coming on holiday to The Gambia it is advisable to understand
the various risks to your health and
personal safety, and to take some simple precautions against potentially
harmful threats, hazards, and loss, in order to make your stay
a pleasant one. Most visits to The Gambia are problem-free although
independent travellers are at increased risk due to the lack of
local support in an emergency. If you're travelling independently,
make sure next of kin have details of your itinerary and keep
in touch regularly.
people, usually harmless, are on the whole jobless young males
who try to eke out some kind of benefit from tourists through
hustling and hassling. These benefits are usually in the form
of money, meals, gifts, marriage or an
air ticket abroad. The way to
deal with bumsters is to politely, but firmly, rebut their advances
of 'helping' you, and don't engage in conversation. Visitors should
also be particularly careful of people offering to take them on
tours to Senegal. The chances are that the proper immigration
procedures have not been followed. More...
number of felonies committed against tourists is low but has been
increasing, particularly the theft of valuables from hotel rooms
such as passports. Don't display large sums of cash in public
and avoid taking your valuables to the beach. Don't leave your
personal possessions in cars. Physical assaults on tourists are
not common but have been occurring increasingly.
HEATSTROKE, SUNBURN & DEHYDRATION
you have not yet acclimatized to the hot, humid clime then it
can sometimes feel oppressive. You might under-estimate the power
of the tropical sunshine and this could lead you into health troubles.
There are basic protection measures you can take to avoid sunburn,
dehydration and heatstroke. More...
HIV / AIDS & OTHER STDS
engaging in any sexual activity you must always use a condom or
femidom, preferably bought from your own country. Local condoms
may not reach European standards for reliability and safety and
can put you at risk for contracting HIV
/ AIDS. The danger of re-used needles is ever present, though
unlikely, so if you are staying long-term or want to travel to
the up-country regions then consider packing your own disposable
syringes, as these maybe in short supply.
Consensual sexual relations between men is illegal in The Gambia.
There is no similar law aimed at women. Prison terms can range
from 5 to 14 years, and there is powerful societal discrimination
against Bisexual, Lesbian, Transgender and Gay individuals.
careful about where you go after dark, especially in locations
away from the main holiday resorts.
Do not go for walks along the beach at night unless you are venturing
out not far from the front of your hotel, it is well lit and there
is security nearby. Avoid going to dark, rundown urban areas in
the evenings. There have been reports of muggings and bag snatches
OVERLAND TO SENEGAL
Do not travel by road from The Gambia to the Casamance region
in southern Senegal. This region remains affected by incidents
involving presumed separatist groups and there have been reports
PEDESTRIAN ROAD SAFETY
travellers who are newly experiencing an exotic vacation worry
about tropical diseases, but accidents are more likely to occur.
Traffic accidents are quite widespread in The Gambia, so be aware
and do what you can to minimise the risks. For example if
you are walking along the road try to keep on the left side of
the road so you can see any oncoming traffic, try to avoid unlit
roads where possible, wear bright clothing
and carry a small torchlight. Use common sense before getting
into a bush taxi, for example if the
driver is drunk or appears under the influence of other substances,
then ask to be let out. Finally, try not to walk on the road itself
despite the lack of what you might call a pavement. You could
get hit by a car trying to avoid potholes, cattle, or other vehicles.
are unlikely to be provided on the ferry
crossing to and from the capital of Banjul
to Barra. This is also the case
with the other ferry services operating further east along
the River Gambia. Often such
vessels can be overcrowded or suffer engine breakdown mid-river.
If you decide to use the ferry, and are boarding by car, then
you should get all your passengers out of the car and board by
foot. Also keep your windows open as the car moves onto the deck.
After it has parked you can close your windows and exit immediately
to avoid getting trapped inside during the crossing. Do not use
the ferry after dark. Travellers should think twice before using
one of the privately operated African pirogues to cross
the river. These look like wooden dug-out canoes which are generally
risky as they don't often provide lifejackets, are usually overcrowded,
might have an engine breakdown mid-river, and have been known
to sink in rough waves.
SCAMS & CONMEN
types of fraudulent men and women often tourists various hard
luck stories in order to garner your sympathy, and most importantly
money. It could take the form of 'no
more rice left for the family', 'my brother
had a car accident and is in hospital and needs medicines now',
'my landlord is going to throw me out of my room tomorrow', etc.
Most of these stories are just that, stories, a figment of their
fraudulent imaginations. Having said that there are many genuine
hard luck stories when you bear in mind the level of poverty in
The Gambia. If you really want to help then you say that you will
buy the rice or you will go immediately to the hospital and meet
their 'brother' etc. Be careful however as many will simply get
others in on the scam to defraud you. More...
is quite likely you will not even see a snake in The Gambia, though
they are common in bushy areas. In any case snakes rarely attack
unless provoked, plus the vast majority of them are harmless.
When walking in bushy areas try to walk heavily and they will
most likely slip away. You can also wear boots and thick, long
trousers. Even if bitten only about half of the snakes here actually
release any venom, so keep that at the back of you mind should
suffer snake bit. But do stay calm and don't try things like tourniquets,
sucking the venom out, cutting the bitten area. What you should
do is stay calm, keep the limb below the height of your heart,
bind the wound and loosen it every 30 minutes, restrict the movement
of the limb by using a splint, then get yourself to an appropriate
medical centre, such as MRC, to
receive anti-venom. You don't necessarily need to kill the snake
as it may put you in danger of being bitten again and put the
safety of others at risk. Most anti-venom these days are polyvalent,
which means they are effective against multiple venom. Finally,
just to be on the safe side, do not wash the wound as this could
make identification of the snake more difficult.
are some marine dangers which you should be alert to. Among these
are swimming in potentially dangerous beach locations with
strong currents (always look out for the sea condition flags),
and don't swim off deserted beaches,
especially not alone. The other possible threats to look out for
are stingrays, jellyfish and stepping on sea urchins. However,
you can minimise these hazards by using a well used beach. Swimming
in streams can put you into contact with waterborne diseases
such as bilharzia carrying microorganisms. More...
WILDLIFE, BITES AND INJURIES
there is rabies in The Gambia, stray dogs
here are generally scared of humans due to the constant stonings
of dogs that get too near to people. A rabid dog, cat or other
mammal in a 'Furious Phase' is an entirely different matter, so
if you get bitten by a dog, monkey or other animal you should
immediately wash the site of the bite for at least 15 minutes
with plenty of water, soap, detergent, povidone iodine or other
substance that kill the rabies virus. Then immediately go
and seek medical attention. The other kinds of animals you should
treat with care are crocodiles and hippopotamus.
Hippos are responsible for more human fatalities each year in
Africa than any other large animal.
There are spiders almost everywhere and scorpions
are common too, but you are unlikely to see them as they are very
often under logs, and rocks or in crevices and holes. So to increase
your safety do not go poking around with your hands in these kinds
Jiggers (sand fleas) can fester in your flesh. If you walk
barefoot in contaminated areas, they can latch onto the underside
of your foot, normally at the edges of a toenail, where they cause
swelling and can be painful. Go see a doctor who can extract them.
flies can cause sleeping sickness and have a painful bite.
They are especially common near sources of fresh water such as
Pirang Forest Park, Makasutu
Culture Forest, Abuko
Nature Reserve or upriver along the river banks, creeks and
tributaries. Sleeping sickness is not widespread and is treatable,
so represents only a small threat to travellers. They are attracted
to the colour electric blue, large moving objects and are more
active away from shaded areas. The symptoms include drowsiness,
and swollen neck glands which may show up less than a month after
Tumbu flies can also be a nuisance
in built-up areas. The adults lays her eggs on the ground or on
drying clothes and when the eggs get on human skin they hatch
and bore through your skin. They form a group of boils, with each
hatching about 7 days later. If you think you have one of these
parasitic flies under you skin then try coating the area with
petroleum jelly, this makes the grub come to the surface, at which
point you can squeeze them out.
Because you are in the tropics you must take great care with cuts
and bruises, and clean and treat them as soon as possible,
as there are numerous bacteria and parasitic organisms in either
the soil, water and air. Therefore you should pack some antiseptic
disinfectant soap and cream, though these are available from local
pharmacies and some supermarkets.
Antihistamine tablets or steroid cream can help to reduce inflammation
caused by insect stings and bites. Also consider taking along
a small first-aid kit and pain killers.
travellers will most likely be pestered by bumsters.
Women should try and avoid going into secluded areas at night.
If you are going up-country then try and only travel during the
hours of day light and try to go accompanied.