coming on holiday to The Gambia
it is advisable to understand the various risks to your
and personal safety, and to take some simple precautions
against potentially harmful threats, hazards, and loss,
in order to make your stay a pleasant one. Most visits
to The Gambia are problem-free although independent
travellers are at increased risk due to the lack of
local support in an emergency.
If you're travelling independently, make sure next of
kin have details of your itinerary and keep in touch
people, usually harmless, are on the whole jobless young
males who try to eke out some kind of benefit from tourists
through hustling and hassling. These benefits are usually
in the form of money, meals, gifts, marriage or an air
ticket abroad. The way to deal with bumsters is to politely,
but firmly, rebut their advances of 'helping' you, and
don't engage in conversation. Visitors should also be
particularly careful of people offering to take them
on tours to Senegal. The chances are that the proper
immigration procedures have not been followed.
number of felonies committed against tourists is low
but has been increasing, particularly the theft of valuables
from hotel rooms such as passports. Don't display large
sums of cash in public and avoid taking your valuables
to the beach. Don't leave your personal possessions
in cars. Physical assaults on tourists are not common
but have been occurring increasingly.
you have not yet acclimatized to the hot, humid clime
then it can sometimes feel oppressive. You might under-estimate
the power of the tropical sunshine and this could lead
you into health troubles. There are basic protection
measures you can take to avoid sunburn, dehydration
HIV / AIDS & Other STDs:
engaging in any sexual activity you must always use
a condom or femidom, preferably bought from your own
country. Local condoms may not reach European standards
for reliability and safety and can put you at risk for
contracting HIV / AIDS.
The danger of re-used needles is ever present, though
unlikely, so if you are staying long-term or want to
travel to the up-country regions then consider packing
your own disposable syringes, as these maybe in short
Consensual sexual relations between men is illegal in
The Gambia. There is no similar law aimed at women.
Prison terms can range from 5 to 14 years, and there
is powerful societal discrimination against Bisexual,
Lesbian, Transgender and Gay individuals.
careful about where you go after dark, especially in
locations away from the main holiday resorts.
Do not go for walks along the beach at night unless
you are venturing out not far from the front of your
hotel, it is well lit and there is security nearby.
Avoid going to dark, rundown urban areas in the evenings.
There have been reports of muggings and bag snatches
Overland To Senegal:
Do not travel by road from The Gambia to the Casamance
region in southern Senegal. This region remains affected
by incidents involving presumed separatist groups and
there have been reports of banditry.
Pedestrian Road Safety:
travellers who are newly experiencing an exotic vacation
worry about tropical diseases, but accidents are more
likely to occur. Traffic accidents are quite widespread
in The Gambia, so be aware and do what you can to minimise
the risks. For example if you are walking along
the road try to keep on the left side of the road so
you can see any oncoming traffic, try to avoid unlit
roads where possible, wear
bright clothing and carry a small torchlight. Use common
sense before getting into a bush taxi,
for example if the driver is drunk or appears under
the influence of other substances, then ask to be let
out. Finally, try not to walk on the road itself despite
the lack of what you might call a pavement. You could
get hit by a car trying to avoid potholes, cattle, or
Lifejackets are unlikely to be provided on the ferry
crossing to and from the capital of Banjul to Barra.
This is also the case with the other ferry
services operating further east along the River Gambia.
Often such vessels can be overcrowded or suffer engine
If you decide to use the ferry, and are boarding by
car, then you should get all your passengers out of
the car and board by foot. Also keep your windows open
as the car moves onto the deck. After it has parked
you can close your windows and exit immediately to avoid
getting trapped inside during the crossing. Do not use
the ferry after dark. Travellers should think twice
before using one of the privately operated African pirogues
to cross the river. These look like wooden dug-out canoes
which are generally risky as they don't often provide
lifejackets, are usually overcrowded, might have an
engine breakdown mid-river, and have been known to sink
in rough waves.
Scams & Conmen:
types of fraudulent men and women often tourists various
hard luck stories in order to garner your sympathy,
and most importantly money. It could take the form of
'no more rice left for the family', 'my brother had
a car accident and is in hospital and needs medicines
now', 'my landlord is going to throw me out of my room
tomorrow', etc. Most of these stories are just that,
stories, a figment of their fraudulent imaginations.
Having said that there are many genuine hard luck stories
when you bear in mind the level of poverty in The Gambia.
If you really want to help then you say that you will
buy the rice or you will go immediately to the hospital
and meet their 'brother' etc. Be careful however as
many will simply get others in on the scam to defraud
is quite likely you will not even see a snake in The
Gambia, though they are common in bushy areas. In any
case snakes rarely attack unless provoked, plus the
vast majority of them are harmless.
When walking in bushy areas try to walk heavily and
they will most likely slip away. You can also wear boots
and thick, long trousers. Even if bitten only about
half of the snakes here actually release any venom,
so keep that at the back of you mind should suffer snake
bit. But do stay calm and don't try things like tourniquets,
sucking the venom out, cutting the bitten area. What
you should do is stay calm, keep the limb below the
height of your heart, bind the wound and loosen it every
30 minutes, restrict the movement of the limb by using
a splint, then get yourself to an appropriate medical
centre, such as MRC,
to receive anti-venom. You don't necessarily need to
kill the snake as it may put you in danger of being
bitten again and put the safety of others at risk. Most
anti-venom these days are polyvalent, which means they
are effective against multiple venom. Finally, just
to be on the safe side, do not wash the wound as this
could make identification of the snake more difficult.
are some marine dangers which you should be alert to.
Among these are swimming in potentially dangerous beach
locations with strong currents (always look out for
the sea condition flags), and don't swim off deserted
not alone. The other possible threats to look out for
are stingrays, jellyfish and stepping on sea urchins.
However, you can minimise these hazards by using a well
used beach. Swimming in streams can put you into
contact with waterborne diseases such as bilharzia carrying
Wildlife, Bites & Injuries:
there is rabies in The Gambia, stray dogs here
are generally scared of humans due to the constant stonings
of dogs that get too near to people. A rabid dog, cat
or other mammal in a 'Furious Phase' is an entirely
different matter, so if you get bitten by a dog, monkey
or other animal you should immediately wash the site
of the bite for at least 15 minutes with plenty of water,
soap, detergent, povidone iodine or other substance
that kill the rabies virus. Then immediately go
and seek medical attention. The other kinds of animals
you should treat with care are crocodiles and
hippopotamus. Hippos are responsible for more
human fatalities each year in Africa than any other
are spiders almost everywhere and scorpions
are common too, but you are unlikely to see them as
they are very often under logs, and rocks or in crevices
and holes. So to increase your safety do not go poking
around with your hands in these kinds of places.
Jiggers (sand fleas) can fester in your flesh.
If you walk barefoot in contaminated areas, they can
latch onto the underside of your foot, normally at the
edges of a toenail, where they cause swelling and can
be painful. Go see a doctor who can extract them.
flies can cause sleeping sickness and have a painful
bite. They are especially common near sources of fresh
water such as Pirang Forest Park, Makasutu
Culture Forest, Abuko
Nature Reserve or upriver along the river banks, creeks
and tributaries. Sleeping sickness is not widespread
and is treatable, so represents only a small threat
to travellers. They are attracted to the colour electric
blue, large moving objects and are more active away
from shaded areas. The symptoms include drowsiness,
and swollen neck glands which may show up less than
a month after infection.
flies can also be a nuisance in built-up areas.
The adults lays her eggs on the ground or on drying
clothes and when the eggs get on human skin they hatch
and bore through your skin. They form a group of boils,
with each hatching about 7 days later. If you think
you have one of these parasitic flies under you skin
then try coating the area with petroleum jelly, this
makes the grub come to the surface, at which point you
can squeeze them out.
Because you are in the tropics you must take great care
with cuts and bruises, and clean and treat them
as soon as possible, as there are numerous bacteria
and parasitic organisms in either the soil, water and
air. Therefore you should pack some antiseptic disinfectant
soap and cream, though these are available from local
pharmacies and some supermarkets.
Antihistamine tablets or steroid cream can help to reduce
inflammation caused by insect stings and bites. Also
consider taking along a small first-aid kit and pain
travellers will most likely be pestered by bumsters.
Women should try and avoid going into secluded areas
at night. If you are going up-country then try and only
travel during the hours of day light and try to go accompanied.