Before setting off for The Gambia, I read in The Lonely Planet that there were very few ATMs in the Country and it would be a better idea to take cash or travellers cheques. Never having used travellers cheques before and having a general mistrust of all things that were not processed electronically, I checked the exchange rate online and scooted off to the Post Office to change an amount I hoped would last me the duration. I lost out badly on the exchange rate and couldn’t get a better deal anywhere – Barclays went so far as to tell me it was a closed currency and if I did choose to change money with the Post Office I may well be arrested on entering the Country!! (Not true!!).
It was a bad choice all round. Despite the fact that changing a few hundred pounds gave me far too many notes to ever cram into my wallet, we still hadn’t changed enough to keep us going. We ran out of cash in three days. Luckily, despite LPs warnings, we had spotted a couple of cash machines on the Senegambia Strip… but here’s the catch… The machines allow you to draw out a maximum of just 2000 dalasis – about £60. As previously mentioned, everything costs a fortune here and £60 will last about an hour! (I’m exaggerating). Also, one of the cash machines on the strip doesn’t accept foreign credit cards. So tourists queue for ages in front of the cash machine, each drawing out 2000 dalasis over and over until the machine runs out of money. The machine isn’t filled again for a couple of days. Each time it’s filled, the tourists empty it within about 30 minutes. Whilst queuing at the cash machine we met one very worried Dutchman who was down to his last 300 dalasis and was hoping the ATM was going to give him enough cash to feed his three children for the rest of the week. The queue in front looked long.
There are another two cash machines by the traffic lights (there are only three sets of traffic lights in The Gambia and this particular set were the first and as such have become a landmark as recognisable to locals as Arch 22 – If you jump in a taxi and ask to go to the ATM by the traffic lights he will know exactly where to take you!) and if you get stuck it’s well worth forking out for a taxi to go there and back – we had to resort to this once or we would have had no money to eat! A far better idea would be to take a few dalasis and then lots of Sterling or Euros and try to get a good exchange rate when you get there – you’ll get a far better exchange rate in The Gambia than you would in England. I’m not sure about other countries but check on www.xe.com first and if you’re offered 25% less than the rate online then change as little as possible and take the rest in Sterling/Euro.
the nightclubs in kololi is excellent! the drinks are very cheap and are open all night
and also the locals are very nice as well. My best advice is to go to a nightclub with someone that either works in the hotel, or a rep, because they know what/where to go
Fondest memory: Listerning to Bob marley's "no woman no cry" at WAAW! This could have made anyone shead a tear to see these people repect their legend. all you could see in this small but very crowded nightclub were cigarette lighters held up in the air swaying from side to side during the song!
A trip through the bush, away from the normal tourist haunts is essential. You will be totally bowled over by the greeting you receive from the children in the outlying villages. They will run after your Landrover smiling and waving until their little hands drop off.
If you go on a mini safari don't forget to take a BIG bag of sweets - lollipops are ideal, and the pleasure you'll get from handing them out to the little children is immense.
Fondest memory: The beautiful sunny weather and relaxed pace life drifts past at. In The Gambia, it's easy to make new friends, and I'll miss a few, not least these rascals - Haddy, Sally and wee Fodday, Ebrima the shop keeper next doors children.
Kololi is the place to be when it comes to hotels and restaurants.
Fondest memory: Its fun to sit outside in the evenings in the company of a cold drink and watch the people go by.