Many of Gambia's unemployed young men have discovered that engaging and sometimes hassling tourists can be as rewarding as a real job. It's not a coincidence that there's a name for such persons: Bumster. Be prepared for personal questions, sob stories, not-asked-for "favors" and self-proclaimed friendship, all with the purpose of winning your favor or opening your wallet. Those not desiring such attention must use a combination of polite declination, wit, and when necessary firm refusal, if they want to be left alone.
There are a number of very commonly used scams in the Gambia. If someone stops you on the street, they may tell you that they remember you from the hotel you're staying at and that they work there. They may invite you to another hotel, but this could be a scam to attempt to rob you. Also, because people are constantly looking for ways to support themselves, if they offer you assistance or directions, it may be understood that they expect some monetary compensation.
Scams also exist in which marijuana is offered to tourists or they are are invited to come smoke in a home, only to find police waiting for a hefty bribe.
A simple "Sorry, I am in a hurry" could suffice to dismiss them. But don't tell them why you are in a hurry and don't say anything else after that as this may lead to a conversation â and this could lead to unwanted attention and possibly a scam.
Also remember that some Bumsters are not unemployed or young and never fall for hardship stories. One last word of warning: should you feel you want to give a person some money out of sympathy or just to get rid of them it will certainly lead them to ask you for more money at a later date should you meet again. Some recommend a stern and harsh response to such requests, but this should be informed by your values and the relationship formed with the individual in question. Keep in mind, however, that you may see this person again, and they could truly be helpful if you're in a jam or need information. Many people in tourist areas are merely 'friendly facilitators' who may hope for an exchange of favors, but are genuinely harmless. Being overly guarded could deny you an offer to join a local family for a traditional meal, or to personally meet one of the craftspeople who make the local goods for sale.
The Gambia is a great holiday destination but just keep your guard up at all times.
When swimming, be aware that the currents in the Atlantic waters can be strong. Always look out for flags on the tourist beaches indicating the level of danger on a red â yellow â green scale.
Be careful about your political opinions, as such critical opinions against the government are considered a crime.
Gays should note that they could be in extreme danger in Gambia - subject to possible arrest or even killing.
Yellow fever vaccination is strongly recommended. Meningitis vaccination is recommended. Anti-malaria pills are also necessary. Most cases of malaria in the Gambia are contracted between June and December. Mefloquine, Doxycycline or Malarone are the medicines of choice for the Gambia, and for most of sub-Saharan Africa, because of the increasing chloroquine resistance.
It is a good idea to bring insect repellent, sunscreen and other health items from your home country since these may be hard to find in some areas.
US,and South African citizens must obtain a Gambian visa before entering the Gambia. Visa can be obtained at the Gambian High Commission in Dakar. Single entry visas cost $100 USD, 35,000CFA francs about US$69, so a better deal! or multi-entry for three month period cost 30,000CFA. New Zealanders, Australians, Singaporeans, Malaysians, Taiwanese, British, Finns, Dutch, and some Europeans may not require visas for stays up to 90 days. Canadians can acquire a 30 day visitor's visa upon arrival. Always check with the High Commission or Embassy before making travel arrangements.A single entry visa could surely also be obtained at the border for 15,000CFA francs, at least for Europeans and US citizens, even when the embassy in Dakar claims and insists the opposite, as they wish you pay more to them instead!