The Gambia

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Wednesday, 22 October 2014.   This advice contains new information in the Summary and under Entry and exit and Health (in an effort to prevent the spread of Ebola virus disease (EVD) into The Gambia, authorities have cancelled all incoming flights from EVD affected countries (Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone), as well as from Nigeria). We continue to advise Australians to exercise normal safety precautions in The Gambia.

Gambia overall

Overland travel through the Casamance region in southern Senegal

Summary

  • We advise you to exercise normal safety precautions in The Gambia.
  • Exercise common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia.
  • The outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD) centred in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone continues to worsen. In an effort to prevent the spread of the disease into The Gambia, authorities have cancelled all incoming flights from EVD affected countries (Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone), as well as from Nigeria. For information on regional travel implications, see the Ebola outbreak in west Africa travel bulletin.
  • We advise you to reconsider your need to travel overland to and from The Gambia through the Casamance region in southern Senegal because of the unpredictable security situation and the risk of attack by armed bandits.
  • See also our general advice for business travellers.
  • Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in The Gambia. The Canadian Embassy located in Dakar, Senegal, can provide consular assistance to Australians in The Gambia. This service includes the issuance of Provisional Travel Documents. The Australian High Commission in Nigeria can also assist Australians.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
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Entry and exit

The outbreak of EVD centred in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone continues to worsen. In an effort to prevent the spread of the disease into The Gambia, authorities have cancelled all incoming flights from EVD affected countries (Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone), as well as from Nigeria. For information on regional travel implications, see the Ebola outbreak in west Africa travel bulletin.

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact the nearest Embassy of The Gambia for the most up to date information.

A compulsory Airport Development Fee must be paid on exiting the country. The Fee is 20 Euros, or equivalent in local currency. Travellers can pay using a VISA credit card, but not other credit cards. You should check with your travel agent or airline whether the fee is included in your air ticket.

The Gambia is listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as endemic for yellow fever. Yellow fever is a serious and potentially fatal disease preventable by vaccination. A valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate is required for entry into The Gambia.

As the quarantine requirements for yellow fever vaccination differ between countries, we recommend that you check the yellow fever entry requirements for all countries you intend to enter or transit by contacting their foreign missions in Australia. Some airlines may require passengers to present a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate before being allowed to board flights out of the country. For more information about yellow fever, including Australian re-entry requirements, see the Department of Health website.

Make sure your passport has at least six months' validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Safety and security

Crime

We advise you to exercise normal safety precautions in the Gambia. Exercise common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia.

There are reports of crime against tourists, including the theft of passports, theft of valuables from hotel rooms and theft from vehicles. Pickpockets are active in crowded market areas and on ferries in The Gambia, as well as along the beaches in tourist resort areas. Tourists have been mugged while walking alone along beaches at night. Take particular care when visiting isolated villages and markets.

Commercial and internet fraud is prevalent and often originates in West African countries. Victims have been deceived by hoax business proposals and defrauded. Those who travel to the originating country have had their lives endangered. Some victims have been killed. Criminals have been known to seek details of 'safe' bank accounts overseas under the pretence of transferring large sums of money (as a donation or for a percentage of the amount involved). They may also provide fake cashier cheques for 'urgent' shipments of large quantities of goods, request sizeable fees for a fake government contract and extort money from individuals they have convinced to travel to Africa for a business opportunity. If you are a victim of a financial scam, we advise you to obtain legal advice and not to travel to Africa to seek restitution as there is a risk of physical assault from the perpetrators. Victims have been kidnapped for ransom. Our international scams page provides more detail on these types of scams.

Bogus internet friendship, dating and marriage schemes are operating from some African countries. These scams typically result from connections made through internet dating schemes or chat rooms. Once a virtual friendship develops, the Australian citizen may be asked by their friend or prospective marriage partner to send money to supposedly enable travel to Australia. In some cases the relationship is terminated with very little chance that any funds can be recovered. In other cases, foreigners may be lured to Africa to meet their friend or prospective marriage partner and can become victims of crime including kidnapping, assault and robbery.

Both male and female visitors should be particularly cautious of young men locally known as ‘bumsters’ who approach tourists, particularly on beaches, offering help as a local guide. Bumsters often also use romance in the hope of gaining money and other assistance, or in the hope of departing The Gambia through marriage to a Westerner. Travellers should be polite but firm in turning down unwanted assistance or attemtps at conversation.

Civil unrest/Political tension

You should avoid demonstrations and large public gatherings as they may turn violent.

Casamance region in southern Senegal: We advise you to reconsider your need to travel overland to and from The Gambia through the Casamance region in southern Senegal because of the unpredictable security situation and the risk of attack by armed bandits. Travellers have been attacked on roads leading north from Ziguinchor to Banjul. See also our travel advice for Senegal.

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General advice to Australian travellers.

Money and valuables

The Gambia is primarily a cash-based economy and credit cards are not widely accepted. However, credit card fraud can occur. You should keep your card in sight when making purchases. It can be difficult to change foreign currency other than British Pounds (Sterling) outside of Banjul and the Atlantic coast resorts. There are a limited number of ATMs in The Gambia.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

Review the general advice to Australian travellers for further information on being safe and prepared abroad.

Local travel

Travel by road: Driving can be dangerous due to the poor condition of roads, poor driving practices, poorly maintained vehicles, insufficient street lighting and pedestrians, especially when driving at night and outside urban areas. Some local taxis are not roadworthy. Windows should remain up and doors locked while driving, to ensure safety. For further advice on road safety, see our road travel page.

Police roadblocks are common on all major routes in The Gambia and you may be asked to show identity documentation and vehicle registration and ownership papers. Travellers are recommended to carry photographic ID at all times.

Torrential rain can cause floods and landslides in The Gambia during the rainy season (June to October). You should monitor local weather reports, especially during this period.

Travel by river: Travel on river craft, including ferries and wooden pirogues, is dangerous as they can be overloaded and lack necessary lifesaving equipment. In February 2014 there was a serious accident involving a ferry operating between Banjul and Barra which resulted in the death of a foreign tourist. Exercise caution if using river transport and avoid all travel at night.

Airline safety

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See instead the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in The Gambia.

Please also refer to our general air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

When you are in The Gambia, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research local laws before travelling.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

Penalties for drug offences in The Gambia are severe and include lengthy imprisonment. Westerners have been sentenced to up to ten years in prison for carrying small amounts of cannabis.

Penalties for treason and murder include the death penalty.

Offences such as assault, sexual assault, theft and serious driving offences attract corporal punishment.

Homosexual acts are illegal and penalties include imprisonment for up to 14 years. See our LGBTI travellers page.

It is illegal to photograph military and official installations in and around airports.

Skin-bleaching creams and some medications are subject to strict import/export laws. Penalties include fines of up to US$2,000 and/or three years imprisonment. The import, use and possession of certain prescription and over the counter drugs (including those containing codeine and diazepam) are banned. If in doubt, you should check with the nearest Embassy or Consulate of The Gambia well in advance of travel.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australian overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Information for dual nationals

While the government of The Gambia recognises dual nationality, government officials may place restrictions on the ability of Australian officials to provide consular assistance to Australian/Gambian dual nationals if they are detained or arrested. We recommend you travel on your Australian passport at all times.

Our Dual nationals page provides further information.

Local customs

There are conservative standards of dress and behaviour in The Gambia and you should take care not to offend. The Gambia is a predominantly Islamic country.

The Islamic holy month of Ramadan is expected to begin in mid-June 2015. During Ramadan, Australians travelling to countries with significant Muslim communities should take care to respect religious and cultural sensitivities, rules and customs. In particular, people who are not fasting are advised to avoid eating, drinking and smoking in public and in the presence of people who are fasting. For more information see our Ramadan travel bulletin.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

The outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD) centred in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone continues to worsen. In an effort to prevent the spread of the disease into The Gambia, authorities have cancelled all incoming flights from EVD affected countries (Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone), as well as from Nigeria. For information on regional travel implications, see the Ebola outbreak in west Africa travel bulletin.

Medical facilities in The Gambia are very limited. Most doctors and hospitals will expect immediate cash payment for medical care. If you plan to bring prescription medication into the Gambia, you should bring a copy of your prescription and the original packaging.

In the event of an illness or accident, medical evacuation to a destination with appropriate facilities would be necessary. Medical evacuation costs could exceed $A100,000.

Malaria is endemic throughout the year in The Gambia. Dengue fever also occurs in the region. We encourage you to consider taking prophylaxis against malaria and to take measures to avoid mosquito bites, including using insect repellent at all times, wearing long loose-fitting and light coloured clothing and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof.

Water-borne, food-borne, parasitic and other infectious diseases (including HIV/AIDS, cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, leptospirosis, meningitis, tuberculosis and rabies) are prevalent with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. We recommend you boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food. Do not swim in fresh water to avoid exposure to certain water-borne diseases such as bilharzia (schistosomiasis). Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

The Gambia is listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as endemic for yellow fever. Yellow fever is a potentially fatal viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes, which is preventable by vaccination. We strongly recommend that you are vaccinated against yellow fever before travelling to The Gambia. See the Entry and Exit section for important information about vaccination certificate requirements. For more information about yellow fever, see the Department of Health website.

Where to get help

Depending on the nature of your enquiry, your best option may be to contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurance provider in the first instance.

If the matter relates to criminal issues, contact the local police. The national emergency number is 116 for ambulance, 117 for police, and 118 for fire. These services may not have an English-speaking operator and emergency responders may lack fuel for vehicles or face other resource challenges.

If the matter relates to complaints about tourism services or products, contact the service provider directly. (if we know of tourism police or consumer authority, add this information)

The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and can’t do to assist Australians overseas.

Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in The Gambia. By agreement between the Canadian and Australian governments, the Canadian Embassy located in Dakar, Senegal, provides consular assistance to Australians in The Gambia. This service includes the issuance of Provisional Travel Documents. The address is:

Canadian Embassy, Dakar

Corner Rue Galleni and Rue Briere de l'Isle
Dakar, Senegal
Telephone: (221) 889 4700
Facsimilie: (221) 889 4720
Email: dakar@international.gc.ca
Website: www.canadainternational.gc.ca/senegal.

You can also obtain consular assistance from the Australian High Commission in Nigeria:

Australian High Commission, Abuja

48 Aguiyi Ironsi Street
Maitama, Abuja
Nigeria
Telephone (234 9) 461 2780
Facsimile (234 9) 461 2782
Email: ahc.abuja@dfat.gov.au
Website: www.nigeria.highcommission.gov.au/

See the High Commission website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

Australian citizens in need of consular assistance may also contact the British High Commission in Banjul which is able to provide assistance to citizens of Commonwealth countries that do not have diplomatic or consular missions in The Gambia. This service does not include the issue of Australian passports.

British High Commission, Banjul

48 Atlantic Road
Fajara, Banjul
The Gambia
Telephone: 220 4495 133
Facsimilie: 220 4496 134
Email: bhcbanjul@fco.gov.uk

If you are travelling to The Gambia, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

In a consular emergency, if you are unable to contact the above missions you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

The rainy season is June to October when flooding may occur. Roads may be blocked due to flood waters. Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service.

If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.