Sometimes you will come across a currency where there are several users in one area that have adopted it as their legal currency. This is the case with the West African CFA franc, which has several users in this part of the country. One of these is Senegal, and that’s the country we are going to find out more about here.
What coins and notes are available for this currency?
You probably have already guessed the franc is split into centimes, since this is what the French franc was divided into before its demise. It is no more than a factual point here though since it no longer happens in practice. The only denomination used for the West African CFA franc is that of the franc itself.
You can use the one franc coin and also watch out for the 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, 200, 250 and 500 franc coins as well. Following on from this impressive number of coins you can also use a variety of banknotes, although there are but five of these in existence. These are the 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000 and 10,000 franc notes.
From past to present – the history of the Senegalese West African CFA franc
The people of Senegal have long since used the West African CFA franc, which came into being in the Forties.
How to get hold of the Senegalese West African CFA franc
The first thing to be aware of here is that you should only use the West African CFA francs. There is a Central African version too but this is not legal tender in Senegal, nor in any of the other countries that use the West African version.
You shouldn’t worry too much about trying to find the franc prior to your trip, because it is likely virtually impossible to do so (or if not, at least incredibly hard). Far easier is the process of getting some traveller’s cheques. While some countries turn their noses up at these cheques, this is thankfully not the case in Senegal. You are limited in one sense though, since Dakar is the best place to get them cashed. Once you head outside of this area you might well run into problems. Ideally you should make sure you get euro traveller’s cheques as you will find these easiest to cash.
So what other options do you have? Well, you can get cash using cash machines but they will not always accept cards used and issued in other countries. Thus you might want to find out where you stand with yours before you do anything else. Another option is to use your credit card to pay for things, although again this isn’t easy to do if you go outside of the big cities.
The best bet is to consider where you are staying in Senegal and to consider the options as appropriate. You might have more options and find it easier to get hold of some currency if you are staying in big cities as opposed to other locations.
How to find out the latest exchange rate between your home currency and the Senegalese West African CFA franc
This is easy enough to do once you have access to a good currency converter. Just be sure you are looking for the conversion rate on the West African CFA franc and not the central one. It is easy to do, especially since the ISO codes for them are quite similar. Another point to remember is that your conversion rate will vary if you do manage to exchange your own currency for the local one at any point, since commission charges will likely be applied in this situation.
Those wanting to consider a journey to Senegal should always find out what the latest information is for the country prior to booking anything or making any firm plans. While there is an embassy for the country in the UK there doesn’t seem to be a website for it. You can however go to the UK government site to find the latest information for Senegal there. The page you need is at https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/senegal.
Travelling safely with the Senegalese West African CFA franc
At the time of writing some isolated areas of the country were not advisable to visit. However these can change at any time which is why we would recommend you visit the link given above, since it is updated according to the latest available information.
Unfortunately all kinds of street crime tend to be quite common in Senegal, particularly in Dakar. However with that said, if you take some precautions throughout your time in Senegal you should find you are a lot safer than you might otherwise be. The idea is to minimise the appeal you present as someone who might have valuables or cash on them. As such you should always minimise the amount of valuables you have on you, whether they are visible or not. Split any cash you have in separate pockets so as to minimise whatever you have with you that might go missing if you were targeted by a pickpocket.
The other point to note is that wandering around on your own is not really advisable. This is particularly true when it gets dark, since it does tend to mark you out as a possible target.
Where to spend your West African CFA francs in Senegal – and what to spend them on
Senegal is obviously a West African country but you may be unfamiliar with where it is situated on a map. It borders a number of different countries, with Mauritania to the north and Mali to the east. The western border is shared with Guinea and then Guinea-Bissau to the west of that. Finally The Gambia is actually enclosed by Senegal, since this is a long thin country that cuts through the middle of Senegal itself.
The capital of Senegal has been mentioned a couple of times in the article already, and as you may have guessed it is Dakar. It is actually located on the westernmost tip of Senegal, jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean. The capital itself is known to be situated on the Cap-Vert peninsula.
One of the best activities to try here is to wander around the markets. This may not sound particularly appealing but you might be surprised to learn the markets are quite large on occasion. The Grand Mosque is also worth a look for its sheer size if nothing else; the sole minaret juts into the sky at an impressive height. The cathedral is a beautiful building also worth seeing, with its grand white exterior and symmetrical design from the front.
Perhaps one of the most famous sights in Senegal (you may have seen pictures of it before even if you didn’t know where it was) is Lake Retba. This literally translates into the Pink Lake, and when you see it you will realise why. It is definitely pink – pinker than you might believe was possible. If you see a photo of it you might suspect someone has been busy with Photoshop. When you see the real thing however, this is not the case (although you might opt for pink food colouring as a reason instead!). The lake looks pretty impressive close up but views from above are spectacular. As is the case with most unusually-coloured lakes, we can blame algae for the colour of this one.
Another natural attraction – and this one is a UNESCO World Heritage Site too – is the Djoudi National Bird Sanctuary. It is good to know the location is protected as this will help preserve the many birds that call it home as well. There are literally hundreds of species here, not least the famous flamingo and also pelicans. The main challenge here is that the water levels are getting lower, although they can change depending on the weather conditions and how much rain the area is likely to get.
It is possible you didn’t know that much about Senegal before reading this article. There is still much to be discovered about it now, since we have only had room to include a few choice attractions and destinations. Needless to say if you are intending to go to Senegal anytime soon you can consider reading up to find out more about the country. It does cover quite a wide area so it is worth exploring to find some of its main attractions to see.
Of course if you are going away from the main cities you need to be prepared in terms of cash. Perhaps the best bet rather than relying on traveller’s cheques or credit cards (or even debit cards come to that) is to get some of the local currency ahead of time from a main city. Get enough to tide you over and then you shouldn’t have to worry about coming unstuck and running out of cash.
However you choose to explore Senegal, make sure you’re prepared and you have company wherever possible.