Life in Dakar FAQs
What is the cost of living?
Dakar can be very expensive, since many goods are imported in from Europe. Many teachers find prices at Western eateries and supermarkets surpass those in the US or Europe. Imported foods and household goods are expensive - as is gas. Single teachers can save one half of their salary, though savings varies based on lifestyle.
How safe is Dakar?
Dakar is very safe, and safer even than some cities in the U.S. or other African countries. However, you have to be careful especially at night. Some faculty have been robbed while jogging along the beach roads in the early morning or evening.
Overall, we advise teachers to use common sense but know that you are coming to a safe place!
Should I be preparing anything for my visa prior to arrival?
We will get in touch with you about what materials you should bring with you to Dakar (Birth Certificate, Background Check, etc), but the visa process will begin once you arrive, so don't worry about it. We have you covered!
Can I use my European or American electronics in Senegal?
Short answer: European electronics work without an adapter in Senegal, but US electronics do not.
Longer answer: The standard voltage in Senegal is 230 V and the frequency is 50 Hz. If the standard voltage in your country is in between 220 - 240 V (as is in the UK, Europe, Australia and most of Asia and Africa). If the standard voltage in your country is in the range of 100 V - 127 V (as is in the US, Canada, and most South American countries), you need a voltage converter in Senegal. You can also consider a combined power plug adapter/voltage converter. You can find more information on this website.
Can we drink the tap water?
No, it is not recommended to drink the tap water or use it for brushing your teeth. Most people keep water coolers in their homes and use this for drinking and cooking water. (Bottled water can be used for brushing your teeth). You can arrange for delivery of replacement jugs through your neighborhood 'boutiques'. Your household helper should be able to help facilitate this.
Is it easy to make Senegalese friends?
Senegalese are very friendly and welcoming, in general! If you speak French, it is easier to meet Senegalese people and form meaningful relationships. However, to really form relationships outside the ex-pat community, however, you must make an intentional effort.
What clothing should I bring?
Even though Dakar is has a warm climate, many teachers are surprised that Senegal can get chilly in the winter months. The weather hovers around 60 degrees Fahrenheit at its coldest, but don't let that fool you: there is a lot of wind-chill coming off the ocean that can make it feel colder. Bring lights jackets, close-toed shoes, and other warm-weather clothes (though hats, scarves, or gloves are definitely not necessary). There aren't many places to go shopping in Dakar, so you will want to bring everything you anticipate needing!
If you enjoy water sports, bring swimsuits. If you enjoy surfing, a wetsuit would be something useful to pack in your suitcase. ISD hosts some semi-formal events, like our holiday party and end-of-year party, so bring appropriate attire if you are interested! Comfortable shoes for walking, water shoes and a hat for sun protection are also recommended.
Women in Senegal dress fairly conservatively. Walking around in shorts is common for foreigners but you may get hassled or looked at more frequently, especially in areas that are not often frequented by expats. Wearing bathing suits and shorts is common at the beach.
Are there vegetarian/vegan options available?
There is plenty of fresh produce in Dakar, but speciality items like tofu are hard to find. Most restaurants offer vegetarian choices as well, though there are not any vegetarian-only restaurants.
Will it be difficult if I don't speak French?
Though French is certainly useful, many teachers arrive at ISD with little to no knowledge of French. Some begin French lessons, while others get by with 'taxi French.' You will find many other English-speaking foreigners in Dakar and making friends without French is not hard.
Should I plan on taking malaria medication while living in Dakar?
Malaria medication is not necessary while living in Dakar, though some choose to take it when traveling outside the city for extended periods of time. All ISD houses are equipped with mosquito nets, though this is out of convenience rather than necessity. Malaria is not common in Dakar. Nonetheless, treatment for malaria is readily available at all pharmacies at an affordable cost.