The Gambia welcomed me with a warm smile and a couple of friendly handshakes.  As soon as I entered the country’s border posts I had a feeling I was going to like the country.  The security people all spent their time laughing and joking with me; and the process crossing the border was smooth.  However, getting and staying in the country wasn’t as cut and dry as I had been led to believe.

Entering the country

This part is easy.  There is no challenge to actually getting into the country.  Just like 90% of the world’s other countries, you enter into an immigration office, answer a couple questions, get a stamp, and move on.  Canadians, along with other members of the commonwealth, do not need visas to get in.  However, they will only give you a 72-hour pass to get it at land borders.  And that I didn’t know entering.

Getting a Tourist Card/Visa

Basically, once you get to Banjul, or Serrekunda or the Sene-Gambia area, there are immigration offices all over.  If you’re planning on staying longer than 72-hours, you need to go to one of these offices and buy a tourist card.  The card when I bought one was about 15 Euros and covered me for 30 days.  They also said it was possible to get a 3-month visa.

Why???

When I asked for an explanation as to why they can’t issue 30-day visas at the border, the official told me that it was because how could we know how long we want to spend in the country before seeing it with our own eyes?  Me personally I think that they do it so that the guys in the tourist office can earn a little bit of cash.  Regardless, the process is fairly painless, it takes just a couple minutes.

Your experience?

If you had a completely different experience let us know in the comment box below.  I had never read anywhere online about my needing to buy a tourist card for The Gambia, so I was a little surprised that this was the case.

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