Fire and rescue services
We haven't changed our level of advice:
Exercise a high degree of caution in The Gambia.
Full travel advice: Safety
Full travel advice: Health
Full travel advice: Local laws
Full travel advice: Travel
Full travel advice: Local contacts
In January 2017, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) sent forces to The Gambia. This was to help the transfer of power to the new president.
The situation is now stable. However, there's an increased security presence in Banjul and other parts of the country.
Political protests are planned in December 2019 and January 2020.
Protests and events that draw large groups of people can turn violent.
To reduce your risk during periods of unrest:
Overland travel to the Casamance region is dangerous.
The security situation is unpredictable. There's a high risk of attack by armed bandits.
Theft can occur, including from your hotel room or vehicle.
Tourists have been mugged at night while walking alone on beaches.
Be aware of young men known as 'bumsters'. They approach tourists, particularly on beaches.
They might offer to:
Bumsters often use romance to get money or other help from you. They may also try to leave the country through marriage to a Westerner.
Politely decline offers, advances or attempts at conversation from bumsters. Take care not to offend.
To prevent crime:
Internet scams come in many forms, including romance, friendship, business and job offers. These scams often originate in West African countries.
Scam victims often lose money.
To protect yourself from scams:
If you suspect a scam, get legal advice.
Don't travel to The Gambia to get your money back or to get revenge. You could be in danger.
If you're travelling to The Gambia , your family and friends may receive bogus phone calls and emails from The Gambia. Scammers may claim that you're in legal, financial or medical trouble and that you need money.
To protect your family and friends from scammers:
If friends and family can't contact you directly, they should contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre.
Terrorism is a threat worldwide.
An attack could happen anywhere, at any time. This includes places visited by foreigners.
To reduce your risk of being involved in an attack:
The rainy season is June to October. Flooding may occur. Floodwaters may block roads.
Register with the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System to receive alerts on major disasters.
Get comprehensive travel insurance before you leave. Your policy needs to cover all overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. The Australian Government won't pay for these costs.
If you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. This applies to everyone, no matter how healthy and fit you are.
If you're not insured, you may have to pay many 1000s of dollars up-front for medical care.
Consider your physical and mental health before you travel, especially if you have an existing medical condition.
See your doctor or travel clinic to:
Do this at least eight weeks before you leave.
Not all medication available over the counter or by prescription in Australia is available in other countries.
Some may even be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.
Some prescription or over-the-counter drugs are illegal in The Gambia. This includes skin-bleaching creams and other medication available in Australia.
It's illegal to import, use or possess medication containing:
Other restrictions may apply. Check with the High Commission of the Republic of The Gambia before you travel.
If you plan to bring medication, check if it's legal in The Gambia. Take enough legal medication for your trip.
Yellow fever is widespread in The Gambia (World Health Organisation). Yellow fever is a potentially fatal virus spread by mosquitoes. It's prevented by vaccination. Get vaccinated before you travel.
Malaria is also common (World Health Organisation).
Other mosquito-borne diseases also occur, including dengue (World Health Organisation). To protect yourself:
Get medical advice if you have a fever, muscle pain, rash or severe headache.
The HIV/AIDS infection rate is high (World Health Organisation).
Take precautions if you engage in activities that expose you to the virus.
Waterborne, foodborne, parasitic and other infectious diseases are common, including these listed by the World Health Organization:
Serious outbreaks can occur.
To protect yourself from illness:
Get medical advice if you have a fever or diarrhoea.
Medical facilities in The Gambia are limited.
Most doctors and hospitals will ask for up-front cash payment for medical care.
If you become seriously ill or injured, you'll need to be evacuated to a place with better facilities. Medical evacuation can be very expensive.
You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that may appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling.
If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.
The Gambian Government often blocks consular access to foreigners in detention.
If you're arrested, ask police or prison officials to contact the Australian High Commission in Abuja, or the Canadian Embassy in Dakar. Do this as soon as possible. See Local contacts
Penalties for drug offences are severe. They can include lengthy jail terms. Westerners have been jailed for up to 10 years for carrying small amounts of cannabis.
The death penalty can apply for:
Corporal punishment applies for some crimes such as:
It's illegal to take photos of military facilities, or to take photos in and around airports.
Some prescription or over-the-counter drugs are illegal in The Gambia. Penalties can be severe, including heavy fines or jail terms. See Health
Same-sex relationships are illegal. Penalties include jail terms from five years to life.
There has been an increase in discrimination in The Gambia, including by officials.
Some Australian criminal laws still apply when you're overseas. If you break these laws, you may face prosecution in Australia.
The Gambia recognises dual nationality.
However, if you're a dual national travelling on your other passport and you're arrested, Australian consular officials may not be able to help you.
Always travel on your Australian passport.
The Gambia is a mostly Islamic country. Standards of dress and behaviour are conservative. Wear loose clothes that cover your shoulders and knees. Take care not to offend.
The Islamic holiday month of Ramadan will be from late April to late May in 2020. Respect religious and cultural customs and laws at this time.
Avoid eating, drinking and smoking in public or in front of people who are fasting.
Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders.
Make sure you meet all entry and exit conditions. If you don't, the Australian Government can't help you.
Entry and exit conditions can change at short notice. Contact the High Commission of the Republic of The Gambia for details about visas, currency, customs and quarantine rules.
You need a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate to enter The Gambia. Some airlines may want to see one when you leave.
Find out about returning to Australia after exposure to yellow fever (Department of Health)
Some countries won't let you enter unless your passport is valid for six months after you plan to leave that country. This can apply even if you're just transiting or stopping over.
Some foreign governments and airlines apply the rule inconsistently. Travellers can receive conflicting advice from different sources.
You can end up stranded if your passport is not valid for more than six months.
The Australian Government does not set these rules. Check your passport's expiry date before you travel. If you're not sure it'll be valid for long enough, consider getting a new passport.
Your passport is a valuable document. It's attractive to people who may try to use your identity to commit crimes.
Some people may try to trick you into giving them your passport. Always keep it in a safe place.
If your passport is lost or stolen, tell the Australian Government as soon as possible:
The local currency is the Gambian Dalasi (GMD).
It can be difficult to change foreign currency other than British pounds sterling (GBP). However, good options for currency exchange include:
The Gambia is a cash-based economy.
Credit cards aren't widely accepted. Some hotels accept them, but telecommunication issues can make payments difficult.
There are few ATMs. Contact your bank to check your cards will work in The Gambia.
Make sure you have enough cash to meet your needs.
To drive in The Gambia, you'll need both:
You must get your IDP before you leave Australia.
You're five times more likely to die in a motor vehicle accident in The Gambia than in Australia.
Driving hazards include:
It's more dangerous at night and outside urban areas.
The rainy season is June to October. During the rainy season, heavy rain can cause:
Police roadblocks are common on all major routes. Police may ask for your ID and vehicle registration and ownership papers.
If you travel by road:
Make sure your travel insurance covers you when using a motorbike, quad bike or similar vehicle.
Always wear a helmet.
Use registered taxis and limousines. It's best to arrange them through your hotel.
Public transport is limited.
Safety and maintenance standards are unreliable.
Travel on river boats — including ferries and pirogues (canoes) — is dangerous. They can be overloaded and lack lifesaving equipment.
To reduce your risks:
If appropriate safety equipment isn't provided, use another operator or a different form of transport.
DFAT doesn't provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths.
Check The Gambia's air safety profile with the Aviation Safety Network.
Depending on what you need, contact your:
Emergency services may not have:
Other resources may be limited.
Always get a police report when you report a crime.
Your insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.
Contact your provider with any complaints about tourist services or products.
Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.
Australia doesn't have an embassy or consulate in The Gambia.
Limited consular services are also available from the:
The British High Commission can't issue Australian passports.
Contact the High Commission to find out about services or make an appointment.
48 Atlantic Road
Phone: (+220) 4495 133
Fax: (+220) 4496 134
In a consular emergency, if you can't contact an embassy, call the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on:
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