Gambia is the smallest African country (500km long and 50km wide) and is enveloped by Senegal. The country has superb beaches and luxurious resorts. Gambia contains stunning nature reserves (The West Kiang National Park) where visitors can participate in bird watching or safari.
- Capital city: Banjul
- Languages: English (official), Mandinka, Wolof, Fula and other minor languages
- Time difference: GMT/UTC + 0h
- Entry formalities: You need a visa prior your entry to Gambia. You must apply for your visa 2 or 3 weeks before your trip
- Electricity: 220V
- Telephone: +220
- Health: The following vaccinations are recommended (tetanus, poliomyelitis, diphtheria, typhoid, hepatitis A&B, and rabbies). The vaccination against yellow fever is mandatory.
- General facts: If you need to change money outside regular banking hours, ask the receptionist of the hotel or a Gambian friend to link you with a reliable person who will come to your hotel and change your money with dalasis. It is better going through this process rather than changing your money with small hotels which will insist to make the change for you but with astronomical commissions. Most of the banks have ATM machines but they are most of the time out of order. Make sure to bring enough cash if you are planning to explore inside the country.
- Currency: Dalasi
Daily budget food
- Low budget: < 150 D
- Average budget: 150-300 D
- High budget: > 300 D
Daily budget accommodation
- Low budget: < 800 D
- Average budget: 800-2 500D
- High budget: > 2 500D
Best Time to Go And Climate
The tourist season starts from November to February (during the dry season) when temperatures are cool. That’s the best time to watch fauna and the birds in the natural reserves. During this period, you will access easily all the regions of Gambia (the absence of rain will allow you to access the most remote areas)
There is in Gambia a big gap between tourist’s infrastructures along the coast, and the infrastructures inside the country. The gap is even greater in Gambia, where very urbanized tourists complexes along the Atlantic coast contrast with the limited choice of accommodation inside the country. Accommodation cost is generally higher in Gambia than East and South African countries.
Campsites: This type of accommodation is most common. You will sleep in a bungalow or a traditional hut. There are a large range of campsites (from very luxurious to “Spartan” style of camping). But most of the campsites have an average comfort.
Campgrounds: They are not many in Gambia. The rare ones welcome camping cars. Nonetheless, few hotels and campsites will allow camping at a reasonable price. If you going to camp near a village, you must ask authorization first.
Eco lodges: There are few eco lodges using wind and solar energy and equipped with dry toilets.
Hotels: There are all types of hotels (from cheap hotels to five-star hotels). Note that breakfast is not systematically included and you will have to pay more money
Resort Hotels: These are generally huge hotels along the Atlantic coast and contain many restaurants, bars, discos, gift shops and sometimes massage and hair salon. You can also hire a bicycle or a car.
Atlantic coast and Serekunda: Serekunda is the largest urban Centre in The Gambia. Serekunda is known for its market, its silk cotton tree and its wrestling arena
River Gambia National Park: The national park was established in 1978 and is made up of a complex of 5 islands that lie on the river in the Central River Division. The 5 island are collectively known as Baboon Islands which cover an area of approximately 1,445 acres (585 ha.) and are relatively flat. It forms one of the last refuges for the very threatened hippopotamus within The Gambia. Their ecological systems range from lush jungle rainforest, reeds, savannah and mangrove swamps. An interesting place to visit is the Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Camp (CRC) which lies on the banks of the river and was established in 1969 to rescue orphaned chimps. There are currently about fifty Chimpanzees living on 3 of the larger islands. The population is steadily increasing through births.
Customs: Greeting each other has a particular importance. Wolof, Mandingue and the elderly people start greeting each other by saying « Salaam aleikoum » and « Wa Aleikoum salaam ». This first Muslim greeting is immediately followed by questions “how are you”, “how is the family”, and “how is your health”, etc…Non-Muslims also use the same way of greeting. It is customary to reply that everything is good. Handshaking and “tutoiement” are common practices. If you enter a room with many people, you must go around the room and shake hands (gently) with everyone.
Languages: Wolof is spoken by all Gambians. But there is also many other languages (at least 50)
Good day: no ngoolu dong
Thank you: on jaaraama
Exccuse me: yaafo ou achanam hakke
Do you speak french? : ada faama faranse ?
I do not understand: mi faamaani
My name is…: ko… njeyaa mi
How much does it cost? : dum no foti jarata ?
How are you? : No mbaddaa?
Food: “Benachin” is the national dish of Gambia. It is made of rice, vegetables and fish (or meat). There are two styles: “tieb bou khon” (rice cooked with tomato sauce), and “tieb bou wekh” (without tomato sauce). The other famous dish is “yassa” (cooked with chicken or fish) with onions, and lemon. “Mafé” is a dish composed white rice, and peanut sauce cooked with meat and vegetables. “Domadah” another dish cooked with peanut butter, meat, vegetables and sometimes palm oil. “Bassi-salété” (“thiéré”) made of millet, vegetables and meat. Generally served for dinner or big occasions
Religion: 90% of the population of Gambia is Muslim and they live in a perfect harmony with remaining Christians and animists of the country.
Arts: It is worth you purchase a flight ticket to go listen to Gambian music. The reputation of Gambian music tarnished a little but there is still a fantastic reggae music scene. In Gambia, the tradition of sculpture finds its origin in the creation of ritual wooden masks and statues. Today, they are massively sold in the crafts markets and gifts shops for tourists. There are also very talented artists in Gambia (Baboucar Etu Ndow & Njogu Touray). Since the independence of the country, many contemporary writers have been noticed. The famous novelist William Farquhar Conton published in 1960 his famous novel “The African”
Geography: The Gambia River flows through Bassari land and the Niokolo-Koba National Park. The northeast of the country, from Basse to River Gambia National Park, the abundant forests will remind you the Amazon. Inland, deforestation has considerably reduced the tropical and gallery forests. In the west of the country, sea water I carried away from the shoreline and the palm trees are replaced by a dense swampy mangrove.
Fauna and flora: Kapok, baobab, acacia and palm trees are widely present in the country. Coconut trees, sometimes reaching 35m, are the most known trees in the country. Six national parks and natural reserves made Senegal an extraordinary place for bird’s observation. Baboons, red colobus, vervet and patas monkeys, are the more prominent mammals of the country. Elephants are rare and hard to see even in the Niokolo-Koba National Park. But you will be able to see few hippos on the banks of Gambia River.
Near river mouths you will see dolphins and crocodiles. There are a lot of snakes in the country (pythons, black mambas and cobras are the most known). You should never cross their path. In the bush, you could encounter the African puff adder (Bitis arietans). Fish bearing waters are becoming scarce, and this is causing an economic issue for the country. Generally speaking, ecological problems (deforestation, soil erosion, galloping urbanization, water and air pollution) become more aggravated and worsen each year