Since I’ll be returning to the area again shortly, felt I’d review the few things that came up on my first trip that I know won’t change or be added to on the second. There will be new restaurants, sights to see, etc, but I know I won’t be returning to the first hotel I stayed at, the Pullman Teranga. When I mentioned this to coworkers, I was met with amusement and bewilderment. Seems this is the fifth or sixth choice of hotels in Dakar, and the others were all completely sold out my first nine nights there. Online reviews on TripAdvisor made it seem tolerable, so I decided to go with it…it’s not like I had a choice! It was #10 of 35 in Dakar, so how bad could it be…right? It used to be a Sofitel up until a few years ago, when it was rebranded by Accor group as a Pullman. I’d never heard of the Pullman brand before, but it seems to be quickly growing. Knowing it was affiliated with Sofitel gave me comfort, so I was pretty ok with it. Plus, for almost 100,000 CFA a night how bad could it be?
Where do I start with the room review? The first, second, third, or fourth? Even at a rate of 100,000 CFA, I was supposed to be relegated to a “city view” room but had been “upgraded” to an ocean view. This was going to be great…or so I thought. First room, I lasted all of 10 minutes in. It was somewhere around 25C in the room, even with the aircon cranked up to the max. Went to the desk to ask, and they immediately offered to move me. Ok, second room was just a bit down the hall…and had a broken deadbolt as well as being warm and absolutely reeking of body odour. No way. Moved down one floor to room #3 and it was finally tolerable. Maybe only 22C, semi-functional air conditioning, with only a slight smell of smoke and must.
Of course, after four days, the safe battery died. They promised for two days they would replace it, but eventually admitted that they didn’t know how, and would I like to move rooms? Room four was actually just a bit further down the hall, but had the best view of the ocean. Similar to room three in smell and temperature, it was barely tolerable. Maybe other rooms are better, but I came to the eventual conclusion that the beds are very comfortable, all the rooms have a musty, smokey, unpleasant smell to them, frequent stains on the carpet, and are barely cool enough to be tolerable. Overall, if I’d had another choice based on rooms I’d have been out of there in an instant.
Rooms did had a few upsides. Free bottled water, juice, diet coke, etc in the fridge…when they remembered to restock it. Plus, all rooms came with complimentary condoms, lol.
Everyone I encountered was very friendly. There were a few staff at the front desk that were very helpful (which was needed for the frequent room issues that popped up) but there were also several younger people at the front desk with “trainee” tags. Most of these didn’t even smile, and just gave nods when you asked anything. Overall, it was pretty typical west Africa where when they tell you they can/will do something, you stand about a 50% chance of it actually happening. Everyone was friendly though, so I’d say service attempts were above average, but delivery frequently was short. English skills I didn’t really experience since my French was better than their English, but they did seem to speak enough that they could easily help you in English.
The big plus, I thought. Walkable to a great grocery store about 5-10 minutes away, lots of taxis, several good restaurants in walking distance, and seemed to be in a pretty safe area. I walked around a lot, even at night, and didn’t have a single problem or ever feel unsafe in the least. Also, if you have business with the government, it’s right downtown in the Plateau area near many of the ministries, so very convenient. A few shots out my window follow and you can see that at least on the “ocean view” side of the hotel it has some pretty great views:
But, if you looked the other way out the room, you were faced with some lovely crumbling buildings:
One other note on location. It’s in the downtown, and it’s quite clear that prostitution and sex work is common in this area. I saw several working ladies (and a couple of pretty obvious working boys) coming and going with older gentlemen, and there were lots of signs around the hotel about being on the lookout for trafficking of minors for sex. I also hear one man check-in and ask if he could pay for “just a few hours.” The hotel didn’t feel seedy, but hallways weren’t all that well lit, and this combination of factors made it feel just the right amount of “edgy” if you want a more “real” experience.
There is a free shuttle to the airport, and it’s supposed to be coordinated with flights, but when I landed the driver (who was waiting) said it would be 45 minutes until he left. Other offer was to negotiate a taxi for me, which I took him up on. He got me a rate of 5,000 CFA without me having to deal with the touts, so that was nice. The schedule back to the airport was very clearly posted in the lobby, so I would have used that on the way back. There were also plenty of taxis at the hotel. Hint, do not take the ones parked inside the gate – they will always insist on 1-2,000 CFA more than outside. Of course, the very same drivers camp outside every morning too, so if they get you on the first day, you’re either going to walk a bit to find another or be stuck with your first day rate. That said, they were cheap and available.
Only had it one day, the first, because I hadn’t gotten groceries yet. First off, let’s get to the price: 13,000 CFA and there was no choice. It was that or nothing. You could get room service coffee for 3,000 CFA, but even that felt a bit extortionate. That said, there was a decent selection on the buffet, but certainly nothing amazing. Definitely not amazing enough I considered going back after the first day. Lots of fruits, cheeses, pastries, etc, as well as some rather sad looking deli meats. Coffee was adequate, but was also self-service.
Restaurants / Bars:
Had a couple beers in the Flamboyant Bar, mainly because I’d been walking around all day and an ice cold beer sounded great. They were only 2,000 CFA which was a good price for full-service, so can’t complain there. Bar seemed dead most nights, with a pretty cheesy lounge act. Dinner was in the same place as breakfast, but I never ate there. The two nights I got back from work too late to consider going out I ordered room service, which was reasonably priced, although portions were a little on the small side. For example, I ordered two club sandwiches and a deli plate just to be full. Most annoying: the hotel was completely devoid of ketchup. Since I consider it a life-essentially, this really ticked me off. That said, all this food was under 25,000 CFA.
Pool / Gym / Facilities:
Pool looked quite nice, and was located about a five minute walk from the hotel right on the beach, but I never had a chance to use it. There was a gym next to the pool, but it was rather expensive at over 10,000 CFA a day, and most days by the time I got back I was too tired to even consider it. As far as other facilities, there was an ATM in the lobby that worked every time I needed it, and there was also a car rental booth and small gift shop in the lobby. There was also a great Casino grocery store (open until 8pm) located a 5-10 minute walk away that had anything you might need. The minibar was big enough to store a reasonable amount, so this was a great option to have.
An adequate option, based on the fact I stayed there the full nine nights I had booked without needing to explore other options. That said, as you’ll see from my other review, it’s far far far from the best option in town…but priced the same as other options. I’d say the big plus was location, and the big minus was the room condition. View and bed were great, but the smell, temperature, and general shabbiness just made me uncomfortable. Basically, if you have a better choice take it, but you can make this place be good enough.