Safety and security
In January 2017, The Gambia experienced a peaceful handover of power to President Adama Barrow and his coalition government.
There has been an increase in the number and frequency of protests in The Gambia, primarily in the Kombo districts. You should avoid large gatherings in public areas, and follow the advice of local authorities.
Attacks on tourists are increasing, particularly the theft of passports and other valuables from hotel rooms. Don’t take valuables or large sums of money to the beach, or display them in public. Take particular care when visiting isolated beaches and markets.
Both male and female visitors should be particularly cautious of young men locally known as ‘bumsters’ who approach tourists, particularly on beaches, offering help or to act as local guides. Be polite but firm in refusing unwanted help or attempts at conversation. Visitors should also be wary of offers, usually from ‘bumsters’, to take them on tours into Senegal. It is unlikely that the correct immigration procedures, which might include obtaining a visa for Senegal, will be followed. This could result in detention by immigration authorities.
Don’t leave valuables in unattended vehicles. Take particular care in unlit areas or in places away from the Tourist Development Area.
Corruption is endemic at all levels.
Travel in The Gambia is reasonably safe as long as you take sensible precautions to safeguard your personal possessions.
There are a number of checkpoints operating in and around the capital Banjul. Expect your vehicle to be searched if you’re stopped by security forces.
You can drive using a UK driving licence for up to 3 months upon your first entry into the Gambia. After 3 months you can apply for a Gambian driving licence using your UK driving licence as proof of driving competence. You should apply to the Gambia Police Force Licensing Department. The documents required for the application include proof of residency in the Gambia, your valid UK driving licence and a copy of your passport.
If you’re a diplomat then you can channel your application through the Gambia Ministry of Foreign Affairs and they will advise you on what you need to provide to facilitate this process. They will process your application on your behalf. The same procedure is also applicable for International Non-Governmental Organizations, United Nations Agencies, and other diplomatic missions in the Gambia.
Driving standards are bad and roads severely potholed. Driving after dark carries added hazards because of poor road and vehicle lighting. In the event of an accident, emergency medical facilities are very limited. Security checkpoints are common on all major routes in The Gambia. They are not always well sign-posted and you should take care when approaching them.
Rainfall occurs in The Gambia between June-October. Heavy rainfall can create localised flooding. Take care if you’re going up-country or travelling on non-paved roads during this period.
Some local taxis are not roadworthy.
Take care when using the ferry between Banjul and Barra. It can be very crowded and safety measures are not up to European standards. When using the ferry get out of your vehicle quickly after parking to avoid becoming trapped inside for the duration of the journey. Don’t use the ferry after dark.
Pirogues (wooden dug-out canoes) operate in The Gambia. These can be overloaded and safety measures are not up to European standards. They are not recommended for long journeys and you should make sure they have life jackets.