Local laws and customs
Local laws reflect the fact that The Gambia is an Islamic country. You should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times and be aware of your actions to ensure that they do not offend other cultures or religious beliefs, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas.
In 2017, the holy month of Ramadan is expected to start on 27 May and finish on 25 June. See Travelling during Ramadan
Although the law stipulates that detainees can’t be held for longer than 72 hours without charge, this is regularly exceeded.
Recent amendments to the Gambian criminal code have criminalised a range of behaviour including causing a public nuisance, which can carry a 5-year prison term and/or a fine of 250,000 Dalasi.
There is a zero tolerance towards illegal drugs. The Gambian authorities will take strong action against anyone importing, exporting or found in possession of drugs. Don’t accept packages on behalf of anyone without knowing the contents. Sentences for those found in possession of drugs can be up to £200,000 or 15 years in prison. Westerners carrying a minimal amount of cannabis have been sentenced to ten years in prison. Cases of entrapment by Gambian authorities are not uncommon.
The death penalty applies for a number of crimes including arson, murder and treason. The Gambia resumed executions in 2012.
There are heavy penalties for any form of sexual offence against a child. There are reports of increased child sex tourism. Report any incidences to police officials. You must carry ID with you at all times. Carry a photocopy of your passport and keep the original locked away.
There is a zero tolerance towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in The Gambia. The Gambian criminal code states that any person who has or attempts to have ‘carnal knowledge’ of any person ‘against the order of nature’ is guilty of a crime and could face 14 years’ imprisonment. The criminal code was amended in October 2014 to include Section (144A) entitled Aggravated Homosexuality which sets out 7 specific categories, including being “a serial offender”, where a person is “liable on conviction to imprisonment for life”. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.
Gambian law criminalises the act of men dressing as women with a 5-year jail term.