What you need to know BEFORE you go to Gambia
Making a trip to The Gambia is (often) not something you book last minute, because a long journey requires some preparation. Why? Because after a short 6-hour flight you suddenly end up in a place that is completely different from what you’re used to. The culture is completely different, it is a country with a different religion, there are other animals / insects and of course you run the risk of diseases that you are not yet resitant to! What do you need to know before you go to Gambia? We tell you in detail in this article.
Vaccinations and malaria pills
As a child you receive various vaccinations against mumps and measles for example. But in Gambia you also run a risk of various diseases that you would rather not have anything to do with. It is not mandatory to take travel vaccionations, but it is strongly recommended. When you go on a trip that doesn’t mean that you get sick or that you really have a big chance of getting those diseases, but the chance is there of course and as far as I’m concerned: better safe than sorry
First of all: make an appointment with your doctor and do this on time. Then in principle you make 2 appointments, the first of which is an consultation. During this consultation you will discuss your journey. Where are you going? How long? Have you been to Africa before? Or in a country with a yellow fever? etc…. The together you determine which vaccionations are needed and which you want to take. This is possible on the same day, but possible also on a different day. When you take the vaccinations depends on when you travel, take them as late as possible, because then they will be valid for as long as possible. But don’t take them too late, want to know more? Check your doctor.
The Gambia is a Muslim country
Because 90% of the population in The Gambia is Muslim, it is respectful not to wear overly sexy or bare clothing if you decide to leave your resort. Of course you can decide for yourself what to wear, but if you walk out the door in short shorts, a top with deep cut-outs or even a bikini top, you will probably get glances.
- If necessary, bring a scarf that you can wrap around your shoulders or head so that you can cover yourself at any time if you go inside where this is respected.
- Take long loose-fitting pants and a thin cardigan.
- Are you gay? Then try to hide this as soon as you go out the door. This sounds terrible, but Gambia is not as odern as we are in the West and it is not tolerated.
Taking photos is not always allowd!
You cannot Always shoot the photos you want! A lot of Gambians don’t like it at all if you take a picture of them and if you do this without asking, it can turn into a big fight. The eldery think you steal their souls when you take a photo, others think that you earn a lot of money from those photos and that is why they do no want to cooperate.
What should you pay attention to when taking photos?
- Always ask for permission first if you want to take a portrait photo. And remember: no is no! (Have respect for this).
- Are you taking an overview photo? Then do it carefully, because there can always be someone in the photo who does not agree with it.
- Have you made a mistake by accident? Show clearly that you are removing the photo with that person OR that person is not on it and of course apologize immediately.
- DO NOT take photos of soldiers/marines (also hide your camera when you come across them).
- Be creative, be cheerful, approach everyone with a big smile and show your photo to the person, because they think that is fantastic!
You burn away in the sun
In Gambia the temperatures are very high all year round and the sun shines every day. But that sounds much nicer than it actually is. The sun is always very high and you can feel that burning on your skin. My advice? Apply every day with a sunscreen with the highest factor, including your face. Also take a bottle with you in the car because during the day you have to lubricate again and you also sweat a lot, which means you have to lubricate even ore! A water/sweatproof sunscreen would therefor be even better. Furthermore, take a scarf with you when you go out the door and possibly a hat or cap so that you can protect your head. It can also be nice to bring another cardigan, so that you can also cover your shoulders against the bright sun rays. It is warm, but you do sweat anyway. Oh and don’t forget your neck and ears!
The mosquitoes puncture you..
… unless you lubricate well! In The Gambia you have a lot of osquitoes that we don’t know in the Netherlands. Nothing is more annoying than sitting under the itchy bumps. What can you do about it? Coat every day with a product with DEET. Gambia is a malaria area and then it is recommended to lubricate with a minimum of 30% DEET, which takes about 6 hours to work. You may als wear long pants or a skirt to protect your legs. The mainly punctyre your ankles and elbows, so don’t forget to rub them in!
Don’t go out alone!
If you stay constantly in the compuond at your apartment during your entire vacation, then of course you will nog experience the country at all and you will not get a picture of how things are actually going in the Gambia. I strongly recommend that you stept out of the compound and visit the towns and villages. You can also do a lot of activities in Gambia, such as spotting animals from a boat, a 4 wheel drive safari, to the beach and to a nature reserve for example We can tell and recommend enough about excursions that can be made.
It is a poor country
In the Gambia people are poor and they do not always live in the best conditions. They know all too well that we are much better in the West. If you have fair skin, they immediately know who they can go to for some money. Therefore, do not wear your most expensive jewelry and clothing out of respect and self-protection. Because they are so poor they will beg and that can be difficult for some. It can also be very intimidating and you may not even know what to do!
Not giving money right away and not to everyone you immediately think “you have no money and I do, so I give it to you”. But unfortunately you cannot keep that up, because you cannot continue to give money to everyone and, moreover, that is not a smart thing to do. A few euros is a gold mine for them and if you give away a monthly salary to those people without thinking, they will get used to it and they will bother every tourist because it is so easy. Therefore, tip your guide and driver! But someone who just asks for money, rather not. They have to learn that they have to work for it. The children are also smart, they will ask for shoes, because otherwise they cannot go to school and they all ask for a football. You want to help them, you want to give them to the whole world, because how do you say no to a child? It is difficult. No matter how much we want to help Gambia, give people money to help, it doesn’t work.
Most respond respectfully when you say no, but some do not accept no and
continue. These are usually the ones who want to sell you something. They can continue to ask, even walk meters with you to the car and even hang half in your car until you admit. But don’t let it get that far, be hard and clear. No is no and then walk away or close the door. It is not pathetic, in the Netherlands you would also be tough on someone who keeps pushing after saying 10x, right?
You will definitely experience the begging and the pushered selling of stuff and especially at the tourist spots, there really is no escaping that. But you will also experience this in other poor countries. If you know how to deal with this and know who you should and what not to give (and how much), then it will be all right. It takes some getting used to and it can be annoying at the beginning, but you get used to it.
And further? Bargaining! If you buy something, they will offer it for the highest price and it is therefore recommended (and expected) that you start bargaining. For example, they ask: “how much would you like to give for it?” Or “what can you offer?”. Then determine how much you want to give for it and be fair.
Good hygiene is often absent
As you can expect, the hygiene in the Gambia is pretty bad. This includes toilets that do not flush, dirty conditions, polluted water, few cleaning
products and a lot of flies. Take a disinfectant hand gel to always be able to clean your hands, because there will not be a tap with soap everywhere.
Moreover, literally everyone will greet you and then grab your hand, with hands that will not always be clean. Also, don’t always touch your mouth and eyes with your hands! When you go to the bathroom, try to squat and don’t touch the glasses with your buttocks. Furthermore, you just have to try to live as usual, but sometimes you have to pay extra attention. Do you have fear of stains? Then it will be a big challenge, but one that you will never forget!
The water is polluted
The water from the tap in the compound is drinkable. As a tip I want to
add that we always fill the bottles and then put them in the freezer. You
should pay attention to eating in restaurants, especially when it comes to fruit and vegetables. Lettuce, cucumber, tomato and other vegetables can be washed in contaminated water. Our stomachs are not used to this and you have to be extra careful. Therefore, skip eating the salads. Cooked and baked products are safer to eat, but always check whether your meat is well done. Also do not eat off the street just as the hygiene conditions there are even worse.
If you do get sick and get diarrhea, make sure you drink enough. Can’t you keep anything inside? Then take the ORS product to supplement your salinity if it lasts very long. Pay attention! By the way, it is not recommended to use diarrhea inhibitors if you take malaria pills, because their function no longer works. You extract the active substance from your body.
The roads are often sandy and muddy
In the Gambia I have walked a lot and then on paths that were not always good, think of paths with red sand, mud and chunks of stone. It is very hot in The Gambia and that is why I wore sandals instead of sneakers. For example, wear Teva sandals which are also comfortable, always sit securely around your
foot and you can wash them if they get dirty. They are light in weight and
therefore ideal for traveling.
Also useful tips / nice things?
● Take out global travel insurance.
● Are you taking a taxi? Choose the green “tourist” taxi because
it is the safest. It is compulsory for the driver of a green taxi to have a
driver’s license. Very nice haha!
● Try wonjo juice, it is made from hibiscus and is super tasty sweet and
● Have a chat with the residents, they can give you the best tips and
moreover it is fun.
● Take makeup or other items (pens, paper, stuffed animals) to donate.
Especially no candy (think of the children’s teeth and molars) or balloons.
● Don’t be afraid, enjoy it to the full!
Again, you don’t just book a trip to Gambia and it needs some preparation
as you have read. It all sounds a lot heavier than it actually is, but you just have to know some things before you leave. If you remember all this information
and apply it, then it must be completely correct and you will get the best out of your journey. Don’t forget your punctures, swallow your pills and above all: enjoy the trip.And believe me, Gambia is fantastic!.