The Republic of the Gambia or just Gambia is a West African country which is the smallest state in the entire Africa Continent. When Gambia granted independence from Great Britain it joined the Commonwealth of Nations. It shares its border with Senegal. The west of the country is washed by the Atlantic Ocean. The capital city is Banjul. The largest city is Serekunda.
The climate in Gambia is sub-equatorial with two seasons: wet and dry. It rains heavily from June to October. It almost never rains from November to May and this is the best time for visiting Gambia. The average temperature in winter is +21°C - +27°C and in summer, the usual temperature is +27°C - +32°C.
The official language is English but the local people speaking local dialects Fula and Mandinka. About 90% of the population are the Muslims.
If you stay in the capital city, you will remember it for long evening walks along the coastline, biking and hiking in the mangroves. In the local hotels, there are golf fields and tennis courts.
If you like to spend the time on the beach or you are a fan of fishing, visit the resort Gunjur in Serekunda. There is also a park Makasutu Culture Forest with hiking routes and anyone can go canoeing there.
There are no direct flights from CIS countries to Gambia. Air France is the only airline offering the flights to Gambia. There are also seasonal flights from Spain and Great Britain. The tourists usually get to Gambia from Senegal as the flights from Europe arrive at the airport of this country. The tourists can also take a transit flight with a transfer in some West African countries such as Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire, and Ghana.
One can cross the border of Gambia and Senegal by ferry which departs from Dakar and arrives at Banjul several times a week.
A bus runs regularly between Dakar and Banjul. The route includes a ferry crossing as well.
The tourists from Russia, CIS and EU citizens can travel to Gambia visa-free if the purpose of their visit is recreation and tourism and their stay in the country will not exceed 56 days. The tourists should provide at the airport or at the checkpoint their valid international passport, return tickets and documents confirming their financial sufficiency. In practice, the Gambia Department of Immigration’s rarely checks these documents.
The Customs legislation of Gambia does not restrict the import and export of national and foreign currency but the money must be declared. The tourists can export the foreign currency provided that they have a slip confirming an exchange transaction.
It is allowed to bring in Gambia duty-free:
- tobacco for personal use;
- perfume, tableware, photo and video equipment for personal use.
It is prohibited to import:
- magazines, video, photos or negatives with pornographic materials.
The tourists are allowed to export:
- food and alcohol;
- textile and clothes;
- ivory and malachite;
- gold and silver products;
- african masks and everyday objects;
- jewellery and products from precious metals can be exported only if the tourists provide the documents confirming a legal purchase.
East Asia greatly influenced the Gambian cuisine. The local dishes are very simple and plain. The staple food in Gambia is rice, meat, and poultry. A pepper Pili-Pili gives a zest to the Gambian dishes.
The tourists should try the Gambian flour soup, chicken Yassa and Super Kanya.
There are a great variety of fish dishes in Gambia. A traditional Gambian side dish is rice dressed with peanut or palm oil. Grain soups, mashed peanuts, and Couscous are extremely popular here.
The Gambian chefs can really well cook meat and fishes sauces with a lot of hot spices. That is why you feel thirsty after a meal. To satisfy thirst, you will be offered local beer made from a fermented mix of corn and millet. Fruit teas and natural juices are also popular.
In the restaurants, one can order various imported alcoholic drinks.
The national currency is the Gambian Dalasi (GMD) made up to 100 Bututes.
The tourists can exchange the currency in special exchange offices and at banks in Banjul or Serekunda, or also in resort districts. One can exchange the currency in the street exchange offices, but the commission can be as high as 5%. Besides, there is a risk of a fraud.
VISA and MasterCard are accepted only in large hotels in Banjul and Serekunda. You can cash traveller’s checks at banks with the commission 5%.
Details of interest
Sightseeing in Gambia
In Gambia, the tourists can see two sites inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List:
- The James Island and the fortifications of the Colonial period. The James Island is a small but well-fortified island on the Gambia river. The first fortifications were built in 1651 by the Duchy of Courland. In different periods, the island was owned by the French and the British and they used it as a base for exporting black slaves, gold, and ivory.
- Senegambian stone circles are a must-see. It is known that the stone circles were erected in the 8th - 11th centuries over the burials of the earlier period. The circles include 8-14 laterite pillars. The height of the pillars is 100-250 centimetres. There are about 1.000 circles.
Among some other interesting sights are:
- Arch 22 is the anniversary arch erected on the road from Serekunda to Banjul. It was erected in 1996 after a military coup in the result of which Yahya Jammeh and his Military Forces gained the power. At the foot of the Arch, there is a monument to the unknown soldier holding a child.
- The Abulo Nature Reserve is a popular place among the tourists near the city of Abuko. The Reserve is covered with savannah and forests. This is a habitat for primates, antelopes, mongoose, and African palm cats. In the waters, there are Nile crocodiles, black cobra, and python.
- The MacCarthy Island is known for the largest Gambian city Dzhandzhabureh. In the city, there is the largest prison in the country. Wild nature attracts the tourists to this island. Safari to the jungles is arranged for the tourists. Besides, there are interesting hiking routes.
The tourists usually buy in Gambia the following souvenirs:
- african masks;
- bright textile and national clothes;
- wooden jewellery and crafts;
- tableware with traditional patterns.