ENTERING THE COUNTRY AND VISA REQUIREMENTS
To visit Gambia you will need a passport, valid for at least six months after entering the country. Your picture in the passport must be new (as current as possible). The passport is valid to the date of expiry and until it includes at least one blank page – both conditions must be met for your passport to be valid. For some countries a visa is required upon entry. An extension is possible based on a request filed in Banjul. The visa may be renewed after 30 days.
The necessary documentation to obtain a visa:
– a valid passport with validity of at least 6 months after leaving the country,
– a signed and complete application
– a photo (passport size),
– a copy of your return ticket.
For more information regarding visa requirements, please contact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in your respective country or the nearest Consulate of The Gambia.
International Certificate of Vaccination, Prophylaxis or “Yellow Card” is mandatory for entering all African countries, including The Gambia, since 15. January 2008.
On the plane or upon arrival at the airport, you will receive “entry” form that must be filled out immediately upon arrival and submitted at the first passport control. If you have not received a form upon arrival at the airport, you should inform the staff immediately. Fill out the form and then proceed to the exit. The form is intended to record passengers who arrive and depart from the airport. In addition to the basic information, it is necessary to enter your passport number, occupation, where you are staying in the Gambia, your purpose for visiting, where you had found out about the Gambia… If you do not know how to fill out the form, the staff can help you.
If you book transportation with us, than our representative will be at the airport before your arrival. In case of any problems, contact us at +220 901 7027, +220 733 9747 or +220 393 9748.
Gambians living in Serrekunda and its surrounding have more choice of picking a place to buy their food than those living in up-country. Women are usually buying vegetables, fruits, fish, meat, chicken, fresh milk, oil, spices, rice, eggs, etc. at the local markets. The biggest among them is Serrekunda market. Other places have their own village markets where they can buy anything they need. All prices at the market are negotiable
Although Gambia is among the countries with the lowest income, the prices of certain products in stores are comparable to prices in Europe or America. The method of storage and warehousing in stores, where they have electricity and refrigerators, is safer for visitors coming to The Gambia just for short period. It is good to be careful with food expiry dates and frozen products though. The prices of the food and other products sold around the Atlantic resorts and Serrekunda area are more expensive and therefore not accessible to many people. Dairy, meat products, eggs, juices and similar products cost almost as much as in Europe or America. Sometimes they are even more expensive because they are imported. Prices are not negotiable. They have cash registers and scales.
Supermarkets: Well-stocked supermarkets can be found in Banjul, Bakau, Serekunda and in an area with shops and residential areas of Kairaba Avenue.
Most stores are open from 9:00 to 17:00; some stores are open until midnight. Most stores are closed on Sunday.
If you are staying around Atlantic resorts (Fajara, Kololi, Bakau, Kotu, Senegambia) you will find many different types of restaurants, from simple bars on the beach, to gourmet restaurants, serving everything from Italian, American, Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Indian to Lebanese delicacies. Most concentrate on “tried and tasted” standards like sea food, steaks, pizzas, curries, grilled fish, salads, and chips with everything. There’s a far greater choice of eating places in the Gambian resort area than anywhere else in the country. If you go out of this area, you will only find hotel or lodge restaurants which are few in themselves. Also the capital city, Banjul, has small choice of international restaurants. Mostly you will find local restaurants aimed largely at people on the move, and local workers who do not have opportunity to go back to their compound for lunch.
A main course in restaurants with foreign food (Indian, Italian, Chinese, etc.) is likely to be priced from 5 to 12€ and more.
There is a shortage of Gambian cooking restaurants though. Many tourists restaurant are offering international menus in order to better meet visitors’ needs. Hotel restaurants are sometimes offering traditional food on their menus but the best way to taste authentic Gambian food is to be invited to a Gambian home or to go to the place where your new local friends are buy traditional food for themselves.
The Gambia is a small country that has much to offer to its visitors. Benechin, domoda, supa-kanja, mbahal and chicken Yassa are just a few popular Gambian dishes, which we recommend you to try. The food at local restaurants and on the streets is cheap and delicious but you should know where to buy it. Not all sale fresh prepared food though. If you are not use to spicy food and you have a sensitive stomach than be careful and do not exaggerate when tasting local food. More about Gambian cuisine read HERE.
All hotel restaurants are offering vegetarian meals. But you will have to choose food in restaurants very carefully if you are strictly vegetarian. If you want to taste food in Gambian local restaurants, you should know that most of the sauces contain meat, chicken or fish. The best way to have a delicious vegetarian meal is to ask someone to prepare it for you without animal proteins or you cook for yourself if staying in self-catering apartment.
Vegetarianism is not very common in The Gambia but in case you are one of them and you are a guest of a Gambian family, they will be happy to cook for your separately. Cheese is hard to find, except imported in supermarkets. Even if you are far away from resort area, rice, nuts, fresh fruits and vegetables, bread, butter, boiled eggs, mayonnaise, canned or fresh cow milk are always available.
Markets, where they sell a variety of handicrafts and traditional souvenirs, are the most popular shopping destinations. The most popular things on sale are products made with a special technique of tying and dyeing, antique masks and other wooden objects, leather goods, jewellery, coloured sand and wicker baskets.
Markets are slightly less hectic than those in the countries of North Africa (Egypt, Morocco, etc.). Sellers do not impose their products; they do not throw parties for you, while you drink tea with them. Be aware that it is necessary to negotiate the price.
“Tie-dye” is a process in which they tie and dye garments, usually knitted or woven scarves or pieces of fabric, mostly made of cotton. It is the modern variety of the traditional way of painting used by different cultures around the world.
Be careful while shopping and negotiating a fair price, which is a habit in Africa. We most recommend visiting the main markets in Banjul, Serekunda, Bakau and Brikama. There is not an item that these vendors would not have.
Please be aware that the export of products from the skins of wild animals, ivory or feathers of protected animals is illegal. Violators are punished with high fines and illegal items confiscated.
TRAVEL AND ETIQUETTE TIPS FOR A PLEASANT JOURNEY
– Be tolerant of public workers. If you get upset, they will have even a harder time understanding you and work even slower.
– Never criticize the condition of the country in front its officials.
– Always drink bottled water.
– Protect yourself from the sun by using sunscreen with a high SPF and wear suitable clothing and a hat.
– Bring clothes for warm and colder weather.
– Respect the local way of life, customs, traditions, religion, etc. Remember that you are a guest in their country.
– In Africa time goes by more slowly than in Europe. Buses and local guides are often late (although this is becoming less common).
– Always ask permission before taking pictures and do not be offended if they refuse, or if payment is required.
– NEVER take pictures of state institutions (military establishments, airports, embassies, bridges, etc.).If you are caught, your camera may be taken away without further explanation.
– Dress respectfully and avoid revealing clothes, as most people are Muslim.
– Show that you care about the environment by not littering.
– Never give money to children.
– If you buy candy or fruit for children, split it, if you have enough for everybody.
– Avoid racist jokes and sexual jokes.
– Do not tell how much money you have with you, how much you make and what you can afford to anybody.
– Take into consideration the values and moral principles of our association.
– Do not try to change the way of life of the locals and do not impose your opinions.
– Respect the people you are visiting despite the fact that you have come to help them.
– Do not go out alone in the evenings or at night.
Leave the following at home:
– a copy of your passport,
– a copy of your plane ticket,
– a copy of the international certificate of vaccination,
– telephone number of the members of the charitable organization in Europe and the Gambia.
Keep another copy of all the documents mentioned above with you. For example, always keep the copies separate from the originals. If your copy is stolen, you can ask someone at home to send you a fax with a new copy. Another option is to scan your documents and send the scans to your email that you can check anywhere. A copy of your passport can also serve as an ID on the street, or when you want to exchange money at banks or exchange bureaus, so you can keep the original passport somewhere safe.
OTHER USEFUL INFORMATION
Official language: English and local languages of Wolof, Fula, Jola Serehule, Mandinka, Aku tribe
Time zone: GMT + 01:00
Tips are expected in cities, tourist areas, on trips, etc. Tips are perceived as rewards for a job well done. Give a reasonably low tip.
The water is not drinkable, so always buy and drink bottled water.
Electricity – 230V; standard British sockets with three holes are most common.
People are very friendly but it is possible that they will be intrigued by your skin colour and approach you more often than you are used to. Some of them will want a way to take advantage of you, while the some will follow you shyly or just stare at you. If people look at their feet, it does not mean that you do not want to meet or speak to you. Avoiding direct eye contact is a sign of respect and humility. In principle, people will want to talk to you if you are communicative and friendly.
Stereotypical notion that white people are “wandering wallets” is still present, so children and adults will often approach you and ask for money.DO NOT reach for your wallet on the street or in a car with the windows open. Have some change on hand (not in your bag) in case you want to give them some money.
Intimate distance varies from culture to culture, and it is much shorter in Africa than in Europe. This can be noticed best using public transport, in shops and offices. Do not expect that people will wait in line and patiently wait for their
turn. In most cases, the principle “stronger wins” prevails.
Toubab is a word that you hear often. People use it while referring to white people and it means “a person with a light complexion.” The word is not an insult. In fact, it has a positive connotation and it refers to all white people. Children will sometimes yell after you “Toubab! Toubab! “, but you will quickly become accustomed to it.
We strongly recommend that you learn some basic phrases in Wolof (greetings, how to thank someone, etc.). It is recommended that you say hello to people before you start the conversation. Handshakes are usually accompanied by the phrase “As-Salaam Aleikum”, which means “peace be with you.” Most Gambians are Muslim. During the visit, you need to respect their religion and traditions. When you receive gifts or give them yourself, always use the right hand. Gambians are extremely hospitable, so do not be afraid to accept their hospitality.
Drink only bottled water: Make sure that you drink industrially packaged bottled water.
The sun is very hot. Temperatures may exceed 30 °C, so do not forget a hat, sunglasses and sun cream with a high SPF. Bring lotion to relieve sunburn.
Mosquito protection: Bring mosquito repellents along with long pants and thin long-sleeved shirts.
Prohibited things that cannot be taken out of the country: drugs, plants, animals, archaeological pieces, minerals…
Dress code: Walking in swimsuits, bikinis or topless is seen as inappropriate outside beach areas and hotels. We recommend wearing light cotton clothing, T-shirts with short or long sleeves, and shorts. It is important,
they do not wear revealing clothes, and to respect the culture and religion of the country. In the Gambia, you can also buy clothes at very affordable prices.
Before going home: Leave valuables at home – leave everything that is not vital for your journey (necklaces, bracelets, earrings, expensive devices, mobile phones, etc.).
Hidden pockets: Sew small, inconspicuous pockets at several places on the inside of your clothing. In them, you can hide folded banknotes and traveller’s checks. It is also a good idea to carry a fanny pack.
Backpacks with locks: We recommend using a backpack with double zipper, which can be locked with a small padlock.
Tagged baggage: All items of baggage must be marked in visible places with labels that includes your personal data (name, address). Highlight pockets inside your baggage the same way.
Do not carry sharp objects in your hand luggage Luggage that you take with you on an airplane must not contain any hazardous or sharp objects such as sets manicure scissors, large and small knives, other cutting blades, metal nail files, etc.).
Permitted luggage weight is usually 20-23 kg per person.
When you receive your plane ticket, immediately check the dates, departure time and your name.