The Gambia, or officially Islamic Republic of The Gambia, is a tiny country in West Africa. It is surrounded on three sides by Senegal, with a small Atlantic coast. The Gambia is the smallest country on the continent of Africa. The capital of the Gambia is Banjul, but the two largest cities are Serekunda and Brikama. The international airport is in Banjul and is serviced by flights from Lagos, Accra, Brussels, Dakar, and Casablanca. Charter flights are available from London, Oslo, and Stockholm. Visas are required for travellers from France, Spain, Portugal, and the US; they are available on arrival at the airport. Most other nationalities can visit visa-free. PLEASE check requirements for your specific country before travelling.
The Gambia was a Portuguese colony during the early years of the slave trade, from about 1450 or so; in 1765, it became a British colony under the Crown. Two hundred years later, in 1965, the Gambia gained independence from Britain.
The currency in the Gambia is the dalasi. The biggest economies in the Gambia are fishing, farming, and tourism. Tourism numbers are steadily growing and it is likely that the Gambia will be a top destination for travellers within the next five years. With an abundance of wildlife, from nearly 600 bird species to manatees, hippos, monkeys, and crocodiles, the Gambia is a nature lover’s paradise.
The climate in the Gambia is tropical. A hot and rainy season occurs from June to November; from November to May there are cooler temperatures and less precipitation. The geography is grasslands and river plains; the Gambia’s borders mirror the Gambia River and are only 50km apart at the widest point. Along the flood plain, there are Guinean mangroves near the coast, while inland the terrain becomes more savannah-like.
Hostel accommodation in the Gambia is rare, but you may find one or two traditional hostels in the capital, Banjul. Otherwise, search out bed and breakfasts, guesthouses, or pensions. There are beach lodges along the coastal towns; they can be very basic (private rooms with shared bathrooms) but inexpensive.
Once you have your accommodation sorted, you can set out to explore this unique country. Popular tourist attractions include the Senegambian stone circles, which run from Senegal through the Gambia. They are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and UNESCO considers them to be the “largest concentration of stone circles anywhere in the world.” They are truly unique and should not be missed. Ruins of the 17th century British Fort James are also worth visiting, although they are sadly neglected and facing serious threat from erosion. Travellers should also take time to visit the national parks and wildlife reserves. The Kachikaly crocodile pool and Abuko Nature Reserve are two of the most popular.
Similar to other West African countries, the Gambia’s culture is vibrant and fun. Senegalese music and dances are closely linked to the Gambian styles. They fuse a combination of Western dance and pop with the sabar, traditional drumming and dancing. Banjul or Bakau are the places to go to experience this side of the Gambian culture. Whatever you choose to do in the Gambia, you will leave with an experience like no other.
Hi, I'm Jakob Lombardi,
the Hostelz.com local expert for Gambia hostels. Welcome.