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Gambia

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Gambia Coral Beach Hotel & Spa
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The Gambia is a country in West Africa and is the smallest country on the continent of Africa. It has a short North Atlantic Ocean coastline in the west and is surrounded by Senegal so that it is almost an enclave. The country occupies the navigable length of the Gambia River valley and surrounding hills.

Understand

The Gambia essentially consists of the flood plain of the Gambia river flanked by some low hills — the highest point is just 53 m above sea level, and it is less than 50 km across at its widest point.

Climate

Tropical; hot, rainy season (June to November); cooler, dry season (November to May); Natural hazards : drought (rainfall has dropped by 30% in the last 30 years).

History

Historically, culturally, and linguistically tied to Senegal, the Gambia was split from its neighbor in the 18th century by European powers. Most of the region was taken over by France, but a narrow piece of land around the Gambia River was ceded to Great Britain. This small area eventually became the Gambia.

The Gambia gained its independence from the UK on 18 February 1965. A constitution was written on 24 April 1970, before being suspended in July 1994 and subsequently rewritten and approved by national referendum on 8 August 1996. It was re-established in January 1997.

The Gambia formed a short-lived federation of Senegambia with Senegal between 1982 and 1989. In 1991 the two nations signed a friendship and cooperation treaty. A military coup in 1994 overthrew the president and banned political activity, but a new 1996 constitution and presidential elections, followed by parliamentary balloting in 1997, completed a nominal return to civilian rule. Elections have continued ever since, but with government intimidation and detention of opposition leaders, they aren't completely democratic.

National holidays

The Gambia celebrates its independence day on 18 February. This small country gained its independence in 1965. There is also the Muslim festival of Eid which is celebrated by virtually all Gambians and is a 2 to 3 day event during which up to 250,000 animals are slaughtered to provide food for the feast. It is also a time when Gambians, especially women, dress in their finest regalia and buying new dresses at up to D3,000 (3,000 Gambian dalasi).

People

A variety of ethnic groups live in the Gambia, each preserving its own language and traditions. The Mandinka ethnicity is the largest, followed by the Fula, Wolof, Jola, Serahule, Serers and the Bianunkas. The Krio people, locally known as the Aku, constitute one of the smallest ethnic minorities in the Gambia. They are descendants of the Sierra Leone Creole people and have been traditionally concentrated in the capital.

Regions

Cities

  • Banjul — capital
  • Brikama
  • Gunjur
  • Janjanbureh
  • Serrekunda
  • Tanji

Other destinations

  • Abuko Nature Reserve — tiny reserve near the beaches with shady paths to get close to monkeys, bushbucks, chameleons, & crocodiles.
  • Bao Bolon Wetland Reserve — mixed patched of thick forest and swamp most noteworthy for its migratory birds but also home to dugongs, otters, hogs, antelope, & hippos.
  • Makasutu Cultural Forest — a large eco-tourism project near the beaches popular as a package day trip with game drive, boat ride, & performances by locals.

Gambia has two sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Get in

Gambia is becoming a popular vacation destination for Northern Europeans. Therefore, many charter and holiday operators offer reasonable airfare and accommodation if desired.

Visa

US and South African citizens must obtain a Gambian visa before entering the Gambia. Visa can be obtained at the Gambian High Commission in Dakar. Single entry visas cost USD100 , XAF35,000 (about USD69, so a better deal!) or multi-entry for three month period cost XAF30,000. New Zealanders, Australians, Singaporeans, Malaysians, Taiwanese and some Europeans (e.g. British, Dutch, Finns and Germans) do not require visas for stays up to 90 days. Canadians can acquire a 30 day visitor's visa upon arrival. Always check with the High Commission or Embassy before making travel arrangements.

A single entry visa could surely also be obtained at the border for XAF15,000, at least for Europeans and US citizens, even when the embassy in Dakar claims and insists the opposite, as they wish you pay more to them instead!

By plane

Vueling a low cost airline operates regular flights to/from Barcelona (Spain) with onward connecting flights to many cities in Europe. Royal Air Maroc from Casablanca. Brussels airlines from Brussels. Arik Air from Accra and Lagos. Senegal airlines from Dakar. During the tourist season (October to April), there are regular scheduled flights direct from cities such as London, Birmingham, Manchester, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Brussels. Current charter operators include Monarch Airlines, First Choice Airways, Thomas Cook Airlines, Transavia, and Arkefly. you can get a one-way ticket from The Gambia to Europe with Vueling Airlines.

By car

Sept-places or bush taxis run from Dakar to Banjul and Banjul to Ziguinchor.

It is possible use your private car to drive from Senegal to The Gambia via the border town of Amdalli (just north of Barra). The border crossing is pretty straightforward. You will need your V5 logbook. The road approaching the border from Senegal is terrible and its easier to drive next to the road as opposed to on it. Check before you travel if it is ok to bring in a right-hand drive vehicle, as there are conflicting reports on the possibility of this (though it has been done).

By bus

There are direct GPTC buses running from Barra (a ferry ride away from Banjul) to Dakar [1], but these are not recommended as they are slower than the bush taxis.

By boat

It is possible privately charter small fishing vessels from Dakar and neighbouring areas; though this can be fairly expensive and slow should one not be proficient at bargaining.

Get around

By car

A 4WD is recommended if you plan to rent a car, since the roads often are in bad condition and only a minority is paved.

By taxi

There are two types of cabs: green ones (tourist cabs) and yellow ones (regular cabs). Green cabs are expensive and the price is regardless of the number of passengers. Although there is no MOT system in Gambia, these taxis must have basics such as seat belts and working indicators. Yellow taxis are much cheaper and the price depends on the number of persons in the cab. They are used mainly by locals, and in many tourist areas they are prohibited from picking up tourists. Often it is worth it to walk a little to get a yellow taxi.

By bike

You can rent a bike from pretty much anyone that owns one at a negotiated rate. Cycling on major roads can be risky, as motorist safety is unreliable, some roads are not well-maintained, sand and steep shoulders cause road hazards, and pedestrians may walk or veer onto the open road without warning. In high traffic areas, taxis and vans often cut off cyclists to pick up travellers and the car horn may be used excessively to warn of impending passage.

By thumb

No, don't use your thumb. It is an obscene gesture in Gambia, instead wave if you want a car to stop. As anywhere, hitching is quite risky business, so be careful with what cars you enter and never hitch at night. Also, Gambian motorists will expect you to pay for the ride, so have some cash ready.

By boat

The Gambia River is navigable the entire length of the country.

Guided tours

There are many companies that offer guided tours in Gambia.

There are also official tourist guides that will arrange transportation and guide you. They offer a good service and you will get to travel in a small group (usually 1 to 6 persons). Beware that there are false official guides, so always meet them at their offices, around tourist resorts.

Talk

Languages spoken in Gambia are English (the official language), Mandinka, Wolof, Fula, sarrancule and other indigenous languages.

See

  • 1 Abuko Nature Reserve. open daily 08:00-18.30. Nature park situated outside the village of Lamin in the Kombo North District, 25 km from Banjul. At 105 hectares it is one of the smallest (if not the smallest) protected areas in Africa, but it still offers a good introduction to the Gambian wildlife. For instance there's monkeys, crocodiles and some 300 species of birds D35.
  • 2 Kunta Kinteh Island (Saint James Island). An excursion inspired by Alex Haley's bestseller and movie Roots. You can go there on cruise up the centre of the wide Gambia river, towards the former French trading post of Albreda and the village of Juffureh. Views of the river bank are distant. Visit the setting of Roots, an old slave trade station. Tourists are overwhelmed by locals who appear only when the boat arrives, and disappear when the boat leaves. Locals are persistent in begging for money and thrusting craft items under tourists noses. Locals insist on being paid to appear in photos. Or you go by car, e.g. with th official tourist guides on the small roads on the North Bank and sail in a pirogue from Juffareh.
  • 3 Gambia River National Park. Beautiful national park below Janjanbureh. The camp is pricey, but worth the money. They will organize boat tours to see chimpanzees, baboons, monkeys, crocodiles, etc.
  • 4 Sanyang Beach. One of the most beautiful beaches in Gambia. Public transport leaves from Serekunda and Brikama regularly, and private taxis can also be hired for day trips.

Do

  • Kachikally Crocodile Pool. Opportunity to touch/pat West African Nile Crocodiles. D50.
  • Four Wheel Drive Adventure. Very popular tours visiting schools, country homes, and distilleries.

Buy

Money

Gambia uses the dalasi as its currency, denoted by the symbol "D" (ISO currency code: GMD). The dalasi is divided into 100 bututs. Banknotes come in D5, 10, 25, 50, and 100 denominations and you may find D0.25, D0.50 and D1 coins in circulation.

It is better you take CFA francs, euro or dollars with you. If you have a Visa credit card and don't use a PIN or you forgot it, then the only bank that can help you out is (the bigger) GT Bank in Banjul, which only requires your card, your passport, and your signature.

ATMs

  • MasterCard and Visa can now be used at any GT Bank or EcoBank ATMs to withdraw cash.

Souvenirs

  • Kora is the main music instrument of the Mandinka tribe, and could be considered the national instrument of Gambia. It is 21-stringed and built from a large calabash cut in half and covered with cow skin to make a resonator. It sounds like a mixture of harp and flamenco guitar. Real koras can be very expensive but small souvenir versions are also available.
  • Tailor made clothes can be bought at cheap prices.
  • wood carvings
  • wooden masks
  • African drums
  • hand-woven table runners and place mats.
  • Batik and tie-dye fabric.

Eat

  • Benachin or Jollof rice — a traditional West African rice dish with onions, spices, tomatoes or tomato paste mixed with meat, fish or vegetables.
  • Chicken Yassa — chicken boiled with onion, black pepper and lime or lemon.
  • Domoda — meat stew with rice and peanut butter sauce.
  • Lots and lots of peanuts, the main crop of The Gambia.
  • International food. Please don't be put off by what you may hear about Gambian cuisine, everything may come with rice but don't forget rice is a staple in most of the world. But if you're after something your stomach is used to, then there is a plethora of international restaurants to choose from where you can have a Chinese or Indian curry, good old fish & chips or Japanese noodles, and there's also Thai, Lebanese, German, Dutch and Mexican even food places run by the British where you can get a full English breakfast. In fact food in Gambia is truly international and the fish is to die for.

Drink

  • Gambia's own beer, Julbrew is worth a try. It's made by Banjul Breweries, who also make soft drinks.
  • Palm Wine is juice from palmtrees that is collected and fermented. It is used as a kind of wine by the locals, and you may get a chance to try it if you go on a tour to rural Gambia.
  • Baobab juice
  • Spirits. You can most of the well known spirits and liqueurs in the tourist areas along the coastal strip
  • Spitits, Beers & Cigarettes. Julbrew is a lager based beer, it is mainly sold in bottles but you can get in a draught form which is a lot less gassey than the bottled. You can get most of the spirits you would expect to find at home and they are still a lot cheaper than the Costas, Greece or Turkey. Whisky, Rum, Gin, Vodka, Brandy are freely available as well as Curacao and Tia Maria. Cigarettes can be bought very cheaply at around GBP2.50, €2.80 per 200 pack from all the main supermarkets or in the tourist areas.

Sleep

There are many luxury 4 and 5 star resorts along the Atlantic coastline. Further in land there are eco camps and lodges which offer basic accommodation usually in natural surroundings.

Work

Stay safe

There are a number of very commonly used scams in the Gambia. If someone stops you on the street, they may tell you that they remember you from the hotel you're staying at and that they work there. They may invite you to another hotel, but this could be a scam to attempt to rob you. Also, because people are constantly looking for ways to support themselves, if they offer you assistance or directions, it may be understood that they expect some monetary compensation.

Sadly, many Gambian military have an unfavourable view of Brits (sometimes caucasians in general) and can be extremely racist - despite the British taking the territory from the French and abolishing slavery. Expect it especially at border crossings as you will almost always be asked to pay to have your passport stamped and receive more than a few insults aimed at not only your country but also yourself when you refuse to pay. As always, do NOT pay any bribes as you're only making the problem worse, not just for tourists but the locals that are already struggling to fight the rampant corruption. Absolutely do not mention calling an embassy as this will only enrage them and start another string of abuse, as your embassy has no control over them and they hate the thought of it. If you've made friends with a Gambian they might possibly be able to help but as The Gambia is seen as one of the most repressive countries in Africa, they may be putting themselves at risk of punishment - so don't get annoyed if you're not assisted.

Scams also exist in which marijuana is offered to tourists or they are invited to come smoke in a home, only to find police waiting for a hefty bribe. A simple "Sorry, I am in a hurry" could suffice to dismiss them. But don't tell them why you are in a hurry and don't say anything else after that as this may lead to a conversation — and this could lead to unwanted attention and possibly a scam. Also remember that some Bumsters are not unemployed or young and never fall for hardship stories. One last word of warning: should you feel you want to give a person some money out of sympathy or just to get rid of them it will certainly lead them to ask you for more money at a later date should you meet again. Some recommend a stern and harsh response to such requests, but this should be informed by your values and the relationship formed with the individual in question. Keep in mind, however, that you may see this person again, and they could truly be helpful if you're in a jam or need information. Many people in tourist areas are merely 'friendly facilitators' who may hope for an exchange of favours, but are genuinely harmless. Being overly guarded could deny you an offer to join a local family for a traditional meal, or to personally meet one of the craftspeople who make the local goods for sale.

The Gambia is a great holiday destination but just keep your guard up at all times.

When swimming, be aware that the currents in the Atlantic waters can be strong. Always look out for flags on the tourist beaches indicating the level of danger on a red — yellow — green scale.

Be careful about your political opinions, as such critical opinions against the government are considered a crime.

Active homosexuals could be in extreme danger in Gambia - subject to possible arrest or even killing.

Stay healthy

Yellow fever vaccination is strongly recommended. Meningitis vaccination is recommended. Anti-malaria pills are also necessary. Most cases of malaria in the Gambia are contracted between June and December. Mefloquine, Doxycycline or Malarone are the medicines of choice for the Gambia, and for most of sub-Saharan Africa, because of the increasing chloroquine resistance.

It is a good idea to bring insect repellent, sunscreen and other health items from your home country since these may be hard to find in some areas.

Respect

Always ask before you take a photo of anyone. Some Gambians have certain beliefs about having their picture taken, in particular by a stranger.

Go next

  • Senegal is both north and south of Gambia. There are excursions to Fathala Reserve just north of the border.

Connect

The Gambia Diaries - July 2016

Mark Williams

The Gambia Diaries – short essays on life in The Gambia, West Africa, from the perspective of British ex-pat Mark Williams, international bestselling author writing beneath (mostly) picture-postcard blue skies in his personal paradise.

The Gambia (Bradt Travel Guides)

Philip Briggs

Small in size but rich in African character, The Gambia and its resort-dotted coastline offer perhaps the closest English-speaking ‘winter sun’ destination from Europe. The interior, dominated by the lush jungle-fringed Gambia River, is home to plentiful birds and monkeys, time-warped traditional villages and mysterious megalithic sites. Bradt’s The Gambia reveals all the background and practical information needed to explore arguably Africa’s most welcoming and safest country, alongside detailed coverage of the many new eco-lodges and informed advice on the country’s bird watching possibilities.

 

Senegal 1:740,000 & Gambia 1:340,000 Travel Map (International Travel Maps)

ITM Canada

Double sided map covers Senegal (including Gambia). Includes insets of street maps of Dakar and Banjul and a place name index. Legend includes roads by classification, airport, ferry, bus station, gas station, telephone, post office, hospital, point of interest archeological site, fort, museum lodging border crossing and more.

The Gambia: Land of the Mandinka (Travelling Solo) (Volume 3)

Ms Susan Rogers

This third book in the Travelling Solo series, not only covers a single week in The Gambia, but reflections on previous visits. In the first book, Vietnam: Journey of Unexpected Delights, the author, who thought she was joining a tour group, unintentionally found that she was travelling solo. What could have been a lonely and stressful holiday, turned out to be a magical experience, such that she has specifically chosen to travel solo ever since. Like the other two books in the series, this travelogue will not only inspire you to travel solo, but absorb you into the culture and experiences of The Gambia. It is witty, informative, colourful and insightful, both of the region and the solo traveller. It paints a vivid picture of the places visited and the people encountered along the way, in a frank and humorous manner. You will meet Velcro Man and Mr and Mrs Arrogant as the author searches for the elusive White Egret. This is not a travel guide, although it would make a fine travel companion for anyone visiting the region.

The Gambia Diaries - June 2016

Mark Williams

The Gambia Diaries – short essays on life in The Gambia, West Africa, from the perspective of British ex-pat Mark Williams, international bestselling author writing beneath (mostly) picture-postcard blue skies in his personal paradise.

Mandinka: A communication guide for travelers to The Gambia and Senegal

Jack Alderliefste

Quite rightly The Gambia becomes more popular as holiday destination every year. It’s affordable and yet the real Africa. The author offers you the challenge to speak the colloquial language before you’ll reach Yundum Airport near Banjul. Your flying time (6 hours from Heathrow) is all the time you need. Mandinka is spoken by all different ethnic groups. Why? Because it’s easy! Learn the few rules and apply them to the common verbs en substantives. Once arrived you will see that you are ‘outstanding in the crowd’ and will be treated differently… Mandinka for each moment! The market, restaurant, your hotel, up country or the local disco. This guide provides many ready-to-use examples and a word for word translation to unveil the structure of the language and give you the Mandinka–feel.

The Gambia Diaries (Come With Me Series)

Enuma Chigbo

The Gambia Diaries tells the story of the Gambia through the eye of a traveler, Enuma Chigbo, a visitor to the capital city Banjul for the very first time. Through this singular visit, we see history unfold during a visit to St James' Island, experience the rich cuisine of The Gambia, not to mention the fact that sex tourism thrives there. However, the main message underneath all of that adventure is love.

Lonely Planet The Gambia & Senegal (Multi Country Travel Guide)

Katharina Kane

Lonely Planet's 4th edition of The Gambia & Senegal will take you from the arid desert lands of the north to the lush tropical forests in the south, and from the capital cities of Dakar and Banjul to the more remote Bassari country. Go lion spotting in the Parc National de Niokolo-Koba or hike around the beautifully conserved Abuko Nature Reserve.Lonely Planet guides are written by experts who get to the heart of every destination they visit. This fully updated edition is packed with accurate, practical and honest advice, designed to give you the information you need to make the most of your trip.In This Guide:Dedicated chapters on birdwatching and musicCustomised itineraries take you up the coast or down the riverUnique Green Index highlights the best ecofriendly options

Exercise a high degree of caution

The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The purpose of this Travel Advice is to provide up-to-date information to enable you to make well-informed decisions.

You are advised to exercise a high degree of caution in The Gambia. Maintain a high level of security awareness at all times and avoid public gatherings and street demonstrations.

Crime

Petty crime such as pickpocketing and purse snatching has increased, particularly in crowded markets and on ferries.

Theft from vehicles has also increased. Car doors should be locked and car windows closed at all times.

Be aware of men called “bumsters” who approach tourists and offer to be tour guides. If approached, politely decline.

Check with local authorities to determine which beaches are safe. Do not bring valuables or large sums of money to the beach. Avoid isolated beaches.

Police roadblocks are common throughout the country and identity documents may be requested.

Fraud

Cases of attempted fraud occur. See our Overseas Fraud page for more information on scams abroad.

Road travel

In the greater Banjul area, main roads are paved but narrow, potholed and poorly lit. Most roads outside the capital are unpaved. Overland travel can be difficult without a four-wheel-drive vehicle, particularly during the rainy season. Avoid driving outside urban areas after dark. Contact the nearest police station if involved in a traffic accident. Stop at all security roadblocks and checkpoints and cooperate with the local authorities.

Regional Travel

Be careful when travelling overland to the Casamance region in Senegal, as separatist rebels operate in this area. Travellers have been attacked on roads leading north from Ziguinchor to Banjul and from Bignona to Sedoba, near the Gambian border. You should view the Travel Advice for Senegal before departing.

It is dangerous to cross the Gambia River on wooden pirogues due to overcrowding and the lack of security measures.

General safely information

Do not show signs of affluence and ensure that personal belongings and travel documents are secure at all times. You should keep informed of local developments that could affect your safety.

Tourist facilities are limited outside of Banjul.

Consult our Transportation FAQ in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.

Health

Related Travel Health Notices
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
Vaccines

Routine Vaccines

Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.

Vaccines to Consider

You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread by contaminated food or water. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.

Influenza

Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.

Measles

Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.
 

Meningitis

This country is in the African Meningitis Belt, an area where there are many cases of meningococcal disease. Meningococcal disease (meningitis) is a serious and sometimes fatal infection of the tissue around the brain and the spinal cord. Travellers who may be at high risk should consider getting vaccinated. High-risk travellers include those living or working with the local population (e.g., health care workers), those travelling to crowded areas or taking part in large gatherings, or those travelling for a longer period of time.

Rabies

Rabies is a disease that attacks the central nervous system spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from a rabid animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).

Typhoid

Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives, or with weakened immune systems. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should consider getting vaccinated.

Yellow Fever Vaccination

Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Risk
  • There is a risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
  • Proof of vaccination is required if you are coming from a country where yellow fever occurs.
Recommendation
  • Vaccination is recommended.
  • Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care provider.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites.
Food/Water

Food and Water-borne Diseases

Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.

In some areas in West Africa, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in West Africa. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!

Schistosomiasis

Schistosomiasis is caused by blood flukes (tiny worms) spread to humans through contaminated water. The eggs of the worms can cause stomach illnesses like diarrhea and cramps or urinary problems. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Avoid swimming in contaminated water. There is no vaccine available for schistosomiasis.

Travellers' diarrhea
  • Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
  • Risk of developing travellers’ diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
  • The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.

Insects

Insects and Illness

In some areas in West Africa, certain insects carry and spread diseases like African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), chikungunya, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, dengue fever, leishmaniasis, lymphatic filariasis, malaria, onchocerciasis, Rift Valley feverWest Nile virus and yellow fever.

Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.


Malaria

Malaria

  • There is a risk of malaria throughout the year in the whole country.
  • Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by mosquitoes. There is no vaccine against malaria.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in well-screened air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider sleeping under an insecticide-treated bednet or pre-treating travel gear with insecticides.
  • See a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss the benefits of taking antimalarial medication and to determine which one to take.

Animals

Animals and Illness

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. Certain infections found in some areas in West Africa, like avian influenza and rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.


Person-to-Person

Person-to-Person Infections

Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.

HIV

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks and impairs the immune system, resulting in a chronic, progressive illness known as AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). 

Practise safe sex while travelling, and don’t share needles, razors, or other objects which could transmit infection.

Remember that HIV can also be spread through the use of unsterile medical equipment during medical and dental procedures, tattooing, body piercing or acupuncture. Diseases can also be spread though blood transfusions and organ transplantation if the blood or organs are not screened for HIV or other blood-borne pathogens.

Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis is an infection caused by bacteria and usually affects the lungs.

For most travellers the risk of tuberculosis is low.

Travellers who may be at high risk while travelling in regions with risk of tuberculosis should discuss pre- and post-travel options with a health care provider.

High-risk travellers include those visiting or working in prisons, refugee camps, homeless shelters, or hospitals, or travellers visiting friends and relatives.


Medical services and facilities

Medical services and facilities

Medical facilities are very limited. Some medical treatments may be unavailable.

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention page for more information.

Laws and or illegal activitie

In December 2004, as a result of amendments to the Criminal Code of The Gambia, the offences of libel, sedition and slander were criminalized. Persons who break this law are now punishable by prison terms, without any option of a fine.

Some medications and skin-bleaching creams are subject to strict import and export laws. Visitors could face fines and/or imprisonment if they arrive in The Gambia with substances containing hydroquinone, hydrocortisone, betamethasone, flucinonide, clobestatol or clobestatone. Contact the High Commission for the Republic of The Gambia in Washington, D.C., for specific information regarding customs requirements.

Homosexual activity is illegal.

Photography of airports, government buildings, military installations and embassies is prohibited.

Penalties for importing or exporting drugs or contraband are strict. Never accept packages from strangers and pack all luggage yourself.

An International Driving Permit is recommended.

Culture

The majority of the population is Muslim.

Islamic practices and beliefs are closely adhered to in the country’s customs, laws and regulations. Common sense and discretion should be exercised in dress and behaviour. You should dress conservatively (for example, women should wear a headscarf and also cover their arms and legs). Respect religious and social traditions to avoid offending local sensitivities. The use of drugs and alcohol is prohibited. Transgressions could be punished by detention or other penalties.

 

Money

The currency is the dalasi (D). A currency declaration form must be completed on arrival. Certain regional currencies may not be accepted or exchanged, including currency from Algeria, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Morocco, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Cape Verde, Mauritania and Tunisia.

Climate

The rainy season extends from June to October. You should keep informed of regional weather forecasts and plan accordingly.