Gambia

2 M
Population
Dalasi
Currency
Safety and security

Crime

Attacks on tourists are increasing, particularly the theft of passports and other valuables from hotel rooms. Don’t take valuables or large sums of money to the beach, or display them in public. Take particular care when visiting isolated beaches and markets.

Both male and female visitors should be particularly cautious of young men locally known as ‘bumsters’ who approach tourists, particularly on beaches, offering help or to act as local guides. Be polite but firm in refusing unwanted help or attempts at conversation. Visitors should also be wary of offers, usually from ‘bumsters’, to take them on tours into Senegal. It is unlikely that the correct immigration procedures, which might include obtaining a visa for Senegal, will be followed. This could result in detention by Immigration Authorities.

Don’t leave valuables in unattended vehicles. Take particular care in unlit areas or in places away from the Tourist Development Area.

Corruption is endemic at all levels.

Local travel

Travel in The Gambia is reasonably safe as long as you take sensible precautions to safeguard your personal possessions.  

Road travel

You can drive using a UK driving licence for up to three months.

Driving standards are bad and roads severely potholed. Driving after dark carries added hazards because of poor road and vehicle lighting. In the event of an accident, emergency medical facilities are very limited. Security checkpoints are common on all major routes in The Gambia. They are not always well sign-posted and you should take care when approaching them.

Rainfall occurs in The Gambia between June-October. Heavy rainfall can create localised flooding. Take care if you’re going up-country or travelling on non-paved roads during this period.

Some local taxis are not roadworthy.

Air travel

A compulsory Airport Development Fee must be paid on exiting the country. The fee is 20 Euros, or equivalent in local currency. Visa credit card is accepted, but no others. Passengers in transit and infants under 2 years old are exempt. Check with your travel company whether this fee has been included in your air ticket.

River travel

Take care when using the ferry between Banjul and Barra. It can be very crowded and safety measures are not up to European standards. When using the ferry get out of your vehicle quickly after parking to avoid becoming trapped inside for the duration of the journey. Don’t use the ferry after dark.

Pirogues (wooden dug-out canoes) operate in The Gambia. These can be overloaded and safety measures are not up to European standards. They are not recommended for long journeys and you should make sure they have life jackets.

Terrorism

There is an underlying threat from terrorism.

As seen in Mali, Côte D’Ivoire and Burkina Faso, terrorist groups continue to mount attacks on beach resorts, hotels, cafés and restaurants visited by foreigners. Be especially vigilant in these locations.

Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.

Local laws and customs

Local laws reflect the fact that The Gambia is an Islamic country. You should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times and be aware of your actions to ensure that they do not offend other cultures or religious beliefs, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas.

In 2017, the holy month of Ramadan is expected to start on 27 May and finish on 25 June. See Travelling during Ramadan

Although the law stipulates that detainees can’t be held for longer than 72 hours without charge, this is regularly exceeded.

The Gambian government routinely blocks access to foreign nationals in detention. The British Embassy may therefore be unable to provide consular assistance to any British nationals who may be detained or arrested in The Gambia.

Recent amendments to the Gambian criminal code have criminalised a range of behaviour including causing a public nuisance, which can carry a 5-year prison term and/or a fine of 250,000 Dalasi.

There is a zero tolerance towards illegal drugs. The Gambian authorities will take strong action against anyone importing, exporting or found in possession of drugs. Don’t accept packages on behalf of anyone without knowing the contents. Sentences for those found in possession of drugs can be up to £200,000 or 15 years in prison. Westerners carrying a minimal amount of cannabis have been sentenced to ten years in prison. Cases of entrapment by Gambian authorities are not uncommon.

The death penalty applies for a number of crimes including arson, murder and treason. The Gambia resumed executions in 2012.

There are heavy penalties for any form of sexual offence against a child. There are reports of increased child sex tourism. Report any incidences to police officials. You must carry ID with you at all times. Carry a photocopy of your passport and keep the original locked away.

There is a zero tolerance towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in The Gambia. The Gambian Criminal Code states that any person who has or attempts to have ‘carnal knowledge’ of any person ‘against the order of nature’ is guilty of a crime and could face 14 years’ imprisonment.

The Criminal Code was amended in October 2014 to include Section (144A) entitled Aggravated Homosexuality which sets out 7 specific categories, including being “a serial offender”, where a person is “liable on conviction to imprisonment for life”.

There is increasing inflammatory homophobic rhetoric from the Gambian President and senior officials. Foreign nationals have been detained by the police in relation to suspected or alleged homosexuality. Gambian law criminalises the act of men dressing as women with a 5-year jail term.

Entry requirements

The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.

The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.

Visas

For visits of less than a month, you don’t need to get a visa before you travel. British nationals are given a 28 day stamp in their passports on arrival. You can get further 28-day extensions from the Immigration Office in Banjul or the Tourist Police Stations in the Tourism Development Area.

If you’re planning to enter The Gambia for a period longer than 3 months, check entry requirements with the Gambian Embassy in London.

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay.  

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are valid for entry and exit at Banjul airport.

Yellow fever certificate requirements

Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.

Health

Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.

Malaria is present in all areas of The Gambia throughout the year.

Medical facilities in The Gambia are very limited and the cost of medical evacuation can be very high. Private clinics will only treat fee-paying patients. If you intend to bring prescription medication you should also bring a copy of your prescription and keep items in the original packaging.

Some prescription and over-the-counter medicines like those containing codeine or diazepam are banned under The Gambia’s drugs laws. If in any doubt about the customs procedures for such items, check with the Gambian Embassy before you travel.

In the 2010 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic the UNAIDS/WHO Working Group estimated that around 17,000 adults aged 15 or over in Gambia were living with HIV; the prevalence percentage was estimated at around 2% of the adult population compared to the prevalence percentage in adults in the UK of around 0.2%. You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS.

For emergency medical numbers check the website of the British Embassy in Banjul. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.   

Natural disasters

Localised flooding can occur during summer months (June to October).

Money

The Gambia remains primarily a cash-based economy. Not all hotels will accept travellers cheques. Check with your tour operator or hotel before travelling. An increasing number of hotels and restaurants will accept Visa debit cards but very few will accept credit cards. Mastercard is generally not accepted. There is an ATM in the tourist area of Senegambia and several other locations but ATMs are often unreliable.