There are many different ways of travelling in Senegal; here’s the experiences I’ve had thus far:
1. Peace Corps Land Cruiser: This is by far the fastest and safest way to travel. The cars are awesome off-road type vehicles in excellent running conditions. Every time we get on a super bumpy road (basically every trip), I sing the Indiana Jones Theme song in my head and pretend I’m at Disneyland. Also, they’re the only vehicles with working AC.
2. Taxi: Taxis aren’t metered, terribly safe, and definitely would NOT pass an emissions test in the US. You negotiate a price before even getting inside and they go on their way.
3. Sept Place (7 Seater): These are for longer trips. They’re basically station wagons with seven seats and a rack on top for luggage. If riding on these, it’s advised to check to see how many lug nuts each tire has. Also, the whiter the smoke, the better the engine.
4. Alxum: A big bus with “Alxumdullilaay” written on the front, which is Arabic for Praise be to God. My first time riding this, it took about 3 push starts before the engine kicked in. It’s slow, crowded, and stops very frequently. However, the nickname of this bus is well suited because when/if you reach your final destination, Alxumdullilaay!!
Roads: The major highways are paved, but always congested. Also, there are giant holes in many places in the road. Forget the term “pothole” these are more like “Dutch oven holes” or even bigger. They are worse during the rainy season, as dirt does not effectively patch them up.
Non major highways are generally gravel. These are incredibly bumpy to the point where you must brace yourself to hit someone/something else (car sick anyone?). However, you get used to it; I even took a little nap during part of it.
Overall, transportation and traffic runs very differently here. We generally gauge distance based on number of hours vs. number of kilometers. From Dakar to my site in the south, it’ll probably take 8-10 hours. And that’s nothing compared to others in the far southeast. So the next time you are bored/frustrated in rush hour traffic on the I-5 commute, think of me. I’m definitely thinking of you :)
Peace Corps Trainee - Senegal, 2009