28 x good to know about Gambia before your next holiday

10 August 2017

going to gambia for the first time? this is what you should know

Gambia, the country of the long white beaches, radiant colours and beautiful people, also comes with some guidelines. Don’t let it scare you, because you’ll never feel scared or unwanted here. Yet there are a couple of thing that are good to know about Gambia. From handy tips to enjoy your trip even meer to nice fun facts and thing to look out for and that’s good to know as a first timer. As there are a couple of things that are important: if it’s a possibility, take a local guide (because no one knows the country better than a local), take desinfecting hand gel with you, be respectful, pay attention when taking pictures and try the local cuisine ;-). So, are you travelling to Gambia anytime soon make sure to read this blog and use the tips and tricks to your advantage in order to make it a holiday to never forget. Enjoy!

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28 x good to know about gambia for the perfect holiday

  • If you haven’t travelled much outside of Europe I would definitely recommend you to always take a local guide with you. No one knows the country better than a local! They speak the language and they can help you with whatever you need so you can see as many beautiful places in the shortest amount of time. Don’t know any locals (yet)? Ask for some help at your resort or hotel. I wouldn’t really recommend to look for an answer on the streets unprepared!
  • They get to learn English here at a very young age, so they all speak English fluently. Even the young ones. This is for the tourism, but also to communicate with each other as they have so many different tribes here with each their own language. By speaking English everyone here (just like in other African countries) can communicate with each other!

Goed om te weten in gambia

  • Gambia is a small country with approximately 1,8 million inhabitants. It’s about three times as small as The Netherlands and everyone knows each other. Doesn’t your mother know his mother? Than you can be sure that his mother knows your father or his mother knows your mother.
  • Malaria mosquitos are present in Gambia. But they’re mostly active in the rainy season (August, September October) and then most of the times only when the sun sets. Use anti-mosquito spray DEET preferably throughout the entire year, but especially during those months, leave the airconditioning on and wear clothes with long sleeves during the night. If you’re actually receptive of malaria also has to do with your resistance. The choice to take pills for malaria is all yours. If you choose not to and you notice you’re having symptoms of the flu, immediately go to a doctor to take a two minute test. Do you have malaria? You’ll instantly get medication with you.
  • They also have thunderstorm bugs, that look like mosquitos. They can bite which can get itchy. But other than that they’re not dangerous.
  • Just like in other African countries you can’t drink the water from the tap. That’s why the most decent hotels always have a bottle of water in your room, but make sure to always have enough bottles of water with you during the day.

Goed om te weten in gambia

  • In Gambia you’ll come across the so-called Bombsters, men and sometimes women who rope in tourists for money. They’re incredibly clever and most of all, creative. With a big smile they’ll ask you if you’d want to habe a look at their freshly caught fish or if you would want to take a picture with them, which makes saying ‘no’ a bit hard sometimes. Afterwards they of course want some small change for the picture. But… No means no and they definitely know that here, so don’t feel obligated to anything and tell them ‘no’ if it doesn’t feel right.
  • You don’t have to give everyone money, as much as you would like to. Want to do something nice fot the kids? Bring toys or school supplies to give to them like pens of pencils. Clothes are also always a winner.
  • You’ll also come across many Hustlers, men who can be ‘ordered’ for a fun night, or even a whole week as company. Especially lots of women of age can be seen with these young men by the beach, or even in the city. Don’t pay too much attention to it, as it’s considered ‘normal’ in this culture.
  • Of course there are lots of locals in Gambia who would love to show you around, want to teach you things or even have you experience things. These people are immensely proud of their culture and traditions and that’s why they will never put themselves in the spotlight. If you happen to encounter these types of people, have an opend mind! They are the ones that make Gambia ‘The Smiling Coast of Africa’.

Goed om te weten in gambia

  • Good to know in Gambia: GMT, meaning Gambia Maybe Time. Don’t be surprised if your 10 o’ clock appointment will not be there at 10.
  • In Gambia they have several tribes: Madinka, Wolof, Fula, Jola, Sarahule, Serer, Manjaco and Creole. TThey each have their own language. How they recognize each other? Every tribe has their own posture, skin colour and different accent. The most people can speak several languages, but have English as their standard language like in other African countries, which is pretty convenient.
  • Also fun: each tribe has its own signature dish. The Madinkas has domoda (rice with peanut sauce), the Wolof habe yassa (fish with herbs, garlic and rice) and benachin (a rice dish in one pot).
  • The kola nut is a special nut that you can buy everywhere. You buy the kola nut to show remorse. If you’ve done something that is not correct then you buy a kola nut and give it to the eldery as a way to apoplogize. When the parents go look for a woman to pair up with their son they also bring a kola nut most of the times.

Goed om te weten in gambia

  • Ever since the break out of Ebola in Africa hygiene is a big thing in Gambia. Ebola was never present in Gambia, but it is advised to use desinfecting hand gel throughout the entire day.
  • Respect is an important aspect that you see everywhere here. In Gambia it’s custom to address men of your fathers’ age with ‘dad’, men and women who are the same age as you are are meant to be addressed with ‘brother’ or ‘sister’. Anne from Yourlbb taught me that this is also the case in other African countries, like Uganda – which she visits a lot!
  • Make sure to check which vaccinations you need before heading off to Gambia. You’ll probably need a vaccination for Yellow Fever and you’ll need a Cholera stamp (free of charge) in your vaccination pass. Very rarely they make a fuss about this, or in other words: they’ll charge you for it. Taking Malaria pills is also recommended but, as I mentioned before, if totally your own decision.
  • Good to know in Gambia: Don’t be scared if there’s suddenly a cow behind you on the beach, this is also completely normal here!

Goed om te weten in gambia

  • In Gambia 95% is Muslim and 5% is Catholic. They respect each other, live alongside each other, are friends and help each other. They celebrate both their holidays and have dinner together. When you, as a Muslim, visit Christian friends for dinner they always notify what they do and don’t eat, alcohol and pork is being served seperate from the rest so the Muslim knows he or she doesn’t have to eat that. The Mosque is even situated next to the Church, just like the Muslim school is next to the Christian school. They grow up together, live together and respect each other. Foreigners are also accepted and respected. That’s why you’ll probably never feel unwelcome.
  • Fun fact: the airport Banjul is not actually in Banjul but in Yundum. Banjul is situated miles further away!
  • The national flag of Gambia consists of four colours with each their own meaning, Four colours, five parts. Red stands for the sun and nowadays for tourism, white for respect and peace, blue for the river that flows through Gambia which is very important to them, again white for respect and peace (this is very important to them) and at last green for all the cultures and nature.
  • Taking pictures is not always allowed. The people in Gambia are slowly getting used to tourists making many pictures, but it’s not appreciated by everyone. Be creative and most of all enthustiastic but respectful. When you’re at a market and want to make a picture of all the lovely fruit, first make some small talk with the woman who’s selling them. Buy a bana and tell her it’s really, really good. You’ll immediately notice her attitude will change, this is where again the pride is shown. Then ask her if you’re allowed to take a picture of her fruit, as you would like to show everyone in The Netherlands just where you bought this tasty banana. If she says no, you have to accept that naturally.

Goed om te weten in gambia

  • You’d probably already guess this, the sun is really strong her. So make sure to invest in very good sunscreen and a good aftersun. You’ll need them!
  • From my own perception: there’s slim to no discrimination, violence or anything that comes close to that. The prison door was even ‘open’ when we drove past it. It’s very rare that something happens here is what I got told by the locals I met. People argue, but with words. There’s no violence. Voices are raised and people wave their arms but that’s about it.
  • Wrestling is huge in Gambia. Men live for it. They train every day and look like beasts. Before a match (that, by the way, you can see) they visit the maraboe, the sacred. This man helps them will. He gives them a challenge which is also in his book, that you will never read or see. It says for example that they constantly have to wet themselves with holy water, that they have to tie red strings around their leg or have to touch the wrestling ground first with a ribbon. It can also be that they have to pray before every match, slaughter a chicken or have to wear a certain colour. It can be anything.

Goed om te weten in gambia

  • You can also visit this sacred one  if you, for example, don’t like your work anymore or something bothersome happened. This man will tell you what to do to make you feel better. If you do this all your problems will be solved. Very convenient!
  • Crocodiles have a magic power. For example, when a woman is infertile the maraboe, the sacred one, sends her to a crocodile pond to wash herself in the water. After this she should be fertile.
  • The following is one of the funniest ‘Good to know in Gambia’: are you going to shake hands because you’re leaving? If yes, do it with left. It means you’ll someday meet again. Fun!

So, this is good to know in Gambia, and now enjoy!

Goed om te weten in gambia


This is how you get there: Tui and Corendon fly every other day directly from Amsterdam, or with a short stop in Senegal, to Gambia. Did you know that the flight takes just about 6 hours and when it’s winter in our country, it’s summer over there? This really makes it the perfect destination for a sunny winter!

More convenient lists for Gambia? Have a look at our other lists:

TIP: discover more fun hotspots and travel tips in the books of Yourlbb DE AMSTERDAM CITY GUIDE & WANDERLUST!



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