Vaccination Info

vaccine and needle

A list of locations and recommended vaccinations by the CDC

The Gambia


A brief introduction to the geography, climate, language and history of the Gambia

Living in the Gambia--A 



A cry directed mostly at animals and sometimes at children, this usually means something to the effect of “shoo” or “get going.”


The drinking age here is 18, but not strictly followed because so few people consume alcohol. Drinking is prohibited by the Islamic faith, and this reflects greatly on the attitude of Gambians towards alcohol—most abstain from drinking, selling, and having it present in their compound. Most drinking in the country is done by tourists and Christians; even if you don’t fit into this category, as long as you aren’t Muslim you won’t be looked down upon for indulging in alcohol. Box wine (as well as a variety of imported European spirits) can be had cheaply from supermarketsJulbrew, locally brewed and bottled, is tasty and fairly cheap. Palm wine is an inexpensive delicacy not to be missed.

Alhaji/Aja Ratu

Titles used for Muslims who have made the pilgrimage to Mecca. Alhaji is used for males, Aja Ratu for females. (See also Religion)


The leader of a village. When you visit a small up-country community, is considered polite to seek out the alikaalo in order to greet him. A bag of kola nuts is regarded as the appropriate gift.


According to the common sentiment, these are places where tubaabs live and everyone is rich. (In The Gambia, “America” refers specifically to the United States.) Some Gambians will know otherwise, but the majority will swear by this truth no matter how much you try to convince them that capitalism’s gaps in wealth wreak havoc on many lower class Americans. You should give some credit to their assumptions—many Gambians make less than a dollar a day, the low-standard education is not free, and the average Gambian would have to save for months to pay for the time you spend at the internet café over two weeks. Alas, although you are a university student and your parents probably bought your last pair of sneakers, you do validate the claim that Americans are rich—your university education is securely funded, you have paid for a plane ticket to Africa, and you can afford to buy a soft drink everyday.


Something to be wary of in The Gambia. Most varieties are innocent, but a few common ones boast a very painful bite. One type of which you should especially be on the lookout for is the army (or driver) ant, who most often marches through tunnels made by his companions’ bodies. They are mostly found in places of water and moisture, e.g. gardens, lawns of hotels, and everywhere in the rainy season. When they bite, they clap on and often draw blood. Their pincers hold on so tightly that they have been traditionally used as sutures to close a wound; if you remove its body, its head will remain firmly attached to your skin. If you are bitten, make sure you clean the site of the bite, applying antiseptic to avoid infection.


This denotes a type of green tea, but certainly connotes more than the actual beverage. Ataya is a ritual, a favorite pastime of Gambians, especially young men. Brewing ataya involves Chinese Gunpowder Green Tea from a box, lots of sugar, a small teapot, a small charcoal stove, two small glasses, dexterity for making frothy bubbles, and a circle of friends. Each brewing yields three pots of tea, drunken from small glasses of froth and hot liquid. The first round is the most potent and the third the sweetest and weakest, with the second falling somewhere in between.