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The Gambia - Exercise a high degree of caution
There is no nationwide advisory in effect for The Gambia. However, you should exercise a high degree of caution due to the fragile political situation.
Safety and security
Safety and security
The Presidential elections took place on December 1, 2016, and the outgoing president contested the results and refused to cede power. Under diplomatic pressure and following military action by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the outgoing president stepped down. The newly elected president returned to the Gambia on January 26, 2017. ECOWAS troops remain in the country. Avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings and monitor media.
Petty crime such as pickpocketing and purse snatching is common, particularly in crowded markets and on ferries.
Theft from hotel rooms is also common. Ensure that your travel documents and valuable items are secure.
Theft from vehicles has increased. Car doors should be locked and car windows closed at all times.
Beware of men (so-called “bumsters”) who offer to be tour guides, as they are likely to demand payment afterwards, even if that was not previously agreed upon. Politely decline any unsolicited offer.
Check with local authorities to determine which beaches are safe. Do not bring valuables or large sums of money to the beach. Avoid isolated beaches.
Demonstrations occur and have the potential to suddenly turn violent. They can lead to significant disruptions to traffic and public transportation. Avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings, follow the instructions of local authorities and monitor local media.
Cases of attempted fraud occur. See our Overseas Fraud page for more information on scams abroad.
In the greater Banjul area, main roads are paved but are narrow, potholed and poorly lit. Most roads outside the capital are unpaved. Overland travel can be difficult without a four-wheel-drive vehicle, particularly during the rainy season. Avoid driving outside urban areas after dark. Contact the nearest police station if involved in a traffic accident. Police roadblocks are common throughout the country and identification documents may be requested. Stop at all security roadblocks and checkpoints and cooperate with local authorities.
Be careful when travelling overland to the Casamance region in Senegal, as separatist rebels operate in this area. Travellers have been attacked on roads leading north from Ziguinchor, Senegal, to Banjul, Gambia, and on Senegalese roads from Bignona to Senoba, which is near the Senegal–Gambia border. You should also consult the Travel Advice and Advisories for Senegal before departing.
It is dangerous to cross the Gambia River on wooden pirogues,due to overcrowding and the lack of security measures.
General safely information
Do not show signs of affluence and ensure that personal belongings and travel documents are secure at all times. You should keep informed of local developments that could affect your safety.
Tourist facilities are limited outside of Banjul.
The Government of Canada does not assess foreign domestic airlines’ compliance with international aviation safety standards. See Foreign domestic airlines for more information.
It is the sole prerogative of every country or territory to determine who is allowed to enter or exit. Canadian consular officials cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet entry or exit requirements. The following information has been obtained from the Gambian authorities and is subject to change at any time. The country- or territory-specific entry/exit requirements are provided on this page for information purposes only. While every effort is made to provide accurate information, information contained here is provided on an "as is" basis without warranty of any kind, express or implied. The Government of Canada assumes no responsibility, and shall not be liable for any damages in connection to the information provided. It is your responsibility to check with the High Commission for the Republic of the Gambia, based in Washington, D.C. (USA) for up-to-date information.
Official (special and diplomatic) passport holders must consult the Official Travel page, as they may be subject to different entry requirements.
Canadians must present a passport to visit the Gambia, which must be valid for at least the duration of their stay. Prior to travelling, ask your transportation company about its requirements related to passport validity, which may be more stringent than the country’s entry rules.
Temporary passport holders may be subject to different entry requirements. Check with diplomatic representatives for up-to-date information.
Tourist visa: Required
Business visa: Required
Employment permit: Required
Children and travel
Children need special documentation to visit certain countries. See Children for more information.
See Health to obtain information on this country’s vaccination requirements.
Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
Vaccines to Consider
You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.
Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread through contaminated food and water or contact with an infected person. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.
Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment, sharing needles, tattooing, acupuncture or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.
Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or by touching objects and surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus. Get the flu shot.
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease and is common in most parts of the world. Be sure your measles vaccination is up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
This country is in the African Meningitis Belt, an area where there are many cases of meningococcal disease. Meningococcal disease is a serious and sometimes fatal infection. Travellers who may be at high risk should consider getting vaccinated. High-risk travellers include those living or working with the local population (e.g., health care workers) or those travelling to crowded areas or taking part in large gatherings.
Rabies is a deadly illness spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from an infected animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).
Yellow Fever - Country Entry Requirements
Yellow fever is a disease caused by a flavivirus from the bite of an infected mosquito.
Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.
- There is a risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
- Proof of vaccination is required if you are coming from a country where yellow fever occurs.
- Vaccination is recommended.
- There is currently a shortage of the yellow fever vaccine in Canada. It is important for travellers to contact a designated Yellow Fever Vaccination Centre well in advance of their trip to ensure that the vaccine is available.
- Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care provider.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites.
* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Food and Water-borne Diseases
Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.
In some areas in West Africa, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in West Africa. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!
Schistosomiasis can be spread to humans through freshwater sources contaminated by blood flukes (tiny worms). The eggs of the worms can cause stomach illnesses like diarrhea and cramps or urinary problems. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Avoid swimming in freshwater sources (lakes, rivers, ponds). There is no vaccine available for schistosomiasis.
- Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
- Risk of developing travellers' diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor standards of hygiene and sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
- The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.
Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher for children, travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives or travelling for a long period of time. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should speak to a health care provider about vaccination.
Insects and Illness
In some areas in West Africa, certain insects carry and spread diseases like African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), chikungunya, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, dengue fever, leishmaniasis, lymphatic filariasis, malaria, onchocerciasis, Rift Valley fever, West Nile virus, yellow fever and Zika virus.
Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.
Zika virus infection
Zika virus infection is a risk in this country. The mosquito that spreads the virus is found here.
All travellers should protect themselves from mosquito bites and other diseases spread by insects.
- There is a risk of malaria throughout the year in the whole country.
- Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no vaccine against malaria.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in enclosed air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider pre-treating clothing and travel gear with insecticides and sleeping under an insecticide-treated bednet.
- See a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss the benefits of taking antimalarial medication and to determine which one to take.
Animals and Illness
Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. Certain infections found in some areas in West Africa, like avian influenza and rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks and impairs the immune system, resulting in a chronic, progressive illness known as AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome).
High risk activities include anything which puts you in contact with blood or body fluids, such as unprotected sex and exposure to unsterilized needles for medications or other substances (for example, steroids and drugs), tattooing, body-piercing or acupuncture.
Tuberculosis is an infection caused by bacteria and usually affects the lungs.
For most travellers the risk of tuberculosis is low.
Travellers who may be at high risk while travelling in regions with risk of tuberculosis should discuss pre- and post-travel options with a health care provider.
High-risk travellers include those visiting or working in prisons, refugee camps, homeless shelters, or hospitals, or travellers visiting friends and relatives.
Medical services and facilities
Medical services and facilities do not meet Canadian standards. Medical facilities are very limited. Some medical treatments may be unavailable.
Keep in Mind...
The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.
Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.
Laws and culture
Laws & culture
You are subject to local laws. See Arrest and detention for more information.
The use of drugs is prohibited. Convicted offenders could be punished by detention or other penalties. Penalties for importing or exporting drugs or contraband are strict. Never accept packages from strangers and pack your luggage yourself.
Libel, sedition and slander are criminal offences. Convicted offenders can expect prison terms without any option of a fine.
Some medications and skin-bleaching creams are subject to strict import and export laws. Visitors could face fines and/or imprisonment if they arrive in the Gambia with substances containing betamethasone, clobetatol, clobetatone, fluocinonide, hydrocortisone or hydroquinone. Contact the High Commission for the Republic of the Gambia in Washington, D.C., for specific information regarding customs requirements.
Photography of airports, government buildings, military installations and embassies is prohibited.
An International Driving Permit is recommended.
The laws of the Gambia prohibit sexual acts between individuals of the same sex. Penalties include life imprisonment. LGBTQ2 travellers should carefully consider the risks of travelling to the Gambia.
See Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirit Canadians abroad for more information.
Dual citizenship is legally recognized in the Gambia. However, Canadian officials may be limited in their ability to provide you with consular services if local authorities consider you a Gambian citizen. You should always travel using your valid Canadian passport and present yourself as Canadian to foreign authorities at all times to minimize this risk. You may also need to carry and present a Gambian passport for legal reasons, for example to enter and exit the country (see Entry/exit requirements to determine passport requirements). Citizenship is determined solely by national laws, and the decision to recognize dual citizenship rests completely with the country in which you are located when seeking consular assistance. See Travelling as a dual citizen for more information.
The majority of the population is Muslim.
Islamic practices and beliefs are closely adhered to in the country’s customs, laws and regulations. Common sense and discretion should be exercised in dress and behaviour. Respect religious and social traditions to avoid offending local sensitivities.
During the lunar month of Ramadan (the ninth month of the Muslim calendar), use discretion when drinking, eating, and smoking in public between sunrise and sunset. In 2017, Ramadan is expected to begin on or around May 27.
The currency is the dalasi (GMD). A currency declaration form must be completed on arrival. Certain regional currencies may not be accepted or exchanged, including currency from Algeria, Cabo Verde, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Tunisia. American dollars, euros and African Financial Community francs (CFA) are widely accepted.
Natural disasters and climate
Natural disasters & climate
The rainy season extends from June to October. Keep informed of regional weather forecasts and plan accordingly.
In case of emergency, dial:
- police: 117
- medical assistance: 116
- firefighters: 118
There is no resident Canadian government office in The Gambia. You can obtain consular assistance and further consular information from the British High Commission in Banjul.
Banjul - British Embassy
Dakar - Embassy of Canada
For emergency consular assistance, call the Embassy of Canada in Dakar, Senegal, and follow the instructions. At any time, you may also contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa.
The decision to travel is your choice and you are responsible for your personal safety abroad. The Government of Canada takes the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provides credible and timely information in its Travel Advice to enable you to make well-informed decisions regarding your travel abroad. In the event of a large-scale emergency, every effort will be made to provide assistance. However, there may be constraints that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide services.
See Large-scale emergencies abroad for more information.
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