Electricity

220 to 240 volts, 50Hz. UK-style, rectangular three-pin plugs are standard.

Language

The official language of The Gambia is English, and Gambians are educated in English. There are several indigenous languages, but English is the lingua franca.

Money

The Gambia's currency is the dalasi (GMD), which is divided into 100 bututs. Dalasi are difficult to obtain outside of The Gambia but there is a bureau de change at the airport. Currency can also be exchanged at banks in the capital, Banjul, and at some hotels and tourist resorts. The Gambia is a cash-based economy where credit cards aren't widely accepted, though an increasing number of hotels and restaurants accept Visa debit cards. There are several ATMs in the tourist area of Senegambia and in other locations, but the machines can be unreliable.

Tipping

A 10 percent service charge is usually added to hotel and restaurant bills, and further tipping is discretionary. Generally all services rendered require a small cadeau (gift or tip).

Health

No inoculations are compulsory for entry to The Gambia, except for a yellow fever certificate if travellers are arriving from yellow fever infected areas. However, it is recommended that travellers take health advice at least three weeks before departing for the country.

Malaria is prevalent throughout the year, but the greatest risk is between June and November. Travellers should obtain up to date medical advice on the appropriate malaria medication, as some may not be adequate for The Gambia.

It is possible that your doctor may also advise that you are vaccinated for hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, tetanus-diphtheria, and meningococcus (for the dry season). Visitors are also advised to carry preparations for dehydration, stomach upsets, insect bites and cuts, as well as mosquito repellent and sun block, as these are not always readily available in The Gambia.

Waterborne diseases such as schistosomiasis do occur and travellers should not swim or raft in contaminated fresh water. Travellers should drink only bottled water, ensure meat and vegetables are well cooked and avoid unpeeled fruit and vegetables. Emergency medical facilities are of a low standard so travel insurance with provision for emergency repatriation is recommended.

Safety

Though crimes involving tourists are rare in The Gambia and safety is not a major concern, robberies involving travellers are on the rise, particularly the stealing of passports and valuables from hotel rooms. It is wise not to carry valuables or large sums of money, or to display them in public, and valuables left in hotels should be kept in safes whenever possible.

Driving in The Gambia can be hazardous and many taxis are not roadworthy. Road travel from The Gambia to southern Senegal should be avoided due to fighting between rebel factions in the area and incidents with bandits.

Travellers should be wary of young men known locally as 'bumsters', who approach male and female tourists, particularly on beaches, and offer to help or act as local guides. Visitors should be polite but firm in refusing unwanted help or attempts at conversation.

Local customs

The Gambia is a Muslim country, meaning it is considered disrespectful to dress immodestly away from the beach, swimming pools or tourist centres. Religious customs should be respected, particularly during the month of Ramadan, when eating, drinking and smoking during daylight hours should be discreet. Homosexuality is illegal and strong action is taken against travellers found to be in possession of drugs. It is prohibited to photograph military institutions.

Doing business

Business is conducted formally in The Gambia and a formal dress code should be observed. Punctuality is expected. Business cards are catching on and advisable to bring along. Greetings are important and a formal handshake is the norm for men and women.

It's important to acknowledge every member at a meeting, regardless of status or gender. A personal approach to business is favoured and Gambians like to get to know the person with whom they are conducting business. Business hours are generally 8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Duty free

Visitors arriving in The Gambia are permitted to bring 200 cigarettes or 250g of tobacco, a bottle of liquor or wine, a bottle of a bottle of eau de toilette or perfume, and personal effects into the country without paying duty.

Communications

The international access code for The Gambia is +220. Most Gambians access the internet through their phone data and visitors should purchase local SIM cards for their phones to do the same.

Passport & Visa

All visitors require a return ticket or proof of onward travel, sufficient funds to cover their stay in The Gambia, and all necessary travel documentation for their next destination. In some cases visas may be issued on arrival, but this should be confirmed in advance from official sources.

Passengers on a package tour, or arriving on a charter flight generally do not have to pre-arrange visas, but for peace of mind, this should be confirmed before travel. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required to enter The Gambia, if travellers are arriving in the country after leaving or transiting through an infected area.

It is highly recommended that travellers' passport have at least six months' validity remaining after the intended date of departure from their travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

Entry requirements

US citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay. Visas are required, unless you are a passenger travelling as a tourist on a charter flight.

British citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days, or for passengers travelling as tourists on a charter flight.

Canadian citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.

Australian citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.

South African citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay. A visa is required not required for stays of up to 90 days.

Irish citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay. No visa is required for a maximum stay of up to 90 days.

New Zealand citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay. No visa is required for a maximum stay of up to 90 days.

Useful contacts

Gambia Tourism Authority: www.visitthegambia.gm

Emergencies: 116 (Ambulance); 117 (Police); 118 (Fire)

Embassies / consulates in other countries

Gambian Embassy, Washington DC, United States (also responsible for Canada): +1 202 785 1399

Gambian High Commission, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7229 8066

Gambian Consulate General, Toronto, Canada: +1 416 440 0777

Gambia Embassy, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (also responsible for Australia): +96 61 205 2158

Gambian Consulate, Johannesburg, South Africa: +27 11 884 3710

Embassies / consulates in Gambia

United States Embassy, Banjul: +220 439 2856

British High Commission, Banjul: +220 449 4508

Canadian Embassy, Dakar, Senegal (also responsible for Gambia): +221 33 889 4700

Australian High Commission, Accra, Ghana (also responsible for Gambia): +233 302 216 400

South African Embassy, Dakar, Senegal (also responsible for Gambia): +221 33 865 1959

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