Welcome to the Smiling Coast as Gambians say.
The local saying continues with "The more you smile, the more you get brown"
Here is our itinerary in one of the smallest capitals in Africa and the world: Banjul.
For an extended weekend (4 days in all), we went to discover a small part of The Gambia.
From Senegal, the landscapes are quite similar, mangrove and sandy beaches unfortunately very often littered with waste.
The English-speaking side and its inhabitants make all the charm to guarantee in any case a unique experience in The Gambia!
We give you below the good advice to know and we tell you what to see in Gambia?
- Day 1: All-day transportation
- Day 2: Monkey Park and Sanyang Beaches
- Day 3: Makasutu Forest, its wild baboons, the hotel in floating houses and sunset in Capepoint
- Day 4: Banjul and all-day transportation
- Budget: for a weekend of 3-4 days, count about 65 € per day and per person (15 € accommodation, 20 € of activity, 15 € of food, 5 € of transport) or between 200 and 300 €. Depending on your activities or the accommodations you take, this can obviously be higher or lower. there is something for every budget. Attention the hotels of good standing are directly very expensive.
- Duration: to make a first level of discovery, 4 days with the included trips is ideal. If you have more time and a car, you will also be able to go inland more easily. Always be careful, in The Gambia the journeys are always very long.
- Currency: For information, 1 euro = 60 Dalasi (Gambian currency), 10 euros = 600 Dalasi, 10,000 FCFA = 15 euros = 900 Dalasi
- In Gambia, CFA francs are little used, so you will have to change money if you come from Senegal! Otherwise you can withdraw from the banks. There are some but they often have no cash. It will therefore probably be necessary to make a change.
- Temperature: It is very hot relatively all year round remember to buy water and bring Lifestraw if possible to troubleshoot.
- Wifi/Infrastructure: the country has poor infrastructure in general, wifi is not the best and not available everywhere. We often went to Solomon's Beach Bar & Restaurant (Kololi Beach) to get some as we were staying nearby. Otherwise ask the hotels before taking the rooms.
- In my suitcase I have … : Mosquito repellent, a Decathlon "meat bag", summer stuff, glasses, cap, sunscreen, headlamp, Lifestraw
What to do in Gambia?
Here is our itinerary over the 4 days:
Day 1: All-day transportation
As stated in the section "How to go to Gambia?" we spent the day in transport.
The road after Kaolack is also very beautiful with fields of baobab, villages of which to get lost for a long time in his thoughts!
Do not be intimidated by customs officers who will surely try to take more money from you than you have to pay. You have to be patient and not give in!
The funny anecdote is that to get to Banjul, you have to cross the Gambia River.
The bus enters doc in a boat that is not much longer than the bus. The time of the crossing, we stay in the bus and we can see little by little the side enlarge.
The crossing takes about 30 minutes. If you are outside (which we did on the way back) you will be very hot believe us!
Upon arrival we went directly to the Guest House Patta Patta that a customs officer at the border recommended us (more details next). We ate atSolomon's and takes a walk on the beach of Kololi beach which is the beach where the hotel and restaurant are located.
Day 2: Monkey Park and Sanyang Beach
For our second day in The Gambia we started by walking along the beach to Senegambia for an hour to reach the entrance of the park. The opportunity to rub shoulders with the Vultures who roam the beach
It is possible to enter directly without going through the entrance but the guards will probably stop you to pay for a ticket.
At the entrance, an army of guides will make you pay for the entrance and take a guide (a little strength).
The base price was 1000 Dalasi and we negotiated at 500 Dalasi (about 9 euros) for an hour of sightseeing
If you can, take peanuts before the park in the city or on the beach to avoid paying 2 times the price in the park. It's quite nice to feed the monkeys with the peanuts so don't hesitate to take some
We then went to Sanyang.
This beach is supposed to be the most beautiful in The Gambia.
It is surely beautiful when there are more tourists and it is cleaned. On our side, there were very few tourists and so the beach was littered with garbage left by local fishermen.
Day 3: Makasutu Forest, its wild baboons, the hotel in floating houses and sunset in Capepoint
We went to the Makasutu forest, there is a hotel with floating houses and wild baboons very funny but creepy
Discover baboons in videos:
In the evening when we got back, we went to Cape Point to see the sunset.
The setting is very nice!
Day 4: Banjul and all-day transportation
Do not hesitate to stroll in Banjul the center is atypical with a neighborhood life, churches, street art, the arch of the city, its Christmas tree, its market and many other things!
For the return, we took a bus to Banjul, then directly the boat as a passenger 50 Dalasi the ticket.
The crossing is intense but very fun as a pedestrian.
Then, drivers offer to share a vehicle and go to Dakar, the price was 12,000 FCFA per person.
We took a long time because there were religious ceremonies and the cities (especially Kaolack) were completely blocked.
I had never seen so many traffic jams in my life!
What we couldn't do or had time to do and that you might want to discover as well:
- Kunta Kinteh Island
- Katchikally Crocodile Pool
- River Gambia National Park
Before the trip – the necessary documents
There is no need for a VISA when you are a French national for stays of less than 10 days.
Otherwise, remember to check with the embassies or consulates in the countries in which you reside.
Some information if you come from Senegal👇
It will be necessary to cross the border on the Senegalese side and then Gambian. On both sides, they will surely try to look for anything and everything to make you pay.
The prices are 5000 FCFA if you pass the first time and then 1000 FCFA. (in my memories we paid nothing)
No covid test requested in April at the land border.
How to go to Gambia?
→ From Dakar by land border:
- With your car: count a little more than 6 hours
- By bus, with the Gambian company, comfortable because modern and air-conditioned, but very long, more than 13 hours of travel with a departure with more than 2 hours late (12,000 FCFA the journey, departure every day, from 7am to Parcelle with GTSC (Gambia Transport Service Company). Arrive early to be sure to have a place, apparently possible to book before with Orange Money but complicated to have the info.
Return Banjul-Dakar at 11pm.
→ We do not advise.
- By shared taxi: count about 15,000 FCFA from the Beaux Maraichers bus station in Pikine
Where to stay in Gambia, Senegambia?
- Many high-end resorts with swimming pools line up along Senegambia Beach and Cape Point, it all depends on the type of stay you are looking for, the prices are quite substantial. Be careful in off-peak periods, wintering, many are closed, and some have suffered from COVID well call before to book.
- We opted for the Guest House Patta Pattaà a stone's throw from Kololi Beach, just before Senegambia. Very good value for money, ventilated double room with private bathroom for 15-20 euros for two people, clean and helpful staff. Do not hesitate to negotiate prices.
A stone's throw away the beach restaurant sea view Solomon's was our canteen for dinners and breakfasts. Very decent dishes for less than 10 euros. Special mention for the fish burger. Wifi access.
How to get around Gambia?
A lot of traffic when we went there, certainly due to the post-tabaski weekend (name of Eid.in Senegal). Very congested axes of the city, which slowed us down a lot in our travels during this weekend.
- Taxi : more expensive than in Dakar, even in the city for short distances. Prices are rising rapidly
- Shared taxis : perfect for short distances, very inexpensive
- Shared vans : you have to ask the locals and they pass on all the main axes
We often combine shared taxis + vans and change very frequently for the same trip, it was practically an artery, a means of transport.
Do not hesitate to follow the advice of the locals and travel with them, this is the easiest solution.
The Gambia is therefore a very interesting experience. It is clearly not inevitable but for a weekend you can get away from it all in the heart of the Smiling Coast!
After Gambia you could visit Casamance: see our Roadtrip in Casamance or the SIne Saloum: see our weekend at Mar Lodge
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