Picking up a Package in Dakar

“It’s very… third-world.” – D, describing the package pick-up process

The postal service in Senegal is not as nice as the one in America. Addresses here are ignored in favor of landmarks (I asked my host mother what our address was and she didn’t know), so the post office doesn’t deliver to addresses. Instead, people go to their local post offices to check for mail. Our school has a boîte postale that they check once a week for us students.

Picking up packages is a much bigger hassle. The small ones aren’t too bad – you receive a slip telling you that your package is at a nearby post office, and to pick it up you go to wait in line, show identification, and pay 1000CFA+ ($2+). But anything larger than a textbook requires a downtown adventure.

First of all, there are two poste colis in Dakar, so good luck guessing which poste colis you’re supposed to go to in order to pick up your package – most taxi drivers don’t even know where one of them is.

When I got my first package slip last week, I car rapide’d with Greg, who’s picked up a package before, to the CAD University for $.10 each, walked half an hour south to the Grand Mosque, and turned left into a white, rectangular building. The building was empty of patrons, and we walked right up to a window. Here’s how the process went, according to my memory:

1. Show slip and passport (or notarized copy of passport).
2. Get waved to a white room, where one man in a large office copies down your package and passport information into a paper book. This one man and his books are responsible for recording all of the package information into Dakar. Receive another piece of paper.
3. Hand paper to a man standing near the package room, who dives into the room to find your package.

Every single package that gets sent to Dakar gets sent through this.

4. Walk back out to the front to get the customs official. This is confusing because there are plenty of chairs in the back where he could be sitting instead.
5. Watch as package is checked for customs. (If you are profiled as young, innocent, non-drug-dealing Americans, you’ll get barely a cursory check and a knowing smile, les chocolats? – but I could have been sent a lot of cocaine underneath those Clif Bars). Watch package get retaped.
6. You can’t touch your package yet! Walk over to another desk and have the customs official stamp your paper.
7. Go back to front desk, wait, and then finally be given your package after you pay 1000CFA (if the package has been there over a week, the fee will increase à la overdue library book).

Basically, there is a set of rooms and you redundantly walk back and forth between them several times, bringing different pieces of paper between them. The process took at least twenty minutes, just walking to and fro. The worst part was that some of these stamping stations were within eyeshot, so that you’d literally be walking back and forth across one room.

Still a worthwhile experience.


3 responses to “Picking up a Package in Dakar

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