The GambiaOfficial Name: Republic of The Gambia
Must be valid at time of entry
BLANK PASSPORT PAGES:
One page required for entry stamp
TOURIST VISA REQUIRED:
Required for entry. See below.
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY:
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT:
Embassies and Consulates
92 Kairaba Avenue, Fajara
Telephone: +(220) 439-2856, +(220) 439-2858 or +(220) 439-1971
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(220) 796-2710
Fax: +(220) 439-2475
The Gambia is a developing country in western Africa. Its capital is Banjul. The official language is English, but many inhabitants speak indigenous languages such as Wolof or Mandinka. Facilities for tourism in the Banjul area and along the Atlantic coast south of the Gambia River are good; however, elsewhere, tourist facilities are limited in availability and quality. Read the Department of State Factsheet on The Gambia for additional information on U.S.-The Gambia relations.
Entry, Exit & Visa Requirements
A passport, visa, and evidence of yellow fever vaccination are required. The current fee for a five-year visa for U.S. citizens is $105 USD; the fee for an emergency visa is $155 USD. If you enter The Gambia without a visa, you may be allowed to enter, then given two working days in which to obtain a visa from the Department of Immigration in downtown Banjul. The Embassy strongly recommends travelers obtain visas before leaving the United States.
An “airport development” fee of 20 Euros (or its equivalent in Dollars or Dalasi) is included in ticket fees for passengers departing The Gambia.
Travelers are urged to obtain the latest information on customs and entry requirements from the Embassy of The Gambia, 2233 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, Suite 240, Georgetown Plaza, Washington, DC 20007; telephone (202) 785-1399, -1379, -1425, fax (202) 785-1430; or from the Permanent Mission of The Gambia to the U.N. at 800 Second Avenue, Suite 400-F, New York, NY, 10017; telephone (212) 949-6640, fax: (212) 856-9820. Overseas inquiries should be made at the nearest Gambian embassy or consulate. Visit the Embassy of The Gambia website for current visa information.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of The Gambia.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.
Safety and Security
The Gambia has not experienced any recent acts of terrorism or large scale violence; however, much of its southern region borders the Casamance region of Senegal, which is home to a long-running, low-intensity conflict. For travel to the nearby Casamance region of Senegal, please see the Country Specific Information for Senegal.
Demonstrations are rare in The Gambia.
Travelers driving a vehicle in The Gambia are obligated to stop at all roadblocks or road checkpoints in the country. Drivers should not reverse direction to avoid a road checkpoint or make any movements that security personnel may view as suspicious or provocative. Drivers who encounter a government motorcade should immediately pull completely off the road and bring the car to a complete stop until the motorcade passes.
Like most countries in the region, conditions are subject to change and travelers should check with the U.S. Embassy for specific concerns.
To stay connected:
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program so we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements.
- Follow the Bureau of Consular Affairs on Twitter and Facebook.
- Bookmark the Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which contains the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution.
- In the event of an emergency, contact us at 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the United States and Canada, or via a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444, from other countries.
- Take some time before traveling to consider your personal security and checking for useful tips for traveling safely abroad.
CRIME: Petty street crime is a problem in The Gambia. Travelers should be careful of pickpockets in crowded market areas and on ferries. Packages or luggage should never be left unattended. U.S. citizens in The Gambia should be careful not to leave valuables or identity documents unsecured in hotel rooms or cars. Travelers should also be cautious of individuals who persistently offer unsolicited help.
Visitors and resident U.S. citizens may wish to leave their windows up and doors locked while driving due to several reported automobile burglaries. Long-term residents may wish to consider hiring security guards for their home to deter burglary and theft.
Women should avoid walking alone, especially after dark, including beach and tourist areas. Western visitors to The Gambia should be particularly cautious of individuals offering to be tour guides. Known locally as “bumsters,” these individuals target western travelers, seeking either financial assistance or marriage in order to depart The Gambia. Travelers are advised to be polite but decisive in turning down unwanted help or attempts at conversation.
Business fraud has also been reported in The Gambia. The U.S. embassy receives occasional reports of scams in which U.S. businesses sent, but did not receive, payment for shipments. U.S. citizens should be suspicious of any unsolicited offers to participate in lucrative business opportunities, especially if they require financial disclosures, money transfers, large up-front investments, or promises of confidentiality. The best way to avoid becoming a victim of fraud is common sense – if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Carefully scrutinize all proposals before you commit any funds, provide any goods or services, or undertake any travel. For additional information, please see the Department of State’s information on International Financial Scams.
The U.S. Embassy is frequently contacted by victims of Internet romance scams and health-related plea-for-help scams perpetrated in The Gambia. Generally, a U.S. citizen is befriended by someone or gets engaged to someone over the Internet. This person, who can claim to be a U.S. citizen or a Gambian citizen, eventually requests financial assistance from the U.S. citizen to help pay for urgent medical treatment, to tide him or her over after a recent robbery, or to pay some form of alleged exit tax or government fine. In the vast majority of cases, the person with whom the U.S. citizen has been corresponding is using a fake identity and is in no need of assistance. U.S. citizens are advised not to send money to anyone they have not met in person. For more information on this type of scam, please refer to the State Department brochure on International Financial Scams, specifically the section on Internet Dating and Romance Scams.
Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, you may be breaking local law too.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. We can:
- Replace a stolen passport.
- Help you find appropriate medical care if you are the victim of violent crimes such as assault or rape.
- Put you in contact with the appropriate police authorities, and if you want us to, contact family members or friends.
- Help you understand the local criminal justice process and direct you to local attorneys, although it is important to remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime. Please contact the U.S. Embassy in Banjul for a list of lawyers practicing in The Gambia, or visit the Embassy’s website.
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in The Gambia is 116 for Ambulatory services, 117 for police assistance, and 118 for fire. The Gambian Police Force operates a 24 hour emergency line at (220) 422-4914. Please be advised that the emergency numbers listed may or may not have an English-speaking operator available, and that emergency responders may lack fuel for vehicles or face other resource challenges.
Please see our information for victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
Local Laws & Special Circumstances
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While you are traveling in The Gambia, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own. In some places you may be taken in for questioning if you don’t have your passport with you. In some places, it is illegal to take pictures of certain buildings. In some places, driving under the influence could land you immediately in jail. These criminal penalties will vary from country to country. There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States. You can be prosecuted in the United States for engaging in sexual conduct with children or for using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country regardless of the legality of these activities under that country’s laws. Counterfeit and pirated goods are illegal in the United States and if you purchase them in a foreign country, you may be breaking local law as well. If you break local laws in The Gambia, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It is very important to know what is legal and what is not wherever you are traveling.
Arrest notifications in host country: If you are arrested or detained in The Gambia, Gambian authorities are required to notify the U.S. Embassy. However, despite occasional arrests and detentions of U.S. citizens, the Embassy is not always notified by the government of the Gambia. In 2013 and 2014, several U.S. citizens were detained for periods up to several months without being formally charged of a crime. Nor did the Government of the Gambia always acknowledge the detentions or arrests, provide notification to or access for Consular officials, family members, legal counsel, or any other outside parties, or follow its own laws regarding charging detainees within 72 hours. If you, a family member, or U.S. citizen travelling companion is arrested in The Gambia, or if you lose contact with a family member or travelling companion who is in The Gambia, you should immediately notify the U.S. Embassy. If you are concerned that the Department of State may not be aware of your situation, you should also request the police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy of your arrest, or ask your family to do so.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: In addition to being subject to all of The Gambia’s laws affecting foreigners, U.S. citizens who are also Gambian citizens may be subject to additional provisions of Gambian law while in The Gambia. Dual nationals may wish to inquire at a Gambian embassy or consulate regarding their status.
The Gambia has strict laws on the import and export of skin-bleaching creams and some medications. Visitors who arrive with substances containing one percent or more of: hydroquinone (in any form), hydrocortisone (unless in trace amounts and for specific purposes such as anti-itch products), betamethasone, flucinonide, clobestatol, or clobestatone are subject to fines up to $2,000 and/or three years imprisonment.
Airport police and customs officials routinely inspect incoming and outgoing luggage. Airline passengers are required to put their luggage through an x-ray machine before departing the airport. Travelers in possession of prescription drugs should carry proof of their prescriptions, such as labeled containers. Police have, on occasion, arrested foreigners carrying unlabeled pills. For a list of prohibited items, travelers should contact the nearest Gambian embassy or consulate.
It is against the law for tourists to photograph or film government buildings, including airports, military installations, or embassies, due to security concerns.
The Gambia’s currency, the dalasi, is freely convertible but is not widely available outside the country. The Gambia has a cash economy and travelers should carry sufficient currency to cover all expenses for their visit. Visitors can exchange currency at banks or exchange bureaus. Changing money unofficially is prohibited and individuals who do so may face prosecution. Travelers should be aware that The Gambia has many last-minute holidays requiring banks and other businesses to close. Travelers should always have enough cash to carry them through unexpected bank closures.
Credit cards are accepted only at major hotels, some grocery stores, and a few restaurants. Local personal checks from U.S. citizens are accepted only at exchange bureaus and only from U.S. citizens who are resident in The Gambia. There are a few ATMs in the Banjul area, but they often malfunction or fail to issue receipts, and some users have been subject to electronic theft of funds after using local ATMs. ATMs only accept VISA cards for international transactions and only dispense a maximum of about $140.00 USD (in local currency) per transaction, with three transactions allowed per day. Money transfers are widely available at Western Union branch offices in The Gambia.
If you are a woman traveling abroad, please review our travel tips for Women Travelers.
LGBT RIGHTS: Consensual same-sex sexual relations between men are illegal in The Gambia. There is no similar law targeting women. Prison terms can range from five to 14 years, and there is strong societal discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) individuals. The President of The Gambia frequently uses violent, threatening public rhetoric to discourage LGBT individuals from travelling to The Gambia. Arrest and prosecution of LGBT persons, including foreign visitors, does occur. Eighteen men were arrested and prosecuted on suspicion of same-sex sexual relations in 2012. For more detailed information about LGBT rights in The Gambia you may review the State Department’s annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. For further information on LGBT travel, please read our LGBT Travel Information page.
ACCESSIBILITY: While in The Gambia, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation to be different from the United States. As per Department of State’s Human Rights Report, the Gambian constitution protects persons with disabilities in terms of access to health services, education, and employment. However, there are no laws to ensure access to buildings for persons with disabilities, and very few buildings in the country are accessible to them.
Medical facilities in The Gambia are very limited, some treatments are unavailable, and emergency services can be unpredictable and unreliable. Travelers should carry their own supplies of prescription as well as over-the-counter medicines or treatments.
Documentation of yellow fever vaccination is required for those over nine months of age upon arrival from all countries with risk of yellow fever.
Mosquito borne illnesses such as malaria, yellow fever and dengue are a significant problem and prevention of bites and proper yellow fever immunization are important for all areas.
Travelers should carry and use insect repellents containing either 20 percent DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535. Treating clothing and tents with permethrin and sleeping in screened or air conditioned rooms under insecticide-impregnated mosquito nets will help diminish bites from mosquitoes as well ticks, fleas, chiggers, etc, some of which may also carry infections.
Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease that is highly prevalent throughout The Gambia in all seasons. Before traveling you should discuss with your doctor the best antimalarial medication to avoid malaria.
Atovaquone-proguanil (Malarone), doxycycline or mefloquine (Lariam) are appropriate antimalarials for this region. For information that can help you and your doctor decide which of these drugs would be best for you, please see Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) “Choosing a Drug to Prevent Malaria.” If you become ill with a fever or flu-like illness while traveling in The Gambia, or for up to one year after returning home, you should seek prompt medical attention, tell the physician your travel history and what antimalarials you have been taking.
Yellow fever and dengue are viruses spread by day biting mosquitoes (in contrast to the night biting malaria carrying mosquitoes). Like malaria, preventing mosquito biting is the most important for preventing these illnesses.
Yellow fever is the most serious of these diseases, although rare among travelers, it can be severe or fatal in about 10 oercent of those infected. It can be nearly 100 percent prevented through use of the yellow fever vaccine but there is currently no treatment for yellow fever infection. Yellow fever vaccine should be given to all traveler’s over nine months of age PRIOR to arrival in The Gambia but is required for entry only if you are arriving from a country with endemic yellow fever.
Dengue fever causes fever, chills, severe headache, and body aches. There is currently no vaccine or treatment for dengue and the illness occasionally causes severe or fatal disease.
Diarrheal illness is very common among travelers even in large cities and luxury accommodations. Travelers can diminish diarrhea risk through scrupulous washing of hands and use of hand sanitizers, especially before food preparation and eating. The greatest risk of traveler’s diarrhea is from contaminated food. Choose foods and beverages carefully to lower your risk (see Food & Water Safety). Eat only food that is cooked and served hot; avoid food that has been sitting on a buffet. Eat raw fruits and vegetables only if you have washed them in clean water or peeled them. Drink only beverages from factory-sealed containers, and avoid ice (because it may have been made from unclean water). Talk to your doctor about short course antibiotics and loperamide to take with you in case of diarrhea while traveling.
All routinely recommended immunizations for the United States should be up to date. Measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, pertussis, and chickenpox are much more common than in the United States, especially among children. Additionally, hepatitis A and typhoid immunization is recommended for all travelers. Hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for all those who may have sexual contacts, tattoos or require medical treatment while in The Gambia.
Rabies immunization is recommended for all travelers staying for more than four weeks or who will have remote, rural travel or expect animal exposure. Even in urban areas dogs may have rabies and bites and scratches from dogs, bats or other mammals should be immediately cleaned with soap and water and medical evaluation sought to determine if additional rabies immunization is warranted.
Meningococcal meningitis is much more common than in the United States and immunization with the quadrivalent meningococcal vaccine should be given to all children and health care workers, it should be considered for all adults.
Tuberculosis is more than 20 times more common in The Gambia than in the United States. Those planning on living in The Gambia should consider tuberculin skin testing before travel and then again six to tweleve weeks after returning from The Gambia.
Schistosomiasis is caused by a parasitic worm that is spread by fresh water snails. The larval stage of the worm can burrow through your skin when in contact with contaminated fresh water. Avoid wading, swimming, bathing, or washing in, or drinking from bodies of fresh water such as canals, lakes, rivers, streams, or springs.
You can find detailed information on vaccinations and other health precautions on the CDC website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website, which contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
Travel & Transportation
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in The Gambia, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. Travel in The Gambia can be difficult due to poor road conditions, particularly during the rainy season, which generally lasts from July through September. Although there are paved main roads in the greater Banjul area, many are poorly maintained and poorly lit. With the installation of street lights on roads in the Banjul area, some drivers no longer use their vehicle lights at night, and many habitually drive with their high beams on, including when facing or following other traffic.
Most roads outside the Banjul area are still unlit and unpaved. Caution should be exercised when using taxis, particularly at night. Most taxis lack safety belts and many are not road-worthy. Livestock and pedestrians pose road hazards throughout the country, including in the greater Banjul area. Drivers and pedestrians should exercise extreme caution to prevent accidents.
Numerous accidents are caused by intoxicated drivers. Tests are rarely done to determine levels of intoxication. If you are suspected of causing an accident while intoxicated, and the case is taken to trial, you may be subject to a substantial fine or imprisonment.
The police do not consistently apply traffic laws and regulations, and sometimes compel drivers to pay fines on the spot for violations, real or contrived. Written citations/tickets are rarely given. Police periodically set up impromptu traffic stops on major streets to check for drivers’ licenses and proper insurance. Drivers should not attempt to drive around these traffic stops.
Government convoys frequently travel at high speeds and often in either or both lanes of traffic, including in the oncoming traffic lane, requiring cars to move off the road. They do not always use sirens, and drivers should maintain awareness. Whenever there are police lights or sirens or a convoy is approaching, drivers should move off the road immediately and completely. There are no trauma centers in The Gambia and severe accidents often require evacuation to Senegal or Europe.
Water transportation, including government ferries, is unsafe and unreliable. Ferries rarely keep to their posted schedules. The ferries, which are poorly maintained and often overcrowded, usually lack sufficient numbers of life preservers for all passengers. U.S. citizens are advised to exit their cars during the crossing. The wooden dugout “pirogues” that also cross the Gambia River often leave shore overloaded and occasionally sink in the middle of the river.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in The Gambia, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of The Gambia’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.