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Getting Around in Gambia

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Bicycles Microlight Flights
   
Boats Quad Bikes
   
Car Driving Rickshaws
   
Ferry Tourist Taxis
   
Hitch Hiking Walking

Car Rental Companies:
There are now quite a handful of car rental firms operating in Gambia as compared to only a few back in the late 1990s. AB Gambia Car Rental  can be found located at the front of the Senegambia Hotel. The others are AVIS at the Kairaba Hotel and Hertz at Banjul Airport and Afriq Cars Ltd in the Kololi Village Complex on the main highway near Senegambia. Your hotels' receptionist can best advise you where to look for the most convenient car hire firm.

The car rentals sector is not very well developed. You can pick up a vehicle at Banjul International Airport's front booths or in the coastal resorts, but elsewhere in the country the possibilities of getting one are basically slim to none. Daily rates including insurance and mileage can be pretty steep, and for a 4WD can go through the roof.

There are a few important points to remember. First, rented vehicles cannot, as a rule, be driven out of The Gambia into neighbouring Senegal. A few firms are adamant on you taking only a four-wheel-drive if you're planning on going off the main roads, even in the dry season. It's not unusual to be appointed a driver, and it's essential to be clear before hand about your driver's daily pay, accommodation and food. If you're using a self-drive car, you have to be 23 years or over and are required to possess an international driving licence or a UK driver's licence which can be used for short stays.

Alternatively you can hire a taxi on a daily basis as it simpler and cheaper. However low the price, don't get into a vehicle that's not roadworthy, has an impatient driver or someone you cannot communicate easily with. Finally, ask politely to see his or her driver's licence is up to date, the seat belt is working properly and the lights and signals are in good working order.

Car Driving:
Please note that driving in Gambia is on the right-side of the road. Don't automatically presume that your auto is roadworthy. Before departing, take a look at the state of the engine and tyres and don't start the car without first checking the battery, water level for the radiator tank and ensuring you have a spare tyre or two as well as the tools to change a flat one. You might want to consider keeping a jerry can of fuel and tap water in the boot just in case. You may find yourself low on fuel in the bush or there might be a small leak in the radiator. These two items may be able to get you to the nearest mechanic or amenity. If you do have a breakdown local mechanics are pretty adept at starting your vehicle having cut their teeth on numerous old cars still on the roads. However, aside from the major towns, spare parts, good equipment and tools are few and far between inland from the Kombo Coastal region, with Brikama being an exception.

When driving, be careful of the sudden appearance of ditches, rocks, and potholes  as well as goats, sheep, cows, chickens, dogs and people on the road. Very often people will walk along the road due to a lack of paving or because they don't want to get their shoes dusty! It's normal to press your horn repeatedly to alert cyclists and pedestrians of your approach.  Do not drive past a police / military road checkpoint or barrier without coming to a complete stop and waiting to be waved on, and always keep your documents in the vehicle's glove compartment.

In The Gambia cars drive on the right, though on very potholed roads vehicles stay on the smoothest part of the road until they have to pass one another. Hand signals are normally used to say "Please give way", "Please over-take me", "Don't overtake me", but don't presume the driver ahead of you can see that the road is clear for you to pass, and many drivers rarely look in their wing mirrors.  Don't assume that if a car signals to turn it's actually going to turn, and don't assume that a car that does not signal to turn will not actually turn! Many accidents on the road happen due to erroneous signal assumptions.  In short don't assume anything about the intended behaviour of other drivers.

Bicycle Rentals:
Bicycling is the most eco-friendly mode of transport for Gambia. One is able to hire bicycles from cycle rental stalls dotted around the coast, mostly close to the major tourist class hotels. Be choosy though as quality is highly variable. It gives you great flexibility  to go into areas that cars cannot reach for example narrow dirt roads and people bridges. Most of the hotel resort areas have cycles for hire on a whole day or half-day basis for relatively small amounts of money. Before setting off make sure the lights are working properly, tires are fully inflated and, when riding at night, always wear something fluorescent as most rural roads are unlit. Even where the roads are lit street lights will sometimes suddenly go out. You must take great care when riding on the main roads and it is perhaps safer to ride on the 'footpath' when you are cycling in rural areas.

A bike allows you to travel and explore well off the tourist beaten track. Many routes that can't be accessed by motor cars because they are too uneven, or involve passing through small tributaries, are often accessible by bicycle. With a rugged bike, you can go along dirt paths in the bush and villages. You can even ride on the beach from Fajara down to Gunjur in Kombo South - at low tide the sand near the water-line has a firmer, even surface. Riding a bike also offers the best short-cut between Fajara to Kololi's Senegambia resorts, while avoiding the traffic along the Kombo Coastal Road. If the tide rises, just pick up the bike and get back on a path or road. If you get tired just hail a cab and place the bike on a the roof rack and go on your way.

Rental bikes are not normally well-suited for long distance cycling. For extensive touring you could bring over your own mountain bike to The Gambia, or buy a tough bike after your arrival. There are plenty of retail distributors in many towns with Serrekunda having the largest choice, as well as cycle locks, padlocks and chains. Don't forget to take along strong battery-powered lights - the headlight can have the alternative use of being a torchlight and batteries are readily available. A rear view mirror is highly recommended for riding on the highways, but when it comes to anticipating the intended movement of the traffic around you, don't take anything as given.

Depending on your physical health and keenness, expect to cycle around 40-100km each day. The landscape geography is generally flat and gentle and, with the occasional rests, you could move across the whole country from west to east and back again in less than two weeks.

Quad Bikes:
The other increasingly popular and leisurely way of getting around the Gambia is by quad biking, which can be used on the roads, some paths and is great for the beach flats. It is advisable however to avoid the major highways when possible, especially during the rush hour and always wear a helmet. Finally do make sure that it is covered by your travel insurance policy.
[See Quad Bike Hire]


Tourist Taxis:
These taxis are green coloured and are regulated by the Tourism Authority, and as a result must be fully insured and have to pass a yearly inspection - the closest thing to the UK's MOT Test. These taxis offer trips at set prices, including standing time and a return journey, if requested. Ask for a discount if you are taking a return journey as they might otherwise return empty. These prices are normally displayed on special boards at the taxi queues in the resort areas, thus reducing the chances of you being charged exorbitant rates. The advantage of these tourist taxis is that they are usually given easy access close to the major hotels in Kotu Bendula, Senegambia Strip in Kololi and Cape Point. These areas are normally out of bounds for the standard yellow cabs, however, they can obtain a special ticket just outside the Senegambia Strip which allows them to drop you off, but not pick up.

There are also a number of green 4 by 4 wheel drives that are very popular with the more independent minded travellers and can be found for hire outside the Senegambia Strip in Kololi and the other busy coastal hotel resorts. They are a good way to get great views of the scenery while being driven deep in the bush or down south to the secluded beaches of Kartong and Sanyang.

The major drawback of the green tourist taxis is the cost - about three times as much for a typical short trip. It's a good idea to get the mobile number of a driver you get on well with and try and negotiate prices if you call him regularly. Often they oblige because of the repeated custom. Fling them a treat occasionally too.

Ferry Crossings:
There are about 8 ferry crossing points along the Gambia River at many small terminals as well as the main one at the Banjul Ferry Terminal. The cost of crossing the Gambia River estuary from Banjul to Barra is less than the cost of a soft canned drink.  There are also vehicle ferries connecting Janjangbureh Island to the north and south banks of the river at Sankulay Kunda Lamin Koto; a Bambatenda-Yelitenda ferry; and ferries at Bansang, Basse Santa Su and Fatoto. At other points the river can be crossed by hand paddled passenger vessels.

Boats:
There are river boats available for private charter, such as the river vessels operated by Jane's Boats who can take you for up-river fishing and birdwatching cruises from Banjul's Denton Bridge up to Georgetown (Janjanbureh).

Another alternative is to hire a fishing boat from one of the many boating and fishing tour operators located at Denton Bridge, Banjul. They are usually run as sports fishing businesses but can double up for a tailored, lazy cruise up-river as far as is navigable.

You can also hire an African Pirogue from a number of local fishermen but please bear in mind such people don't usually carry life jackets or 2 way radios on their boats. The African pirogues (narrow canoes) are usually powered by an outboard engine, and are a neat way off exploring the many creeks and swamp mangroves. You can use them as a form of enjoyable transport if you know the precise spot you want to get off at by the river bank.

Microlight & Light Aircraft Flights:
This is a spectacular way to enjoy aerial scenery of the Gambia's topography while getting from A to B. There are a few landing strips in the country so you are able to make stopovers. These trips are organised by Maddox Microlights who originate from the UK.
Tel. no. +220 4462100 / 7702119
[See Microlight Flights]


Walking:
If you choose to do a lot of walking. then you should consider carrying a small rucksack with plenty of cold water, sun factor cream, mosquito repellent, wear a hat, put on sunglasses. If you are entering the bush by foot then you should wear boots, thick trousers to protect you from possible stings and bites from spiders, scorpions, mosquitoes and snakes. The bet times to go on foot are first thing in the morning or late afternoons. During mid-day it can get very hot even in the winter season so do be careful about sunstroke.

Hitch Hiking:
This form of transport is not at all easy as most people giving you a lift expect something in return since you are a relatively 'well off' visitor. You may get lucky and get a lift from a well to do local who won't normally expect anything in return. Also remember that you would be competing with many poor people who don't have a car or bike and free lifts is all they can get. Anyhow, local transport is very cheap and you get to chat with the locals. If you have a backpack then look for transport with a roof rack.

Rickshaws:
Since around the mid 2000s motorised rickshaws have begun to spring up around the Gambia as a budget and more leisurely alternative to the numerous taxis plying the streets. They can be great for leaving the main roads and venturing down dirt roads, for shopping or exploring relatively tranquil areas around your hotel and nearby beaches and nature spots. You can find these parked around the major hotels around Senegambia in Kololi and Kotu.
 
 FULL PAGES:
   
Banjul Ferry Driving Regulations
   
Banjul Airport Horse Riding
   
Bicycling Microlight Flights
   
Camel Safaris Quad Biking
   
Driving Licence Taxis
   
   

 
 
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