West Africa has a modern, vibrant economy and major banks with ATM machines are in every major town. Far and away the best way to carry your cash is to keep it in your bank at home and carry your ATM card. You really need to have a VISA card though. We very rarely have issues with people carrying a card with a VISA symbol on it. People that have issues are usually relying on a MasterCard, Maestro, Amex etc.
VISA is king in West Africa. The banks will however charge a nominal fee for every transaction. On my recent trip to the Gambia, the banks were charging 150 Dalasi every time I took money out. This equated to about $US 3.25 per transaction.
As far as cash is concerned: The West African CFA is the dominant currency in West Africa and is the primary currency in 8 independent West African countries (Senegal and Bissau included). The CFA is pegged to the Euro at a constant rate of 655.957 CFA to 1 Euro. Changing US$ and GBP£ is also possible in Senegal and Bissau but the rates are not as reliable.
In the Gambia, the local currency is the Gambian Dalasi. Due to its status as a former colony of Great Britain and the prevalence of tourists from the UK, when trying to change your forex, the GBP is more widely recognised than in neighbouring Senegal and Bissau. Both the USD and the Euro are changed at their comparable global rates of the day. If you have any queries about the best way to bring your cash then drop us a message and we will do our best to direct you.
Do not try and source CFA or Dalasi prior to travelling. At the arrivals hall in the international airport in Dakar there are both ATM’s and Bureau de Changes. You can source some CFA there at a good rate prior to leaving the airport. We will arrange a place to get Dalasi once we arrive in the Gambia.