word is thought to have its origins from the English
word for bum which means a beggar, tramp or layabout.
Bumsters in Gambia
are mostly harmless, unemployed young men who try to
hassle and hustle tourists into giving them their money
or some other benefit. However, all age groups are represented
here and the older bunch tend to operate more subtly
on you. Many will profess to want to work but the fact
is most are school dropouts who have observed that bumsterism
pays more handsomely than gainful employment.
Not all Bad:
vast majority of Gambian youths are genuinely friendly
and very polite to visitors, so don't assume everyone
is a chancer or con artist. Most youths in this country
do not engage in this activity as it is generally frowned
upon by society. Bumsters are in a minority and have
their hang out spots in the tourist resorts.
Not all bumsters are bad people. Most are just chancers
and fixers hoping to get a little cash out of you during
your stay. Occasionally genuine relationships
can be nurtured over the years to the benefit of both
and furthermore there are those who can be quite helpful
and knowledgeable about the locality and can help you
out of some sticky situations. The key is just be on
your guard at all times.
They tend to wear brightly coloured sports vests, t-shirts
or the Rasta colours of green, yellow and red and can
be found idly hanging around outside hotels
or on the beaches.
They sometimes stand in a group waiting to move in on
their unwary tourist target. At other times they appear
to wonder aimlessly up and down the road looking into
the horizon for their opportunity to pounce on their
Kinds of Bumsters:
• "Got any spare change?"
The first kind of scrounger is the most common and can
be found in the Senegambia Strip, Kololi,
Kotu, Bakau and other resort
areas. They will simply ask your name introduce
themselves and finally ask you for money because of
one reason or another. The usual being "I am hungry
and have not had anything to eat all day."
me help you, no problem"
The second type should cause you a little more concern.
They will befriend you until you are on first name terms
with them and you let your guard down. They will offer
to either take you to excursions,
solve a small problem, haggle on your behalf, offer
'free' local advice. At the end of the day they expect
to be rewarded for their 'services' in the form of either
cash, a meal, drinks
and any other gift.
he's a Friend now"
The third type is even more serious as he would have
evolved from the second type. Towards the end of your
holiday you may think: "This chap seems particularly
nice and has been so helpful". Do not let your
guard down as he will normally not show any hesitation
or mercy to con and trick
you before you go. If they haven't done so during your
stay they will want to swap contact details on your
departure and will surely write to you hoping for a
reply. Any reply from you will be followed-up with a
hard-luck story hoping you will start to send cash to
them by money transfer or gifts by post. Should you
return to Gambia regularly then their demands may increase
further moving onto requests for a car, a plot of land,
loan for a 'business' or even a house! It has been known
to happen so be cautious. If you are of the opposite
gender he will try to form an emotional relationship
with you hoping to get a fast track exit from the country
known locally as "Dem
He usually prowls the tourist areas looking specifically
for lonely, elderly or middle aged white women. Some
can be found on the beach exposing their physical prowess
hoping-on-hope to find a 'love' connection. He is essentially
a beach bum or gigolo who has just two aims. The first
is financial / gifts either now or when you get back
home. The second is a one-way air ticket out of the
Gambia preferably through first marrying
you. He will swear he 'loves' you and that you are so
'beautiful' but once he's arrived in Europe his behaviour
will normally change as he settles in and gets his residency
papers. From then on he is looking for an ideal
opportunity to bolt!
How to Avoid Bumsters:
While on holiday in Gambia if one first approaches you
outside your hotel trying to know your name and offers
his hand in 'friendship' firmly, but politely, reject
their advances. Don't feel obliged to answer as it is
this particular weakness on your side not to cause offence
that the bumster is looking out for. Many can be very
charming and persuasive so be firm and reject their
'services'. If they are really getting on your nerves
let them know that you are considering reporting them
to the tourist police.
This usually works as they are usually sent to spend
the evening in detention followed by a day of community
service in the hot sun.
The simplest introduction line is "How are you,
I hope you are enjoying your holiday?" or a bit
of cockney slang aimed at male tourists which is "Right
mate?" translated to: "Are you alright mate?"
Some more cunning operators will say to you "welcome
back, it's good to see you again this year" even
though this could be your first time in The Gambia.
All this is a ruse to spark off conversation to gain
your trust or familiarity.
Another technique is to ask you "is this your first
time to Gambia?", just brush them off with a simple
"I'm not interested thanks". If you have to
say something just reply "no, it's my fifth time
in The Gambia and I'm not interested".
The Government has taken
the threat posed by the bumsterism problem on the Gambia's
tourism industry very seriously. They have set up the
Tourism Security Unit to crack down on the phenomenon.
The unit can be found doing their rounds in the main
tourist resorts on a regular basis rounding up persistent
miscreants. Furthermore, they have set up the The Tourist
Guides Training School to find proper, gainful employment
for some these young men. Tourism studies has also been
introduced in schools to emphasise how important it
is as a foreign exchange earner to the country.
If you do want guided tours then try the
no: +220 4391097