Banjul airport is The Gambia’s only airport. It is not situated near Banjul but 23 kilometres away. Originally the airport was built by the Americans during WWII. President Roosevelt visited here in 1943 on his way to Casablanca.
The airport building was designed by Piere Goudiaby. The airport terminal building opened in 1997. Previously it had just been a few sheds.
It takes about 30 minutes to reach Banjul and the same time to reach the major tourist areas of Kotu, Kololi and the Senegambia strip. Most of the major tourist agencies (I went with Thomas Cook) provided transfers to hotels. There are taxi’s outside the airport and the price should be about 800 dalasi (£16) for a regular car or 1,000 dalsis £20) for a larger car (prices March 2014).
Inside the airport there area few café’s and shops. The duty free shop sells alcohol and cigarettes. I don’t smoke but I was told it was cheaper to buy cigarettes from the locals back in the tourist areas. The café/bar sells hot dogs and hot and cold drinks. There is also an outside smoking area and bar.
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Flight to Banjul
As we had booked a package with The Gambia Experience our flight was a charter one, flying with Monarch from London Gatwick. It was a sort of semi "no frills" experience - we didn't pay for meals but we did for drinks (even soft drinks). Service throughout, both check-in and on board, was well organised and despite limited leg room, the plane was modern and not uncomfortable.
The lunch that was served was reasonable too, with good marks for including some fresh fruit in particular (grapes, pineapple and mango).
We landed just a little later than scheduled and stepped off the plane into temperatures more than 20 degrees higher than at home. The sky was blue, there were palm trees and white cattle egrets - we had arrived in the tropics!
The queue for immigration was not too bad, though the luggage carousel was mobbed and someone else nearly walked off with Chris's bag! But soon our luggage had been screened and we were being greeted by The Gambia Experience rep and directed to our buses. The holiday could now begin.
On our return home we found the airport surprisingly well-organised, with only a short queue to check in and a reasonable one for customs and security. It helped that we had already filled in our departure card, but these are available at the airport if needed. Security was cursory by modern standards, with no request to screen electronic devices separately or to remove liquids for inspection. The departure lounge has three duty free shops all selling much the same goods (mainly cigarettes and alcohol) plus one souvenir shop and a couple of bars. One of these, the Sky Bar, has very pro-active waiters who will hand you a menu as soon as you enter the lounge and help you find a space among the crowded seats. They sell snacks, cold and hot drinks, Julbrew and ice creams, all at reasonable prices. The other bar is outside on a terrace with good views of the planes but very exposed to the hot African sun.
The return flight was in a smaller and more cramped plane (I believe Monarch use smaller planes for their Tuesday flights than their Friday ones) but was similar in terms of service quality.
I include the Monarch Airlines website below for reference but these particular flights are chartered and not available other than through The Gambia Experience.
Next tip: bus transfer to your hotel
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Transfer to the hotels
If you travel with The Gambia Experience you can if preferred book a private transfer but we were happy to go in the group buses and found that to be relatively hassle-free. The main downside is that you must wait until everyone is through customs and ready to leave, but we were given a bottle of cold water and a straw fan, and there was plenty of activity to look at outside while we waited the 15 minutes or so for everyone to board the bus.
The drive to our hotel took about 30 minutes and took us through Serekunda with its markets and local shops. I was able to grab some photos in passing - children in a school playground, women and children shopping for dinner, a sponsored walk that looked more like a protest march and more snapshots of local life. The journey passed very quickly and we didn't regret for a moment not paying the extra for the private transfer - especially when another couple arrived at the hotel shortly after us in their private taxi that had run out of fuel en route!
Next tip some accommodation possibilities
Banjul International Airport
Located about 15 miles (24 kilometers) from Banjul, Banjul International Airport (BJL) is the only airport in Gambia offering flights to other African countries and Europe. Most of the airlines that serve the airport are from neighboring African countries, but a few European airlines and charter companies fly into the airport as well.
Airlines serving Banjul International Airport: Afrinat International Airlines, Arik Air, Binter Canarias, Elysian Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines, Gambia Bird Airlines, Mauritania Airways, Nigerian Eagle Airlines, Royal Air Maroc, SN Brussels Airlines, Spanair, TACV-Cabo Verde Airlines, and Transavia.
The Gambia is a small country with not that much roads and the roads you’ll find aren’t always in that good condition. The one you find in the costal area are quit all right, but the further you go inland the worser they become. Travelling is always an rough adventure.Related to:
- Budget Travel
There are several modes of transport, when you want to move all independent the best you could do is hiring your own car. It probably is the most expensive way but you’re free to move. The price tag at the other hand is about 100 - 150€/ day without driver, gasoil and KM charges. For an all inclusive expect to pay about 200 – 250€ depending the model.
They always ask a deposit of 300 – 500 € and you probably will find cheaper car rental agencies, but the question is are they reliable or not?Related to:
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Best way to travel is by the...
Best way to travel is by the green taxi's or bushtaxis which are not too expensive. Agree on the price before you leave.
If renting a car make sure to have a written contract and inspect the technical condition of the car.
taxis are about the best way to get about in the Gambia,but getting one always involves haggling.
Your Hotel will get one for you and the prices are usually displayed on a board,but this is expensive try to get the green and yellow ones.Your hotel will try to put you off but try they can be up to two thirds less depending on how good you bargain,The prices on the boards are not fixed you can bargain here too.get a taxi all day, most drivers would wait for you rather than lose a fare.we took taxis to the beach and they waited all DAY !!.Taxis drivers WILL remember you .dont be vague and say things like possibly or perhaps SAY no.they take perhaps as a yes.Be very clear on what you want and price.Scams seem to be your taxi brakes down and can they have some money to fix it .just get another taxi.But mostly taxis are good if old and beat up,some had nice Lino floors !!all were very friendly.be careful about being invited to nameing or ather family gatherings unfortunately these are sometimes ways of parting you from moneyRelated to:
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OK most of the time
You can get around in many ways in The Gambia,by tourist taxi painted GREEN and supposed to be safer but MUCH more expensive than ,the YELLOW and green striped taxis used by the more monied locals,or what most people use Minibusses,these vehicles go from town to town and will drop you where you want fares are fixed for all the way trip or a drop off before you reach the "garage"at the end,said garage is not a building but just a recognised parking place at each town,the condition of all transport in The Gambia leaves a lot to be desired compared with developed countries but you will probably arrive in one piece.BEWARE of lorries (or trucks if you prefer) as they are usually overloaded and OFTEN have NO BRAKES so beware!
There is no Railway in The Gambia.Related to:
- Budget Travel
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Have a driver
Best way to get around is to have a driver who can also be your quide and a friend. He is responsible of you so you are been taken care of. Some young men work for somebody else and then you may need to settle the prize beforehand. Remember to pargain.
Some people just ask for a tip, "what ever comes from your heart". Remember that gasoline is fairly expencive in Gambia.
I found the trips of the official quides quite expencive too.
One plus in having a driver is also that most of the unpleasant "friends" will leave you alone when you already have a local with you.
Our driver was Kara from front of Bakotu hotel. He is quite a good bloke and I can recommend him.
Did you know that in the Gambia you dont need to go to driving school to get the license..Related to:
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The Banjul Ferry
There are no bridges across the Gambia River, and the only way to get across is by ferry. The Banjul Ferry runs regularly between Banjul on the south bank of the river, and Barra on the north bank. Two rusty and broken-down ferries are scheduled to make the 30-minute trip every one to two hours between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m., but there are usually delays, and it is common for at least one of the ferries to be out of commission.
Because space is limited for vehicles, anyone crossing with a vehicle will have to wait for many hours to get on the ferry, and commercial trucks usually have to wait for days. Those without a vehicle can just walk onto the ferry. The boat's top deck can become very crowded, and visitors must be aware of the many pickpockets attracted by the crowds.
The best fun you can have is to use the local mini buses known as "Geleh-Gelehs", the driver is often accompanied by his son who is continually balling out their destination. A trip from the west coast beach resorts into Serrekunda can cost you as little as five delasi per person. The bush taxis are literally that, if you take one into the rural areas as we did to visit Ebou Bah's family, they plough through the bush as there are no roads leading to these small villages. The villagers take their crops up to the nearest main road to await collection by the farmers' co-operative. The tour operators warn you that your insurance policy doesn't cover you for local transportation, I've not yet come across a policy that has that clause in it!
Bush taxi or bus?
We made far more use of the local buses this time around. It’s still a little confusing that the buses and the yellow and green taxis are referred to as “Bush Taxis”, as the cost between using these two means of transport is astronomical. We walked from the Suma Hotel to the Brikama Bus stand where we were very efficiently packed inside and charged an extra 10 Delasi for stowing our rucksack on the roof, along with a worryingly large amount of building material, including several hundredweight of scaffolding. We enjoyed the trip and the company and turned up in Brikama an hour and a half later, the rucksack not having been flattened of sloshed in white paint. A few days later we took another bus from Brikama bus stand to Gunjur a very smooth ride along a new road, at 10 Delasi for us and eight for the bag. Alarmingly Gunjur bus stand consisted of two rows of buses on either side of the road, pointing in different directions. Gunjur is a bit of a vague village, with no real center, luckily we had been told that we needed to ask for “Beach Side” and pointed to a bus that would leave when it had filled up, in maybe an hour. After slightly less than the estimated time we took off on a journey that lasted less than ten minutes and pitched up in Gunjur fishing village. We had been told that our guesthouse Woulaba Garden was a fifteen minute walk from the fishing village. A very helpful bur not very knowledgeable local boy, named Boubicar, told us he knew exactly where the guesthouse was and would show us the way, just for the pleasure of our company. An hour and a half later we found it after stopping at almost every compound to ask directions and criss-crossing various bush paths.
When we left Gunjur we headed north to Brufut, having taken a donkey cart to Gunjur “Bus Stand” and boarding the Serrakunda bound bus. This was gratifying as we not having any kind of Gambian bus time table we now knew that we could pick up this same bus to complete our journey, when our stay in Brufut was done.Related to:
- Budget Travel
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Banjul to Barra Ferry
Living as We do in Scotland, we use the ferry service a lot but, this is one ferry trip everyone should make an effort to take. We crossed the river from Banjul to Barra several times and every time, even when the ferry was not busy people pushed shoved pulled and squeezed to try and get on or off as quick as possible, The first, time we shared the "vehicle" deck with a herd of sheep. (The more unfortunate sheep took a pirogue, but that's another story) several lorries, various cars and a minibus that had to be pushed on, and then off again at the other side. Even if you do not want to visit Barra (Which in itself is a photographer's paradise, with the hustle and bustle of the market) or Fort Bullen, it is worth taking the trip at 5 dalasis each way
Getting to The Gambia
O.K. ... I know I'm biased, but I just cannot get into the ancient Russian aircraft so many African nations still use.
The only international airport is at Banjul; there are direct scheduled and charter flights from the UK. Regular buses and taxis cross the border into Senegal.
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The Kombo Beach is the only hotel we have been to in The Gambia, we stayed here the first time and...more
well such an extraordinarily well run venue in Gambia. German influence, very efficient. What...more
AU Hwy, Brufut Heights, PO Box 3311, Serekunda, Gambia
Satisfaction: Very Good
Good for: Couples
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