Welcome to the ultimate guide for what to wear in Senegal, plus a complete packing checklist for your travel in this country too.
Answering some of the key questions about how to dress appropriately and practically in this west African country, I also talk from personal experience about what to pack and wear as a solo female traveller here too.
As a conservative Islamic country, with a hot, dry climate, it can be tricky to know what to wear in the towns and cities, as well as the beaches and coastal areas of Senegal, but this complete packing guide will ensure you don’t forget a thing when it comes to prepping for your trip to this amazing slice of Africa!
This guide also includes some of my expert packing tips I’ve used the world over, in particular how to keep things light and flight-friendly, so here’s everything you need to know about what to wear and pack for your travels in Senegal…
- When is the Best Time to Visit Senegal?
- How to Cross the Border Between Senegal and The Gambia
- Your Perfect 7 Day Senegal Itinerary
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What to Wear as a Female Traveller in Senegal?
The general rule for female travellers when it comes to what to wear in most places in Senegal, is long or 3/4 length pants and tops that don’t reveal your chest or shoulders.
This is especially important if you are travelling alone and applies in all towns and cities, when on local transport and outside hotels in coastal areas of this country.
While Sharia law isn’t practised in Senegal, it is still a very conservative Islamic country, so it pays to be respectful of that.
In the larger cities. such as Dakar the capital, many Senegalese women do not wear headscarves and, while the numbers increase when you travel to smaller towns and villages, especially in more remote areas, female travellers in Senegal do not have to cover their heads.
That said, I’d certainly advise packing lots of clothes that extend below the knee and that cover the cleavage.
Having your lower arms exposed is ok, but you may feel more comfortable wearing sleeved garments that cover down to your elbows.
Sarongs or thin scarves are also a super option when travelling in Senegal as they are so versatile, compact and light and can easily be draped over your head, shoulders or décolletage for extra coverage.
Evening wear certainly isn’t that important in Senegal – you’re unlikely to be going out or needing much specific evening attire – and even if you do head to a restaurant or bar, you’ll find dress codes are quite casual.
Ditto heavy make-up, which is not common in Senegal and will be a nightmare in the heat!
In terms of shoes, I really do think you can limit yourself to 2 pairs – 1x comfy trainers / runners that can be used for any long sightseeing trips or travel days and 1x good pair of support sandals like Birkenstocks for coastal areas.
In my opinion, dress sandals, or anything with a heel, are definitely not required when travelling here.
For more specific ideas about exactly what to wear in Senegal, keep reading.
You can also download your own copy of my broader Middle East packing list (which also covers parts northern Africa including Senegal) by entering your details into the box at the end of this article…
What to Wear in Dakar?
When it comes to city sightseeing in Senegal, especially in the capital Dakar, you’ll want to make sure you’re fairly covered up – not only for cultural reasons, but also to protect yourself from the sun and heat!
A long skirt or thin, ankle-length trousers will be perfect for exploring this city as they’ll allow you to stay fairly cool and respectful.
I’d advise a thin, long-sleeved bamboo or cotton shirt for the top half, so that you can ensure your chest and upper arms are covered.
Overall, you want to choose clothing that is loose and cool, because you’ll want to be comfortable in the fierce heat.
These clothing items will also provide some protection when it’s windy, which it can be a lot in coastal areas of Dakar and its islands.
Ladies, I’d also take a thin scarf or sarong with you when exploring in Senegal towns and cities, so that this can be placed over your head if you’re visiting any religious sites.
Sunglasses, a good sunhat and some sunscreen are also top items.
I also highly recommend bringing a good daypack you can put all these items in and carry easily throughout your time in Dakar.
This Marmot Kompressor is ideal for the job as it packs down to nothing and is light, waterproof and comfortable.
And finally, you’ll also want to ensure you have some water with you for sightseeing days in Senegal and that you drink a lot to stay hydrated.
Rather than constantly buying plastic water bottles, I highly recommend you take a filter water bottle with you to this country, which will allow you to drink the tap water here (or anywhere in the world) safely.
An amazing piece of technology, I highly recommend the ingenious Water-to-Go bottles.
Great for the environment and your budget, these fantastic bottles allow you to drink tap water safely in West Africa and across the world.
At night, temperatures can drop in Dakar, as this is a desert city, so bringing a thin sweater for the evening is always a good idea.
What to Wear at the Beach in Senegal?
If you’re travelling to either Saly or Casamance, you’ll find that dress codes at these beachy resort spots are slightly more relaxed than in other Senegalese destinations.
These are where the concentrated resort areas are, and therefore locals are more used to western tourists here.
Casamance, in particular, is a good place to finish your trip in Senegal and spend a few days chilling at this stunning stretch of coastline before getting your flight home.
With wonderful temperatures and gorgeous sandy beaches, you’ll definitely want to bring your swimwear and a towel to enjoy these spots.
Sunglasses, sun hats, sunscreen and sarongs are also a good idea, as is a dry bag for keeping things safe and sand / water free at the beach.
Don’t forget a good book (or Kindle) and your bluetooth headphones too!
What to Wear on Your Flight to Senegal?
Flights to Senegal from the UK take around 6 hours if you’re flying to Blaise Diagne International Airport (DSS), which is 43km from downtown Dakar.
Alternatively, many people visiting the Casamance area choose to fly home from Banjul International Airport (BJL) in The Gambia, because it’s closer to this southern part of Senegal.
I always advise wearing comfortable, thin clothing you can layer on flights, as you never know how hot or cold a plane might be.
For hand luggage, I love this Anti Theft backpack which I always helps keep my laptop, chargers, camera, harddrives and tripods safe.
What to Wear on Senegalese Transport?
If you’re travelling around Senegal independently, as I did, then bus travel will be a big part of life!
Whether this is using the government run DemDikDik (the most upmarket kind of bus) or local Sept-Place (shared cars) for the ride, you’ll want to dress modestly,
As such, longer-length thin clothes that you can layer are key – think loose linen trousers and cotton shirts.
As a desert country, nights in Senegal can be fresh, so early morning buses (as are often the case on long journeys) can be really cool at the start, but quickly warm up as soon as the sun appears.
And needless to say, you can’t expect aircon!
Bringing a thin, wide scarf and good a sweater that you can use to cover up further is therefore a good idea – the scarf can double as a shade from the sun if it’s streaming thorough the window!
How to Pack Light for Senegal?
Having the right bags is key to packing light for Senegal or anywhere!
Especially important if you’re going to be hopping on and off buses and local sept-places, a backpack is the best form of luggage when travelling in this country.
The 50l Atmos from Osprey is a winner.
I also advise you have a series of packing cubes that help organise and condense the gear within your backpack.
Honestly, once you start using packing cubes to keep your luggage light, you’ll never go back!
And finally, we come to the clothes that will help keep your luggage weight down.
Firstly, layers are the key, so that you can build clothes up to keep warmer, rather than bringing bulkier items.
You also want to make sure that the clothes you wear on the flight can be used and worn when travelling in Senegal too.
And on this note, bringing some travel handwash, so you can wash some smaller items when you’re away, and avoid having to pack so many clean items, is a great idea!
Heavier, bulky clothing items such as jeans, jackets, thick sweaters and boots are not needed here as Senegal, as this country is basically on the edge of the Sahara!
The thing you will need are a couple of thin, light sweaters and a thin windproof jacket like this North Face Venture 2 – these are for fresh evenings and windy coastlines.
And now I want to bring you a complete packing list for Senegal – a handy item-by-item guide so that you’re fully prepared and packed for your trip here.
Complete Packing List for Senegal
Thin Windproof Jacket
Senegal has a dry, arid climate, which means hot, dry days and cooler (sometimes windier) evenings and nights.
As such, I recommend taking a thin windproof jacket with you to this country – something light and compact, but practical, would be ideal and this North Face Venture 2 is perfect.
Thin Sweaters and Cotton Long-Sleeved Tops
Great for layering and not walking around with exposed arms, thin, light tops are crucial in Senegal.
I always love a natural fibre long sleeve option to stop me sweating as much!
Singlets / T-Shirts
Choose a range of colours and styles that match the trousers you’ve selected.
I recommend loose ones that will keep you cool and aren’t too revealing.
Singlets are best, as they can go under longer sleeved tops or shirts, or go for my covered-but-ventilated tactic, which is a singlet with a thin scarf or sarong draped around the shoulders, upper arms and chest!
7 is a good number of tops as it means you have enough to survive without doing laundry for a week!
Loose Thin Trousers
Great when wandering around cities and towns, long-legged or 3/4 length pants are a must.
Just make sure they are thin and light!
Linen and cotton are ideal fabrics.
One of my travel essentials full stop (not just in Senegal!), leggings are especially ideal when you’re enjoying any active pursuits in this country, because they are thin and breathable… if you get the right pair.
In fact, I strongly recommend bamboo fibre ones because they are breathable, hypoallergenic, soft, thin and compact down really easily.
In Senegal, I’d only recommend wearing leggings under a casual dress or tunic, so that your bum is covered.
Shorts / Summer Dress
Shorts and shorter dresses are really only worn in Senegal by travellers at the coast, which is why I suggest just 1-2 of these.
Long dresses that extend to the ankle can also be worn in towns and cities, but I recommend they cover your shoulders too.
You can’t take enough sarongs travelling in my opinion!
As they are so light, I recommend 2 as a minimum.
Perfect for using as a beach towel, a headscarf, a shoulder wrap, a bathrobe, a sheet, a laundry bag … the list goes on!
Check out my post about the 20 reasons why you should always take a sarong travelling for more ideas.
These ones from One World Sarongs feature some beautiful designs.
Ideal if you’re visiting any mosques and need to cover your head.
Also good to cover shoulders – see the Singlet / T-Shirt section above for more info.
Small and compact, 7 pairs is a good number to save the hand washing duties!
Bras & Sports Bra
Make them comfortable ones in this heat!
Bikini / Swimwear
You’ll need something to enjoy Senegal’s fabulous coast with that’s for sure!
I always love Rip Curl’s swimwear offering.
Most days you’ll probably be wearing sandals in Senegal, but this is for those exceptional days when you’ll wear trainers – like when travelling in planes or buses, or when enjoying active adventures or at night if it gets chilly,
You can always double up on your daywear here to save room in your backpack if needs be!
Sun Hat & Sunglasses
I’d bring a cap for the beach and a hat for sightseeing – walking in the heat here can be tough!
Make sure your sunglasses offer UV protection.
Trainers / Runners
Versatile, comfortable and essential if you want to see all the sights in this epic country, I highly recommend a good brand like New Balance.
Flip Flops / Sandals
Personally, I love my Birkenstocks, which I basically lived in during my time throughout Senegal.
The support they offer means you can sightsee to your heart’s content and never get sore soles!
Thin Toiletries Bag
This one is a great, affordable option.
Shampoo & Conditioner Bars
I always go for shampoo and conditioner bars when I travel to save the plastic and keep the space down. Although they are a bit pricey, they last for ages.
I always pack a natural crystal deodorant when I travel as they last forever and are free from many nasty chemicals.
Keep your soap in a ziplock bag to prevent soap slime leaking onto everything you own!
Choose a 30 SPF or higher for those strong rays in Senegal and go natural if you can, to keep the chemicals out of your skin.
This doubles as a great moisturiser, soother and aftersun.
SPF Lip Salve
Very important for those UV conditions in Senegal, Burt Bees are always my go-to brand, as they never dry out my lips.
Natural Bug Repellent
An ideal remedy for headaches, sore muscles and insect bites, tiger balm is a super versatile, travel essential for me!
Tea-Tree Essential Oil
A powerful antiseptic, anti-mould and anti-fungal treatment, tea-tree oil is also great to throw in with your washing, or you can use a few drops to freshen up smelly bags / laundry etc!
Get an organic tea-tree oil if you can.
Paracetamol, Antiseptic Cream, Antihistamines, Anti-Inflammatories & Band Aids
The basic first aid kit you need for any West African adventures.
The best way to deal with your time of the month when travelling ladies.
Check out the best prices for them here.
Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Floss
Facial Wash, Toner, Serum, Moisturiser
Cotton Buds / Pads
Hair Bands & Hair Brush
Glasses / Contact Lenses if you wear them
Razor & Spare Blades
Nail Scissors, Nail File & Tweezers
Smartphone + Bluetooth Headphones+ Phone Lanyard
Taking your smartphone to stay in touch with those at home, check maps, book accommodation and upload some pics while you’re in Senegal is a great idea.
I’d also download some audiobooks and music onto your phone before you leave home – a good shout because wifi can be patchy in this country.
I recommend Amazon Audible and Spotify Premium for these purposes and wouldn’t travel anywhere without either these days.
I also suggest you bring bluetooth headphones to listen to audiobooks etc on buses and a phone lanyard you can use to limit the chances of your phone being stolen.
Portable chargers are great when travelling without a solidly reliable charging source.
I recommend the Anker PowerCore which allows me to charge both my phone and my camera no matter where I am.
Camera, Lens, Spare Battery & Charger
I love my Sony A600 mirrorless camera, which I’ve used across West Africa and beyond.
Light, compact and sturdy, it’s perfect for travelling.
I’d also recommend a GoPro for Senegal if you want to capture some of that water action.
Take a large memory card if possible – like this 64GB one.
High-speed memory cards are also a good idea for snappier processing times.
How are you going to charge all your devices without an adapter?!
Senegal has the same type of plugs as continental Europe, so get a cheap adapter here.
Otherwise, you can splash out on a worldwide adapter, which will be better value if you’re travelling elsewhere after Senegal.Skross are a good, reliable brand I highly recommended.
Headlamp & Spare Batteries
Never travel in Africa without a headlamp and try to choose a product that uses commonly found batteries and has a red night light function.
I love my Black Diamond Storm, which has served me well during my time across the globe!
A VPN service is a must for me when I travel.
I love NORD VPN who offer a huge number of global servers for a quick and seamless connection.
This whole packing list should fit into a 50l backpack – I never travel with anything bigger and love this great example from Berghaus.
I recommend Latrek travel towels, because they are cheap, compact, soft and don’t smell.
Love, love, love mine! Read my review here.
Good for sightseeing and beach days, this one from PacSafe is perfect.
I also really like the Marmot Kompresser for its featherweight and easy pack-down features.
Eye Mask & Earplugs
Key for sleeping on overnight flights and in any Mosque-side hotels in Senegal!
This eye mask from Alaska Bear is super comfy and a great travel treat.
Filter Water Bottle
Amazing pieces of tech, filter water bottles allow you to drink the tap water, anywhere in the world, safely.
My go-to brand are Water-to-Go bottles, which are inexpensive, but very reliable and will allow you to drink Senegal’s non-potable tap water without any problems.
These great bottles also help prevent more unnecessary plastic waste from polluting our planet – double win!
Great for doing emergency washing such as underwear in a sink, travel handwash is always a must when I adventure anywhere.
Passport & Photocopies
Definitely take a colour copy of your passport with you to Senegal and keep it with you at all times.
Flight Tickets & Visa Documentation
Many nationalities can get free tourist visas for Senegal on arrival – hoorah!
Do check with your embassy before travelling however.
Always good to have with you wherever you travel.
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.
Credit Cards and Debit Cards
ATMs in Senegal accept both Mastercard and Visa.
When it comes to paying for things in Senegal generally, you’ll want to ensure you’re not being charged overseas transaction fees or getting poor exchange rates, which is why I always take my Wise Card away with me wherever I travel.
The easy way to spend abroad with real exchange rates, no markups and no sneaky transaction fees, you can use your Wise card just like a debit card and it links easily with Google and Apple pay – sold! Get yours here.
Cash in Small, Thin Purse
Bring some Euros or USD cash with you – it is most easily exchanged in Senegal, which is still a largely cash-based economy.
@bigworldsmallpockets Saint Louis was my favourite spot in Senegal 🇸🇳 Crumbling walls keep hidden stories tucked away, as doorways cracked ajar reveal tiny, darkened bakeries that churn out the fresh baguettes which seemingly sustain this country. There’s a feeling of former grandeur in Saint Louis too, as bougainvillea drapes itself over the rusty gates of cracking palatial buildings, and the famous iron bridge still feels like it misses its intended home across the Danube. Local galleries and tiny bookshops nestle between cafes and rudimentary butchers carving up dinner, while, in the dusty streets behind, kids play, cows saunter, ancient cars rattle and the Atlantic Ocean creeps every closer. UNESCO listed, this faded former capital is a must visit for a night or 2. #visitsenegal #senegal #saintlouis #saintlouissenegal #senegaltravel #senegaltrip #westafricatravel #westafricatrip #senegaltourism #travelwestafrica #travelsenegal #femaletravelbloggers #solofemaletraveler #solofemaletravel #uktravelblogger #dametraveller #solotravel #africatrip ♬ original sound – Big World Small Pockets
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So that’s it, my ultimate Senegal packing list + guide about what to wear in this country.
Have you been to this country?
What else did you pack that I might have missed?
Please let me know in the comments box below…
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