Complete Travel Guide to Saint Louis, Senegal

Complete Travel Guide to Saint Louis,

Located in the very north of Senegal, Saint Louis is a UNESCO-listed city you have to visit during your time in the West African country.

The former capital of Senegal, under French colonial rule, this now crumbling city possesses a kind of faded glamour and glory, coupled with an emerging young, vibrant and creative dynamic.

If you’ve visited Stone Town in Zanzibar, then you’ll love Saint Louis in Senegal… it has half the crowds and only half the restoration!

Yes Saint Louis is certainly not polished, but as most travellers to West Africa will confirm, you don’t head to this part of Africa for polished.

Instead, you head to West Africa to get off the beaten, explore undiscovered stories and stumble upon places that feel raw and real.

And Saint Louis is no exception.

It’s definitely one of the best places to visit in Senegal, if not the whole of West Africa in my opinion.

Yes it’s that’s good!

So if you’re thinking of heading there, this complete travel guide to Saint Louis will help you plan your adventure there from start to finish…

Senegal, Me, What to Wear


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Why Visit Saint Louis in Senegal?

Senegal, Saint Louis, Old Colonial Building

If I haven’t spelled it out in the introduction, then Saint Louis is one of the best spots to visit in Senegal, if not the whole of West Africa.

Highly atmospheric and filled with a fascinating history and legacy, learning the story of this town and its community is a huge part of travelling there.

The fact the Old Town is UNESCO-listed and filled with photographic crumbling charm only adds to the allure.


When to Visit Saint Louis?

Senegal, Saint Louis, Street Stall

Visiting Saint Louis during the coolest season between December and March is best.

For music fans, the Jazz festival in May is another fab time to check this city out.


How to Get There?

Senegal, Dakar, DemDik Bus

There’s a couple of ways to get to Saint Louis.

The first is travelling south from the border with Mauritania, which lies close to Saint Louis.

I won’t go into this option too much, as its essentially a border crossing journey which, in this part of the world, is subject to regular change.

But I do know from my time in Saint Louis, and meeting travellers there who had come from Mauritania, that this crossing is both a) possible at most times and b) fairly straight forward.

Usually involving a sept-place or bus to the border, which is marked by the Senegal River, and the then another journey by sept-place or bus on the other side, you should allow a full day to make this crossing – mostly due to the immigration point, which can involve hour-long queues.

The other way to travel to Saint Louis is from Dakar, the Senegalese capital.

This is the journey I made.

Thankfully there is a direct and comfortable bus between the 2 cities run by the company Dem Dikk.

Apparently government-owned, this is the bus service I highly recommend using, both for the journey to Saint Louis as well as around Senegal in general where possible.

My Dem Dikk journey from Dakar to Saint Louis left the capital at 7am, took around 5 hours and cost me 5000cfa in 2023.

It is like any regular coach with 4 seats in a row – 2 either side of the aisle. You will be allocated a seat when buying your ticket.

There is one bathroom / breakfast stop at a motorway gas station on the way and I highly suggest making use of this, as no toilet or snacks are available onboard the bus.

The bus ride was safe, easy and comfortable, even as a solo female, but you do need to get a local to book it for you.

Amazingly, my incredible accommodation host in Saint Louis sorted the Dem Dikk ride for me, otherwise I don’t know what I would have done. More info on this in the accommodation section below.

The only other thing you need to do to get from Dakar to Saint Louis, is sort your taxi rides to / from the bus station.

Usually located just outside the centre, the first thing is to find out is the correct bus station you need to be at in Dakar for your journey to Saint Louis – there’s several btw and it’s all pretty confusing!

When I departed in spring 2023, Dem Dikk were operating out of Terminus Liberte in Dakar, which you can find on Google maps.

To get there, I suggest using a ride share app like Heetch, which I opted for across Dakar to help mitigate any language barriers or confusion when trying to get a taxi ride between places.

Way less stressful than trying to use the local bus system with luggage, especially if you’re a solo female traveller in Senegal, ride share taxis are the way to go in Dakar – which is sprawling, bustling and chaotic at the best of times!

I would suggest allowing plenty of time for the Heetch to arrive and you’ll then want to get to the Dem Dikk bus station at least 20 mins before your departure.

Once at the station (it’s essentially a large, sandy car park), you’ll find a small waiting space with many beige / pale yellow Dem Dikk coaches lined up, as well as a small office and toilet.

You can usually board the Dem Dikk bus around 10 minutes before departure – make sure to sit in your reserved seat.

Once you then arrive in Saint Louis, you’ll need to grab a taxi ride to the centre from the Dem Dikk drop off point.

Thankfully there’s plenty of taxis usually waiting when you get off the bus, so just negotiate your price and let the driver known the name / street of your hotel.

It cost me 500cfa from the Dem Dikk departure point to my accommodation in Saint Louis in 2023.


Where to Stay in Saint Louis?

Senegal, Saint Louis, Lani's Place

The hostel scene doesn’t really exist in Senegal, so guesthouses / apartments are a great middle ground for backpackers and travellers on a reasonable budget.

They also give a good insight into local life and culture, which is a huge part of travelling in West Africa.

And this is especially true in Saint Louis where I found Lani’s place.

Located in the new town, Lani’s place is essentially an apartment where guests rent rooms. Most of these rooms have balconies over looking local streets and some also have private bathrooms.

There’s also communal bathrooms and a shared kitchen, as well a mosquito nets over the beds and good wifi!

After not meeting any other travellers for a while in West Africa, it was great to meet some organically here and Lani’s place was incredible clean, secure and comfortable. It felt a bit like a hostel but with private rooms!

With an amazing host and offering incredibly value (breakfast was included too) Lani’s Place is an absolute win.

An English school teacher, Lani also speaks fluent English, and can even help you book the Dem Dikk bus to and from Saint Louis – one, if not the, kindest host I’ve ever met.

Lani comes to the apartment every day to drop off the fresh baguettes for breakfast, to check you are ok and was in regular touch with me on Whatsapp when I needed any help.

Literally a godsend!

No question that all travellers should stay at Lani’s Place.

For those looking for a more upmarket experience in Saint Louis, check out JAMM-La Paix which is more of a guesthouse feel.


How Long to Spend in Saint Louis?

Senegal, Street, Shoe Stall

I recommend a stay of 3 nights in Saint Louis.

If you get the 7am bus from Dakar, as I did, then this will give you the afternoon of day 1, plus a full day on day 2, to explore the city.

On day 3, you then have the chance to enjoy a day trip from Saint Louis.


How to Get Around Saint Louis?

Senegal, Saint Louis, Bicycle on Street

It’s easy and safe to walk around Saint Louis by day.

I stayed outside the Old Town, but found crossing the bridge from the New Town, walking to the supermarket, going to the bank and navigating the various streets as a solo female totally safe.

At night, I don’t tend to go out much as a solo female in West Africa alone – I think it’s a pretty good ground rule across this continent – but going out with other male travellers I met there also felt safe after dark.

The fact that alcohol is not prevalent, given Senegal is an Islamic-majority country, certainly helps.

You can also take taxis to get around Saint Louis.

These can be hailed at the side of the road and are easy to distinguish thanks to their colourful yellow bodywork.


Best Things to See and Do in Saint Louis?

Senegal, Saint Louis, Aeropostale Museum

Wandering around and soaking in the atmosphere of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Saint Louis’ Old Town is definitely the main thing to do in this wonderful place.

The Old Town is entered just as you cross the bridge across the river that divides it from the New Town.

As soon as you cross the bridge you’ll see the Tourism Office, which is housed in a historic building directly across from the bridge. It can be a useful place to begin your exploration.

If you want to enjoy a horse and cart tour in Saint Louis (personally I didn’t, but many do), then this is also the place to book and pick one up.

The wonderful Aeropostale Museum is also attached to the tourism office and is well worth a wander around to learn about the lives of pilots in the 1930s golden aviation age, when Saint Louis was the landing point of the first South Atlantic crossing by plane. Entrance to this museum cost me 2000cfa.

After this, head across the road to have a drink on the shady terrace of Hotel de Poste, with an ex-empire feel, it’s fascinating to check out the old photos from a different era on the walls here.

Then it’s time to head into the backstreets of the Old Town to check out the independent galleries, shops and cafes, as well as the historic crumbling buildings and sense of faded grandeur.

Check out the designer’s Rama Diaw boutique, as well as my favourite coffee shop, Farmers Coffee Shop, and the beautiful L’Agneau Carnivore book store.

After this head over to the Photography Museum, which is free to enter and then finish up by wandering down to the breezy shoreline to watch local fisherman haul in their catch.


Where to Eat & Drink in Saint Louis

Senegal, Saint Louis, Coffee on Table

  • Siki Hotel – delicious
  • Chez Dasso – cute local spot
  • Le Réveil – fish dishes with cocktails and live music


Day Trips from Saint Louis

Senegal, Saint Louis, Bus

The 3 best day trips from Saint Louis to make are…

  • Long de Bar de Bari – a huge sand dune
  • Barbary Language National Park – a hotbed for migratory birds
  • Djoudj Bird National Park – ranked 3rd best bird sanctuary in the world!


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Mini Travel Guide to Senegal

Senegal, Saint Louis, Street

When to Visit Senegal?

The best time to visit Senegal is during the cooler season which runs from December through March.

Learn more in this post I wrote all about when you should travel to Senegal.


How Long to Spend in Senegal?

I recommend spending 7 days travelling this country.

Allow another week if you’d like to visit the Casamance region, which is in the south beyond the Gambia.


Recommended Tours for Senegal?

If you’re keen to travel to Senegal with a tour, check out these fab options.


Top 5 Packing Items for Senegal

Loose hareem pants Lightweight crossbody bag UV Sunglasses 30+ SPF Face Sunscreen

Check out my complete packing guide for the Senegal here


Travel Insurance

World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while travelling and claim online from anywhere in the world.

Alternatively, if you’re a long-term traveller, digital nomad or frequent remote worker seeking travel health cover, check out Safetywing’s Nomad Insurance policies.


Travel Money

The currency in Senegal is the West African CFA franc, which is also used in Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger and Togo.

The easy way to spend abroad with real exchange rates, no sneaky transaction fees and free ATM withdrawals, I always use my Wise card when I travel anywhere.

Working just like a debit card, and linking easily with Google and Apple pay, grab your Wise card here.



Complete Travel Guide to Saint Louis, Senegal


So there you have it, my complete travel guide to visiting Saint Louis in Senegal

Hope the info was helpful and I’ve convinced you to visit this evocative town.

Still have questions about travelling here?

Don’t hesitate to drop them into the comments box below and I’ll get back to you…


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