Crime in Gambia - How to travel safely

Travelling in The Gambia is relatively safe, but what is a "bumster"?

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

As well as referring to itself in the third person it has also starting to refer to itself as The Smiling Coast of Africa, a reflection of its cultural diversity, safety for travellers and established tourism industry.

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


Generally, travel throughout The Gambia is trouble free. However, like anywhere travellers 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, public transport, taxis and isolated beach areas.

Travellers 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, more isolated beaches are not so you should take care of your valuables in these areas.

By far, the major irritant to travellers in The Gambia is ‘Bumsters', yes you read that correctly, Bumsters. These are young guys 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 particularly so women should avoid walking alone, particularly after dark in tourist areas. These guys often use romance in hopes of gaining money or in the hope of departing The Gambia through marriage to a Westerner.

In The Gambia, like many African nations, business and internet fraud is becoming more common - 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 also exist in which marijuana is offered to tourists or they are invited to smoke marijuana in a home, only to find police waiting for a hefty bribe.

Another petty scam targeting travellers involves having your passport stolen on arrival at Banjul International Airport by people posing as officials or security officers. All authorised security personnel who have the right to ask to see a passport have photographic identification badges, but not all are in uniform.

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