word is thought to have its origins from the English word for
bum which means a beggar, tramp or layabout. Bumsters in Gambia
are mostly harmless, unemployed young men who try to hassle and
hustle tourists into giving them their money or some other benefit.
However, all age groups are represented here and the older bunch
tend to operate more subtly on you. Many will profess to want
to work but the fact is most are school dropouts who have observed
that bumsterism pays more handsomely than gainful employment.
Not all Bad:
The vast majority of Gambian youths are genuinely friendly and
very polite to visitors, so don't assume everyone is a chancer
or con artist. Most youths in this country
engage in this activity as it is generally frowned upon by society.
Bumsters are in a minority and have their hang out spots in the
Not all bumsters are bad people. Most are just chancers and fixers
hoping to get a little cash out of you during your stay. Occasionally
genuine relationships can be nurtured
over the years to the benefit of both and furthermore there are
those who can be quite helpful and knowledgeable about the locality
and can help you out of some sticky situations. The key is just
be on your guard at all times.
They tend to wear brightly coloured sports vests, t-shirts or
the Rasta colours of green, yellow and red and can be found idly
hanging around outside hotels or
on the beaches. They sometimes
stand in a group waiting to move in on their unwary tourist target.
At other times they appear to wonder aimlessly up and down the
road looking into the horizon for their opportunity to pounce
on their next victim.
Kinds of Bumsters:
• Got any spare change?
The first kind of scrounger is the most common and can be found
in the Senegambia
Strip, Kololi, Kotu,
Bakau and other resort
areas. They will simply ask your name introduce themselves and
finally ask you for money because of
one reason or another. The usual being "I am hungry and have
not had anything to eat all day."
• "Let me help you, no problem"
The second type should cause you a little more concern. They will
befriend you until you are on first name terms with them and you
let your guard down. They will offer to either take you to excursions,
solve a small problem, haggle
on your behalf, offer 'free' local advice. At the end of the day
they expect to be rewarded for their 'services' in the form of
either cash, a meal, drinks
and any other gift.
• "But he's a Friend now"
The third type is even more serious as he would have evolved from
the second type. Towards the end of your holiday
you may think: "This chap seems particularly nice and has
been so helpful". Do not let your guard down as he will normally
not show any hesitation or mercy to con and trick you before you
go. If they haven't done so during your stay they will want to
swap contact details on your departure and will surely write to
you hoping for a reply. Any reply from you will be followed-up
with a hard-luck story hoping you will start to send cash to them
by money transfer or gifts by post. Should you return to Gambia
regularly then their demands may increase further moving onto
requests for a car, a plot of land,
loan for a 'business' or even a house!
It has been known to happen so be cautious. If you are of the
opposite gender he will try to form an emotional relationship
with you hoping to get a fast track exit from the country known
locally as "Dem Out".
• Mr. Lover Man
He usually prowls the tourist areas looking specifically for lonely,
elderly or middle aged white women. Some can be found on the beach
exposing their physical prowess hoping-on-hope to find a 'love'
connection. He is essentially a beach bum or gigolo who has just
two aims. The first is financial / gifts either now or when you
get back home. The second is a one-way air ticket out of the Gambia
preferably through first marrying
you. He will swear he 'loves' you and that you are so 'beautiful'
but once he's arrived in Europe his behaviour will normally change
as he settles in and gets his residency papers. From then
on he is looking for an ideal opportunity to bolt!
How to Avoid Bumsters While on Vacation:
While on holiday in Gambia if one first approaches you outside
your hotel trying to know your name
and offers his hand in 'friendship' firmly, but politely, reject
their advances. Don't feel obliged to answer as it is this particular
weakness on your side not to cause offence that the bumster is
looking out for. Many can be very charming and persuasive so be
firm and reject their 'services'. If they are really getting on
your nerves let them know that you are considering reporting them
to the tourist police. This usually
works as they are usually sent to spend the evening in detention
followed by a day of community service in the hot sun.
Common Introduction Tricks:
The simplest introduction line is "How are you, I hope you
are enjoying your holiday?" or a bit of cockney slang aimed
at male tourists which is "Right mate?" translated to:
"Are you alright mate?"
Some more cunning operators will say to you "welcome back,
it's good to see you again this year" even though this could
be your first time in The Gambia. All this is a ruse to spark
off conversation to gain your trust or familiarity.
Another technique is to ask you "is this your first time
to Gambia?", just brush them off with a simple "I'm
not interested thanks". If you have to say something just
reply "no, it's my fifth time in The Gambia and I'm not interested".
The Government has taken the threat
posed by the bumsterism problem on the Gambia's tourism industry
very seriously. They have set up the Tourism Security Unit to
crack down on the phenomenon. The unit can be found doing their
rounds in the main tourist resorts
on a regular basis rounding up persistent miscreants. Furthermore,
they have set up the The Tourist Guides Training School to find
proper, gainful employment for some these young men. Tourism studies
has also been introduced in schools to emphasise how important
it is as a foreign exchange earner to the country.
If you do want guided tours then try
Tour Guides Association on:
Tel: +220 4391097, Mob: 9903347