The Gambia




The Gambia is a small country that stretches on the north and south side of the Gambia river. The country is on the west coast of Africa and is surrounded on three sides by Senegal (the other side being the ocean) and is just north of the equator. There are many big tourist resorts all along the west coast but not many tourists travel in to see the real Gambia further in-country (or “up-country” as it is known) along the river.

Rural Gambia (North Bank)

This is a predominantly Muslim country and the primary language is English though people also speak as many as four or five other languages including Mandinka, Wolof, Jolas and French (since Senegal is not that far away where this is the official language).

These pages split the Gambia up into four areas: Banjul (the capital, near the west coast of the country), Western Gambia, Central Gambia (North Bank and Lower River Divisions) and Eastern Gambia (Central River and Upper River Divisions).

Division Map


The weather in the Gambia is generally very warm. With the summer season essentially from January to June and the rainy season from about July to October where it will generally rain once a day for a short period. During the rainy season the roads throughout the country are generally much poorer (if that is possible) and the humidity can, at times, be unbearable. Temperatures range from (on the coast) about 20 - 40 (celcius) but in country about 25 - 55 (celcius).


Accident Beside the Up-Country Road - This is NOT Uncommon

Travel around the country is predominantly by road (there is a road running the length of the country on the south and another on the north sides of the river). There are SERIOUS problems with the road throughout the country with only the Kombos area having paved roads with no potholes. The road between Bwiam and Soma (in Lower River Division) is particularly bad. Bush taxis are the basic (public) method of transport that basically go everywhere and are not difficult to catch (and not expensive) though GPTC (Gambia Public Transport Corporation) also run buses to major centres on a regular basis (including Dakar) as well.


The ocean tends to be quite rough but swimming is certainly possible on the west coast which is, for the most part, a public sand beach. If the beach is patrolled, there will be flags flying at intervals along the beach indicating the condition of swimming for the time (black and red being the most severe). Be aware of the condition of the sea before swimming and, as in most places, be sure to swim with someone.

Though many local children and even adults will swim in the river, this is not recommended due to the many possible diseases that you can contract in the often slow moving waters.

Personal Security

The Gambians themselves are very warm and welcoming. Security is not a big concern here and you should be safe to wander around at all hours in most areas of the country (though certain areas of the capital, Banjul, are best avoided at all times). Crime is relatively unheard of here but when it does occur it is generally crime of “opportunity” when a bag left unattended will be snatched. Personal violence is rare.

More annoying are “bumsters” which tend to hastle tourists in the hotel areas. These young people will continuously bother you for money or for you to “be their friend” (friend with MONEY, of course). These people are much shunned by the society and are NOT typical of most Gambians.


There are a number of recommended immunisations (see your doctor for details) though most importantly is that of Malaria which is quite a problem in the Gambia. You cannot be immunised against Malaria but you can take anti-malaria pills which will minimize the effects of the disease which is spread via a (particular type of) mosquito bite. Most of the big hotels do NOT have mosquito nets (for over the beds – to, hopefully, keep mosquitos away) as the main tourist season does not correspond to the mosquito season (which is in the rainy season). When staying in up-country camps it is probably a good idea to ask the staff in the camp to spray your room every night before going to bed.

NOTE: A Yellow Fever vacination is REQUIRED for anyone wanting to visit The Gambia. Be sure you have the certificate to prove your vaccination when you enter the country.

Utility Infrastructure

The electricity and water supply is NOT reliable (even in the relatively developed Kombos area). Outages of one or the other (or both) are not uncommon – In some places upcountry they have gone for many months without electricity. Both of these services are provided by NAWEC (National Water and Electricity Company) – a name regarded locally with much hate and loathing.

NAWEC is also well known for being a bit over-zealous when it comes to disconnecting people for non-payment of their bills – even if they HAVE paid their bills. The extreme agrevation is not helped when you have paid your bill but been disconnected accidentily then you are asked to pay a reconnection fee…

Telephone Service

Telephone service is a lot more reliable than either electricity or water service with telephone service available across the country by the one telephone company, Gamtel (Gambia Telecommunications Company). Local and International telephone calls can be made publically in most “Telecentres” where they will meter your call and you pay on the way out. There are also two carriers providing mobile/cellular phone service across the country, Africel and Gamcel. Most GSM phones will work in The Gambia provided you purchase a “Sim Card” for one of the two networks. Typically phone phones are paid for on a “payment in advance” basis (using widely-available “Scratch Cards” which you purchase, scratch off the number on the card then call a local phone number, enter the number from the card to update your credit balance which also is set to expire if unused within a short period) though it is possible to be billed monthly.


Public Internet access is available throughout the Kombos area (in the west) through a number of Internet cafes operated by various companies. QuantumNet is one of the biggest and tends to offer better facilities and equipment (and can be a bit more honest in their charges…).


The unit of currency is the delasis with each delasi being composed of 100 batuts (though you will seldom need to use such small units). The rate of exchange varies but is generally very favourable for visitors. In the country the rate of inflation is very high though prices of certain things is fixed by the government including fares on bush taxis.

Banks are generally open in the mornings for Monday through Saturday closing from about 12 to 2 pm then reopening until about 6 (in the Kombos) or 4 elsewhere from Monday through Thursday. Bank machines are generally only operated by the Standard Chartered Bank and are present only in the Kombos and Banjul area. These machines accept cards from the “Plus” system.

Most businesses will NOT accept any form of credit card though tourist areas are more likely to do so (though it will probably only be Visa). You can, generally, cash UK cheques at the various supermarkets in the Kombos area – but ASK first…

Further Information

For further information, please see:

More Information (From Me)

Public Sites

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