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Gambia

Photo © hilarywh

Travel Guide Africa Gambia

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Introduction

drive through arch

drive through arch

© All Rights Reserved Dennis78

The Gambia looks like an inverted tongue in the mouth of Senegal, as it slivers alongside its prime geographic landmark and namesake river. It's a compact destination with more attractions than its size warrants.

With a whoppin' 80 kilometres of coastline to speak of, Gambia's tourist industry has largely been geared towards these 80 kilometres and the resorts which mark them. And sure, the combined joys of beaches and sunshine are a worthwhile holiday, but Gambia isn't a one-trick pony. A hearty African culture is evident in most places away from the Atlantic resorts and it is here that you can start to see the real Gambia. Soccer and wrestling are the prime sports here, and you'll be welcome to join in (though you might want to just watch the latter). Bird lovers are in for a treat, with Gambia hosting over 600 species. Not bad for one of Africa's smallest countries.

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Brief History

Arab traders provided The Gambia's first written accounts in the 9th and 10th centuries. During the 10th century, Muslim merchants and scholars created communities in several of West Africa’s commercial centers. At the beginning of the fourteenth century, most of what is today called The Gambia was a tributary to the Mali Empire. The Portuguese reached the area by sea in the mid-fifteenth century and began to dominate trade. During the late seventeenth century and throughout the eighteenth, Britain and France struggled continually for political and commercial supremacy in the regions of the Senegal and Gambia rivers. Britain occupied The Gambia when an expedition led by Augustus Keppel landed there, following the Capture of Senegal in 1758. The 1783 Treaty of Versailles gave Great Britain possession of the Gambia River, but the French retained a tiny enclave at Albreda on its north bank. This was finally ceded to the United Kingdom in 1856. The British established the military post of Bathurst (now Banjul) in 1816. In the ensuing years, Banjul was at times under the jurisdiction of the British Governor General in Sierra Leone. In 1888, The Gambia became a separate colonial entity. An 1889 agreement with France established the present boundaries. The Gambia became a British Crown Colony, British Gambia, divided for administrative purposes into the colony (city of Banjul and the surrounding area) and the protectorate (remainder of the territory). After World War II, the pace of constitutional reform increased. Following general elections in 1962, the United Kingdom granted full internal self-governance in the following year. The Gambia achieved independence on 18 February 1965 as a constitutional monarchy within the Commonwealth of Nations. On 24 April 1970, The Gambia became a republic within the Commonwealth, following a second referendum, with Prime Minister Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, as head of state. This made The Gambia the first and last British colony in West Africa.

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Geography

Gambia, on the Atlantic Ocean which borders Senegal to the north, east and south is only about 50 kilometres wide and stretches east for approximately 480 kilometres. Winding through the centre of this thin country is the River Gambia whence the countries name came from. It has a very flat terrain with the highest point being only 50 metres. Their is a considerable amount of mangrove swamps that follow the river on both sides, this then turns into tropical forests, away from the river the terrain turns into wooded grassland and scrub. Along the Atlantic coast you will find kilometres of unspoit palm fringed beaches. The Netherlands is approximately 4 times larger, UK 25 times larger, Belgium 3 times larger and Spain 54 times larger.

Mangrove Oyster Fishermen

Mangrove Oyster Fishermen

© All Rights Reserved hilarywh

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Regions/Divisions

The Gambia is made up of 5 divisions and 1 city*

  • Lower River
  • Central River
  • North Bank
  • Upper River
  • Western
  • Banjul*

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Cities

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Sights and Activities

For such a small country, Gambia still has some fine attractions to keep you busy for a week or so. The colourful friendly people are one of the reasons alone to visit this small West African country.

Camel Rides

Although not indigenous to Gambia you can, if you like ships of the dessert, have yourself an enjoyable half day out on a camel ride along the beach which can also include a BBQ. The camels are based at Tanji, a 20-minute taxi ride from Kololi.

Horse Riding

If your into our equine friends then you can while away an hour or two astride a horse cantering through the Atlantic surf. The horses are based at Kololi.

Bird Watching

Gambia is an ornithologists dream come true, with around 600 different species of birds, either native or just flying in for a few months, Gambia has it all. Grebes, Pelicans, Gannets, Boobies, Herons, Storks, Spoonbills, Flamingos, Drongos, Bitterns, Hawks, Vultures, Kingfishers, Oyster Catchers, Eagles, Sunbirds and skimmers just to name a few.

Fishing

For fishermen or women for that matter then you cannot go wrong with what Gambia has to offer. A country that is world reknowned for the quality of this pastime has much to offer you including, Blue water, Beach, Creek, Lagoon, River salt and fresh and much more. If you do not want the hassle of bringing your rods with you then they can be easily hired here at cheap prices, and when you have caught the one that did not get away then you can take it to a local restaurant and they will cook it for you. Here's just a few of the fish you can catch: West African Pompano, Barracuda, Butterfish, Cobia, Catfish, Grouper, African Threadfin, Guitar Fish, Halibut, Ninebone, Ladyfish, Jacks, Snappers, Spanish Mackeral, Rays, Tarpon, Tigerfish. Tight lines.

Golf

Golf is not a national sport in Gambia but there are a couple of courses you can try your swing at, an 18-hole pitch and putt at the Kololi Beach Club and an 18 hole par 69 at the Fajara Golf Club. You can hire clubs and caddies at around 100 Dalasi a round. A word of warning though, if you lose one of your balls one of the monkeys has taken a fancy to it.

Monkeys

If this is your first time to Gambia and you are staying at one of the hotels along the coastal road then don't be surprised if you have to share your breakfast with a monkey or two. The ones you will see are Green Vervet Monkeys and are in families of 6 to 12. The monkeys are mischevious, so keep all your valuables in your pockets whilst eating and not on your breakfast table, it is better to lose your toast than an expensive camera. These little furry friends are wonderful to watch and the antics they get up to are magical but please do not touch, as the signs around will tell you, "Monkeys Can Bite".

Green Vervet Monkey

Green Vervet Monkey

© All Rights Reserved janethicki

River Gambia National Park

The River Gambia National Park was established in 1978 and is made up of a complex of 5 islands that lie on the river in the Central River Division (Region) about 300 kilometres upstream to the southwest of Kuntaur and downstream of Janjangbureh, Georgetown. The 5 islands are collectively known as Baboon Islands which cover an area of approximately 1,445 acres (585 hectares) and are relatively flat. It forms one of the last refuges for the very threatened hippopotamus within The Gambia. Their ecological systems range from lush jungle rainforest, reeds, savannah and mangrove swamps.

An interesting place to visit is the Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Camp (CRC) which lies on the banks of the river and was established in 1969 to rescue orphaned chimps. There are currently about fifty chimpanzees living on 3 of the larger islands. The population is steadily increasing through births. In addition to reintroducing an indigenous species to the country, the existence of the park's project on Baboon Islands has assisted in protecting the forest and its resources from over exploitation. The DPWM and the CRP work hand in and for the protection of the area and its environs. Though it is not possible to land on the islands as it is a conservation project, under the Department of Parks, it possible to see the creatures while on a boat cruise passing by or alternatively you could stay at the projects accommodation camp located on the river bank and see them up close. The animal life on this section of the River Gambia National Park includes hippopotamus, Nile crocodiles and monkeys such as the Green Vervet Colobus, Egrets, Ibis, Herons Guinea Baboons Aardvark, Bushbuck, many reptile species and sometimes even porpoises.

Abuko Nature Reserve

Abuko Nature Reserve was the Gambia's first reserve and is located in the Western Region (WR), (geographical coordinates: 13.41°N, 16.65°W). Part of it was accorded a form of 'protected status' back in 1916 when the source of the Lamin (Bolon) Stream was fenced to form a water collection point. In 1967 a local Gambian man called Kalilu requested the then acting wildlife officer, Eddie Brewer (OBE), to shoot a leopard that had been killing their pigs which had been feeding there illegally. When he visited the spot with his daughter, Stella, they saw an amazing richness of Gambian wildlife and flora and realised the conservation importance of the stream running through Abuko. They made a request to the government to protect it which was promptly approved when it was officially declared a nature reserve in March 1968.
Abuko's size was extended from 188 to 259 acres in 1978 and enclosed in a 2.5-metre fence with the help of the WWF. It is among six protected wildlife management parks and covers an area of 105 hectares (roughly 2 square kilometres). The park is rectangular in shape with a surrounding narrow strip around its boundaries acting as an extra buffer zone. Later in its development 2,000 malina trees were planted to act as an extra barrier against encroachment by locals. Today, Abuko is the Gambia's most visited tourist attraction receiving approximately 33,000 visitors per year. One interesting fact is that it is the nearest tropical forest to Europe.

Wasu Stone Circles

Wasu Stone Circles are part of the Stone Circles of Senegambia. In total there are four areas with these Stone Circles, of which Wasu is one of the best known and most visited. It is located in the northern central parts of the country, close to the main east west road across the country, north of the Gambia River. The stone circles represent an extraordinary concentration of monuments in a band 100 km wide along some 350 kilometres of the River Gambia. In total the four groups have 93 stone circles and numerous burial mounds. It is believe they date back to the 3rd century BC up to the 16th century AD, forming a vast sacred landscape of ancient graves representing an organised society. Therefore they are on the Unesco World Heritage List.

Beaches

Gambia is a very popular gettaway for package tourists from Europe, escaping the European winters. Although it only has a short coastline and only a handful of really good hotels, these fill up quickly. The Atlantic beaches are long white and sandy areas fringed with palms and some fine swimming. There are several villages where hotels are concentrated, all offering restaurants, bars and some nightlife. The seafood is particurly good here. On the beaches all you will find is glorious sunshine a slight balmy breeze and tranquility, none of those noisy banana boats or jet skis to ruin your snooze in the sun.

Gambia River

River Gambia

River Gambia

© All Rights Reserved Malysh

The Gambia River, especially in the eastern half of the country is an interesting waterway with some great cultural and natural highlights to explore. From Georgetown in the east there are half a day trips along the river where you will definately see some crocs and hippos and many bird species. There are even chimpanzees on the chimpanzee island in a bend in the river. The chimps have been placed here a few years back and are doing well. You have to be lucky to see a few, but you definately here them when passing by the island (it is forbidden to set foot on the island itself). Georgetown itself (also known as Jang Jang Burreh) had a slave building but was converted into other purposes since the slavery was abolished in 1807. Today some ruins still remain on the southern shore of the Gambia River where Georgetown is located.

Other sights and activities

Monkey in Abuko park

Monkey in Abuko park

© All Rights Reserved Rraven

  • James Island - a former slave post
  • Banjul - the only large city in the country
  • Mangroves
  • Lamin Lodge

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Events and Festivals

Independence Day

Celebrated on the 18th February to much fanfare all over the country but mainly in Banjul, the capital. Gambia gained its independence from the UK in 1965.

Tabaski

The public holiday is also known as Tabaski or Eid Al Adha when families throughout the Gambia ritually slaughter mostly sheep in ritual sacrifice. The occasion of Tabaski is in commemoration of Abrahams willingness to sacrifice his own son, Ismail, in the name of Allah. It coincides with the end of the annual Hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca.

Every married man or head of household is expected to buy a sheep or other suitable animal such as a cow, goat or even chicken if they can. When sacrificing the animal a sharp knife should be used and Allah's name is spoken. After the animal is slaughtered large portions of the meat should be given to the needy so that nobody misses out on the celebrations to follow. The rest of the meat is given as gifts to friends and relatives and the rest is reserved for the family. Indeed, the idea of sharing (about 2/3 of the animal) is the essence of feast.

What follows is essentially one nationwide massive barbecue and celebrations throughout the day. Gambians should wear their finest clothes and if possible brand new. You are also expected to do a thorough spring clean throughout your compound. You are expected at sometime during the day to visit your parents, other family members and friends.

On Tobaski day one will often see Gambian children asking for pocket money from family and neighbours which they use to buy ice cream and other goodies. At this time Kairaba Avenue is jam-packed full of children crowding round anywhere that sells ice cream or cakes. They are also allowed out late by many parents as long as they are accompanied by an older child.

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Weather

Gambia has a hot and humid tropical climate with temperatures well over 30 °C during the day most of the year. Night temperatures are above 20 °C but can drop below more inland, although it rarely gets colder than 15 °C. The rainy season lasts from June to October with most rain falling from mid-July to September. The hottest months are February to April when temperatures can rise above 40 °C in the east and well above 35 °C still in the western part and the coastline. The best months are probably November to February with sunny and dry days and still not overly hot.

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Getting there

Plane

Banjul International Airport (BJL) near the capital Banjul is where all international flights to Gambia arrive and depart. International destinations with the national airline Slok Air Gambia are Conakry, Dakar, Accra, Freetown, Monrovia, Abidjan and Bamako. Other flights are mainly within the region as well, but both scheduled and chartered services include those to Amsterdam (Transavia), London, Manchester, Stockholm, Helsinki, Oslo, Brussels, Frankfurt and Madrid.
Afrinat International Airlines flies between Banjul, Accra, Freetown, Bamako, Conakry and Dakar.

Banjul International Airport

Banjul International Airport

© All Rights Reserved travelbug_

When you arrive at the airport you will find it extremely hot, there is little air-conditioning, in fact all you will see are a few fans in the ceiling trying to turn, so you would be best advised to have a pocket fan in your hand luggage, you will be sure to appreciate it.

By Car

It's relatively easy to reach Gambia overland, even from Europe via Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania and Senegal. It's a popular route for people wanting to sell their car in West Africa. Be sure to have your papers and insurance in order and to have all documents in case you want to sell your car.

By Bus

Gambia only borders Senegal on both the southern and northern parts of the country. To the north, after taking the ferry from Banjul to Barra you can take onward transport to Karang at the border. Dakar bound buses from here take another 6 hours. In the south, there is transport (change at border) from Serekunda to Ziguinchor. From Brikama there is also transport to Zinguinchor. Finally, in the east, bush taxis run from Basse Santa Su to Vélingara and onwards to Tambacounda.

By Boat

In the past, there used to be boats between Gambia and Dakar, but for now travelling overland is the only option and much faster and cheaper as well.

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Getting Around

GMT

Thier are two time zones in The Gambia and both are GMT. The official one, of course, gives you the time as you would find on your watch, the second is Gambia Maybe Time, this is the one that most Gambians go by. Maybe the bus will arrive on time - maybe it won't; maybe your tour will start at 6:00am - maybe it won't; maybe your lunch will be served in 10 minutes - maybe it won't. This is one of the many enchanting qualities of the Gambian people, there is no rush, there is always tomorrow, so just sit back, relax, and take in the wonderful atmosphere of Gambian life.

By Plane

There are no domestic scheduled flights in Gambia.

By Train

There are no rail services in Gambia.

By Car

You can rent cars in Banjul and several of the resort areas along the Atlantic coast. In the west, roads are tarred and some roads to the interior are upgraded, parts of which are tarred and without potholes. Many other roads are of a lesser quality and most are dirt roads. Travelling around by car is not particularly dangerous though. Traffic drives on the right and you need an international driving permit.
Still, it is expensive and chartering a taxi might even be cheaper.

By Taxi

Taxis come in three varieties: Yellow, Green and Bush:

  • The Yellow taxi is the cheapest and mostly used by locals, it is very often shared with the driver stopping futher down the road to pick others up if flagged down, if you do not want any other passengers with you on your journey then ask the driver for a "Town Trip" before you get in, this taxi comes without an MOT but is readily available everywhere.
  • The Green Taxi also known as a tourist taxi are the only ones that are offically allowed to pick up tourists in the tourist areas and outside hotels, they are twice the price of the yellow taxi but must by law have an MOT although this is a Gambian MOT and would not pass in any European country.
  • Bush Taxis are by far the cheapest form of transport and they run on fixed routes every few minutes. They are normally around 12 seaters but they will always try and get more people in. They are hot and stuffy but still enjoyable to travel in as the person sitting next to you may well be trying to hold a couple of live chickens who are frantically try to escape from her clutches along with a few goats or sheep who have been tied to the roof. This form of transport is a must for any first time traveller to the Gambia.

By Bus

Buses in Gambia are used for longer distance travel and are reasonably comfortable, but not with air-conditioning.

By Boat

The Gambia River is navigable along its entire length, but there are no scheduled services. However, there are companies offering cruises or smaller trips on the river as part of a multiple day tour. Some parts are extremely lush and it is a great way of getting around if possible.

On Foot

Although taxis are cheap to hire you will probably spend most of your time travelling on foot, at least locally. The coastal highway, where the majority of hotels are to be found, is made or tarmac with pedestrians walking on the sandy tracks running alongside. When you turn off this highway you will be walking on un-made roads. These roads will consist of either hard sand or a sand/tarmac mixture with many bumps and potholes. This is perfectly ok in the daylight but when the sun goes down you need to take care. It is advisable to take a small pocket torch with you if you think you will be out after dark. A single LED type attached to a keyring will give you enough light to travel safely.

Gambia Road

Gambia Road

© All Rights Reserved janethicki

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Red Tape

Nationals from most West African countries, as well as citizens from most Commonwealth countries, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the UK do not need a visa to visit Gambia.
Others need to apply for a visa at the nearest embassy or consulate.

Duty Free

Duty Free: Visitors arriving in the Gambia are permitted to bring the following goods into the country without paying duty: 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250 grams of tobacco; one litre of spirits and one litre of wine or beer; 284ml of perfume; and a still/digital/video cameras and film for personal use.

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Money

See also Money Matters

The Dalasi is the currency of Gambia with a rate of D45 to the £1.00 as on 21/11/2010. The currency comes in notes of 100, 50, 25, 10 and 5 Dalasi, coins come in 1 Dalasi and then 50, 25, 10, 5 and 1 Butos. These coins are rarely used by tourists as they are of little value and tend to be left in your hotel bedroom as a tip for the maid when you are leaving.

Costs

Getting out of the tourist areas of Gambia is as easy as crossing the coastal road which, as the name suggests, runs along the coast and separates most of the tourist hotels from the local living accommodations (compounds) and Gambian shops. This is where you will find, unknowingly, Gambias unofficial 3-tier pricing policy: Gambian, Foreign (African) and Tourist. It's obvious, even to the most virginal of travellers, who is going to pay the most for goods and services. That said, it is still extremely cheap in Gambia.

The Average wage in The Gambia is 50 Dalasi a day so don't be too surprised if a local pops you a glance whilst you are eating.

  • Average evening meal - 200 Dalasi
  • Average lunch - 150 Dalasi
  • Average cooked breakfast - 150 Dalasi
  • Cup of tea/coffee - 25 Dalasi
  • Water 1/2 litre - 35 Dalasi
  • Beer - 30 Dalasi
  • Fruit juice - 40 Dalasi
  • European newspaper (second hand) - whatever you want to pay
  • Local newspaper - 20 Dalasi
  • 200 cigarettes - 250 Dalasi
  • Taxi ride - 50 Dalasi will get you wherever you want in the tourist areas
  • Taxi to the airport from the tourist areas - 500/600 Dalasi
  • Tipping a 10% service charge is usually added to restaurant bills and further tipping is discretioary. Generally all services supplied will require a small tip or gift.
  • Medicines are extremely expensive in Gambia so please make sure you take with you double the amount of prescription medicines you require for your stay, half packed in your suitcase and the other half in your hand luggage.
  • When going out and about to the main markets of Serekunda and Banjul it is better to take a local with you to effect your purchases as it will save you a lot of time and money.

Exchanging Your Money

Exchanging your money in Gambia is easy and a lot cheaper than getting it in your local travel agent, bank or departure airport. Pounds Sterling, Euros and US Dollars are the most accepted form of foreign currencies. All the hotels will exchange it for you at reception but they give a lower exchange rate than the local exchange bureaux or banks. These can all be found in the tourist areas and larger towns. Do not try and cash a personal cheque for cash as this is not really possible and you are better not to use a credit card as these will be expensive as you will be charged twice. The only two viable options are cash or debit card, plastic is rarely accepted outside of banks or larger hotels. Cash is the easiest way to carry out transactions but if you do not want to bring a lot of money with you then have a debit card with you. Their are Cashpoints in the Banks, and tourist areas. The best place to exchange your cash or use a cashpoint is in an area of Kololi called the "Strip" here you will find two banks and four exchange bureaux. Visa and Mastercard are the most accepted cards, beware of American Express. If you use a Visa Card check the Standard Chartered Bank Website to see the location nearest to where you are staying.

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Work

Their are many NGOs in Gambia who welcome the support of volunteers and paid helpers. The easiest way to find these organisations is to Google "gambia ngos" in whichever country you live in and you are sure to get many results. Some will pay for flights and accommodation but most will not. Just decide what you want to do and for how long and then start googling.

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Study

Their is little opportunity to study in The Gambia, in fact most Gambian students want to travel to Europe or the USA to advance their education, but if this is a thing you really want to do then there are plenys of NGOs that can help you out.

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Language

The official language of Gambia is English which is spoken in schools, public offices and the tourist areas but the Gambians when not talking to a tourist will speak to themselves in their own tribal languages which are Wollof, Serer-Sine, Sarahole, Pulaar, Maninkakan, Mandjaque, Mandingo, Jola-Fonyi, Fana Fana and the Aku's Creole. The two most common ones spoken in and around the tourist areas are Wollof and Mandinka.

Learn Mandinka
If you would like to learn Mandinka before your holiday in Gambia then click here or perhaps you want to try Wollof then click here. Both these pdf files were written by the Peace Corps and are an invaluable resource for learning these two tribal languages, it's also a lot of fun, and a great way to interact with the locals. You do not have to learn the whole language just a few words like, yes, no, please, thank you and the numbers 1 to 10 and you are sure to be a hit.

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Eat

Eating in Gambia is as varied as in Europe or the USA but you will be in your element if you adore fish and prawns. Don't worry if seafood is not your thing as you can get English, Lebanese, Mexican, Chinese, Indian, Thai, German, Dutch, Japanese, Italian and of course Gambian dishes. The average price for a main course is 200 Dalasi (£4.50, €5.00).

The most popular place for dining and nightlife is an area of Kololi known as the Strip. Here you can find 28 restarant/bars serving 100s of different dishes all within the space of 150 metres. Also here are the Senegambia Hotel (4*) Kairaba Hotel (5*) and Sarges Hotel (3*).

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Sleep

There are many hotels to choose from in Gambia from budget to 5-star hotels and prices vary widely depending on your travel agent, where you fly from and the time of year. Gambia is a winter holiday destination for most Europeans and it's easy to see why with a virtually guaranteed 30 °C all year round. The main tourist months are from November to April and have many choices of flights but the accommodation is more expensive then. May to October sees lot less flights but the accommodation is a lot cheaper. If you are a first time visitor to Gambia then the chances are you will use a tour operator to book your holiday. If so, when you get there, then take a little time to look around the different areas in Gambia to plan your next trip. If you look around you can get some great bargains.

Hotels

Kololi

Cape Point

Kotu

Brufut

Banjul

Fajara

Makasutu

Bijilo

Bakau

  • African Village Hotel - 2-star hotel

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Drink

Beer and Spirits

The most popular beer is Julbrew made locally by Julbrew Brewery in Banjul the capital, this can be bought anywhere in the country but is at it's most popular in the tourist areas as Gambia is a Muslim country. The prices range from 20 to 50 Dalasi depending on whether you buy in the local bars or the tourist hotels. Their is also a plethara of spirits to buy including Brandy, Whisky, Gin, Vodka, Rum and of course Wine and Liqueurs, prices again vary but assume 50 Dalasi a shot and you won't go far wrong.

Palm Wine

Palm Wine is juice from palmtrees that is collected and fermented. It is used as a kind of wine by the locals and can be an acquired taste.

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Health

See also Travel Health

Proof that you had a yellow fever vaccination is only required upon entering Gambia when you have been to an infected country within 7 days of entering the country. Still, it is recommended that you take the yellow fever vaccination anyway. Also you have to have a cholera stamp (proof of the fact you don't have the disease) when entering Gambia overland.

It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Gambia. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also both hepatitis A as well as typhoid would be recommended.

If you are staying longer than 3 months or have a particular risk (travelling by bike, handling of animals, visits to caves) you might consider a rabies vaccination. Vaccination against Tuberculosis as well as hepatitis B are also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months. When staying longer than 6 months, vaccination against meningitis might be recommended, depending on your contact with other people and time of year.

Like most African countries south of the Sahara, Malaria is prevalent in the country. Don't underestimate this tropical disease and take precautions. Buy repellent (preferably with 50% DEET), and sleep under a net. The first thing you need to do is see you doctor about 4 to 6 weeks before your flight to get fixed up with anti-malarial tablets. Your doctor will know which type is suitable for you and for Gambia in relation to malaria. There are far less mosquitos in the dry season and when your on holiday it's up to you but a few things to remember are:
1. If available sleep under a mosquito net;
2. Keeps your doors and windows closed and use air-conditioning or a fan to keep cool during the night;
3. Spray you room with mosquito repellant when going out for the evening;
4. Whether your male or female wear long baggy trousers, socks and long sleeves, do not wear dark clothing and spray yourself with repellant when you go out before sunrise and after sunset;
5. Take Anti-hystamines with you.

Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.

Medical Kits
It's a good idea to take a medical kit with you to cover minor scrapes and cuts as plasters, bandages, antisceptics etc are very expensive in Gambia.

Sun burn
It is the easiest thing in the world to get sun burnt, so please use your common sense and try to keep in the shade between 11:00am and 3:00pm. Whilst walking along the beach you will get a lovely cool breeze, you need to be wary of this because the breeze does not lessen the strength of the sun, and you can end up being badly burnt.

Toilets
Although the subject of toilets is not a thing you would normally read about on a travel sites it is worth a mention here as we all have to go, don't we. Basically, their are no public toilets in the Gambia, once you are out of your hotel or apartment then you are alone. You will also find a lack of toilet seats and more importantly no tissue to use on your personal areas but you will find a pot, glass, tin or ornimental kettle with water to use instead. So if you do not want to go native then carry a small pack if tissues with you, use sparingly.

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Safety

See also Travel Safety

Gambia is possibly one of the friendliest and safest places you are ever likely to travel to. Gambia is known as the smiling coast of Africa and this is well deserved as the Gambians are such happy and helpful people. This said the penalties for breaking the law can be harsh but this will rarely if ever affect a tourist as Gambia relies heavily on the tourist industry, but it is best to play by the rules. Perhaps the only thing you need to worry about is a usually slight annoyance of the so-called BUMSTERS. Bumsters are young unemployed people who are always on the lookout for a newbie tourist, you will meet them as soon as you are outside Banjul International Airport and they will be with you until you leave. It has to be said that although the Bumsters are only a slight annoyance their are times when they can get just too much. All of them have have the same intros to get talking to you: "hello I took your cases off the coach", "I'm your hotel gardener", "I'm the pool boy", "have you been to Abuko yet?", "my son needs medicine", "my daughter needs books for school" etc. There are too many intros to write here but take it as red that all the bumsters are trying to do is part you from some of your holiday money. The easiest and best way to get them to leave you alone, whatever their intro, is for you to say "NO THANKS I LIVE HERE" and then walk away.

When out and about before sunrise or after sunset take a torch with you as their is little to no street lighting in Gambia, so when it is dark it is very dark! Add to that the sandy roads, potholes and other things that may be in front of you and you see why a torch is very handy to have to stop you falling. You do not need a large torch in fact a single LED type that you would have on your keyring is sufficient to light an area 20 metres in front of you.

Power Cuts

Power cuts in The Gambia are a way of life, they can happen at any time of the day or night. Gambia is a growing country whose infrastructure is finding it hard to keep up with new housing, hotels and restaurants that are springing up in the tourist areas. That said, it is still a long way short of the Spanish, Greek or Turkish resorts. In Gambia you can still walk along the beach or in the local towns and play "spot the tourist". Although power cuts are endemic in Gambia it will in no way spoil your holiday, in fact, you will find that most tourists enjoy them as they only last for 10 minutes or so. Again, it is still useful if you carry a small torch with you.

Dress Sense

As Gambia is a Muslim country their are certain codes of etiquette that should really be adhered to, although tourists are allowed a bigger lattitude than locals for any discretions that may occur it can be embarrasing to be told to cover up. Total nudity is not allowed but you are ok to go topless on the beach or around your hotel swimming pool. When travelling away from the beach or poolside it is better to wear at least a pair of shorts and t-shirt. When eating in restaurants or shopping the same applies. If you enter a locals house (compound) remove your footwear and if going to a mosque you need to cover your head, arms and legs.

Photography

It is advisable not to photograph Banjul airport or any military bases, and to ask the permission of any locals if wishing to photograph them and their village.

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Keep Connected

Internet

You will be able to use the internet at many of the 4-star and 5-star hotels whether you are a guest or not and their are a few Cyber Cafes dotted around the tourist areas. Prices are around 100 Dalasi per hour.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

Forget Public Phones or Phone Boxes, they don't exist in Gambia. The best way is to take your mobile phone with you (unlocked). You can buy sim cards virtually anywhere for about 40 Dalasi, but very often, as you depart arrivals at the airport, agents from Africel or Gamcel, the local phone companies, will be giving away sims for free. The call rates back to Europe are cheaper using this method rather than a hotel phone. If you forget to get your phone unlocked before arriving in Gambia then you can still get it unlocked in Bakau, Serekunda, Banjul or any of the other larger towns, you would be advised to get a local that you trust to do this for you as he or she will pay a lot less than you.

Post

Their is no real postal service to speak of in Gambia, if you want to buy a postcard then write it out and give it to your hotel reception but the chances are that you will arrive home before the card does.

Quick Facts

Gambia flag

Map of Gambia

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Capital
Banjul
Population
1,700,000
Government
Republic under multiparty democratic rule
Religions
Muslim 90%, Christian 9%, Indigenous 1%
Languages
English ( official )
Calling Code
+220
Nationality
Gambian
Independence Day
February 18th ( 1965) from UK
Internet Domain
.gm
Main Exports
Groundnuts,Fish, Palm Kernels
Land Area
10,000sq kms
Time Zone
GMT
Voltage
220-240
Weight & Measures
Metric

Contributors

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Gambia Travel Helpers

  • ismaila.jalow

    hey i am Gambian citizen who travel almost all part of the country. i have been helping tourist from many part os the world to find accommodation, safari trips and many more.who ever is interested to come to the Gambia i am here always online you can ask anything you want to ask

    Ask ismaila.jalow a question about Gambia
  • JoyC

    Advice, especially for women, on cultural particulars to be aware of in this country. Can also offer help with learning and understanding basic greetings in Mandinka.

    Ask JoyC a question about Gambia
  • janethicki

    I have been there many times, in fact it's my favourite holiday destination. With over ten years of travel to this fantastic little country their is little I have not done seen and tried

    Ask janethicki a question about Gambia
  • saikz

    I can help to find suitable appartments and arranging of safari trips also many other different types of trips like fishing trips etc.

    Ask saikz a question about Gambia
  • gambia_10

    well am a local tourist guide and can help with accommodation safaries and general information about the Gambia,
    dont hesitate to contact me.
    bye
    Abdoulie

    Ask gambia_10 a question about Gambia

Accommodation in Gambia

This is version 162. Last edited at 12:14 on Jul 25, 11 by Utrecht. 15 articles link to this page.

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