The question of Dakar neighborhoods is a complex one. Each zone has its own character; its own advantages and disadvantages, positive and negative features. It goes beyond just the "good and bad neighborhoods." Let our Neighborhood Guide give you some food for thought as you are considering which neighborhood in Dakar is right for you.
As you may or may not know, Dakar is in the form of a peninsula, meaning it juts out and down from the mainland and is surrounded by water on three sides. It has 3 main islands surrounding it, including Ile de Ngor (surfing, restaurants, and local artists), Ile de Madeleine (sea birds, miniature baobab trees, lagoon for swimming), and Ile de Goree (historic, house of slaves, beaches).
Dakar was the old secondary capital during French colonialism, after St. Louis in northern Senegal. The oldest part of the city is "Plateau", the downtown area, which is the furthest tip of the peninsula. You can find old French-style colonial architecture, as well as some more modern high-rise buildings.
Here is a list based on geographical distance from downtown - the tip of the peninsula. Each neighborhood includes a general description, insights from expat residents, as well as a general budget for a standard, 2-bedroom apartment. (Of course if you're interested in a villa, or a studio, housing prices will vary - but this gives you a great place to start).
Plateau (Downtown) - 900.000 CFA - 1.600.000 CFA/month
Landmarks in the ‘Centre Ville’ of Dakar include the Place de L’Independence, and the stately Palais Présidentiel. You will also find many restaurants, cultural centers, and shops, and convenient services such as laundromats, car washes, and more. Dakar’s Marché Kermel is a tame, clean traditional market; and the illustrious Institut Français often has free or affordable amphitheater events, a comfortable outdoor cafe/restaurant, and various courses available. The downside is that Plateau can be noisy and a bit crowded, since traffic congestion accumulates in the morning and late afternoons around work hours. It has limited parking, and walking can sometimes be a bit unnerving around so many cars. As a foreigner, you may get more attention than usual walking around Plateau. Apartments are a bit few and far between, especially new construction. Most available housing options are a few decades old, although many have been re-done to include modern amenities. Location and availability makes the price a bit higher, compared to other neighborhoods, but you will have everything you need at your fingertips.
Medina & Hann/ Bel Air - 350.000 CFA - 700.000 CFA /month
Medina, the oldest and most crowded neighbourhood in Dakar is both lively and historic, but also includes lots of crumbling infrastructure and wayward plastic trash. It is the locale of Dakar’s famous Grand Mosque. It is diverse, with an increasing numbers of immigrants from Arab and Asian countries.
When searching for housing, we would suggest choosing another neighborhood besides Medina, due to the old water and sewage system that sometimes gets backed up. The feel is an old, working class, blue-collar neighborhood; and although good for a day visit, for an expatriate it might get tiring to live there. It is quite far from Western-style supermarkets, and might be a bit dangerous walking alone at night.
There are a few options in the Hann, Fann Hock, Bel Air areas but the time for this neighborhood's popularity has certainly decreased from its colonial hayday. The "Parc Hann" is located here, with a zoo for exotic animals that has inspired lots of efforts to close it (or fund it!), as the conditions of the animals are shocking and disappointing. The Zone Industrielle is nearby, which means that there is an increasing number of warehouses, factories, and processing centers in relation to the Port of Dakar. The harbor has been reported more and more polluted as well, making it difficult to swim in its beaches. It's a convenient location to downtown, but quality of life can be found better elsewhere in general.
Liberte (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6), SICAP Baobab, Karak, Amitie 1, 3 - 400.000 CFA - 800.000 CFA
If looking for a safe, authentic, convenient neighborhood - with paved roads! - any of the SICAP neighborhoods would be a good choice. The rent is not expensive, although there is a lack of modern, new housing in these areas. The neighborhoods are middle-class, peaceful, safe, with trees, old family houses, and efficient trash pick-up. You would be close to some fast-food restaurants, a few Western-style supermarkets, and most bus lines - if you choose to take the bus. They are also fairly accessible when traveling to other parts of the city.
Cite Keur Gorgui - 450.000 CFA - 1.200.000 CFA
This area is located directly behind the Orange-Sonatel headquarters, along the VDN for easy access. It is a new area, only about 5 years old or so, and includes a new Auchan grocery store, restaurants, ice cream shops, and a decent Urgent Care (Suma). The area is safe, and still developing - so construction areas is to inquire about for the presence of noise, when touring a potential apartment.
The housing options there are mostly new high-rise apartment buildings, most of which haven't ever been lived in yet. Secure parking garages are available in many of the buildings, which can be a reassurance in Dakar, as well as modern equipment and accessories in the apartments themselves.
Mermoz-Sacre Coeur - 450.000 CFA - 900.000 CFA
This area is a slight step up from the SICAP Libertes, as it includes an upper-middle class sector of Senegalese society; while still being authentically local. You will still feel like a minority here - which is great, if you're looking to truly immerse yourself! - but people are generally passive, and will not bother you. There are plenty of restaurants, boutiques, and convenient service shops, as well as being accessible for both the Corniche and the "Route a Ouakam," or officially Avenue Cheikh Anta Diop. They are between a 10-20 minute walk to the beach, and about a 20-30 minute walk to the Radisson, Sea Plaza, and Place du Souvenir Africain. You can find an older housing accomodation for cheaper, but if your budget is a bit higher you can definitely get more for your money. There are lots of new construction areas on one side of Mermoz, that 10-15 years ago was simply an empty field that many locals remember well. The only downside of these newer areas is that they have not yet been paved, so there is lots of sand; which makes driving there a bit difficult during the rainy season.
Point E & Fann - 700.000 CFA - 2.000.000 CFA
These areas are both conveniently located, between the Corniche and Avenue Cheikh Anta Diop, safe, and pleasant to live for foreigners. They are not as crowded as other areas, and include upper-middle class Senegalese demographic, foreigners, and some diplomats (especially in Fann Residence.) These areas also technically cover some waterfront options across the Corniche, which raises the upper end significantly for your budget - if that is what you are looking for - which have been built within the last 5-10 years at most. Many of these residences include gyms, parking garages, pools, and other Western-amenities in the building.
There are many embassies located in Fann Residence, which makes the area safe to walk around at night, and they are dog/pet friendly (although still have quite a few roaming strays to keep your distance from). The area has many trees, gardens in people's homes, and is not far from the shopping mall, etc. They are also very close to ISD (International School of Dakar) which is an Anglophone, internationally-accredited school - the best in the country.
Ouakam & Mamelles - 450.000 CFA - 1.000.000 CFA
Depending on what you are looking for, you can have it all in Ouakam. The demographic is a bit "hipster," artistic, and with an authentic local vibe. This is the neighborhood of the "Lebou" the original people of Dakar, who are known for being avid traditional fishermen, and general lovers of the ocean. There are many local artists based in Ouakam, so you will not be pressed to find galleries, workshops, and activities if you are artistically-inclined. The area is also not far from the beach. There are plenty of restaurants, cafes, and shops - especially a new arrival of American-style food joints that are increasingly popular. There are also several modern and renovated apartment buildings, villas (although increasingly rare), etc, available on the side of Ouakam that lines the Corniche, across from the Mosquee de la Divinitee. So you can find accomodation in the older sections of Ouakam that may be a bit more crowded, with questionable sewage systems, and older infrastructure; or a more modern accommodation on the other side of the neighborhood in a newer building.
Mamelles is also a pleasant place to live, just across from Ouakam, and sort of a sister-sector. It includes the famous Monument de la Renaissance, which often has events such as the monthly Dakar Farmer's Market (which is like a local fair with food and unique products and crafts to buy). It is conveniently located near banks, pharmacies, and grocery stores. Some areas of Mamelles and Ouakam is not paved either, so another thing to keep in mind during the rainy season.
Ngor, Almadies & Virage - 800.000 CFA - 2.500.000 CFA
Ngor and Virage are two neighborhoods that are very popular for those who are interested in surfing. There are surf clubs, courses, and camps - especially off the coast of Ngor, where you will find the "Ile de Ngor," a small and peaceful island which houses traditional artists, surfers, unique homes, seafood caban restaurants, and clean beaches. In the residential areas on the mainland, you can have a fairly modern apartment or home, with walking access to banks, supermarkets, and restaurants.
On the more upscale side of the spectrum there is Almadies, with its chic nightclubs and restaurants, access to clean beaches, and a little further down the road you reach the Point des Almadies, which is brimming with rustic, outdoor fish restaurants. The United States Embassy, and several UN offices, are located in Almadies, which makes it a concentration of other foreigners, access to high-class restaurants, hotels, and services, and more. Some parts of Almadies, although with beautiful houses, are not paved - another neighborhood to keep in mind during the rainy season.
Foire (Ouest, Nord, Sud) & Mariste - 350.000 CFA - 800.000 CFA
As Dakar expands, the Foires, Mariste and the surrounding neighborhoods are becoming increasingly popular for businesses and housing, due to its affordability and accessibility. They are not the cleanest in terms of garbage pickup and pollution control, nor have they been paved on all of the side streets - but you can get a lot for your money, and there are lots of shops, restaurants, grocery stores, and more surrounding and within these areas. There is also a popular Franco-Senegalese private school in Mariste, which is a popular option for many expatriates.
If you have any other questions regarding housing options in Dakar, or information on a specific neighborhood, please let us know! Feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org