Mostly Asked Questions
Q: What language do they speak in The Gambia?
A: English is the official language and language of instruction in most schools (The Gambia is a former British Colony). However, various tribal languages are used by the Gambians to converse between themselves.
Q: Do I need a visa to visit The Gambia?
A: To visit Gambia you will need a passport, valid for at least six months after entering the country. The passport is valid to the date of expiry and until it includes at least one blank page – both conditions must be met for your passport to be valid. European Union Citizens EU nationals from the following countries do not require a visa to gain entry into The Gambia: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and Sweden. Nationals from France, Portugal, Spain and Estonia do require one to gain entry. This is for short-term/tourist visits, you can get further 28-day extensions from the Immigration Office in Banjul or the Tourist Police Stations in the Tourism Development Area.
Nationals from the US require an entry visa with at least 1 blank page on their passport for the stamp. Check with your doctor whether you need any vaccinations. You can apply for a visa at the Embassy of The Gambia in Washington DC.
Q: Do I need a yellow fever certificate?
A: A yellow fever vaccination certificate is not required to enter The Gambia if you are arriving from the EU, however if you are planning to visit Senegal from The Gambia, you will be asked to show a valid yellow fever certificate at the border crossing.
Q: Is it safe to travel to Gambia?
A: The Gambia is renowned for its friendly, welcoming people and is known as the Smiling Coast. Crime against tourists is very rare and in general it is regarded as a safe destination to explore and mingle with the locals. The country is predominantly Muslim, the main festivals such as Tobaski and Ramadan are observed, however other religions are accepted and allowed to practise freely, for example at Christmas you will find Muslims and Christians celebrating together. Every year tens of thousands of British holidaymakers enjoy the wonderful climate and relaxed atmosphere that The Gambia has to offer, and bars and restaurants are free to serve alcohol with the country boasting its own brewery.
Q: What is the weather like?
A: Located midway between the Tropic of Cancer and the Equator, The Gambia enjoys virtually uninterrupted sunshine and high daytime temperatures with almost no rainfall from November to June. On the coast, The Gambia experiences only small fluctuations in temperature from winter to summer; however from July to October the humidity level is high as the tropical sun is interrupted by short but spectacular showers. Although the months of heaviest rainfall are normally August and September, we have found that it has not detracted from our clients’ enjoyment of their holiday. Nevertheless, a lightweight rain mac or umbrella may prove useful in these months. Between January and April, evenings and early mornings can be cooler than people expect. For those planning to travel inland away from the coast and the benefit of the sea breezes, it is important to note that temperatures during the summer can reach 42°C.
Q: What is the currency in The Gambia and how can I pay?
A: The Gambia’s currency is the dalasi, with £1 sterling currently buying around 60 dalasis (as at December 2016) in local exchange bureaus. Rates in hotels vary between 55-65 dalasis. As with all currencies, the dalasi rate to the pound can fluctuate. Dalasis are available in the UK but you will get a better exchange rate in The Gambia. Currency can easily be obtained at the airport, most hotels, banks or bureau de change and there are a few ATMs where cash can be obtained from a VISA card. The largest note that is available is a D200 and the smallest is D5 – it is always worth trying to keep your smaller denominations as many stall traders will not have enough small notes for change if you pay with a larger note.
Although some restaurants and hotels in The Gambia accept credit cards, it is not wise to rely on them. Debit cards are still more restricted; Visa Electron and Maestro cards are not accepted. You should always check that your card will be accepted and whether there is any surcharge. At some hotels your bill will be converted into US dollars prior to it appearing as a sterling amount on your statement. This may result in some exchange rate surcharges.
Sterling cash can be changed without a problem but travellers cheques are no longer accepted. The new currency cards are not yet known about in detail and if used may attract a charge.
Q: How easy is it to get around in The Gambia?
A: Most main roads in the greater Banjul area are now tarmac but away from the tourist areas and pff the main roads they can be little more than dirt tracks. Traffic and direction signs are still limited, however the road quality has improved over the past several years.
There is no rail service but you will find green tourist taxis readily available outside your hotel. Taxis can be hired for a specific journey or for a half or full day, in both cases it is best to agree the price in advance; there should be a price board together with a taxi supervisor to help. The taxi waiting time is charged at approximately £2.00 per hour, but often the first couple of waiting hours are free. It is often difficult to find a tourist taxi outside of the tourist areas so it is advisable to pre-book your return journey.
Yellow taxis are generally used by the local community and can be shared or private. Prices are negotiable and they are generally cheaper than the tourist taxis however they are not allowed to go into the resort areas so you may have to walk to your hotel from the drop off point.
Bush taxis are available which are often very crowded but offer a very economical way of travelling and a way of absorbing part of the local flavour.
Car and motorbike hire is available for the more independent, although can be rather expensive and definitely not recommended. Please remember that they drive on the right-hand side of the road in The Gambia and sometimes with little driving etiquette, so always be extra careful on the highways!
Q: What medicines should I take with me?
A: Any prescribed medication should be carried in your hand luggage along with a copy of the prescription. We would advise that you take medicines to treat dehydration, small ailments, stomach upsets, insect bites and cuts, along with mosquito repellent and sun tan creams, as such items can be expensive and not always available in The Gambia. A practice which should be avoided in any hot climate is drinking very cold drinks straight after coming out of the hot sun as this can cause stomach upsets. Bottled water can be bought in most hotels and supermarkets at a reasonable price.
Q: Are mosquitoes a major problem?
A: Mosquitoes are most active around late afternoon and through the evening. We strongly recommend the use of a good insect repellent to prevent being bitten, in conjunction with anti-malarial tablets as prescribed by your doctor.
Q: What type of clothing should I wear?
A: Generally take clothes that are comfortable and loose fitting, preferably cotton or linen; we also recommend a hat as protection against the strong midday sun. A jumper may come in handy for excursions, although for most other tours we would recommend shorts and T shirts.
Q: Can I take photos or videos?
A: Please ask first as not everyone likes to be photographed and you may be asked for payment in return. Uniformed personnel such as the police, military and government organisations generally will not accept photos being taken.
Q: What is The Gambia’s smoking policy?
A: The Gambia has a smoking ban in public places including enclosed restaurants, bars and reception areas; in addition hotels now only allow smoking on the balcony or terrace of your room. Banjul Airport (www.banjulairport.com) is also non-smoking, however there is an outdoor bar area near the departure lounge.
Q: Is there a problem with electricity?
A: Kassi Kunda is not yet in the electric grid and has no public water, as is most rural villages. As such, use of solar panels for elctricity and hand-dug water well for water supply are common currencies in the rural communities. There is a well at the site for the construction works. In areas of Gambia that elctricity is by public grid, there is the problem with constant electric supply, power outage that could more than one day is common.