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Useful Advice When Moving to Dakar

Apartments are generally very big, so bring wall decorations.

Bring lots of summer clothing--the weather here, even in the winter, gets up to the 70s (F) and rarely gets lower than the 50s. I wear sandals year-round.

Buy household items from departing staff. When we were looking at items from departing staff while still in the States, we were surprised at how expensive everything was and didn’t purchase anything. Why would we buy a used item for more than we could buy it new in the US? Because when you get to Senegal, you will see that items here are of poor quality and twice as expensive as in the States when you can get them.

Be sure to put bulky items that you won’t be able to take in your luggage in your shipment. We didn’t put an ironing board because we thought, “How expensive can that be?” The expensive one that we bought here immediately broke and replacing it would be another $100. Also, pack a transformer in your shipment. They are extremely heavy to bring in your luggage later on.

Don’t stress out about malaria. Of course, follow the advice of your doctor but malaria isn’t a big threat in Dakar. We bought a liter of insect repellent for our shipment and haven’t even used a small bottle after two years.

Keep your expectations moderate for the food here. I read Dakar Eats regularly before I arrived, and I imagined that I was coming to a food paradise. While there is definitely good food here, there is also a lot of so-so food.

You can find many foods here (but you have to look and pay). I didn’t put oatmeal in my shipment and now pay $10 for a container of Quaker Oats that would cost $3 in the States. Shipping bulk quantities of unusual or favorite foods (we shipped 20 pounds of quinoa and didn’t regret it) is not a bad idea. Many foods are not available at all.

If you are bringing an animal, know that vet care here is limited. Only basic diagnostic testing is available here, and if your cat has a serious illness, chances are good that treatments won’t be available. I would not bring a pet who was not in excellent health. It was extremely stressful to see our cat suffering and in pain and to be told by four different vets that nothing could be done besides putting her to sleep. Finally, a vet suggested steroid pills that saved her life.

Start learning French! People who are not comfortable in French seem to have a harder time adjusting to life in Senegal. We came speaking French and it has allowed us to access a wider range of entertainment and social opportunities.

Start learning about Senegal! Read books, watch films, listen to podcasts, etc. Living here has made me realize how little I knew about Africa and has been a wonderful opportunity to become more knowledgeable on Senegal and Africa in general.

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