Crime in The Gambia: What Travelers Need to Know

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Theft, fraud, scams and bumsters in Gambia. Our travel safety expert shares his top tips and advice on staying safe.

Paradise Beach in Sanyang, Gambia Photo © Getty Images/Francisco Goncalves

You have to respect anyone or anything that refers to itself in the third person, and "The Gambia" is a deserving recipient of this respect. As far as an African nation goes, travel here is trouble-free, easy and safe.

 The Gambia has also started to refer to itself as "The Smiling Coast of Africa" – a reflection of its cultural diversity, safety for travelers and established tourism industry.

To be fair, The Gambia is short for The Republic of The Gambia named after The River Gambia, but now referred to as "The Gambia".

Crime in The Gambia

Generally, travel throughout The Gambia is trouble free. However, like anywhere travelers should use common sense, be aware of their surroundings and any potential threats to their safety and security.

The most common threats in The Gambia are petty street crime, such as pickpockets, and theft in crowded market areas, on public transport, in taxis and near isolated beach areas.

Travelers are increasingly targets for thieves so never leave your luggage or valuables unattended; lock your car when not in attendance and do not leave any valuables or documents in unsecured hotel rooms or cars. Pretty basic safety and security stuff really.

The Gambia is a popular beach destination, and as such the main tourist beaches are usually manned by police or hotel security. However, isolated beaches aren't, so you should take care of your valuables in these areas.

What is a Bumster?

By far, the major irritant to travelers in The Gambia is ‘Bumsters' – yes you read that correctly. Bumsters are young men who approach tourists offering help; be it romantic, tourist, social or to act as a guide – basically anything they can do to get some money. The best way to avoid this is to be polite but firm and decline any unwanted help or conversation. Bumsters seem to target women in particular, so women should avoid walking alone, particularly after dark in The Gambia. These guys often use romance in hopes of gaining money or in the hope of departing The Gambia through marriage to a foreigner.

Fraud in The Gambia

In The Gambia, like many African nations, business and internet fraud is becoming more common. While you are there, be suspicious of any unsolicited offers to participate in lucrative business opportunities, especially if they require financial disclosures, money transfers, large up-front investments or promises of confidentiality. Also, do not offer to help anyone you met on the internet.

Scams in The Gambia

A common scam occurs where marijuana is offered to tourists, or you are invited to smoke marijuana in a local's home, only to find police waiting for a hefty bribe before you are set free.

Another petty scam targeting travelers involves having your passport stolen on arrival at Banjul International Airport by people posing as officials or security officers. All authorized security personnel who have the right to ask to see a passport have photographic identification badges, but not all are in uniform. Make sure you ask to see their identification badge if you are asked to hand over your passport at the airport (or anywhere for that matter).

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10 Comments

  • Ebrima Omar sanneh said

    As I gambian, i would not visit anyone to visit Gambia from December 2019 to February 2020 because they will be political unrest and big political impasse. The transitional government of Adama Barrow has refused to step down as a president of the Gambia as agreed by both his coalition 2016 and the Gambians electorates. He president Adama Barrow has agreed that after he won presidential election in 2016, he will served only 3 years and relinquish the power but unfortunately he has changed his mind. So all the coalition members 2016 and electorates are going on the streets on December 2019 which will be his 3 years term. So as a citizen of the Gambia, I know our security personnel doesn't know how to control the crowds but they use violence use and the citizens also go on unrest.

  • Dana Foltin said

    I am planning to visit Gambia and I am very great full for this information. Thank you again for your time sharing the insides info here.

  • SarahDelaney said

    I have just returned from gambia and it was the worst visit ever. The gambians seem angry with no tourism due to Thomas cook collapsing . I was harrassed had racist comments shouted at me white pig i was close to tears many times. It certainly wasnt the smiling coast in fact the opposite the atmosphere was not good i couldnt wait to get home

  • CLAUDIO O'GARRO said

    Just returned after 27 days in The Gambia, we had a great time, cant wait to go back.

  • Elaine Arnold said

    I have just visited the Gambia for the first time and with a group of 8 Friends, we had the most amazing experience, we were helped by the hotel and by everyone we met.
    Of course be streetwise as you would anywhere in the world.
    Its a incredible place to visit, people are just trying to make a living as they should and the best way to say no is listen, say thank you but no thank you, look them in the yes and be firm. Then there are no problems.
    The Gambia will soon be a top destination again for adventure travel as well as a Winter Beach Destination.

  • don lewis said

    i was attacked by a tiger

  • Fadi said

    Hello, you should try liberia, it's a nice place for tourism

  • Nyima Sabally said

    I waa in Gambia just prior to the outbreak there and was with my fiance and his family. We had a wonderful time. I loved the beach and the atmosohere was very native. The people were polite yet very busy. I experienced no crime and my fiance and I would take long walks amoung the stars on the beach. I also loved the way the women dressed like queens with matching head dresses. Anyway the food was good too and everything all natural from food to fresh air. I will be retiring soon and I will join my fiance there on his parents land instead of here in the US....for many reasons...including the difficulty for new immigrants to enter the US and social and polital unrest presently here.

  • JLS said

    Spent 3 weeks in Gambia then 11 days in gambia.....best time EVER. Cant wait to go back!!!!

  • Karen Kaddy Keita said

    I started going to The Gambia In 2013. I fell in love with the Country and the people. But be warned in the past 2-3 yrs there has been an increase in robbery not just pick pocket, in your Hotel, apartments where ever. They have an attitude that all white people have money trees they have an attitude that white people owe them because of the history of the Slave trade. A very high percentage of both men and women are scammers. You will be the best thing since sliced bread. They will welcome you into their homes but with ulterior motives. Money , phones, clothes anything.
    Alot of them now have two faced attitudes towards white people and unless you understand their tribal languages they may well be smiling with you and talking about you.
    They are known for having a very high percentage of scammers both men and women and even now using the children too. You will always pay higher prices because they have this belief that white people have access to any amount of money. As a result of this attitude the boys/ men go after the older women. Yes it's for a visa as much as you may belive not same goes for the women most want out of The Gambia. It's very sad and to see that they have no self respect and not all is down to poverty but greed. Look at the phones they have. Then the wages. Then work out the math and see where the money comes from.

    Corruption is very high at every level. Money speaks for everything. You can buy anything. As for doccuments most are fake !!! Be warned. Just because it says they're single or divorced doesn't mean they are. Alot of Gambian have a Gambian wife and then seek out a white lady to get a visa without mentioning the other wife. In their faith they're allowed 4. You will NEVER be their number one. Gambian wives benefit and have no problem with it.
    They are likely to introduce them as a sister or sister in law. Not true.

    Women don't do this or not often.

    On the beach yes there's bumsters but not as bad as it was. The other thing is that Gambia has one of the highest rates of STDS, also what is also readily available and used on both men and women is The DATE RAPE DRUG and you do not know or remember anything about what's happened therefore no way to identify person/people involved. NEVER LEAVE YOUR DRINK UNATTENDED.
    The Sea has a very dangerous undercurrent. Beach is lovely. Beautiful Craft Markets many skills, the fish is to die for, local food very good but be careful where you buy from as hygiene not to EUROPEAN STANDARDS. Can be very hot. Dont forget your DEET protection from Mosquitoes. Early closing Friday for Friday prayers.

    It's wòth travelling to Senagal and maybe a safari. Very green Country, beaches beautiful you can safely swim in the sea there. You need a visa to travel there.

    If your going for a holiday and expect to be ripped off then fine but be on your guard.

    Lots of Gambian marry white people mainly women and once in another Country are on the phone to their other Gambian friends or family already making plans to do a runner or stay and bleed you dry first.

    Always check out what groups about Gambia say on "FACEBOOK"

    Can be great holiday be careful.

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