Visiting Gambia Lesson 101.2 – The welcome reception!
This article is for Gambians from the Diaspora who visiting the Gambia. Just when you think you know everything about visiting the Gambia, please brace yourself for a bit reminded or should I say a wake up call.
You may have learnt a lesson from the last visit, yet each time it seems like your first ever visits. Well be damned as something never change because the reality on the ground hasn’t.
I have dealt with the issue of driving in the Gambia in a previous article, because that was a burning issue for me that I had to offload. But this article should have been the first of a series that I hope I will continue to have the inspiration or more of a provocation by experience compelling me to write and share.
In this article, I will be discussing crossing cutting issues that will hit your pocket, while visiting Gambia, whether you like it or not.
1. MONEY BUDGET. Well no one should tell you how much to take on the trip, because you will agree with me that nothing ever seems to be enough for a trip back home. And this budget my friends, is not for any ongoing project you may have such as a building project. I am talking about your daily out-of-pocket expenses. Agree or not you’re a “DESIGNATE SEMESTER” (Gambia holidaymaker from the West). So your will be welcomed and received as a very loaded guest with so many $, £, €. So I will start you on a $£€100 a day. Sounds on the high side, you bet because hardly any one of us make that much a day in the West.
2. GIFTs. The gifts you brought along cost you several hundreds, but wait a minute, do you think that is all the beneficiaries are expecting, because that would an incomplete story as long as you have not given them cash. And I bet anyone you brought a gift for, would expect a cash gift of between £$€50-100. But hold on just there. Don’t fall for the trick just yet, because the first cash gift you make to anyone close to you, expects that as a “mandatory cash gift”, this is different from when they will come back to see you in private to narrate a list of problems that they have waiting for someone like you to come and solve. This is the “the problem solving cash gift”. Ok did I already surpass the predicted budget limit? My bad.
3. DRIVING EXPENSES. Unless you will be taking the GeleGele/taxi van/bus (a crowd sharing 8-16 passenger vehicle), something that will be viewed as an embarrassment and health hazard for any self-respecting Semester, you should be prepared to set aside at least D200 (£$€4) per journey in a private taxi (town trip) multiply x5 journeys a day =D100 or approximately £$€20. And should you have access to a car that should be the bare minimum you should expect to spend on fuel a day. This does not include the additional fuel cost of your joy riding family members such as your cousin/brother/uncle/aunt/mom/
4. FOOD & FISH MONEY (daily groceries). A bag of rice, bag of sugar, 20 litres of cooking and D500 (£$€10) daily grocery. Did I miss anything else, because I expect you to be eating out, as that is what they expect event after you have already catered for 3 meals a day? This will without doubt include “AFRA”, the grilled meat, an after dinner treat. The daily fish money may sound as over budget, but it caters for all those well-wishing visitors who are always on time to stay for lunch and dinner if there is no room for a sleep over.
5. DRINKING WATER. Be warned and take caution. Do not be tempted to drink tap water. So I include this as a strong recommendation if you are not staying for long. Am sure your mom or dad would insist on bottled water.
6. VISITING WITH CHILDREN. If you are visiting with your children who were either born or have fully adapted to life in a developed world, expect conflict between your and their expectations. For example, you may feel obligated to prioritise visiting or receiving guest as part of your daily routine and culture. BORIGN is the answer to expect from the kids. And depending on how much you push them into understanding how important this is culturally and socially to you, you make actually be making the best case against any future plans they may have about visiting Gambia.
7. INTERNET access. This is one of the most priced items in the Gambia in this era of WhatsApp and Facebook. Be ready to pay dear. Your Megabyte can go fast and at very high cost. I bought the unlimited for 3 weeks which served me well. But be ready to share your call credit and airtime. Yes the Gambia is that ahead of the West, because for a long time now you can share your prepaid call credit with others. And if you don’t, they can steal it from you, or they will borrow your phone to make their personal calls.
8. ELECTRICITY. The monster that you need to be ready for. That prepaid/PAY AS YOU GO meter with its “gas guzzling” CASH POWER effects. Do you have an air conditioner? Well save up an average of D500 or £$€10 weekly.
9. HOSPITAL & INCIDENTIAL MEDIAL EXPENSES. God forbid you have to see a doctor, or a close family member got sick while you visiting. You bet it is your problem, because “God made it happen while you visiting so you can take care of the bill”.
10. STREET BEGGERS. Please spare some change because they will be at every street corner and they can be aggressive and dangerous to themselves. Expect a knock on your window or the loud jiggling of coins over your windscreen if you have tinted glasses. And if you should accidentally knock and injure one, expect to settle the bill and probably become fully responsible for them for the rest of their lives. Must I stop saying much more before I sin in the name of poverty culture?
11. “The MADAM or Monsieur” for married people or “The Girls” if you are single men. The Madam/Monsieur is just for mention because I expect you will know what to do. But just be careful that you may end up in a fight with him/her by the time you leave, especially if it is a new relationship, because s/he will try to ensure that s/he is your personal security guard wherever you go especially for single men, because “the Girls them Plenty” and the temptation is high! And boy are they not fine! So car owners, be ready because, they (The Girls), whether intentionally or unintentionally, are always smartly dressed and lined up on the streets looking for free transport going somewhere. Hitch hiking is still legal and common which means some “free ride” policies will apply: such as an exchange of phone numbers, cash gift, and an invitation to dinner? Is that not one of the natural ways people meet and date? Please give a thumbs up to the Semester Sisters, who are by far perhaps genuinely looking for a committed partner, but I would warn them too to look out for some dodgy men scouting for women from the West.
Finally, please don’t pretend to be immune to the above list, because this is what is expected and I bet the majority of you will do more than listed. So enjoy your next trip and remember this read!
By Boye Baldeh
Banjul visit experience 2019
Done in a rush but no excuses