Dealing with corrupt officers at the Gambia border
The Gambia was country number 133 for us. Getting in wasn’t as easy we would like, but we made it here in the end. We crossed the border from Senegal to the Gambia and dealing with the corrupt officers was our first surprise upon entry.
Here’s what happened to us at the Gambia border and how we dealt with the situation.
In order to get to the Gambia, we travelled from Guinea- Bissau back into Senegal, stayed overnight. We then continued our journey in the morning to reach the smallest nation in Africa – The Gambia.
We arrived at the border of Senegal and the man in charge of the customs asked where my visa for Senegal is. There is only a stamp required as Australians don’t need a visa. We answered and explained this to him politely, but he seemed to disagree.
He checked his papers and seems to be convinced I needed a visa. We waited and were polite but firm that Australians do not require a visa, in fact, this was our second trip in the last month to Senegal. We mentioned he can certainly call the embassy or we can. He called someone to confirm.
When he hung up he shouted at us to go to the embassy in The Gambia to get a visa for Senegal. Weird, since we were leaving Senegal. Clearly, it was so he wouldn’t have to admit that he was wrong or that his move to get some bribes didn’t work. We nodded and said we will and then walked away.
Entering the Gambia
On the Gambian side, things got complicated once again. We were welcomed by the eagerly friendly men in uniform and ushered into the boss’s office.
Slovakian passport holders need a visa and can get it at the border, so we knew we will have to pay for Marty’s visa. The visa is $60.
Do Australian passport holders now need a visa?
However, Australians are granted visa-free entry. The man in charge, however, didn’t seem to agree. He produced his printed list of all countries that require a visa and it included Australia – oddly the only one in capital letters. Here we go again…..
The story has changed as it went on and as he tried to explain that it’s visa-free only if you fly in. We remained polite, yet we were firm and suggested for them to call the embassy of Gambia in Dakar. We had researched this recently, so we were 100% positive that I don’t need a visa entering here at the Gambia border.
We showed him the visa requirements listed in our guidebook on the phone. We had all the time in the world and we were not going to give in. One of the officers was very unhappy that we hadn’t given in yet and just paid them.
After 15-20 minutes at the Gambia border office, talking about our imaginary boyfriends and the beautiful beaches in the Gambia, Marty simply said she will now go and change the money to pay for her visa, but we won’t be paying for a visa for an Australian passport – as it’s not required.
And that was it.
Change of story – Australian passport doesn’t require a visa
Within minutes, the man who was there at the beginning came by and said that he just made a call and found out that Australians no longer need a visa.
Surprise! Oh, Africa – what cannot be done in one moment seems to be doable just 30 minutes later.
We got our one visa and stamp for Marty and a stamp for myself and off we went to find a ride for our onward journey.
Corruption is spelled in capital letters in most Western African countries and money often seems to help make problems disappear.
Rach is a self-confessed travelling foodie. Her passion for food and culture has seen her eat her way through 190 countries. She's currently on a big food adventure to visit EVERY country in the world!
When Rach isn't travelling, you can find her at the beach, drinking coffee or wine with friends or chowing down on the best eats around her home city of Melbourne, Australia.