In addition to being subject to all of The Gambia’s laws affecting foreigners, U.S. citizens who are also Gambian citizens may be subject to additional provisions of Gambian law while in The Gambia. Dual nationals may wish to inquire at a Gambian embassy or consulate regarding their status.
Consensual same-sex sexual relations between men are illegal in The Gambia. There is no similar law targeting women. Prison terms can range from five to 14 years, and there is strong societal discrimination against LGBT individuals. Arrest and prosecution of LGBT persons, including foreign visitors, does occur. Eighteen men were arrested and prosecuted on suspicion of same-sex sexual relations in 2012. For further information on LGBT travel, please read our Information for LGBT Travelers page.
The Gambia has strict laws on the import and export of skin-bleaching creams and some medications. Visitors who arrive with substances containing 1% or more of: hydroquinone (in any form), hydrocortisone (unless in trace amounts and for specific purposes such as anti-itch products), 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. Airline passengers are required to put their luggage through an x-ray machine before departing the airport. Travelers in possession of prescription drugs should carry proof of their prescriptions, such as labeled containers. Police have, on occasion, arrested foreigners carrying unlabeled pills. For a list of prohibited items, travelers should contact the nearest Gambian embassy or consulate.
It is against the law for tourists to photograph or film government buildings, including airports, military installations, or embassies, due to security concerns.
The Gambia’s currency, the dalasi, is freely convertible but is not widely available outside the country. The Gambia has a cash economy and travelers should carry sufficient currency to cover all expenses for their visit. Visitors can exchange currency at banks or exchange bureaus. Changing money unofficially is prohibited and individuals who do so may face prosecution. Travelers should be aware that The Gambia has many last-minute holidays requiring banks and other businesses to close. Travelers should always have enough cash to carry them through unexpected bank closures.
Credit cards are accepted only at major hotels, some grocery stores, and a few restaurants. Local personal checks from U.S. citizens are accepted only at exchange bureaus and only from U.S. citizens who are resident in The Gambia. There are a few ATMs in the Banjul area, but they often malfunction or fail to issue receipts. ATMs only accept VISA cards for international transactions and only dispense a maximum of about $140.00 (in local currency) per transaction, with three transactions allowed per day. Money transfers are widely available at Western Union branch offices in The Gambia.