The smallest nation on the African mainland, countries don’t come much more compact - and traversable - than The Gambia. Less than 50 km across at its widest point, this tiny sliver of land streaking Senegal’s midriff is oft bypassed, or swiftly passed through, in favour of exploring its more well-known neighbour. Yet a spell in The Gambia itself will be richly rewarded. Home to magnificent birdlife, pristine beach getaways, and lush tropical woodlands, iddy-biddy Gambia just goes to show that size ain’t everything.

Gambia Tours & Travel

All our Gambia trips

USD $2,719
CAD $3,563
AUD $3,764
EUR €2,445
GBP £1,879
NZD $4,045
ZAR R43,190
CHF FR2,705
Join a journey across West Africa and discover the stunning beaches, densely jungled highlands and intriguing...

About Gambia

At a glance

Capital city: Banjul (population 360,000)
Population: 1.8 million
Language: English (official), Wolof, Mandinka, Fula
Currency: GMD
Time zone: (GMT) Casablanca
Electricity: Type G (Irish/British 3-pin) Type C (European 2-pin)
Dialing code: +220

Best time to visit Gambia

The best time to visit The Gambia is from November to February when temperatures hover around a pleasant 24 degrees Celsius and there’s little humidity. Conveniently, this is also the best time for bird and wildlife spotting. From mid-February to April the average temperature rises to about 26 degrees Celsius, before gradually climbing into the 30s from late June to late September. Humidity during this time can be oppressive, and the rains can wash away some of the roads. The heat and rain slowly subside over October and November, making this another good time to visit as the country is green and lush.

Gambia weather chart

Geography and environment

Beach in Gambia
Completely surrounded by Senegal save for its 80 km stretch of coastline, The Gambia is an exceptionally flat country with a highest point only 53 metres above sea level. The country’s namesake river, which threads through the country from the east, starts amongst tropical rainforest before gradually giving way to mangrove swamps and coastline. Further from the river, savannahs and plantation woodlands dot the landscape.

Top Picks

Local serving a drink in Gambia

Top 5 Gambian Drinks

1. Bissap

Blood-red and almost impossibly sweet, bissap or manjo is an infused herbal tea made from the flowers of the hibiscus plant, and it’s the nation’s number one drink. Typically flavoured with ginger or mint, it makes for a refreshing midday beverage. And with preliminary studies recently suggesting that it may reduce blood pressure and hypertension, you may well return home in better shape than you left.

2. Ataaya

As much a social rite as a no-holds-barred caffeine injection, try the three-glass Ataaya ceremony when you’re looking to recharge the batteries or make some local friends. One part Chinese green tea leaves to two parts sugar, three parts water and a bunch of mint – think of it as the teetotaller’s mojito. Just don’t drink the foam at the bottom of the glass.

3. Kinkeliba

Brewed from the leaves of the local Kinkeliba plant, this strong and sweet herbal tea is mostly drunk as a breakfast tonic or at dusk during Ramadan when its reputed appetite-stimulant qualities assist gorging on the evening meal. And hunger inducing though it may be, one need not fret about possible weight gain because it also supposedly aids weight loss. Perfect!

4. Bouyi

A thick syrupy juice made from the fruit of the baobab, this ultra-sweet libation imparts an unmatched sugar high and is certainly more appetising than its ungainly tree would have you expecting.

5. Jul Brew

Described by some beer buffs as evoking aromas of hay, boiled vegetables, canned corn and cardboard, Gambia’s national beer is probably unlikely to scoop any international beer awards. But knocked back on a white sandy beach while being buffed by 28-degree sea breezes, you’re hardly likely to care.

FAQs on Gambia

Australia: No - Not required
Belgium: Yes - In advance
Canada: Yes - In advance
Germany: No - Not required
Ireland: No - Not required
Netherlands: Yes - In advance
New Zealand: No - Not required
South Africa: Yes - in advance
Switzerland: Yes - In advance
UK: No - Not required
USA: Yes - In advance

Some nationalities require a visa to visit The Gambia. If you require a visa it must be obtained in advance from an embassy overseas. Citizens of the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and some other countries do not need a visa for a stay of less than 90 days. Citizens of the USA, Canada, South Africa and some other countries do need a visa and should apply to their nearest Gambian embassy and ensure that the visa is obtained before arrival.
In established restaurants, bars, hotels and taxis a 10% service charge is usually added to the bill - though feel free to tip more than this for exceptional service. At restaurants where a service charge isn’t included, 10% is the acceptable gratuity. Although tipping at other places isn't mandatory it will be much appreciated given the low wages that Gambian service workers are typically paid. Setting aside a small amount for porters, guides and drivers is also a good idea.
Internet cafes with fairly slow connections can be easily found in Banjul and the resort towns on the Atlantic Coast. Towns further inland will usually have at least one internet cafe with unreliable connectivity.
Mobile phone coverage is good in The Gambia’s large cities and towns, but less so in rural areas. The major local telephone companies are Gamcell and Africell. Ensure you have global roaming activated before leaving home if you plan to use your mobile phone.
Fairly clean western-style toilets can generally be found in Banjul and the towns on the Atlantic Coast. In towns and villages further inland, squat/pit toilets are the norm. Carry your own supply of soap and toilet paper as this is rarely provided.
Sandwich = 50 GMD
Litre of bottled water = 30 GMD
Bottle of Jul Brew = 20 GMD
Shwarma = 50 GMD
Tap water isn't safe to drink in The Gambia. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying bottled water. Instead, bring water purification tablets or ask your leader where filtered water can be found.
Credit cards are generally only accepted at top-end hotels, if arranged at the beginning of your stay, and at some high-end restaurants. American Express and Visa are the most likely to be accepted, though use sparingly as there is a genuine risk of fraud.
ATMs can be found at banks and urban centres in Banjul and around the Atlantic Coast, though they aren’t always reliable. Due to credit card and bank fraud, caution is advised when using these and some ATMs may only allow withdrawals of fairly small amounts. Be sure to have other payment methods on hand when venturing out of the big cities. Visa is the most accepted card.
Absolutely. All passengers travelling with Intrepid are required to purchase travel insurance before the start of your trip. Your travel insurance details will be recorded by your leader on the first day of the trip. Due to the varying nature, availability and cost of health care around the world, travel insurance is very much an essential and necessary part of every journey.

For more information on insurance, please go to: Travel Insurance
Jan 1 New Year's Day
Jan 24 Milad un Nabi (Birth of the Prophet Muhammad)
Feb 18 Independence Day
Mar 29 Good Friday
Apr 1 Easter Monday
May 1 Labour Day
Jul 22 Revolution Day
Aug 8 Koriteh (End of Ramadan)
Aug 15 Assumption
Oct 15 Tabaski (Feast of Sacrifice)
Dec 25 Christmas Day

Please note these dates are for 2013. For a current list of public holidays go to:

Health and Safety

Intrepid takes the health and safety of its travellers seriously, and takes every measure to ensure that trips are safe, fun and enjoyable for everyone. We recommend that all travellers check with their government or national travel advisory organisation for the latest information before departure:

From Australia?

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From New Zealand?

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From Canada?

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From US?

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From UK?

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The World Health Organisation

also provides useful health information:
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Responsible Travel

Gambia Travel Tips

Intrepid is committed to travelling in a way that is respectful of local people, their culture, local economies and the environment. It's important to remember that what may be acceptable behaviour, dress and language in your own country, may not be appropriate in another. Please keep this in mind while travelling.

Top responsible travel tips for Gambia

1. Be considerate of The Gambia’s customs, traditions, religions and culture.

2. Only use your right hand when dealing with locals. The left is used for ‘unhygienic tasks’.

3. It's considered very rude in Gambian culture to smell food in front of others before eating it.

4. Dress modestly and respectfully. Shoulders to knees should be covered and shoes removed when entering places of worship.

5. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying bottled water. Fill a reusable water bottle or canteen with filtered water or use water purification tablets.

6. Always dispose of litter thoughtfully, including cigarette butts.

7. Learn some local language and don't be afraid to use it - simple greetings will help break the ice.

8. Shop for locally made products. Supporting local artisans helps keep traditional crafts alive and supports the local community.

9. When bargaining, stay calm, be reasonable and keep a smile on your face. It's meant to be fun!

10. Refrain from supporting businesses that exploit or abuse endangered animals.

11. Please ask and receive permission before taking photos of people, including children.

12. When on community visits or homestays, refrain from giving gifts or money to locals.

Further reading

Recommended reading

Title Author
RootsAlex Haley
Chaff on the WindEbou Dibba
Our Grandmothers’ DrumsMark Hudson
The AfricanWilliam Conton
Dream Kingdom: New and Selected PoemsTijan M. Sallah