Scams & Conmen
The 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 do
not 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 tourist resorts.
Not all bumsters are
bad people. Most are just chancers and fixers hoping to get a little
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,
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"
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
• Mr. Lover Man
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 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:
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?"
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 the Gambia Tour Guides Association
Tel: +220 4391097, Mob: 9903347