When 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.
These 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
The 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
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.
HIV / AIDS & OTHER STDS
Before 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 from tourists.
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 of
PEDESTRIAN ROAD SAFETY
Many 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.
unlikely to be provided on the
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
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
generally risky as they don't often provide
lifejackets, are usually overcrowded, might have an engine breakdown
have been known to sink in rough waves.
These types of fraudulent men and women often
tourists various hard luck stories in order to
garner your sympathy, and most importantly
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.
It 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
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
There 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
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
Though there is
rabies in The Gambia, stray
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 of places.
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.
Tsetse flies can cause sleeping sickness and
have a painful bite. They are especially common
near sources of fresh water such as
Pirang Forest Park,
or upriver along the river banks, creeks and
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 infection.
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.