Senegal & The Gambia: Traveling overland from Dakar, Senegal to Banjul, The Gambia

Senegal & The Gambia: Travelling overland from Dakar to the Gambia using public transport

Senegal & The Gambia: Travelling overland from Dakar to the Gambia using public transport

After full week of work plus a few days exploring Dakar, I was ready to move on.  (insert DAKAR POST link) is a truly unique place, rough around the edges, bristling with  diversity full of interesting places. Though I was anxious to leave the big city life, explore Ziguinchour and the Gambia and Guinea Bissau.

 

From Dakar to the Gambia – Super easy. take a taxi early in the AM (8am) from the city to Beaux Mariechers Gare Routiere De Dakar (around 4k). Tell them you want to go to the Sept Place for Gambia. After the taxi driver drops you off tell people that you want to go to Banju or Gambia, they will point you in the correct direction. Its way in the back under some metal awning type things. We refused people wanting to help us with our bags. We ended up with 2 back seats for 6000. We waited about 15 minutes for it to leave. Once in route they will ask everyone if we want to take the fast route. This is a democracy it seems and everyone votes on whether to pay an extra +500 to take fast route which was then collected for everyone in car. It took only 4 to 5 hrs to reach the border.  Even though they say it goes to Banjul, it really will just drop you at the border.

 

Gambia to Banjul and Serrekunda – Once you are finished with the border, catch a share taxi outside the Gambia border post to the ferry. 200 Gambian Dalasi per person to the Baffa ferry port in a car with 4x people. You can use CFA to get all the way from the border to the ferry if you wish. Once you reach the ferry, on the North side of the river before you cross to Banjul – you will find an ATM. It’s a green building.  At the ferry, buy your ticket 25 Gambian Dalasi per person (you may have to pay extra 10 Dalasi for your luggage, which they will weight).  We were given priority entrance ahead of everyone else because, Africa? Anyways this was nice as it allowed us to secure a seat and save 2 seats for the extremely nice people that had helped / adopted us tourists at the Gambian border. The ferry was nice, and you will see everything from military vehicles, buses and goats abord.

 

From Banjul – Serrekunda. We had limited time so chose to skip the super tiny capital of Banjul and headed straight to the larger city of Serrekunda (which has a nice beach).  after you exit, keep walking and avoid all the taxi touts. Walk several streets and ask people for shared taxis for Serrekunda. They will point you in the correct direction. Be quick as they fill and leave quickly. We were fortunate to be “adopted tourists” and their friends gave us a ride in a fancy Volvo SUV all the way to our hotel on the beach in Serrekunda.

 

Border and Visa (Senegal to Gambia) US Citizen report

Exit Senegal - was super straightforward and simple. They asked to see both of our covid tests and they will scan you passport, take your finger prints and stamp you out. The machine didn’t like my fingers so this actually took several awkward minutes of efforts to complete, but the border guards were nice.  It’s a short walk to the Gambia post. I recommend you google the exchange rate and change money here. This will avoid “currency negotiations” if you need a Visa for The Gambia. If you don’t, its easy to use CFA to get all the way to the ferry for Banjul (where there is an ATM right next to the Ferry office on the north side of the river).

Entering Gambia – You will go to a window first, then they will pass you on to several offices if you need a visa. WARNING, everyone cautioned us about the infamous Gambian border “pill search”. Basically make sure you have all pills in the original prescription bottle, clearly labeled. Everything. Even Advil or Tylenol needs to be in the original packaging and clearly labeled. If not, they will find a pill that is not in the original packaging and claim that you are trafficking drugs, and it will need to be sent to the capital for “testing.” You can obviously pay a “fine on the spot” to avoid this.  You wont get a receipt. It’s an elaborate ruse for a bribe.  Amazingly, we weren’t searched entering or leaving Gambia. I guess that means we look legit enough (travelling with my wife helped? I had a rolly bag and not a backpack?) or we just looked poor?  Who knows?

Visas - You can get this on arrival for 3000 Gambian Dalasi per person, around 60 USD (USA passport). We were passed through 4 different offices, seemingly each escalating to higher commanders in slightly nicer offices each time. When entered the final office, the commander sat us down at his desk and then turned on the air conditioner before closing the door. “Ahh, the process had begun”, I told myself. He asked all the normal questions, job, purpose of travel. We chatted a bit a bit about Gambia and the US.  He then asked us to pay our 6000 Dalasi, the normal price for 2x visas. We asked if we could pay in CFA, he said “sure, that will be 80,000 for the two of you.” This price should be around 64K – 65K Senegal CFA per the current exchange. We spent the next 20 minutes negotiating the exchange rate. It was a cordial process, and I almost walked out to go exchange the money myself. In the end we settled on receiving a 5 year, multiple entry visa for around 70,000 CFA total. (the usual visa is 30 days, dual entry). Despite the “negotiations”, the commander was never rude or threatening, and rather pleasant overall. Just, be prepared. In retrospect, the extended time spent with the commander may have helped us avoid the baggage search, so in retrospect, everything ended up positively.

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