• Gambia,
    © iStockphoto.com / Peeter Viisimaa
  • Gambia
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Gambia

By Dmitry Petrounin Dmitry Petrounin Section editor Profile
Enclosed in Senegal, this former British colony is a narrow strip that extends over about 12.5 miles on each side of the Gambia River. Banjul, the country's only city, is located on the Atlantic Coast and has some of Africa's most beautiful beaches. As well as seaside stays, Gambia also offers boat excursions on the River, which is a good way of discovering the country's natural beauties. Among them, the Abuko Natural Reserve hosts birds, crocodiles, monkeys, and antelopes. Travel to Gambia is rare among tourists, but it is an African gem just waiting to be discovered.

Our Editorial team's advice

Crossing Gambia leaves traces...in your wallet! In fact, taxes on temporary visas, required for a couple of hundred or so miles travelled, seem to be prohibitive...
As 80 % of the population are Muslim, it is recommended to have a respectful attitude and a decent dress code, in all circumstances.

pros

  • +The country has not yet been invaded by tourists.
  • +Absolutely unique bird reserves.
  • +The population is very welcoming.

cons

  • -Local people are always trying to offer their help to tourists, but refusing politely and firmly will make persistant people stop.
  • -Concerning road infrastructures, there is only one single tarred road.

Traditions

Tontine
This is a savings bank but the money is collected between friends. People put a certain amount of money together and, at the end of each month and in turns, each one can pocket the money. The "tontine" is used for various things, including as social security; in case of sickness, no member will have to face medical expenses all alone. But the tontine can also serve as a social tool. It shows the solidarity of Gambian people.

Food

An international and Gambian cuisine is offered in most hotels and restaurants. Gambia's food specialities are numerous. The benachin, also called jollof rice, is a mixture of meat and spicy rice in a tomato sauce, served with vegetables. The base, Nyebe, is a chicken or beef stew, served with green beans. Plasas is a meat and smoked fish dish, cooked in palm oil and served with green vegetables. You can also find Yassa chicken (chicken that is first marinated, then grilled, and served with onions and tomato sauce), domoda (rice with meat or fish served with a tomato-peanut sauce). Regarding fish, barracudas and grupas are excellent. Try the warthog (bushpig) for game lovers.
Fruit from the markets is delicious: mangoes, oranges, grapefruits, papayas, bananas...
Concerning beverages: - The bissap, full of vitamin C, that you can prepare yourself by buying bissap flowers on the market that you plunge into boiling water for 5 minutes. Let it cool down, filter it through a cloth and sugar it according to your taste. Serve cold.
-Coconut milk. Along the roads, small vendors sell it to you. Very energetic.
- "Bouye juice", also called "monkey bread": baobab's fruit. Active therapy against minor diarrheas.
-Many Gambians drink malta; try it. Vinto is a soft drink, like Fanta (less bubbly), but red and whose taste can remind you of certain cough syrups.
- The local beer, Julbrew, is fairly bitter.
In terms of alcohol, there is no particular restriction: you will find wines, beers and strong alcohols, a little everywhere.

Souvenirs

The art and crafts market in Banjul offers all sorts of diverse souvenir objects: wooden statuettes, pearl belts, gold or silver jewels, handbags, leather objects or clothes. One of the typical purchases is the Gambian blouse, embroidered with lively colours. Shop opening hours: 9:00 a.m-12:00 p.m and 2:00 p.m - 5:00 p.m Monday to Thursday, and 9:00 a.m- 1:00 p.m on Fridays and Saturdays.