Like a long splinter inserted into the side of Africa, just at the bulge, Gambia is a low, narrow strip of a country that stretches inland from the beautiful West African coast, following the course of the majestic River Gambia. It may be the smallest country in Africa, sandwiched between north and south Senegal, but it is fast becoming noticed by the British package tour trade as a very acceptable alternative to the crowded resorts of Europe. It has also gained fame for its incredibly varied and accessible bird life.
Gambia's 'discovery' as a tourist destination was aided by the best-selling book turned television series 'Roots', by Alex Hayley, detailing the life of the author's grandfather, allegedly captured in the country and transported to America as a slave.
The capital of Gambia, Banjul, stands on the south side of the magnificent river estuary, a worthy commercial centre that for tourists is little more than the gateway to the hotels spread along the 25 miles (40km) of beautiful sandy coastline. These palm-fringed Atlantic-washed beaches have been dubbed 'the smiling coast', as much for their tropical splendour as for the friendliness of the local people, who welcome visitors whole-heartedly at the nature reserves, quality hotels, and craft markets. All this is just six hours' flying time from London, close to the Equator, on the same latitude as Barbados.
Gambia's currency is the Dalasi (GMD), which is divided into 100
bututs. Dalasi are difficult to obtain outside of Gambia but there
is a bureau de change at the airport. Currency can also be
exchanged at banks in the capital, Banjul, and at some hotels and
tourist resorts. Commission tends to be high. It is advisable to
bring travellers cheques or cash because only a few places accept
credit cards. Street moneychangers give the best rates, but take
care not to be conned and make sure you know the current exchange
rate before trading with them. Note that currency must be declared
on arrival and the export of foreign currency is limited to the
amount imported. Travellers cheques are accepted, US dollars and
Pounds Sterling are the preferred currency. Some hotels and
restaurants accept MasterCard and Visa, but it is unwise to rely on
them and a charge may be levied. ATMs are limited to a few areas,
and accept Visa but not MasterCard.
|GMD 1 =||US$ 0.03||Â£ 0.02||C$ 0.03||A$ 0.03||R 0.28||EUR 0.03||NZ$ 0.04|
Note: These currency exchange rates are not updated daily and should be used as a guideline only.
No innoculations are compulsory for entry to Gambia, except for a yellow fever certificate required by those arriving from yellow fever infected areas. However, it is recommended that travellers take health advice at least three weeks before departing for the country. Malaria is prevalent throughout the year, but the greatest risk is between June and November; travellers should obtain up to date medical advice on the appropriate prophylactics, as some (e.g. chloroquine) are not adequate for Gambia. It is possible that your doctor may also advise that you are vaccinated for hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, tetanus-diphtheria, MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) and meningococcus (for the Gambian dry season). Visitors are advised to carry preparations for dehydration, stomach upsets, insect bites and cuts, as well as mosquito repellent and sun block, as these are not readily available in Gambia. Water borne diseases such as Schistosomiasis do occur and travellers should not swim or raft in contaminated fresh water. Travellers should drink only bottled water, ensure meat and vegetables are well cooked and avoid unpeeled fruit and vegetables. Emergency medical facilities are of a low standard so travel insurance with provision for emergency repatriation is recommended.
All visitors require a return ticket or proof of onward travel, sufficient funds to cover their stay in Gambia, and all necessary travel documentation for their next destination. Those requiring visas to enter Gambia, AND arriving from countries that do not have an embassy or consulate of Gambia, may be issued with a visa on arrival. Passengers on a package tour, or arriving on a charter flight, are also able to obtain a visa on arrival; but, if required, an extension of stay must be obtained within 48 hours from the Immigration Headquarters in Banjul. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required to enter Gambia, if arriving in the country after leaving or transiting through an infected area. If a yellow fever certificate is required, but missing, the passenger will be vaccinated on arrival. NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
Note: Passport and visa requirements are liable to change at short notice. Travellers are advised to check their entry requirements with their embassy or consulate.
Gambia Tourism Authority, Bakau: +220 446 2491 or www.visitthegambia.gm
Foreign Embassies in Gambia
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