After an amazing and relaxing time in Cabo Verde, I had to leave the country to head to Gambia. I purchased a round trip ticket from Dakar – Cabo Verde – Dakar, which cost me $640 USD, because it was last minute. I was told from the other guests that came from Dakar that the tickets could be as low as $300 USD if booked one month in advance. Anyhow, it was well worth visiting Cabo Verde and would love to go back.
My Cabo Verde Airlines flight (https://flytacv.com/?lang=en) from Dakar to Cabo Verde left Dakar at 03:30 in the morning and my return from Cabo Verde to Dakar was at 00:50. Who the hell comes up with these time tables? It was so inconvenient and totally different from the “A pleasurable way of flying” slogan from the airline. My return flight from Cabo Verde to Dakar was delayed for around two hours, so it ended up leaving at 02:50. I arrived in Dakar at 05:50, the flight was only one hour and 45 minutes plus the one-hour time zone difference in Senegal.
I got my luggage and went straight to the taxi stand to catch a taxi to Gare Bon Marche. Catching the taxi was easy, but I had to haggle with two taxi drivers. I started negotiating with one taxi driver and a separate guy showed up and started yelling in my face about where I was going. Oh, this was normal in Africa, but it was at 6am and I was in no mood of such nonsense. I was negotiating with the first guy and there was no need for the second one to interrupt me. Then, the first taxi driver started yelling at the second guy. Anyhow, after about 15 seconds of commotion, I talked to the first taxi driver and got the price down from 5000 to 3500 Francs.
There was no traffic at 6am as we headed towards the bus station. Remember, this was Dakar and usually the traffic was crazy. We sped through darkness, as I was hoping that the sun will come out soon. As you may know, bus stations are not the safest places on earth and especially in the dark…
I got to the station and the taxi driver tried to short change me 500F when I handed him 10,000F. I told him I need the 500F for my bag and he happily gave it to me. I walked to the sept place (7 passenger seats on a super old Peugeot station wagon – I wish someone will totally abolish these cars) and there were already 4 people there at 6:20am. The front seat was taken and so was the 1st row seats. I was not going to take the 2nd row, which were the worst seats and I had already experienced that from the border of Mauritania to St. Louis in Senegal a week earlier. I told the guy that I will wait for the next taxi when he told me that the middle seat will be open. A young girl had agreed to take the back row. I paid 7000F (6000F seat and 1000F for backpack) and we were off at 06:50 in the morning.
I did not get much sleep at the airport or on the plane, so I was really tired, but it was difficult to sleep in the middle seat. Besides, I was sitting next to one obese Senegalese lady, and her body was leaking (is that even the right term?) into my area. I did not have a headrest either and it was a brutal 5-hour journey to the border town called Karang. We did stop once on the way for around 20 minutes to get some food and stretch our legs, but that was heinous. I don’t think I will EVER go on a 7 place taxi ever again in my life. I am quoting that here!
The two lane road was pretty smooth and I somehow got around two hours of sleep. Believe me, I don’t even know how I did that, but I must have been really tired. There was nothing interesting to see during the drive, passing by small towns, random animals crossing the streets, street vendors, dirty towns, lots of garbage, fields, and fields.
We got off the taxi at 11:50 and I walked towards the immigration building. On my way, I got haggled from a few money changers and I almost changed one Euro at 55 Dalasi (better than the Internet rate) when I pulled out my 50 Euro bill, but after counting the money, she (it was a lady moneychanger) only gave me 2500, instead of 2750. The lady had some other lady count the money (strange) and then I was surrounded my four other ladies. I told the ladies to get away, give me my 2750, but she then tells me the rate is 51.5 per one Euro, so I just walked away.
I got my stamp out of Senegal pretty quickly and I moved onto the Gambian side. The border crossing was less than 10 seconds and it was easy. On the Gambian side, it was straightforward as well, since I had my visa in advance (I got it in Madrid for 50 Euros), but the officer goes, “are you going to buy me a coffee or anything?” I just ignored the guy and when asked about my profession, I told him that I was a teacher. The other officer goes, “That is a noble job,” and they let me out.
I did not have any Dalasi at that point so I went to the Western Union exchange next to immigration (literally 10 seconds away so ask anyone). I got an exchange rate of one Euro at 55 Dalasi, which was perfect. This was the best exchange rate I got throughout Gambia, so if you can, change as much as you can there.
I proceeded to the taxi stand to take a shared taxi (the sept place again!) to Barra, the ferry terminal to cross over to Banjul. The guy tries to charge me 75 Dalasi, but I knew in advance at customs (I asked around three people about the price) that the price was 50D. I tell the guy that I only have 50D and he tells me 25D for the bag. I told him I will take another taxi, when he quickly agreed. He knew that he was not going to get the extra cash from me. I hopped into the middle seat of the last row, but the ride was only 20 minutes, so that was not that bad.
Upon arrival at Barra, I went straight to the ferry terminal to catch the ferry to Banjul. I had to wait around 30 minutes for the ferry to show up, since I just missed it, but the one that I caught was a brand new ferry and it was quite fast. The price was 25D at the ticket booth and there was a restaurant upstairs, but I did not have time to eat. There were several stalls selling street food and fruits before entering the ferry terminal building.
The ferry was small and it reminded me of the one that I crossed from French Guyana to Suriname. It fit around 10 cars and the rest were all pedestrians. If you want to stay out of the sun, get on the ferry quickly to get shade, otherwise, you will be stuck on the outdoor deck with the scorching sun or even worse, rain. The crossing took around 25-30 minutes and we were in Banjul.
Once out of the ferry terminal, I got harassed by a lot of taxi drivers, but I kept ignoring them and walked towards the shared taxis. I did not want to share anymore and was not going to penny pinch. I struck a deal with a taxi driver for 250D from Banjul to my hotel (roughly 20km). He took me from door to door and I was at the Kotu Island Lodge (no idea why they had the word “island,” since it was on the mainland) in about 25 minutes. I checked in and was happy to see that my private room was spacious with my own bathroom. Not a bad deal for 15 Euros a day. I ordered my meal at the lodge and the yassa poulet was delicious. It was a great start to the Gambian part of my trip.
After all, it was a long day, but well worth it. The flight from Dakar to Banjul was $300 USD one way, so this grueling trip did save a lot of money. I will never do this again though…
The good news is that I made it to Country 152!