Gambia - Abbey Travel, Ireland


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Welcome to Gambia


Like a long splinter inserted into the side of Africa just at the bulge, Gambia is a low, narrow strip of a country that stretches inland from the beautiful West African coast, following the course of the majestic River Gambia. It may be the smallest country in Africa, sandwiched between north and south Senegal, but it is fast becoming noticed by the British package tour trade as a very acceptable alternative to the crowded resorts of Europe. It has also gained fame for its incredibly varied and accessible bird life.

Gambia's 'discovery' as a tourist destination was aided by the best-selling book turned television series, 'Roots' by Alex Hayley, detailing the life of the author's grandfather, allegedly captured in the country and transported to America as a slave.

The capital of Gambia, Banjul, stands on the south side of the magnificent river estuary, a worthy commercial centre that for tourists is little more than the gateway to the hotels spread along the 25 miles (40km) of beautiful sandy coastline. These palm-fringed Atlantic-washed beaches have been dubbed 'the smiling coast', as much for their tropical splendour as for the friendliness of the local people, who welcome visitors whole-heartedly at the nature reserves, quality hotels, and craft markets. All this is just six hours' flying time from London, close to the Equator on the same latitude as Barbados.

Information & Facts


Business is conducted formally in The Gambia and a formal dress code is to be observed. Punctuality is expected. Business cards are catching on and advisable to bring along. Greetings are important and a formal handshake is the norm for men and women; it is important to acknowledge every member at a meeting. A personal approach to business is favoured and Gambians like to get to know the person with whom they are conducting business. Business hours are generally 8am to 5pm Monday to Friday.


Sited between the Tropic of Cancer and the Equator, The Gambia enjoys constant sunshine and barely fluctuating high daytime temperatures all year round. The best time to visit in terms of weather and bird spotting is between November and February when the weather is dry and cool. The rainy season is between July and October, when humidity is high and short, spectacular rainstorms characterise the evenings. Between November and June there is virtually no rainfall. During winter months evenings can be cool.


The international access code for The Gambia is +220. The outgoing international code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0027 for South Africa). No area codes are required. There are GSM mobile telephone networks, but not all countries have roaming agreements; US mobile phones will not work. Coverage is limited to Banjul and a few other areas. Internet cafes are available in Banjul and the major tourist resorts.


The Gambia is a Muslim country and therefore it is disrespectful to dress immodestly away from the beach, swimming pools or tourist centres. Religious customs should be respected, particularly during the month of Ramadan when eating, drinking and smoking during daylight hours should be discreet as it is forbidden by the Muslim culture. Homosexuality is illegal. It is prohibited to photograph military institutions.

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 250g of tobacco; one litre of spirits and one litre of wine or beer; 284ml of perfume; and a still camera and film for personal use.

230 volts, 50Hz. UK-style, square three-pin plugs are standard.

No inoculations are compulsory for entry to Gambia, but it is recommended that travellers take health advice at least three weeks before departing for the country. Malaria is prevalent throughout the year, but the greatest risk is between June and November; travellers should obtain up to date medical advice on the appropriate prophylactics, as some (e.g. chloroquine) are not adequate for Gambia. Visitors are advised to carry preparations for dehydration, stomach upsets, insect bites and cuts, as well as mosquito repellent and sun block, as these are not readily available in Gambia. Water borne diseases such as Schistosomiasis do occur and travellers should not swim or raft in contaminated fresh water. Travellers should drink only bottled water, ensure meat and vegetables are well cooked and avoid unpeeled fruit and vegetables. Emergency medical facilities are of a low standard so travel insurance with provision for emergency repatriation is recommended.

The official language of Gambia is English, and Gambians are educated in English. There are several tribal languages, but overall the use of English prevails.

The Gambia's currency is the Dalasi (GMD), which is divided into 100 bututs. Dalasi are difficult to obtain outside of The Gambia but there is a bureau de change at the airport. Currency can also be exchanged at banks in the capital, Banjul, and at some hotels and tourist resorts. Commission tends to be high. It is advisable to bring travellers cheques or cash because only a few places accept credit cards. Street moneychangers give the best rates, but take care not to be conned and make sure you know the current exchange rate before trading with them. Note that currency must be declared on arrival and the export of foreign currency is limited to the amount imported. Travellers cheques are accepted, US dollars and Pounds Sterling are the preferred currency. Some hotels and restaurants accept MasterCard and Visa, but it is unwise to rely on them and a charge may be levied. ATMs are limited to a few areas, and accept Visa but not MasterCard.

Passport Visa

All visitors require a return ticket or proof of onward travel, sufficient funds to cover their stay in Gambia, and all necessary travel documentation for their next destination. Those requiring visas to enter Gambia, AND arriving from countries that do not have an embassy or consulate of Gambia, may be issued with a visa on arrival. Passengers on a package tour, or arriving on a charter flight, are also able to obtain a visa on arrival; but, if required, an extension of stay must be obtained within 48 hours from the Immigration Headquarters in Banjul. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required to enter Gambia, if arriving in the country after leaving or transiting through an infected area. If a yellow fever certificate is required, but missing, the passenger will be vaccinated on arrival. NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.


Crime involving tourists is rare in the Gambia and safety is not a major concern. It is wise, however, not to carry valuables or large sums of money or display them in public. The most popular beaches are manned by tourist police or hotel security officers. Take precautions on more isolated beaches, in unlit areas and in spots away from the 'tourist track'. Driving in Gambia can be hazardous and many taxis are not roadworthy. Security checkpoints are common on all major roads within the country. Road travel from Gambia to southern Senegal should be avoided due to fighting between rebel factions in the area and incidents with bandits.

Local time is GMT.

A 10% service charge is usually added to hotel and restaurant bills, and further tipping is discretionary. Generally all services rendered require a small 'cadeau' (gift or tip).

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