Stressful departure from Gambia

Trip Start Sep 03, 2010
Trip End Oct 27, 2010

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Flag of Gambia  ,
Saturday, October 23, 2010

Next morning its an early wake-up call to clear out the vehicles, get them cleaned and fuelled up. The exhaust gets repaired pretty quickly not far from the camping. Obviously everything gets delayed and we spend ages cleaning the cars. We get some cheap food in Senegambia and I donate some clothes and loose ends to the poor family who own the small shack of a restaurant. Its about 4pm till we finally leave the camping and I say goodbye to my Mitsubishi L200 to whom ive grown very attached to. Luckily Joe gives us a lift down the road to the taxis. It’s a brief Journey to the ferry port of Banjul for 200 Dalasi (5 Euros).  A good deal of kids approach us all willing to carry our bags. We give in and get a kid to carry our bags for 20 Dalasi (50cents). The ferry ticket costs only 10 Dalasi but the bags cost an extra 30 Dalasi. The previous ferry has just left meaning we have to wait for a good while to it to return. (it takes 45mins to cross).

While waiting the trouble begins. Just as we arrive and sit down to wait, some very smartly dressed young guys approach us sporting expensive looking watches, Jewellery and a customs officials ID card. Ive seen this dodgy situation before and instantly know what is going on. They’re corrupt officials that have targeted some white guys to prey on for money. We get taken inside a room and have our bags searched. Soon enough they find an excuse and find some of Jays sleeping tablets. To their luck he forgot his prescription and they target this as a massive offence punishable with 3 years of Jail or a 250,000 Dalasi fine (6250 euro).

The discussion goes on for 2 hours on what can be done. Initially 300euros is demanded in return to be let go but after a long back and forth we scrap together what we can and give some 115euros. The most difficult negotiation so far and the most demoralising experience of the trip.

The ferry arrives and its already getting dark, the crossing seems to go on forever as we are in a bad mood. Back in Barra harbour we get another taxi to the border. Luckily no major bribes are asked. The border guards inquire politely about our unhappy faces. We explain our incident at Banjul with disgust and everyone is concerned asking more details and apologising dearly.

Despite this negative experience, the Gambia makes an incredible effort to improve itself and its people have an incredible heart. It does have its negative sides like all other places but it was definitely my number one country in Africa, The smiling bush..

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bib4bab on

Your experience with the dodgy customs officials has just freaked me out. About to do the gambia in December. are you saying you need to have an official prescription with all the medication you take out there. advise please

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