Gambia Travel Information

Photo Gambia gained its independence from the UK in 1965; it formed a short-lived federation of Senegambia with Senegal between 1982 and 1989. In 1991 the two nations signed a friendship and cooperation treaty. A military coup in 1994 overthrew the president and banned political activity, but a new 1996 constitution and presidential elections, followed by parliamentary balloting in 1997, have completed a nominal return to civilian rule. The Gambia recently emerged from its isolation to accept a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council during 1998-99.

Gambia has no important mineral or other natural resources and has a limited agricultural base. About 75% of the population depends on crops and livestock for its livelihood. Small-scale manufacturing activity features the processing of peanuts, fish, and hides. Reexport trade normally constitutes a major segment of economic activity, but the 50% devaluation of the CFA franc in January 1994 made Senegalese goods more competitive and hurt the reexport trade. The Gambia has benefited from a rebound in tourism after its decline in response to the military's takeover in July 1994. Short-run economic progress remains highly dependent on sustained bilateral and multilateral aid and on responsible government economic management as forwarded by IMF technical help and advice. Annual GDP growth is expected to fall to less than 4% over 2000-01.

A wide variety of ethnic groups live side by side in The Gambia while preserving individual languages and traditions. The population comprises the Mandinka (also known as Mandingo or Malinke), the largest ethnic group (representing about 42 percent of the country's inhabitants); the Fulani (about 18 percent), who predominate in the eastern part of the country; the Wolof (about 16 percent), who live mainly in Banjul and the western region; the Jola (about 10 percent), who live in the western region; the Serahuli (about 9 percent), whose rulers introduced Islam into the region in the 12th century and who are primarily traders and nomads; and the small Aku community, partly descended from liberated slaves. In 1999, 32 percent of the population lived in urban areas.

When driving a vehicle in Gambia, visitors should stop at all roadblocks and checkpoints and comply fully with security personnel. Drivers should not reverse direction to avoid a road checkpoint, nor make any movements that may be viewed as suspicious or provocative by security personnel. Failure to comply may result in violence.
Gambia has strict laws on the import/export medications. Visitors arriving with substances containing hydroquinone, hydrocortisone, 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. Travelers in possession of prescription drugs should carry proof of their prescriptions, such as labeled containers. Police have been known to arrest foreigners carrying unlabeled pills. The local currency is the dalasi. Credit cards are accepted at most hotels, provided prior arrangements are made.
Travelers should not photograph airports or military installations. The Gambia is a predominantly Muslim country and care should be taken to dress moderately, especially away from the tourist areas.

Important: Travel to Gambia may require a travel visa. Whether a visa is required for travel depends on citizenship and purpose of journey. Please be sure to review Travisa's Gambia visa instructions for details. Visa instructions for other countries are available on our do I need a visa page.

Country Statistics

Full country name: Republic of The Gambia
Capital city: Banjul
Area: 11,295 sq km
Population: 1,840,454
Ethnic groups: African 99%
Languages: English
Religions: Muslim 90%, Christian 8%, indigenous beliefs 2%
Government: republic
Chief of State: President Yahya JAMMEH
Head of Government: President Yahya JAMMEH
GDP: 3.496 billion
GDP per captia: 1,900
Annual growth rate: 3.3%
Inflation: 4.8%
Agriculture: rice, millet, sorghum, peanuts, corn, sesame, cassava
Major industries: processing peanuts, fish, and hides
Natural resources: fish, clay, silica sand, titanium
Location: Western Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean and Senegal
Trade Partners - exports: China 37.5%, India 27.3%, France 9.3%, UK 5.6%
Trade Partners - imports: China 27.9%, Brazil 9.6%, Senegal 8.3%, India 6.3%