Threat level: Medium
On 30th December 2014 there was a failed coup in the country’s capital city, Banjul. A gun attack on the President’s residence was unsuccessful and a number of suspects were arrested, both in The Gambia and the United States.
Since the attack authorities have increased security surveillance and there are a number of checkpoints currently operating in and around Banjul. Vehicle searches are common place. Drivers should not reverse direction to avoid a road checkpoint or make any movements that security personnel may view as suspicious or provocative.
The country is reasonably stable, the present Government seized power in a coup in 1994. The President, Mr Jammeh, is well known for expressing bizarre views. In 2007, he claimed that he could cure AIDS with a herbal concoction – a view condemned by health experts.
Recent security risk events
In January 2017 a state of emergency was declared by Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, who refused to hand over power to opposition leader Adama Barrow, who won the general election in 2016. Many Gambians fled the country over the border to Senegal to escape a possible conflict but are now slowly returning. Former President Yahya Jammeh has now left the country.
As with many countries, The Gambia does have an issue with petty crime and scams. Please be very aware of this in and around hotels and areas with high populations of tourists. Avoid carrying large sums of cash and having expensive jewellery on display. Western tourists are thought to be high priority pick pocket targets because of their perceived wealth and thieves know that they often carry around valuables and cash during the day.
Demonstrations took place in April and May 2016 in Banjul. Political demonstrations can sometimes turn violent, and tourists in the Gambia have been known to get caught up in the violence. Avoid large public gatherings and monitor the local media. It is also advised that you avoid discussing politically sensitive topics in public.
Muggings involving tourists are increasing, the theft of passports and other valuables from hotel rooms has also peaked. Don’t take valuables or large sums of money to the beach especially. Take particular care when visiting isolated beaches and markets. You may want to consider making a copy of your passport or ID which you can carry on you, and leave your important documents at home.
Homosexuality is illegal in the Gambia and you should exercise extreme caution during your visit. There have been isolated incidents of foreign nationals being detained by the police in relation to homosexuality. There has also been a recent increase in homophobic violence across the country.
Gambia has maintained close relations with the United Kingdom, Senegal, and other African countries. It is a well established member of the Economic Community of West African States.
The country enjoys bilateral ties with 7 countries and is seeking to maintain friendly relations with a number of others.
Drivers who encounter a government motorcade should immediately pull completely off the road and bring the car to a complete stop until the motorcade passes. Roads are often very bad and full of potholes very notable on the Janjanbureh to Tendaba route.
Airport police and customs officials routinely inspect incoming and outgoing luggage. Airline passengers are required to put their luggage through an x-ray machine before departing the airport. Travelers in possession of prescription drugs should carry proof of their prescriptions, such as labelled containers.
Official languages: English & local languages, Wolof & Mandinka Religion: Islam Currency: GDalasi (GMD)
Most tourists visiting the country are able to enter the Gambia and stay for up to 90 days without a visa. This includes UK and Canadian citizens. Some nationals will be required to arrange a visa such as U.S citizens,
A passport valid for the duration of stay is required by anyone entering the Gambia. Most nationals travelling from the UK, EU, Canada and Australia will not require a visa if they are staying for less than 90 days.
US citizens will need a visa which is about $105 USD and lasts for five years. This should be applied for before you leave the country however in some instances, travellers have been granted entry to the Gambia and given 2 days to arrange a visa through the Department of Immigration in downtown Banjul. However you should not rely on this and aim to sort out a visa prior to departure.
It is advised that visitors to the Gambia are up-to-date with primary boosters such as MMR. It is essential that you get vaccinated against Yellow Fever as there is risk of the disease throughout the country. It is an entry requirement that you present a certificate proving your immunisation. This should be completed at least 10 days prior to departure.
It is further recommended that most travellers get Tetanus, Typhoid and Hepatitis A vaccinations. You may also want to consider a Meningococcal Meningitis jab as there is a small risk in some areas of the country, particularly to backpackers and those spending prolonged amount of times with the local population. Check with a health professional prior to travel if you are unsure.
Other health risks
Malaria is an issue within the whole of the country. Use of antimalarial medication is advised.
Schistosomiasis (parasitic infection also known as bilharzia) is also an issue, so contact with fresh water including activities such as swimming, bathing or paddling in fresh water lakes and streams is advised against.
Personal hygiene must be paramount and the local water supply avoided at all costs and bottled water inspected prior to consumption. A number of cases of bottled water being refilled with tap water and re-sold have come to our attention.
Medical facilities in The Gambia are very limited, some treatments are unavailable, and emergency services can be unpredictable and unreliable. Carry a sufficient amount of required medication but be aware that police in The Gambia have, on occasion, arrested foreigners carrying unlabelled pills. For a list of prohibited items, travellers should contact the nearest Gambian embassy or consulate. You should ensure that any prescription medication is carried in its original packaging alongside a copy of your prescription.