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Gambia Travel Guide

It may be a small African country, but its attractions are grand. Travelers booking flights to The Gambia will be mesmerized by the country’s culture, traditions, art, food and music. 

The Gambia’s capital city, Banjul, is a high-trafficked tourist area that provides travelers with a hint of African indulgence thanks to its street markets and festivals. A quick trip up the River Gambia offers tourists an expedition through villages and forests brimmed with welcoming residents. When you step off your flight to The Gambia, you’ll learn that the country’s heart is in its music and the people here are passionate about both music and dance.

The Gambia is one of the tiniest countries in Africa, but also one of the friendliest. The people place great emphasis on greetings and welcome travelers deplaning Gambia flights with a warm “Salaam aleikum” (“Peace be with you”). Take a travel guide and pocket dictionary with you on your flight to The Gambia and learn a few responses to this greeting. The people will be appreciative of your efforts. If you're planning a visit to The Gambia, our guide will help you plan and enjoy the smoothest possible trip.

What’s the weather like in The Gambia?

Gambia has near-constant sunshine, thanks to its location between the Tropic of Cancer and the Equator. It’s scorching hot in the day, until short, evening rainstorms cool down the air. June to October is the rainy season in The Gambia. The coolest temperatures are usually found along the shore, thanks to cool sea breezes.

When is the best time to fly to The Gambia?

Peak Season

The tiny country of The Gambia is the smallest in Africa, just 30 miles wide. But near-constant sunshine year round, due to its location between the Tropic of Cancer and the Equator, is a big draw for visitors to take cheap flights to Gambia. It’s also an inexpensive exotic locale. The tourist area hugs the North Atlantic coastline, and white sands, palm trees, blue seas plus the large amounts of sunshine combine for a classic beach holiday but without breaking the bank. The capital, Banjul, is on the Southern side of the river mouth, where all flights to Gambia arrive. Many travelers only use Banjul as a gateway to the rest of the country, but the city is worth visiting in its own right. Accommodation wise there plenty of budget hotels and also a handful of luxury spa hotels where you can indulge in a luxury massage or treatment for a fraction of what you’d pay back home. The Gambia has a subtropical climate with a dry season and a rainy season. Most people like to take flights to Gambia from October to April when there is the least rainfall. Many tour operators only have packages to The Gambia in this time and accommodation prices will be higher but still comparatively cheap. Temperatures can get very warm inland, but remain cooler along the coast.

Off Season

June to October is the rainy season and also the low season for tourism. You’ll still be able to find flights to Gambia but some accommodations may be closed in the rainy season.     

When is the best time to book a flight to The Gambia?

The best time of the year to book flights to Gambia is between early November and early April, when the beaches are a lot more pleasant for sunbathing. But if you don’t mind the rain, June through to October is when you’ll score the cheapest flights to Gambia. You can also pick up some great package holiday bargains in June when the main season has ended. No matter what time of year you visit The Gambia expect warm temperatures on average of around 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The coolest temperatures are usually found along the shore, thanks to sea breezes.

How long is the flight to The Gambia?

Most flights to The Gambia require at least one layover, which can add significant travel time. East Coast travelers tend to have the shortest trips, with typical travel times between ten and fifteen hours. If you're flying out from Los Angeles, you can expect to spend more than twenty hours in transit.

Which airlines fly to The Gambia?

Although The Gambia is one of the smallest countries in Africa, travelers have plenty of airlines to choose from. Delta is likely to be the most familiar name to American travelers. Most of The Gambia's other airlines are European, including Thomas Cook, Brussels Airlines, Vueling, Wamos and Air Nostrum. Royal Air Maroc, based in Morocco, is one of the most frequent arrivals at Banjul International Airport. National Airways Ethiopia and Arik Air, a Nigerian airline, are also popular choices.

What should you pack for a flight to The Gambia?

The Gambia tends to be hot and dry, so summery clothes are a good idea. Lightweight, breathable, but long-sleeved garments are a good idea to protect against mosquitoes, but many tourists opt for shorts instead. If you opt for shorts, be sure to slather on the sunscreen. Be sure to bring a hat to keep the sun out of your eyes and to provide some protection from the frequent afternoon storms during the summer rainy season.

Although Banjul is a bustling modern city, many parts of The Gambia are quite rural. Even in the capital, some items may have limited availability and it's unlikely that you'll find your favorite brands. It's a good idea to bring all of the cosmetics, toiletries and medications you'll need for your trip. Malaria is also common in the area, so talk to your doctor about bringing malaria medication along.

How to get around The Gambia

Banjul International Airport (BJL) is located 15 miles from the city of Banjul. Airport taxis are on hand to cater for all scheduled flight arrivals to Banjul International Airport. You’ll easily spot them; they’re yellow with a green stripe down the side. The tourist taxis in town are green and more expensive. It takes around forty minutes to reach Banjul by airport taxi and the main destinations have a fixed rate price. Check if your hotel provides a shuttle bus as these circulate to coastal area accommodations. A few car rental companies are available at the airport.

Transport around the country is limited as it is very small. There are no domestic Gambia flights or trains. For travelling inland, there are only two main roads, one on each bank of the river. Both are in poor condition, though the North bank is slightly preferable. Bush taxis, or tankatankas, are the cheapest and easiest way of getting around. They have yellow number plates and are mainly used by locals. Don’t expect “unnecessary” luxuries such as upholstery or wing mirrors, and be prepared to hold on tight.

Hiring a car is possible, but the state of the roads is so bad that many people would prefer to leave the driving to those accustomed to it. Many tourists who have hired cars report immediate punctures or other breakdowns due to bad maintenance.

What are some things to do in Gambia?

The Gambia's most famous attractions center around its stunning natural areas. Birdwatchers should be sure to bring their binoculars, because the country is full of exotic species. Abuko Nature Reserve and Kiang West National Park are home to more than 300 species, and the diverse ecosystems in this small country are home to even more. In addition, lucky visitors can marvel at antelope, hyenas, leopards and monkeys, among other amazing creatures. You can even get up close and personal with a croc at the Katchikali Crocodile Pool.

If you're more interested in history, visit Albreda and Jufureh, two historic villages made famous by Alex Haley's influential novel and miniseries, "Roots." These villages, along with the nearby Fort James, feature museums and other educational exhibits about the slave trade. Be sure to check out the Wassu and Kerbatch stone circles, which are mysterious megaliths that may be as much as 5,000 years old.

Take in the local culture and pick up a few souvenirs at one of the vibrant open air markets. The most famous is the Albert Market, a central marketplace in Banjul, but many smaller towns also have their own markets that showcase local artisans. Take a guided tour through Makasutu Culture Forest to learn about traditional cultures and take in some local music.

Tips for your stay in The Gambia

  • The sleepy capital city of Banjul has hardly been altered by tourists and is still a good place to see the “real” West Africa. One of its main draws is the sprawling market, the clientele predominantly locals and not tourists. Vegetables, fruit, meat and fish are all on sale here, along with clothes and household equipment.
  • Kololi and Kotu are the two most popular beach resorts. Though The Gambia is not top on a beach-lover’s destination list, the beaches here have everything you could ask for: white sand, hours and hours of sunshine and a cool breeze from the Atlantic. Windsurfing and sailing are both possible.
  • The resort of Bakau is on the northern point of the coast. Along with the tourist hotels and beaches, it is still an important fishing town and one of its most interesting spots is the fishing market, where the boats come in to every day.
  • It may be pricey, but don’t leave the country without taking a river cruise along the River Gambia. There are a number of operators offering cruises – book before you arrive, or you can find local cruises in Georgetown. You’re guaranteed to see some fascinating wildlife, such as hippos, chimpanzees and birds, as well as the country living along the riverbanks.
  • For more wildlife, visit the Abuko Nature Reserve, which is easily reached from the main beach resorts in a day trip. The reserve is home to crocodiles, monkeys and lots of lizards, as well as an animal orphanage with enclosures for hyenas, antelopes and a solitary lion. It’s nothing compared to the nature reserves of East Africa, but a half day guided walk through the forest can be a welcome break from the beaches.
  • Three African tribes are predominant in The Gambia: the Wolof, the Mandinka and the Fulua. Because of their prevalence in Banjul (almost 50 percent of the population), the culture and language of the Wolof is the most widespread.

Finding Flights from The Gambia

The Gambia's convenient West African location puts it close to numerous other tourist destinations. You can fly to Morocco in a mere three hours. It is surrounded on three sides by Senegal, which is home to numerous historic, cultural and wildlife viewing activities. The Gambia is also fairly close to Ghana, one of West Africa's most popular tourist destinations due to the widespread use of English as well as the bustling culture and amazing historic sites.

Despite being on different continents, The Gambia is also fairly close to many European destinations. It's a mere six-hour flight from London, and five hours from Barcelona. This close proximity makes it a popular destination for European tourists, but it also lets Americans easily incorporate it into an amazing trip that spans multiple continents. It is important to plan ahead if you intend to visit multiple destinations, as The Gambia often requires tourists to have a return ticket before allowing entry.

When taking a flight from The Gambia, you'll want to arrive at the airport with plenty of time to board your flight. The availability of flights from Banjul varies depending on the season. The dry season, which lasts from November to May, is often the most popular time due to the area's pleasant temperatures and sunny skies. June, July and August tend to have fewer tourists due to the heat and rain, so your options may be somewhat more limited. You can check flight availability at https://www.cheapflights.co.uk to help you plan your itinerary.

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More useful information about Gambia

  • South Africa retains strong influences from Dutch and British culture.
  • Because you need a return or onward ticket to enter the country, one way flights to Africa are not ideal.
  • Direct flights from American cities to African cities are rare.
  • The entire continent of Africa is generally warm year-round, with North Africa being the hottest.
  • Africa’s history is as vast and rich as the continent itself.
  • For a breath taking beach experience, visit the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar.
  • Booking a last minute flight to Africa is not advisable, since much preparation is usually needed.
  • Kenya offers an extraordinary Safari experience.

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