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Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet for Gambia

The Gambia - Consular Information Sheet
April 12, 2001

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: The Gambia is a developing country in west Africa. Facilities for tourism in the Banjul area are good; outside the capital, however, tourist facilities are limited in availability and quality.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A passport and visa are required, as is evidence of yellow fever vaccination. Travelers are urged to obtain the latest information on customs and entry requirements from the Embassy of The Gambia, Suite 1000, 1155 15th Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20005, telephone (202) 785-1399 and 1359; or from the Permanent Mission of The Gambia to the U.N. at 820 Second Avenue, Suite 900-C, New York, N.Y. 10071, telephone (212) 949-6640. Overseas inquiries should be made at the nearest Gambian Embassy.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

SAFETY AND SECURITY: Although the Gambia completed a transition from military to civilian rule in 1996, due to the potential for violence, U.S. citizens should avoid political gatherings or street demonstrations and maintain security awareness at all times. Travelers should not photograph airports or military installations. There were a few shootings at Gambian road checkpoints in January 2001. Therefore, travelers driving a vehicle in the Gambia should stop at all roadblocks or road checkpoints, and proceed only when instructed by security personnel. Drivers should not reverse direction to avoid a road checkpoint, nor make any movements that may be viewed as suspicious or provocative by security personnel. Drivers should not proceed through a road checkpoint when signaled to stop.

Americans are advised that crossing the Gambia River via the Banjul-to-Barra ferry may involve serious safety risks and that they should avoid using the ferry if possible. This ship is often overcrowded and does not carry sufficient life preservers for all passengers. The ferry frequently operates with several of its engines out of service. Americans who must travel to the north bank of the Gambia River are advised to inquire about the condition of the ferry or to consider using the Yelitenda-to-Bambatenda ferry, 150 kilometers upriver. Americans who use the ferry should consider carrying their own life preservers.

CRIME: Petty street crime is a problem in The Gambia. Travelers should be careful of pickpockets in the crowded market areas and on ferries. Packages or luggage should never be left unattended, especially in taxis.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to local police and to the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. The pamphlets A Safe Trip Abroad and Tips for Travelers to Sub-Saharan Africa provide useful information on protecting personal security while traveling abroad and on travel in the region in general. Both are available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.

MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical facilities are limited and some medicines are unavailable. Travelers should bring their own supplies of prescription drugs and preventive medicines. Further information on prescription drugs is found in the section on import/export restrictions.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations.

When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties, whereas travelers who have purchased overseas medical insurance have, when a medical emergency occurs, found it life-saving. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.

OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Malaria prophylaxis and vaccination against hepatitis A and B, typhoid, and meningococcal meningitis are recommended. Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning The Gambia is provided for general reference only and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Fair
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor

Travel in The Gambia is difficult because of road conditions, particularly during the rainy season - June through October. Although a few main roads are paved in the greater Banjul area, most are poorly maintained and poorly lit; drivers and pedestrians should exercise extreme caution to avoid accidents. Almost all roads outside the capital are unpaved. The U.S. Embassy urges visitors driving outside the capital to travel with a recognized travel guide. Travelers should be cautious of individuals who persistently offer unsolicited help.

For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Gambia's civil aviation authority as Category 2 -- not in compliance with international aviation safety standards for the oversight of Gambia air carrier operations. As there was no service to the U.S. by Gambian-registered carriers at the time of the FAA assessment, no service standards for the oversight of Gambia air carrier operations, they arrange to have the flights conducted by an air carrier from a country meeting international safety standards.

In September 2000, Ghana Airways was granted authority by the FAA to use Banjul as an intermediate stop for service to New York's JFK airport. The FAA assessed Yundum Airport in Banjul and found airport security measures consistent with international standards.

For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618) 229-4801.

IMPORT AND EXPORT RESTRICTIONS: The Gambia has strict laws on the import/export of skin-bleaching creams and some medications. Visitors arriving with substances containing hydroquinone, hydrocortisone, betamethasone, flucinonide, clobestatol or clobestatone are subject to fines up to $2,000 and/or three years imprisonment. Airport police and customs officials routinely inspect incoming and outgoing luggage. Travelers in possession of prescription drugs should carry proof of their prescriptions, such as labeled containers. Police have been known to arrest foreigners carrying unlabeled pills. For a complete list of prohibited items, contact the nearest Gambian Embassy or Consulate.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Gambian law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in The Gambia are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues or telephone (202) 736-7000.

EMBASSY/REGISTRATION LOCATION: U.S. citizens living in or visiting The Gambia are encouraged to register at the U.S. Embassy in Banjul upon arrival and to obtain updated information on travel and security in The Gambia. The U.S. Embassy is located on Kairaba Avenue in Fajara, a suburb of the capital city of Banjul. The mailing address is P.M.B. No. 19, Banjul, The Gambia. The telephone numbers are (220) 392856, 392858 or 391971, fax (220) 392475.


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