You are certain to hear warnings about the so-called Gambian bumster, and you are equally certain to encounter many of these local chancers unless you spend the whole holiday cocooned inside the grounds of your hotel (which would be a real shame!) These are unemployed, mostly young, men who hang around the hotels and tourist areas in the hope of making easy money out of gullible visitors. They are not dangerous in any way, and a modicum of common sense and astuteness will ensure you don’t fall victim to their scams.
The most common of these usually involve a claim to know you. They will approach with a smile, ask how you are, and when you appear not to recognise them will say that they work at your hotel. The more ingenious among them may work in pairs – one will approach, engage you in conversation and ask your name. Further down the road a second man will greet you by that name (having had a call from his mate who will have described you: “a blonde English guy in a red t-shirt called John”, for example). If you say you don’t know him, he will seem offended and “remind you” that you have talked at the hotel. The naïve tourist, embarrassed not to have recognised him, will be lured into further conversation and into accepting his services as “guide”, for which they will be expected to pay at the end of the day.
Another common scam is to claim to be very recently married and to invite you home to meet his new wife. Seeing an interesting opportunity to visit a typical Gambian home and interact with locals, the tourist agrees. At the home the “wife” (probably a sister or friend) will be traditionally dressed and will shyly accept congratulations and offer tea. But when the unsuspecting visitor makes to leave they will be told that in The Gambia it is expected that anyone paying a visit to a newly married couple will bring money as a gift – and if they say they don’t have any with them, they may be firmly escorted to an ATM to withdraw the necessary cash.
Some of course are less sophisticated and simply ask for money, or offer to show you around in the expectation that you’ll reward their services. In all cases it’s best to either ignore them or give a polite but firm refusal. If the bumster persists just walk away. Or you can do as Chris likes to do, and engage them briefly in conversation just for the fun of it, while making it very clear he has no intention of handing over any money.
Whatever you do, don’t let these warnings deter you from getting out and about. The hassle levels are relatively low compared with many other countries and the majority of locals are genuinely friendly.
Next tip: the Senegambia Strip!
Travelling to Gambia? Hope you are not afraid of needles! You need some immunizations before you go. At the least I would recommend these for any travel other than on a cruise ship:
Hepatitis B – for longer journeys (months)
The full list is here of every possibility worldwide, but includes some immunizations you should have had as a child:
European tick borne Encephalitis
Yellow Fever - You only need this if you are going into affected areas and staying for a while.
BE SAFE: See your doctor before you go! I’m no medical expert, just a safe traveller.Related to:
- Family Travel
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
PLEASE PREPARE! Malaria can sometimes be fatal and at best may make you regret that you survived. Medicines must be taken weeks BEFORE you come here. There are 4 different species of Malaria and humans can get them all from the bite of an infected female Anopheles mosquito. Illness and death from malaria are largely preventable - if you plan ahead.
While you are here you need to use a repellent spray early in the morning and any periods of darkness, especially at night. The Bartender at my beach hotel had Malaria 3 times before he was 25. Do not take chances!
I would suggest you buy repellent with 100% DEET.
Please note: If you run air conditioning, you do not need a net!Related to:
- Budget Travel
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
Actually, Ricky52 has a point. You need to research the kind of mosquito or disease in the area you plan to visit.
You can visit the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicines site (which has up to date research on diseases) not just malaria but river blindness, schistosomiasis and leishmaniasis. It is extrememly important that you know about the local diseases. I answered your question specifically for malaria. However, we have been doing research in W Africa for a long while and the trick is to research without actually getting the disease yourself.
I certainly would not bathe in rivers or pools there, no matter how hot you are.Related to:
- Jungle and Rain Forest
Toubab in The Gambia
A few years ago me and my boyfriend went to the gambia.
it was somewhere around Easter.
It all looked a really great idea because we knew somebody who knew somebody that could show us around the country (which isn't really big :) ).
so we booked our flight to Banjul and booked a hotel in Bakau.
the hotel was ok. but before you book a room somewhere make sure it had airconditioning because we almost didn't sleep at all. also don't forget to take your muskitonet and a lot of anti muskito creme. because the malaria fly is always nearby...
so after meeting up with our local "friend" we travelled around the country. the local was really nice and he had some western friends and a western boss so he knew that we(white people) were just the same as them (black people).
he knew and he didn't make a difference. but others did. for exemple adult girls and woman didn't appreciate my stay in the Gambia. when we were driving around some girls shouted things to me (in Wouluff) which I didn't understand but our guide told me they didn't like white girls because they think that white girls and woman come to steal their husbands and men. they think that because they think that white people are really rich. especially whites who are a little bit fat (or really fat, because the fatter the richer..)
so that was not always easy. but the worst part to me was the little children who saw us as a god, as a santa just because we were white.
they run behind our car for hours just to see our face or to touch our hands or just to look at us for ages with their mounths open.
the country, nature, people and the very little things to see there are really beautiful and nice but I was glad when I was on the plane home so I didn't have to feel guilty for beeing white.
Gambia is definately a poor country, and tourists feel temped to held, esp. the children. That is noble if you keep some things in mind:
If you want to sponsor a child in school, male sure, the money doesn't disappear in the wallet of the teacher. Insist you have a receipt thtat the schoolyear has been paid for!
One reads again and again: bring pencils. That may be a wrong afvice. Often, these pencils (if a child gets them in numbers) are sold to help the family. But then, if through this channel children earn more money than the parents, it may distroy the family structure.
Never ever throw goods out of the bus or vehicle like some guides tell you to do. Many kds died or where wounded. They are not animals, you can come close to them!
please, please, please take your malaria tablets. do not listen to advice that they are not in season or the area, that is rubbish, mossies are out all year round, ok granted in the rainy season they are doubled, but they still do linger in the dry season. my husband and son stopped taking theirs because of this advice they were both rushed to hospital with falcaparum, the fatal malaria. thank goodness they pulled through. if you are away and have side effects from you tablets, seek medical advice before you stop taking them.
Bumsters are young men, not necessarily Gambian who haunt the tourist areas looking for an easy buck. They will try to engage you in earnest conversation and sometimes will not take no for an answer.
Best way to treat them is to be strong but polite and make it plain that you do not want their company. They in turn can be very rude, but as you get used to it, can seem quite funny.
If you require help or a guide ask the hotel or your tour operator.Related to:
- Women's Travel
- Budget Travel
We went on a excursion through our hotel, the guides are usually cousins of people who work there, they met their reletives while out on the trip, said there goodbyes and we got pick pocketed.
Got back to the hotel went to put our gifts away , they had all been stolen by the tour guides relative. Couldn't believe we got robbed on the trip.
People told us to take books and pencils on the villiage tours for the children, which we did also we took sweets, when we handed them out the children scurried after them and got beat with sticks by the guards.
It broke my heart.
Animals of the sea
I really wouldnt want this guy in the picture sticking on my back while swimming. Not to mention the medusas that were lying dead on the beach. They were just huge with diameters eaven 40 cm! I dont know exactly how dangerous it is to meet these creatures in the sea but I quess quite.. Dead medusas were not even anywhere close to rare. In some parts of the beach you can see them every 10 meters..
Dont want to scare anybody but still..Related to:
- Family Travel
On our first morning in The Gambia there was a monkeyfamily in a tree couple of meters from our doorsteps. I got a bit too exited and rushed to offer them a cookie. The mom and two kids looked me oddly and started to make this weird, repeating noice. Then the father came and in a blink of an eye bit me in hand. It even came after me and chased me almost all the way to our room. All the people outside ran in to escape the mad dadmonkey.
I bled alot and my thumb was useless, swollen and in pain for rest of the vacation. The cut was quite small but very deep.
Afterwards I heard that if it had been a banana instead of cookied I would have been okay..Related to:
- Family Travel
You see this a lot in Gambia. The sight is funny and sad at the same time.
Older white women sometimes travel to the Gambia to only spent some "quality"time with younger men.
That must be the biggest reason why so meny young men were all over my over 60 year old mom. So if you are like her you need to be prepared to that. Like it or not.Related to:
- Women's Travel
During the dry season (November through May), brush fires are relatively common in Gambia. Most are set by people to clear dead grasses and brush for cultivation. These fires are actually beneficial for the ecosystem, as many plants require fire to germinate, and the flames get rid of dead vegetation, allowing for faster growth of new plants when the wet season comes.
Brush fires burn hot and move across the country quickly. They rarely get out of control, but they do occasionally cross major roads, such as the one pictured here. It is at such a time that they can pose a hazard to travelers, especially since it is usually impossible to drive fast enough along the potholed and rutted roads to escape the flames.
Some of the roads I traveled in Gambia were the worst roads I have ever seen in my life. The main road between Janjangbureh and Tendaba was once paved, but the surface is now mostly potholes. It is so bad that, where the topography permits it, local drivers drive in the dirt next to the road to avoid the broken pavement. Broken-down cars and trucks with broken axles or other major damage are commonly encountered every few miles. Other lesser roads are almost as bad.
The drive between Janjangbureh is about 96 miles (155 kilometers), but it took over eight hours of bone-jarring travel to cover the distance.
Supposedly the government has promised to repair the roads, which would benefit the country greatly. However, many believe that these promises were made during election campaigns and will never be carried out.
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