What You Need To Know
Banjul, officially the City of Banjul (former name Bathurst until 1973), is the capital of the Republic of The Gambia, in West Africa, as well as the administrative centre of the country and the seat of government. The port city is divided into 3 districts and it is located on Saint Mary’s Island, at the southern part of the Gambia River ria estuary. The flat island was leased by the British colonial government, from the King of Kombo, for 103 iron bars per annum in 1816, and the Bathurst settlement was named after the Secretary of State for the British Colonies, Lord Henry Bathurst.
Area: 4.633 mi²
- Gambian dalasi is the official currency of Gambia,It is subdivided into 100 Bututs. Coin denominations come in 25, 50 and 1 Dalasi. Banknotes come in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 25, 50, 100 and 200 Dalasis.
You can use some of the major credit cards to withdraw money from various bank counters in Gambia. Some hotels, restaurants, airline flights from Banjul Airport to Europe, car rentals companies and ground tour operators will accept either American Express, MasterCard, Visa, Diners Club or Discover if agreed before your departure or at the beginning your stay. Some local businesses, such as supermarkets, accept electronic payments using Visa debit cards or Mastercard using a POS terminal.
It is strongly advised that you first contact your credit card company in your country before travelling to inform them of your travel plans. Furthermore you should contact your designated hotel and ask them whether they will accept your payment card before travelling. The last thing you want is for your credit or debit card to be automatically blocked while on holiday due to unusual geographical use.
Credit card fees can be as much as 5 in some hotels. You are really better off using your card for emergencies only and use travellers’ cheques and your own foreign currency instead. You can then change your money as you need it when you get to The Gambia.
Banjul has a very warm climate year round. Banjul features a tropical wet and dry climate. The city features a lengthy dry season, spanning from November to June and a relatively short wet season covering the remaining four months. However, during those four months, Banjul tends to see heavy precipitation. August is usually the rainiest month, with on average 500 mm of precipitation falling. Temperatures are somewhat constant, though it tends to be slightly cooler during the wet season than the dry season.
According to a Gambian government minister, Banjul is at risk of submerging under water by a metre rise in sea levels as a result of climate change and global warming.
Most of the languages spoken in Gambia belong to the Niger-Congo language family of the Atlantic or Congo branches. There are at least 10 languages spoken in Gambia by the various ethnic groups. Apart from English which is the official language spoken in schools and public offices there is also Wolof, Serer-Sine, Sarahole, Pulaar, Maninkakan, Mandjaque, Mandingo, Jola-Fonyi and the Aku’s Creole (pidgin English). They are further broken down into various dialects such as Fana Fana of Saloum for the Wollof speakers.
Health and security
- Medical care is good for minor accidents and illnesses, but truly catastrophic events would be better handled by a medevac team. The best place in town for medical care is the British Medical Research Council; there are a few other clinics in town with doctors trained in the UK. Local dentists here tend to like yanking teeth out rather than actually fixing them; you are best advised to seek a US or European trained dentist. They can be found at the Dental Oral Surgery or the Swedent Clinic where they also perform root canal operations.
Malaria can sometimes be fatal and at best may make you regret that you survived. Medicines must be taken weeks BEFORE you come here. There are 4 different species of Malaria and humans can get them all from the bite of an infected female Anopheles mosquito. Illness and death from malaria are largely preventable – if you plan ahead.
While you are here you need to use a repellent spray early in the morning and any periods of darkness, especially at night.
- Banjul is considered a fairly safe city by day, but many visitors say to stay inside once it’s dark. There is a high rate of mugging and petty theft here and you are more likely to be victimized, of course, at night. If you do venture out, it’s best to do so with a resident of Banjul who can help you navigate safely.Be sure to ignore the people you might find following you around looking for a handout. They are usually harmless, and if you ignore them, they should go away, but they will follow you around asking for anything you’re willing to give and could become bothersome if you don’t make it clear from the start you are unwilling to provide for them.
If you are in, or have to go through, the dock area, beware of the poor air quality, due to exhaust fumes, particularly if you are asthmatic.
- Bumsters are young men, not necessarily Gambian who haunt the tourist areas looking for an easy buck. They will try to engage you in earnest conversation and sometimes will not take no for an answer.
Best way to treat them is to be strong but polite and make it plain that you do not want their company. They in turn can be very rude, but as you get used to it, can seem quite funny, if you require help or a guide ask the hotel or your tour operator.
- Everywhere in Gambia along the highroad we saw often a lot of cows. Sometimes even very huge herds.
Always you have to be aware, that no one of the cows suddenly will cross the road in front of your car. Mostly they don’t, but you can’t be sure.
- Make sure your driver takes you through Serrakunda and along the old colonial Fajarrah road past the British Embassy. Brikama is a genuine craft village worth the visit. If reasonably adventurous walk with a sensible guide through Serrakunda Market.
- The Albert Market and adjacent craft market (1 km up from port) offer a variety of items and the most popular are tie and dye materials, batik, antique masks and other wood carvings, leather goods, jewelry, sand painting and basketry. Buy with caution and use the African practice of bargaining for a fair price using your own judgment. Shop and stall owners literally sell everything under the sun. Guests are cautioned to avoid using credit cards at locations other than resort hotels.