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Do's & Don'ts of Gambia

Detailed Advice  
• Take out holiday insurance before travelling;
• take your anti-malaria medications regularly
• take your footwear off before entering a house;
greet people with your right hand;
• ask for permission before taking photos;
• avoid walking alone at night or in isolated places;
• be cautious of giving rides to people you don't know;
• know very well the person you give your address to;
• put money in a safe pocket or purse;
• introduce potential friends to your host family or colleagues;
• visit public places and use public transportation when possible;

• expose large sums of money when on holiday;
• display physical affection in the open;
• smell food before eating it;
• point at individuals with your finger;
• hold food with your left hand;
• be judgmental about religion;
• be overly friendly with people's wives or husbands;
• offer your left hand to receive things;
• handle animals (especially monkeys, canines and cats);
• swim in fresh water, particularly the river;
drink alcohol in an Islamic compound

Detailed Advice:
1) Don’t walk alone at night. No matter how safe an area may seem, in some areas it gets very, very dark so it’s nicer and safer to have a bit of company and a pocket torchlight.

2) When you go out, do let someone know where you're going. This is very important for overnight trips and make sure your room mate or someone else knows your destination and about when you expect to return.

3) Things to carry on/with you when you go out:
• some form of photo I.D.
• your holiday insurance card
• your emergency contact card
• only as much money as you need for the day
• a copy of your passport

4) Don't Carry:
• Large amounts of cash, unless you are planning to make a substantial purchase

• Your passport (unless you need it for business, such as changing money, OR if you are travelling up-country or out of the country)

• Any unnecessary valuables

5) Do keep close guard of your bags, especially when you are in the market. Don’t keep money in a back pocket. Book bags that can be easily unzipped would best be guarded on one shoulder and under you arm rather than on your back where you can’t always see or feel what is going on. One expatriate had her bag slashed and the contents removed as she roamed unaware through bustling Serrekunda.

6) Don't go out at night or to lonely areas with people you don’t know extremely well. If you are a woman, it is especially unadvisable to go out with a group of guys unless you are very close buddies—even then, safety in familiar numbers. It is best to invite someone to the pool bar or somewhere public during daylight hours, so you can get to know them well before making any private rendezvous in the evening.

7) Don't tell strangers where you live, though of course there are reasonable exceptions to this rule, as you will make many friends on the street from whom you would appreciate a visit from in the future. Use common sense in this matter. Many people will ask where you live as a way of striking up conversation—if you want to be subtle, you could say you live in Bakau New Town and you are staying with friends.

8) Do keep valuables (e.g. plane tickets and passport) as well as larger sums of money in a safe or EXTREMELY well hidden in your room. A suitcase or large bag with a lock might be a good option. Hiding places not to try, because they are so often used: in the refrigerator, under the mattress, in the night table. Always lock your windows and doors before leaving the room.

9) If you plan on making a big purchase or changing a weeks worth of money, it is best to carry your wad of cash in a money belt or neck pouch hidden under your clothes. Keep a few dalasi for small purchases in an easier to reach place, so you won’t flash your cash every time you want to make a purchase. When accessing your money belt, do it as secretly as possible, even if it just means turning your back to the wall.

10) If you are at the beach, don’t bring more than a few dalasi if you plan on splashing about in the water with your gear on the sand. It is best to take shifts in the water, always leaving at least one person behind to guard your towels, shoes, and valuables.

11) If the worst and unlikely happens and a crime is committed against you, you need to report the crime to your holiday rep or the local police if you are travelling independently. They will provide advice and assistance. It is imperative you file a crime report with the police. Don’t feel shy about this—even the most macho guys and wisest, money hiding women can be targets for criminal activities. If you don’t report a crime, you can’t expect anything to happen to the criminal, who is likely to go for another tourist unless his activities are stopped. In addition, insurance companies at home will need the police report number in order to reimburse you.
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