A beginners guide to The Gambia
If you’re looking for an affordable luxury escape, then look no further than The Gambia. Located on the Atlantic coast of Africa, one of its biggest pulls is its sunset-perfect 80km coastline; and while that number might not be impressive in terms of numerical value, the picturesque butterscotch sands make it a peaceful alternative to busy Mediterranean or Canary Island resorts (and at an amazing price).
But The Gambia isn’t just beaches. Its moniker is ‘the smiling coast of Africa’ thanks to the friendly warmth of its natives. And like all of Africa there is an abundance of culture to be found – from local markets to National Parks. Interest piqued? Below we’ve rounded up a selection of must-know information to help you choose The Gambia for your perfect sunshine escape.
What to do
Gambia has a wealth of things to do, whether you’re after beaches, sport, culture or some relaxation. Here’s just some of the activities you can get up to.
The Gambia boasts an unspoilt Atlantic coastline and the warm waters that run along it are the same as you would find in Cape Verde. Most beaches have hotels adjacent to them and will be decorated with sun beds, either provided by the hotel or a beach bar. Surfing is also growing in popularity thanks to waves that are available all year round and waters that are incredibly safe.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, James Island can be found in the Gambia River 30km inland on the north bank of the river close to Juffureh and Albreda (Gambia Day Cruises are popular). On the island lies the fort known as Fort James (named after James, the Duke of York, later King James II of England) and provides a fascinating look at the African-European history of the nation.
Visit a National Park
The Gambia has several national parks, all brimming with rich wildlife. Choose between Niumi National Park, Kiang West National Park, Tanbi Wetlands National Park or River Gambia National Park.
A twin-centre adventure that includes the neighbouring Senegal is a popular option when looking for a trip to The Gambia. Day excursions that cross the border and back are also available, in particular to the vibrant city of Dakar or Goree Island.
When to visit
The Gambia is a year-round destination, but winter is its high season when average temperatures reach heights of 32°C. Summer is also a great time to go for sunshine, and is a relaxing alternative to the busy beach resorts of Europe.
The Gambia is only a 6-hour flight from the UK and works within the same time zone, meaning travellers won’t be subject to jetlag. During the summer there are weekly daytime flights from Gatwick; and during the winter there are regional flights twice weekly from both Manchester and Birmingham.
It’s also worth noting that UK visitors don’t need to organise a visa in advance, unless they plan to stay more than 28 days.
Where to Stay
Affordable luxury is very much a reality in The Gambia, with a great selection of luxury hotels, boutique hotels and unique lodges that are a lot cheaper than those in other long-haul destinations. All-inclusive package options and adult only resorts are also available.
The currency used in The Gambia is the Dalasi, and you can get roughly 60 of these for every pound. Everything is also cheaper in The Gambia and typically speaking you can get a three-course meal in a high-end restaurant for what would be £25pp in the UK. A bottle of beer is roughly £1.