The Gambia 2019 Crime & Safety Report

The current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report's publication assesses The Gambia at Level 1, indicating travelers should exercise normal precautions. Exercise increased caution in the southern border area with the Casamance region of Senegal due to landmines.

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

The U.S. Embassy in Banjul does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The American Citizen Services (ACS) Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.

Review OSAC's The Gambia-specific webpage for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.

Crime Threats

There is considerable risk from crime in Banjul. As tourism is one of The Gambia's most important industries, the government puts great effort in providing for the safety/security of visitors. This effort is mainly visible in heavily trafficked tourist areas. Officially, Gambian police attribute much of the criminal activity to third-country nationals. Poor economic growth and food insecurity have also contributed to the rise in crime rates. A wide range of criminal activity occurs in Banjul, especially after dark.

Criminals often target victims based on perceived affluence or perceived vulnerability. If a criminal threatens you with violence over money/belongings, comply with demands and attempt to end the confrontation as quickly as possible.

Crimes of opportunity (e.g. pickpocketing, purse snatching, theft of valuables from vehicles, assault, and residential burglary) are the most frequently encountered crimes by U.S. citizens, and are often preventable. Violent crime is rare.

Burglaries are common. Over the past few years, reports of residential crimes have increased.

Do not go to beaches after dark. Westerners walking along the beach or in the Senegambia tourist area are often approached by vendors, colloquially referred to as bumsters (local young men offering services ranging from tour guide to sexual partner) or by common street criminals looking for a potential victim. Change direction or depart the area if you notice suspicious people, groups, or activity.

Credit/ATM card fraud and related scams remain concerns in Banjul, although the issue is less prevalent than in other West African cities. Major hotels accept credit cards, but few other establishments do. Skimming is the primary means of credit fraud, and is often undetected until fraudulent charges appear on statements. The U.S. Embassy recommends that its employees avoid using credit/debit cards. If you must use a credit/debit card, monitor accounts closely for fraud. Exchange foreign currency only in authorized banks, hotels, and other legally authorized outlets; obtain proper receipts for the transactions. For more information, review OSAC's report, The Overseas Traveler's Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud.

Cybersecurity Issues

Cybercrime is not a major concern in Banjul. Use of computers and level of sophistication with computing technologies is generally low among the local population. Still, U.S. private-sector employees and organizations should implement cybersecurity best practices and make every attempt to password protect personal and organizational information systems.

Other Areas of Concern

Exercise increased caution in the border region between Senegal and The Gambia; do not to stray into Casamance, the southwestern region of Senegal between The Gambia and Guinea-Bissau, because of separatist violence and armed banditry. There is an ongoing, simmering separatist conflict in the Casamance. While separatist militants primarily target military installations, convoys, and personnel in an attempt to destabilize the region, civilians living and traveling in the Casamance have been targets of opportunity for separatist fighters and criminal elements (some of whom may be rebel-supported). Armed banditry remains a concern, particularly in rural areas and for travelers transiting by road � including along routes running through the Casamance region to The Gambia.

Although the frequency of separatist attacks has diminished since a de facto ceasefire in 2012, violent incidents still occur.

In January 2018, 14 people died in an attack on villagers in a forested area south of Ziguinchor. The attack remains under investigation, but appears related to criminal activity.

In a separate incident in January 2018, criminals robbed Spanish tourists traveling by road in the northwest region of Casamance at gunpoint, reportedly sexually assaulting the female travelers.

Criminals attacked a team of Senegalese topographers working in the Bounkiling area in 2017.

Due to security concerns, the U.S. Embassy in Dakar reviews and approves all personnel travel to the Ziguinchor and Sedhiou administrative areas within the Casamance. In addition, the Senegalese government requires notification of official travel to the region. Senegal does not require U.S. citizens to have a visa for trips shorter than 90 days in duration. Confirm updated visa requirements with the Senegalese Embassy before travel into Senegal. Vehicle and luggage searches are uncommon when crossing the border, but may occur based on the current security climate.

Source: Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC)