Travel.State.Gov > International Travel > Country Information > The Gambia International Travel Information
See the Department of State’s Fact Sheet on The Gambia for information on U.S. – The Gambia relations.
The Government of The Gambia requires visitors to obtain a visa upon entering the country. You must have at least one blank page in your passport for the stamp. Tourist travelers are typically granted a 30-day stay in The Gambia upon arrival. Travelers who stay beyond the allowed time are fined 1,000 dalasi per month of overstay on departure, payable in cash. Extensions to stays can be requested at the Department of Immigration in Banjul.
Visit the Embassy of The Gambia in Washington DC’s website for the most 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.
Avoid the areas of southern Gambia which border the Casamance region in Senegal, due to potential landmines.
Crime: Petty street crime is common. Beware of pickpockets, purse-snatchers, and theft from vehicles which occur on ferries, in market and commercial areas, and hotels. Ensure that your travel documents, luggage, and valuable items are secure. Business fraud and relationship scams are common.
Beware of “bumsters” - local men who approach tourists, particularly on beaches and tourist zones, offering help, to act as local guides or to enter into a relationship. They will often demand payment for their services, even if no agreement has been made. Be polite but firm in turning down unwanted help or attempts at conversation.
Demonstrations may occur. They may take place in response to political or economic issues, on politically significant holidays, and during international events.
Relationship fraud/scams: Internet and in-person friendship, romance and financial scams are prevalent in The Gambia. Scams are often initiated through Internet postings/profiles or by unsolicited emails, letters, WhatApp, texts, and/or contact initiated in person. Scammers sometimes pose as U.S. citizens who have no one else to turn to for help, others ask for assistance to help them and family members in need. They request financial assistance from victims to help pay for potentially fraudulent or potentially partially valid claims, such as for urgent medical treatment, school fees for numerous relatives, rent payments, car repair, payment of exit taxes, or government fines.
Business fraud/scams: The U.S. Embassy receives reports of scams in which U.S. businesses sent payment, but did not receive shipments.
Victims of Crime: U.S. citizen victims of sexual assault are encouraged to contact the U.S. Embassy in addition to Gambian police. Sexual assaults by relatives are often seen by police as family matters outside their jurisdiction and they may not investigate.
Report crimes to the local police at 117 for police assistance or ambulatory services, and 118 for fire and contact the U.S. Embassy at +(220) 439-2856. The Gambian Police Force operates a 24 hour emergency line at (220) 422-4914. Please be advised that emergency responders may lack fuel for vehicles or face other resource challenges.
Remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime.
See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas.
Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence are encouraged to contact the Embassy for assistance.
Tourism: Outside of primary tourist areas in the immediate capital region, formal tourism industry infrastructure is minimal or nonexistent. The tourism industry is unevenly regulated, and safety inspections for equipment and facilities do not commonly occur. Hazardous areas/activities are not always identified with appropriate signage, and staff may not be trained or certified either by the host government or by recognized authorities in the field. Tourists are considered to be participating in activities at their own risk. Emergency response and subsequent appropriate medical treatment is moderate to minimal in the immediate capital region, and limited to unavailable in much of the rest of the country. First responders are generally unable to access areas outside of major cities and to provide urgent medical treatment. U.S. citizens are encouraged to purchase private medical evacuation insurance. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.
Criminal Penalties: You are subject to local laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Individuals establishing a business or practicing a profesion that requires additional permits or licensing should seek information from the competent local authorities, prior to practicing or operating a business.
Convictions for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs can result in long prison sentences. This includes use or possession of marijuana.
Arrest Notification: If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy immediately. See our webpage for further information.
Dual Nationals: In addition to being subject to all of The Gambia’s laws affecting foreigners, dual U.S. - Gambian citizens may be subject to additional provisions of Gambian law. Please inquire at a Gambian embassy or consulate regarding your status before you travel. Gambian police routinely do not recognize dual citizenship and may treat you solely as a Gambian citizen. This is particularly true if you use a Gambian passport rather than a U.S. passport to enter The Gambia.
Medications: Many common medications are available in Gambian pharmacies although you may need to know the European name or brand to find an equivalent product. Medication, such as insulin, requiring refrigeration may be difficult to store as The Gambia is subject to frequent power outages. Import and export of skin-bleaching creams and some medications is strictly regulated. You can face fines up to $2,000 and/or three years imprisonment if you 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. For more information, including additional restrictions on importing medications, please contact the nearest Gambian embassy or consulate.
Photography: It is against the law to photograph or film airport security operations, military installations, embassies, or government motorcades. You could be fined, have your photographic equipment confiscated without notice, and risk detention and arrest. Do not take photos of Gambians without their permission.
Currency: The dalasi is the official currency, though U.S. dollars, euros, and West African Francs (CFA) are accepted in some places . The Gambia is a cash economy; credit cards are accepted only at major hotels when the internet connection is working and a few restaurants. You should only exchange currency at banks or exchange bureaus. Changing money unofficially is prohibited. Due to the potential for fraud, avoid using ATMs except those at banks. Money transfers are widely available at Western Union branch offices.
Faith-Based Travelers: See the following webpages for details:
LGBTI Travelers: Under Gambian law, consensual same-sex sexual relations are illegal. Prison terms range from five years to life imprisonment. Antidiscrimination laws do not protect LGBTI individuals, and there is strong societal discrimination against LGBTI individuals. Gambian authorities have called on landlords and owners of bars, restaurants, and hotels to monitor activities that happen in their environments.
Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance: Persons with disabilities face limited access to transportation, communication, accommodations, and public buildings. There are few sidewalks and no curb-cuts, and most buildings lack functioning elevators.
Women Travelers: Although gender-based violence is illegal, many women experience domestic violence. Rape, including spousal, familial, and relationship rape, is a widespread problem. Police generally consider spousal and familial rape to be a domestic issue outside their jurisdiction.
Female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) is a crime. Accomplices who are aware of the practice but do not report it to the police can also be punished. Eighty percent of girls and women between the ages of 15 and 19 have undergone FGM/C, and seven of the nine major ethnic groups practice FGM/C on girls from shortly after birth until age 16.
See our travel tips for Women Travelers.
For emergency services in The Gambia, dial 117.
Ambulance services are unreliable in most areas, including in the immediate capital region.
The U.S. Embassy cannot pay medical bills. Be aware that U.S. Medicare/Medicaid does not apply overseas. Most hospitals and doctors overseas do not accept U.S. health insurance.
Medical Insurance: Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers overseas only accept cash payments and individuals must then seek reimbursement. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage. Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more information on type of insurance you should consider before you travel overseas.
We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation.
Always carry your prescription medication in original packaging, along with your doctor’s prescription. Check with the government of The Gambia, via the nearest embassy or consulate, to ensure the medication is legal.
Vaccinations: Be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The government of the Gambia does not require vaccines for citizens of the United States unless they are arriving in the Gambia from a yellow fever zone. Visit the U.S Centers for Disease Control’s website to review their recommendations for vaccinations for travelers to the Gambia.
Further health information:
Air Quality: Visit AirNow Department of State for information on air quality at U.S. Embassies and Consulates.
The U.S. Embassy maintains a list of doctors and hospitals. We do not endorse or recommend any specific medical provider or clinic.
Medical facilities are very limited, some treatments are unavailable, and emergency services can be unpredictable and unreliable.
There are no trauma centers in The Gambia and severe accidents require evacuation to Senegal or Europe.
The following diseases are prevalent:
Use the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended mosquito repellents and sleep under insecticide-impregnated mosquito nets. Chemoprophylaxis is recommended for all travelers even for short stays.
Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for more information about Resources for Travelers regarding specific issues in The Gambia.
Road Conditions and Safety: Road conditions are poor, particularly during the rainy season, which generally lasts from July through September. Although main roads are paved in the greater Banjul area, many are potholed and poorly lit. Some drivers in the Banjul area do not use vehicle lights at night, while others habitually drive with high beams on. Side roads in the Banjul area and most roads outside the Banjul area are unlit and unpaved. Livestock and pedestrians pose road hazards throughout the country, including in the greater Banjul area.
Traffic Laws: Numerous accidents are caused by intoxicated drivers. You may be substantially fined or imprisoned if you cause an accident while intoxicated.
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. You are obligated to stop at all roadblocks or road checkpoints. Do not reverse direction to avoid a road checkpoint or make any movements that security personnel may view as suspicious or provocative.
Government convoys pose serious risks to drivers and pedestrians. Government convoys frequently travel at high speeds and often in either or both lanes of traffic, including in the oncoming traffic lane and do not always use sirens to announce their presence.
Public Transportation: Exercise caution when using taxis, particularly at night. Most taxis lack safety belts and many are not road-worthy.
Water transportation, including government ferries, is unsafe and unreliable. Ferries, which usually lack sufficient numbers of life preservers for all passengers, are often overcrowded. It is highly recommended that you exit your vehicle quickly after parking to avoid becoming trapped inside for the duration of the crossing. However, this is not always possible, increasing the safety risk. The wooden dugout “pirogues” that also cross the Gambia River often leave shore overloaded.
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.
Maritime Travel: Mariners planning travel to The Gambia should also check for U.S. maritime advisories and alerts. Information may also be posted to the U.S. Coast Guard homeport website, and the NGA broadcast warnings.