Flying Out of Dakar – A Pro Tip & A Funny Story

Like almost every day in Dakar, the day I flew out was also very interesting.

The security at the airport is a little odd, since the airport is so small. You have to go through the Border Control, and then the normal scanners for your luggage. I had a re-useable water bottle and it was full, so they made me drink it before letting me through the checkpoint. The workers thought it was hilarious that I was chugging a bunch of water, but I didn’t want to be dehydrated on the flight.

After getting through security, there were a couple of shops and duty free, a small place to purchase snacks and drinks, and 4 different “gates.” The “gates” in Yoff Airport are doors where you walk out to a bus that takes you onto the tarmac where your plane is. So there are lots of seats near each door.

As we were getting settled in and about to sit down, a worker at the information desk explained that there was a lounge area upstairs that people could pay extra to wait in – one smoking, one non-smoking. It’s 15,000 CFA or ~$25, but you sit in an air-conditioned area and get as much food and drink as you would like, including alcoholic drinks. I decided to do it since I had about 2 hours before the flight was to leave. The upstairs lounge was really nice, lots of soft couches and TVs.

The hot food was mediocre, but the food in the fridge was okay. There were salads, cheeses, and little desserts. It was nice to have some snacks before getting on the flight. There was also water, juice, soda, beer, and different types of liquor.

I would definitely recommend spending the extra money to sit in the upstairs lounge, especially if you will be there for a couple of hours waiting for your flight.

Once they announced boarding for the flight, many of the people in the lounge went downstairs (most international flights out of Yoff leave late at night). This is where I found out about the extra stage of security at the airport – they hand check your carry-on items. As in… people physically search through your belongings.

That wasn’t really a problem for me, except that I had put a LOT of work into making sure all of my stuff fit into my backpack and carry-on luggage. At any rate, I walked through the line and put my stuff on the table for them to search it. They had me turn on each of the electronics in my backpack, and then moved on to my carry-on. Now, the first thing this guy did – did I mention it was only men searching the luggage? – was open the front pockets and he proceeded to take out…

A tampon. Now, I figured he would just put it back. Nope. He HELD IT UP and asked with a straight face, “What is this?”

Now, I had to stop myself from laughing because I thought he was joking, realized he was serious, noticed that people were now looking at us, and decided to calmly explain, “It’s a tampon.”

I am not sure I’ve ever seen anyone so embarrassed, until about 25 seconds later when he opened the main compartment of my carry-on.

I packed all of my dirty clothes in my carry-on because they were heavy and I wanted to make sure my checked luggage was light enough to go through. Of course, part of that was undergarments.

The article of clothing on top of everything else, and the first thing he took out…

Was my hot pink flowery bra.

He just held it up with one hand while he and his colleague searched through the rest of my clothes, asked me what presents I was bringing to my family, etc. And everyone was now staring at this Senegalese airport worker holding up my hot pink, flowery bra for all of them to see.

Things became even more comedic when he apologized as he put everything away and zipped my bag, only to realize he had forgotten to re-pack my black stilettos – they were still on the table!

 He re-opens my bag, completely embarrassed and apologizing for the inconvenience and I am just trying to keep it together at this point because I want to laugh and can’t. As I finish helping him re-pack everything, I see many of the people in the sitting area still watching me, several of the women with smirks on their faces, others with looks of embarrassment on my behalf.

I think I was laughing from the time I got onto the bus until I boarded the plane.

Sooo…. if you ever fly out of Yoff Airport, remember that they hand-search your carry-on items. Don’t pack anything you don’t want the rest of the airport to see! 🙂

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