Toggle Menu SearchSearch

The Gambia

smartraveller.gov.au smartraveller.gov.au

Summary

  • Exercise a high degree of caution in The Gambia due to the uncertain political situation, potential for civil unrest and high level of crime.
  • Reconsider your need to travel overland to and from The Gambia through the Casamance region in southern Senegal because of the unpredictable security situation and the risk of attack by armed bandits. See Safety and security.

  • There is a heightened security presence in the capital, Banjul and in other parts of the country. Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) military forces are deployed to help maintain stability. See Safety and security.

  • Be alert to possible civil unrest. Avoid all protests, rallies and political events – they could turn violent without warning. See Safety and security.

  • The rainy season is June to October when flooding may occur. Roads may be blocked due to flood waters. Monitor regional weather forecasts and local media reports, and plan accordingly. Follow the instructions of local officials. See Additional information.  

  • Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in The Gambia. The Canadian Embassy in Dakar, Senegal, can provide consular assistance to Australians in The Gambia and can issue Provisional Travel Documents. The Australian High Commission in Nigeria can also help you.

  • See Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.

Entry and exit

Visas

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact an Embassy of The Gambia for up-to-date information.

Other formalities

The World Health Organization (WHO) lists The Gambia as common for yellow fever. Yellow fever is a serious and potentially fatal disease preventable by vaccination. You'll need a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate for entry to The Gambia. Some airlines may also require you to present a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate before you'll be allowed to board flights out of The Gambia. Read Yellow fever for information on re-entry to Australia following exposure to yellow fever.

A compulsory Airport Development Fee must be paid on exiting The Gambia. Travellers can pay using a Visa credit card, but not other credit cards. Children under two years of age are exempt. Check with your travel agent or airline whether the fee is included in your air ticket.

Passport

Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months from the date you intend to return to Australia.

Your passport is a valuable document and attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place.

Be aware of attempts to get access to your passport by deception.  If you are forced to hand over your passport, contact the Embassy for advice.

If your passport is lost or stolen, you must notify the Australian Government as soon as possible.

Money

The local currency is the Gambian Dalasi (GMD). It can be difficult to change foreign currency other than British Pounds (Sterling) outside of Banjul and the Atlantic coast resorts. The tourist area of Senegambia also has a number of foreign exchange operators who exchange $US.

The Gambia is a cash-based economy. Credit cards aren't widely accepted. Some tourist hotels accept credit cards but telecommunication issues can make credit card transactions difficult to process.

There are a limited number of ATMs. Plan ahead and take enough cash to meet your needs. Contact your bank to ensure that your cards will work.

Safety and security

Civil unrest and political tension

In January 2017 the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) deployed military forces to The Gambia to facilitate a transfer of power to newly elected President Barrow. The situation has since stabilised but there is still a heightened security presence in the capital, Banjul, and in other parts of the country.

Protests, rallies and demonstrations could turn violent at short notice.

  • Avoid public gatherings, protests, rallies and demonstrations.
  • Monitor the media and other sources for news of planned and possible civil unrest. Avoid affected areas.
  • Follow the instructions of local authorities.

Crime

You could encounter theft, including from your hotel room or vehicle. Pickpockets are active in crowded market areas, on ferries and along the beaches in tourist resort areas. Tourists have been mugged while walking alone along beaches at night.

Young men locally known as 'bumsters' approach tourists, particularly on beaches, to offer help as a local guide, sell goods or simply have a conversation. Bumsters often use romance in the hope of getting money and other assistance, or in the hope of departing The Gambia through marriage to a Westerner.

Credit card fraud can occur.

  • Carry only what you need. Leave other valuables, including your passport, in a secure location.
  • Don't tempt thieves – avoid displaying expensive watches, jewellery, phones and cameras.
  • Avoid carrying bags that are easy to snatch.
  • Pay close attention to your personal possessions at all times, especially when visiting markets and isolated villages.
  • Avoid walking or being outside alone at night, especially at beaches.
  • Keep your car windows and doors closed and locked at all times, including when moving.
  • Secure your hotel room against intruders, including when you're in it.
  • Politely decline any offers, advances or attempts at conversation from 'bumsters', making sure not to offend.
  • Always keep your credit card in sight when making purchases.

Scams

Internet scams come in many forms, including romance, friendship, business and employment opportunities. Victims have suffered financial loss. Victims who travel to The Gambia or other West African countries to meet a friend or prospective marriage partner they have met online, or to seek restitution for money they have lost, are at risk of kidnapping, assault and robbery. Some victims have been killed. 

Commercial internet fraud is common and often originates in West African countries. Criminals have been known to seek details of 'safe' bank accounts overseas to transfer large sums of money (as a donation or for a percentage of the amount involved). They may also provide fake cashier cheques for 'urgent' shipments of large quantities of goods, request sizeable fees for a fake government contract and extort money from individuals they have convinced to travel to Africa for a business opportunity.

Bogus internet friendship, dating and marriage schemes operate from West Africa. These scams typically result from connections made through internet dating sites or chat rooms. Once a virtual friendship develops, you'll typically be asked by your 'friend' or prospective marriage partner to send money to enable them to travel to Australia. In some cases the relationship is terminated with very little chance that any funds can be recovered. In other cases, foreigners are lured to Africa to meet their friend or prospective marriage partner and become victims of crime including kidnapping, assault and robbery.

  • Scrutinise all approaches originating in The Gambia (or other West African countries) from people you don't know.
  • Don't send money to anyone in The Gambia until proper checks are made.
  • If you are the victim of a scam, get legal advice. 
  • Don't travel to The Gambia to seek restitution.

More information: Scams

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world, including in The Gambia. An attack could happen anywhere and at any time, including in places visited by foreigners.  

  • Be alert to possible threats, especially in public places.
  • Report any suspicious activity or items to police.
  • Monitor the media for any new or emerging threats.
  • Take official warnings seriously.
  • Follow the instructions of local authorities.

More information: Terrorist threat worldwide

Local travel

Overland travel to and from Senegal

Reconsider your need to travel overland to and from The Gambia through the Casamance region in southern Senegal. The security situation is volatile and armed bandits could attack you.

More information: Travel advice for Senegal

Road travel

According to the World Health Organization, you're five times more likely to be killed in a motor vehicle accident in The Gambia than in Australia. Driving hazards include poor quality roads, unsafe driving practices, poorly maintained vehicles, insufficient street lighting and pedestrians on roads. Dangers increase at night and outside urban areas. During the rainy season (June to October), torrential rain can cause floods, landslides and damage to roads.

Police roadblocks are common on all major routes in The Gambia. You may be asked to show identity documentation and vehicle registration and ownership papers.

  •  Familiarise yourself with local traffic laws and practices before driving.
  • Carry photographic ID and vehicle registration and ownership papers at all times.
  • Drive defensively.
  • Keep your vehicle doors locked and windows up at all times, including when driving.
  • Be alert to possible hazards, especially at night and during the rainy season.
  • Monitor local weather reports and adjust your plans accordingly.
  • Don't drink and drive.

More information: Road safety and driving

Driver's licence

You can drive in The Gambia with a valid Australian driver's licence and an International Driving Permit (IDP). You will need to get your IDP before departing Australia.

Motorcycles

Check with your travel insurer if your policy covers you when using a motorcycle, quad bike or similar vehicle. Your policy may not cover you for accidents that occur while using these vehicles. Wear, and ensure your passenger wears, a correctly fastened and approved helmet.

Taxis

Only use registered taxis and limousines, preferably those arranged through your hotel.

Public transport

Public transport is limited and safety and maintenance standards can be unreliable.

Boat travel

Travel on river craft, including ferries and wooden pirogues, is dangerous as they can be overloaded and lack necessary lifesaving equipment.

  • Avoid all boat travel at night.
  • Check operators' credentials and safety equipment before booking.
  • Never board an overloaded boat.
  • Don't be afraid to ask about or insist on minimal safety requirements.
  • Always use available safety equipment, even if others don't.
  • If appropriate safety equipment is not available, use another provider or another means of transport.

Air travel

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in The Gambia.

More information: Air travel

Laws

You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we cannot get you out of trouble or out of jail.

More information: Arrested or in prison

The Gambian Government routinely blocks consular access to foreign nationals in detention. As soon as possible, ask police or prison officials to notify the Australian High Commission in Abuja or the Canadian Embassy in Dakar. See Where to get help.

Drug laws

Penalties for drug offences are severe and include lengthy imprisonment. Westerners have been sentenced for up to ten years in prison for carrying small amounts of cannabis.

More information: Carrying or using drugs

Other laws

Penalties for arson, treason and murder include the death penalty.

Offences such as assault, sexual assault, theft and serious driving offences attract corporal punishment.

It is illegal to photograph military and official installations in and around airports.

Homosexuality is illegal. Penalties range from five years to lifetime imprisonment. There has been a recent increase in anti-LGBTI rhetoric, including by officials. More information: LGBTI travellers

Skin-bleaching creams and several medicines that are available by prescription or over-the-counter in Australia are illegal in The Gambia. It is illegal to import, use or possess medicines containing codeine, diazepam, hydroquinone, hydrocortisone, betamethasone, flucinonide, clobestatol or clobestatone. Other restrictions may apply - check with an Embassy or Consulate of The Gambia well in advance of travel. Penalties can be severe and include heavy fines and/or imprisonment. See Health.

Australian laws

Some Australian criminal laws apply overseas. If you commit these offences, you may be prosecuted in Australia. Laws include those relating to:

  • bribery of foreign public officials
  • child pornography
  • child sex tourism
  • female genital mutilation
  • forced marriage
  • money laundering
  • terrorism.

More information: Staying within the law

Dual nationals

The Gambia recognises dual nationality but, if you're a dual national and you're arrested or detained, The Gambia officials may restrict the ability of Australian officials to provide consular assistance to you. Travel on your Australian passport at all times.

More information: Dual nationals

Local customs

The Gambia is a predominantly Islamic country. There are conservative standards of dress and behaviour in The Gambia. Take care not to offend.

The Islamic holy month of Ramadan is expected to occur between early May and early June 2019. During Ramadan, take care to respect religious and cultural sensitivities, rules and customs. In particular, avoid eating, drinking and smoking in public and in the presence of people who are fasting. More information: Ramadan

Health

Travel insurance

Take out comprehensive travel insurance before you depart to cover overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. Make sure your policy includes adequate coverage for any pre-existing conditions.

Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for your medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs. This can be very expensive and cost you many thousands of dollars upfront.

Confirm:

  • what circumstances and activities are and are not covered under your policy
  • that you are covered for the whole time you will be away.

More information: Travel insurance

Physical and mental health

Consider your physical and mental health before travelling, especially if you have an existing medical condition.

  • At least eight weeks before you depart, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and implications for your health.
  • Get vaccinated before you travel.

More information:

Medication

Not all medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia are available in other countries. Some may be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor. See Laws.

Before you leave Australia, check if your medication is legal in each country you're travelling to and find out if any quantity restrictions or certification requirements apply. Consult your doctor about alternatives well in advance of travel

Take legal prescription medicine with you so you remain in good health. Keep all medication in its original labelled packaging. Carry copies of your prescription and a letter from your doctor stating what the medicine is, how much you'll take and that it's for personal use only.

More information:

Health risks

Mosquito-borne diseases

The Gambia is listed by the WHO as common for yellow fever. Yellow fever is a potentially fatal viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes. It is preventable by vaccination.

Malaria is common throughout the year. Other mosquito-borne diseases, including dengue fever, also occur.

Protect yourself against mosquito-borne illnesses:

  • ensure your accommodation is insect proof
  • take measures to avoid insect bites, including using insect repellent and wearing long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing
  • get vaccinated against yellow fever before you travel
  • consider taking malaria prevention medication
  • seek medical advice if you have a fever, muscle pain, rash or severe headache.

More information:

HIV/AIDS

The rate of HIV/AIDS infection is high. Exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in activities that expose you to risk of infection.

Other infectious diseases

Water-borne, food-borne, parasitic and other infectious diseases (including cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, leptospirosis, meningitis, tuberculosis and rabies) occurs with more serious outbreaks happening from time to time.

  • Use good hygiene practices including frequent handwashing.
  • Boil all drinking water or drink bottled water.
  • Avoid ice cubes.
  • Avoid raw and undercooked food.
  • Don't swim in fresh water to avoid exposure to bilharzia (schistosomiasis) and other water-borne diseases.
  • Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering diarrhoea.

Medical facilities

Medical facilities in The Gambia are very limited.

Most doctors and hospitals expect immediate cash payment for medical care.

If you become seriously ill or injured, you'll need to be evacuated to a destination with appropriate facilities. Medical evacuation costs can exceed $100,000.

Natural disasters

The rainy season is June to October when flooding may occur. Roads may be blocked due to flood waters.

If a natural disaster occurs:

  • secure your passport in a safe, waterproof location or carry it on you at all times (in a waterproof bag).
  • closely monitor local media and other sources such as the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System
  • follow the advice of local authorities
  • contact friends and family in Australia with regular updates about your welfare and whereabouts.

More information: Severe weather

Where to get help

Depending on what you need, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurance provider. Your travel insurer should have a 24 hour emergency number.

Emergency phone numbers

  • Fire: phone 118
  • Medical emergencies: phone 116 or go direct to the hospital
  • Criminal issues: phone 117 or visit the nearest police station

Emergency services may not have an English-speaking operator. Emergency responders may lack fuel for vehicles or face other resource challenges.

Always get a police report when reporting a crime.

Tourism services and products

For complaints relating to tourism services or products, contact your service provider directly.

Australian Government

Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.

Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in The Gambia. The Canadian Embassy in Dakar, Senegal, provides consular assistance to Australians in The Gambia and can issue Australian Provisional Travel Documents.

Canadian Embassy, Dakar

Corner Rue Galleni and Rue Briere de l'Isle
Dakar, Senegal
Phone: (221) 889 4700
Fax: (221) 889 4720
Email: dakar@international.gc.ca
Website: canadainternational.gc.ca/senegal

You can also obtain consular assistance from the Australian High Commission in Abuja, Nigeria, or the British High Commission in Banjul, The Gambia. This British High Commission can't issue Australian passports.

Australian High Commission, Abuja

48 Aguiyi Ironsi Street
Maitama, Abuja
Nigeria
Phone: (234 9) 461 2780
Fax: (234 9) 461 2782
Email: ahc.abuja@dfat.gov.au
Website: nigeria.highcommission.gov.au
Facebook: Australia in Nigeria
Twitter: @AusHCAbuja

Check the Australian High Commission website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

British High Commission, Banjul

48 Atlantic Road
Fajara, Banjul
The Gambia
Phone: 220 4495 133
Fax: 220 4496 134
Email: bhcbanjul@fco.gov.uk

If you are unable to contact the above missions in a consular emergency, contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Additional resources