Gambia at a Glance
Moving to Gambia
The capital city of Gambia is Banjul, but the largest cities are actually Serekunda and Brikama, which are considerably more populated. In actual fact, Banjul sits on an island called St. Mary’s Island, which is connected to the mainland by bridges.
The Land and Its People
Gambia is a small West African country whose borders run alongside the Gambia River. Senegal surrounds the country on three sides, with the fourth side being Atlantic coastline. The land itself is predominantly grassy flood plain, with some low hills, and this is typically used for agriculture. The population is divided among eight local government areas that contain 43 districts. Urbanization is increasing, but expats will still find pockets of rural life where traditional dress and culture are integral.
Having been under both French and British rule previously, Gambia gained independence in 1965 and has also since withdrawn from the Commonwealth of Nations. The official language of Gambia is English, but some other languages exist, based on the indigenous ethnic groups within the country. Based on the geography of the country, being surrounded by Senegal where French is the main language, a proportion of the population also speak French in Gambia.
Visas for Gambia
Most European nationals do not require a visa to enter Gambia. However, there are some exceptions and other criteria that need to be met. Citizens from France, Portugal, Spain and Estonia do need a visa, which can be obtained from the Gambian embassy within their country. Also, British nationals wishing to reside in Gambia without a return flight require the correct documentation, so expats from Britain should check with the Gambian embassy, as well.
Citizens of the United States do require a visa for entry, along with proof of yellow fever vaccination and a blank page of their passport to carry the Gambian stamp. US nationals can obtain a visa from the Gambian embassy in Washington, D.C., prior to their arrival in Gambia. Citizens of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) do not require visas to enter Gambia. All other citizens should check with their local embassies before moving to Gambia.
Getting to Gambia
There are very few airlines with direct flights to Gambia, so expats moving to Gambia will likely have to change in another African state to continue their journey, typically from Dakar or Casamance in Senegal. Some chartered flights are available from holiday companies, however, so it is worth searching over the internet or with a travel agency before booking. Brussels Airlines, Vueling Airlines and Royal Air Maroc all fly in to Gambia, so it is likely that the last leg of any expat’s journey to Gambia will be with one of these three airlines.
It is also possible to enter Gambia by land. There is a border crossing at Karang in Senegal, on the N5 road in the north of the North Bank area. For anyone wanting to reach Banjul from here, there is a ferry crossing from Barra. There is another Gambian-Sengalese border crossing at Seleti, also on the N5 road, south of Brikama in the western area of Gambia.