apartments for only a few nights.

Be aware that lodging fees in Senegal are often compartmentalized. You may be required to pay for your electricity usage or an extra cleaning charge.

What to Do
Simply lounging by your hotel pool or strolling along the beach and relaxing might be all you’re up for in Saly – and there’s not a thing wrong with that. But if you’re looking for a little more entertainment to fill our hours, here are some ideas for a fun time.

  • Visit Bandia Park. You’ll see the entrance to this mini-safari game reserve on your way to Saly, about a half-hour or so before reaching Saly itself. Bandia is no substitute for a full-on African safari, but it can satisfy your need to see creatures big and small for a fraction of the price. The park features various wildlife, both native to Senegal and not, including rhinoceros, giraffes, gazelles, buffalo and more. The cost is about $80 and includes a guide. You can also eat lunch at a neat restaurant that sits amidst the animals.
  • Stop at Accrobaobob. Walk monkey bridges high atop the baobob trees or bounce on a huge trampoline suspended between two trees. Like Bandia, you’ll see the baobab park on Autoroute N1 on your way to Saly. It’s located about 15 kilometers before you reach town. The cost for the regular park is about $35 USD, plus an additional $8/person or so to do the trampoline jump.

More Tips & Advice

  • Utilize your hosts or hotel staff. If they offer to fix your dinner at home one night, take them up on it. If you want fresh fish from a beach vendor but your French is rusty, ask them to help you out. Most things like this come at a reasonable price and it’ll be worth it to get more of a cultural immersion experience during your visit to Saly.
  • Take advantage of the street hawkers on your way down. You might not want to buy a CD, but grab some cheap cashews or mini-cookies for the road. There will be plenty of time to buy while you’re making your way through roundabouts and traffic and window-side vendors will appreciate your business.
  • Be prepared to do some passing. The Autoroute to Saly is well-paved but only has two lanes, meaning you’ll have to step on it to pass slow-moving buses and trucks. The center line isn’t always well-marked, so use caution and good judgment when making your move.
  • Buy a Coke to get a spot on the beach. We discovered that much of the beach in Saly is “reserved” for guests of whatever hotel lays claim to that portion of the sand. If your lodging isn’t on the beach, your best bet might be to find a beach restaurant or bar that has lounge chairs. If you order a drink, you can use their chairs and claim a little spot of sand for free.
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