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Living in Gambia
 
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Introduction:
Many expatriates to Gambia live between Fajara, Kololi, Kotu up to Bijilo, Brufut Heights and Taf Construction's Brufut Gardens Residence where there are houses for sale and rent.

Where is Gambia?
The Gambia is a small West African sub-Saharan country, some 13į north of the equator. It consists of a narrow strip of land either side of the River Gambia bordered on 3 sides by Senegal and facing the Atlantic Ocean beaches.

The Capital is Banjul which is on the coast at the mouth of the River Gambia. The airport is Banjul International Airport (Yundum), and is about 30 minutes car journey from Kololi which is approximately 16 kilometres from Banjul.

Who are the People?
50% of the population of 1.5 million live in villages, the rest in the expanding urban areas which are mainly on the coast. Islam is the predominant religion (90%),but Christianity and other denominations are represented.

Many local languages are spoken (the main ethnic groups are Mandinka, Wollof, Fula, Jola and Sarahule) and a number of people speak French. English is the official language. The Mandinkas are the largest ethnic group in The Gambia. The Wollofs are fewer than the Mandinkas as a whole, however they form the largest group in Banjul. The second largest group are the Fulas who live mainly in the eastern part of the country, particularly in Upper River Division. The Akus, who are mainly Christians, live in Banjul and The Kombos. The Jolas live in a large area to the south of the River Gambia, the majority living in Western Division in the Fonis, The Kombos and Banjul. The Sarahules, who are predominantly traders, live mainly in the eastern part of the country, i.e. Upper River Division. The different ethnic groups live harmoniously together as a community and in many cases inter-marry. Read more about the culture.

The Gambia is relatively cosmopolitan with several non-governmental organisations and international companies recruiting from within The Gambia and abroad.

The Currency:
100 Bututs = 1 Dalasis, 44.50 Dalasis = £1 Sterling as at January 2011 (variable). It can be useful to have a few Dalasis with you on arrival. Your bank may require sufficient time to obtain Dalasis. You can always exchange your pounds at the airport. You will obtain a much better rate of exchange in The Gambia, so donít buy too much in advance. Travellerís cheques and sterling can be changed at the airport, at any of the local banks, from foreign exchange bureau and at most hotels in The Gambia.

One thing to consider is opening an offshore banking account which may give your money tax haven status while working overseas. Offshore banking could have tax benefits for individuals, as interest on your offshore account could be paid without tax being deducted.

Good post for families/singles/couples?
This is a hard question to answer, because everyone is different. Most people will base their answers to this question on ability to create an interesting life from scratch. As a single, you may find there is plenty to do here, and if you're a couple, you could be very happy. As for families with kids, there is no reason why they couldn't do well here as there are a number of international schools. Again, it depends on how much Western-style, external stimulation you need to stay happy and sane.

Whatís the climate like?
There are two separate seasons. The dry season begins in November and normally lasts until the first rain in early June. The country becomes dry and dusty as the season progresses. It rarely rains during this period although it can be overcast for several days on end. Pre-Christmas the skies are usually clear, but thereafter there are dusty days. At the coast it is coolest from December to February, especially in the early morning. The Christmas period is occasionally overcast.

During the wet season from June to October vegetation becomes lush and it feels hot and humid. The rainstorms last from one to a few hours, with August being the wettest month, and the temperature can drop dramatically while it is raining. The humidity during the wet season makes the climate rather tiring, therefore you would be wise not to be too ambitious about what you hope to achieve during your first few days in The Gambia until you have started to acclimatize. Temperatures on the coast fluctuate between 20oC and 30oC in the dry season with low humidity giving a Mediterranean-like climate. It is 5 - 9 C hotter inland. In the wet season temperatures usually remain in the low 30s but with high humidity.

What's The Length of the Day?
Length of day the average length of day is 12 hours, with dusk being a brief half hour. As The Gambia is within the tropics day length varies by only an hour during the year. Sunrise/sunset is between 7.00 - 7.30 am/pm

What Time Zone is it in?
Greenwich Mean Time.

Driver's Licence

What is the crime rate like?
Not too high. Crime rate is very low, and violent crime virtually non-existent. You may be mugged if you stagger drunk down a dark dirt road at 3:00 in the morning, but other than that you're pretty safe, and even then, it won't be more than stealing your wallet. As for terrorist threat, although Gambia is 95% Muslim, it's very laid-back and generally are supportive of the Western lifestyle. Generally speaking, Gambia is a very safe place.

What is there to do after-hours?
If you're a bar-hopping party animal, there are several good dance, karaoke, and jazz bars. The country has a plethora of restaurants and cafes, as well, and night life revolves around these. We also rely heavily on entertaining at home. Banjul has several, relatively large casinos that seem to consist mostly of slots. There are virtually no movie theatres however, satellite systems and DVD players are available. Consider getting them from LG Electronics as they offer a 1 year guarantee with an extended warranty.

Fast food available and price of a Big Mac Meal (or similar)? There are quite a few places in the way of fast food in Gambia. Again, a blessing to some, a curse to others. There are however lots of takeaway diners.

What language do I need to learn?
In Gambia English is the official language, and almost everyone speaks it with varying degrees of fluency and understand-ability. However, all Gambians speak to each other exclusively in a local language, generally Mandinka or Wolof. You should make an effort to learn one or both languages, as you will win lots of friends, get good prices in the market, and the touts (known locally as "bumsters") won't harass you. Also, at your next cocktail party at home, you can impress your friends.

What is the social life like?
Entertaining/social life? Pretty good. Gambians are extremely warm and generous people, and delight in having foreign guests come to their homes. Sometimes you might be invited to spend pleasant evenings in the yard of a Gambian colleague's home, sipping tea after a good Gambian meal, talking, and watching the stars.

What is the morale among expats like?
Generally very high.

What are the medical facilities like?
Medical care is good for minor accidents and illnesses, but truly catastrophic events would be better handled by a medevac team. The best place in town for medical care is the British Medical Research Council; there are a few other clinics in town with doctors trained in the UK. Local dentists here tend to like yanking teeth out rather than actually fixing them; you are best advised to seek a US or European trained dentist. They can be found at the Dental Oral Surgery or the Swedent Clinic where they also perform root canal operations.

What Can I leave Behind?
All your winter clothes except a couple of jumpers (you might need them around the end of the year) as the climate is tropical. Anything you don't want to get damaged, such as glass, antique furniture and delicate clothing etc., because the climate is humid, and domestic workers are unaware of special treatment that some textiles require.




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Medical Issues:
Always consult your doctor first.
Don't forget travel insurance.

Important Long-term Vaccinations:-
Yellow Fever: Vaccination, which is valid for 10 years, is strongly advised. If you are planning to travel to neighbouring Senegal a Yellow Fever vaccination certificate is essential.



Hepatitis B: This is a major health risk, particularly to those working with medical patients, survey subjects or laboratory specimens in The Gambia (over 10% of the population carry the virus).



Hepatitis A :
Three doses of vaccine are strongly recommended before arrival in The Gambia.

Tetanus Toxoid:
A single booster dose is strongly recommended every 5-10 years.

Human Diploid Cell Rabies vaccine:
Rabies is endemic in The Gambia. Two intra-dermal doses one month apart are strongly recommended before arrival in The Gambia. A booster dose is required every three years.

Diphtheria & Whooping Cough:
Both commonly occur so it is therefore it is recommended that babies receive the normal course of 3 doses of triple vaccine (diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough) before departure to The Gambia.

BCG:
This gives some protection against Tuberculosis, which is common in The Gambia. It is, therefore, advisable for children and adults to have BCG vaccination before departure for The Gambia.

Cholera vaccine: This is of limited value.

Typhoid: A single dose provides protection for three years when a booster is recommended.

Meningococcal meningitis: Single dose
It is advisable that you have the vaccination status of yourself and your family reviewed every 3 years

Malaria Chemoprophylaxis:
You and your family should take malaria prophylaxis routinely, particularly from July to December (the rainy season). There are several options - Mefloquine (Lariam) 2 tablets weekly; OR Chloroquine,2 tablets (300 mg) weekly AND Proguanil (Paludrine),2 tablets (200 mg) daily; OR Pyrimethamine (Daraprim) 25 mg weekly OR doxycycline 100 mg daily. These are adult doses and should be reduced appropriately for children. Anti-malarials should be started 3 days before departing for The Gambia and should be continued for 4 weeks after your departure. No prophylaxis provides complete protection against malaria. Your accommodation must have mosquito screens on all the windows; further protection is obtained by sleeping under an insecticide-soaked bed net and using DEET repellants.

General advice It is recommended that you boil and filter all drinking water, particularly outside the Greater Banjul area. Avoid ice in drinks and take care when eating food in local restaurants & beach bars (especially salads). Do not swim in natural fresh-water pools or streams to avoid bilharzia. Beware of sunburn, particularly on beaches, even on hazy days. Have your eyes and teeth examined before you leave.

FACILITIES IN THE GAMBIA:

Banks:
The banks at Fajara open from 8.30 - 11.30 am and 4.00 - 6.30 pm Monday - Friday and from 4.00 - 6.30 pm on Saturdays. If you have a Gambian bank account there are automatic cash machines outside most of the banks and petrol stations. Credit cards are becoming more widely accepted in The Gambia and can now be used in some supermarkets and restaurants. However the exchange rate is generally not very good.

What are the housing conditions like?
See also Property Finder
Is housing predominantly apartments or houses with a garden area? Housing is predominantly houses with a garden area of varying sizes generally containing at one fruit tree: orange, mango, banana, papaya, grapefruit, avocado, or a coconut tree. Some houses have a swimming pool. Apartment-style living is not common for expats; apartments are plentiful, but are generally for holiday makers and short-term visitors. Houses for rent are fairly cheap here. It is possible to get a decent 4 bedroom bungalow with a garden and for about £260 per month.

Availability and cost of domestic help? Readily available, and costing around £40 per month for a maid and the same amount for a gardener.

Public Transport:
Local taxis (which are usually shared) are painted yellow with a green stripe and tourist taxis, which are more expensive, are green with a white diamond. It is advisable to negotiate the price before you enter the vehicle

Restaurants:
Are there Any Good Restaurants?
The simple answer is yes. The largest surprise you'll find over the west coast region of The Gambia is the variety and number of fine quality restaurants. Mostly Lebanese or Continental (UK) cuisine, but you can easily buy pasta, a burger or pizza, and there are over 10 superb Indian and Chinese restaurants.

Schools:
For children of school age there are the following schools:

Marina International School, based in Bakau, which follows the British National Curriculum for children from the ages between 3 and 16 years.

Then there is the Banjul American Embassy School where tuition follows the American curriculum. For children who do not speak English well they provide a special English as a foreign language class or EFL.

Then there's the Ecole Francaise de Banjul where tuition is in French, follows the French national curriculum. Ages 2Ĺ to 15.
Tel: 449 54 87


Zenith Preparatory School conducts its tuition in English, follows the English system. The prep school is comprised of three-class Pre-School from Receptions 1 through 3, for children aged 3 - 5 rising 6 years old; and a Primary School starting from 1st Year (grade 1) to 6th Year (grade 6).
Tel: 449 4233

Shopping Advice:

What Can I Buy For Groceries?
There are many supermarkets in the Fajara area which are well-stocked with imported food. They normally open at 9.00 am and close at 7.30 pm Monday - Saturday although some open later. Some of the supermarkets also open from 10.00 am - 2.00 pm on Sundays and Public Holidays. Availability varies so be prepared to go to several when looking for items.

There are several well-stocked grocery store chains in Gambia carrying a variety of European and Middle Eastern products, with a small selection of well known American food brands. You can purchase meat and vegetables at markets throughout the Greater Banjul Area though, for the sake of hygiene you are best advised to buy your meats from a company called Kombo Meats or at your local supermarket. For freshness you can buy fish directly off the fishing boats at Bakau. There are many types of fish and shellfish available e.g., Red Snapper, Sole Fish, Ladyfish,  Crayfish, Grouper, Barracuda, Prawns and other types.

If you have a strong urging for some American products like Pop Tarts, you can always get them from a number of well stocked supermarkets along the Kairaba Avenue or at Maroun's Supermarket in Kololi. Products are on the whole quite good, organic and therefore often much tastier than what you can buy in Europe or the US. The only issue is the lack of options. You can obtain your standard fruit and vegetables but things like celery and fresh mushrooms are hard to find and can be quite expensive as many are imported. The same issue affects fruits like grapes, apples and strawberries.

There are a number of local markets which sell locally produced food which are often seasonal in nature. The markets usually open at 8.00 am and close just before sunset. A company called GAMVEG, on Kairaba Avenue, sells imported and local fresh eggs, vegetables and the like.

Sports:
There is a recreational club at Fajara called the Fajara Club which has a bar, restaurant for poolside food, swimming pool, golf course, a squash court,2 tennis courts, a badminton court and facilities for table tennis. There are also a number of gyms for a good work out.


Moving to Gambia

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