The Fula Princess – useful information for Guests
We have put together some useful information that we think will answer many of your questions. But feel free to ask us about anything we haven’t covered.
Boat trips on The Fula Princess include clean, comfortable accommodation onboard. Clean bedding and towels will be provided at the start of your journey and as required. However, we would appreciate your efforts to minimize the amount of laundry created.
Your package includes three delicious meals per day, either served on board or at a local restaurant. Meals will mostly be Gambian classic dishes, cooked to European tastes with the finest ingredients available. Whenever possible we use locally grown organic produce and avoid chemicals and processed foods on our menu.
Breakfast is typically something light, such as omelette, toast and jam, eggs and tea, and coffee. Typical Gambian alternatives would include, bread and slow-cooked beans, gronsup (delicious smoked fish with pickled onion), or ‘pancakes’.
Lunch and evening meals will usually be served on board. However, if our overnight mooring is close to a town, and you would like to, we may take you ashore to a local restaurant. Typical meals in The Gambia usually contain fish, chicken or red meat along with vegetables and rice, couscous or potato. Packed lunches will be available should you plan to be away from the boat.
Snacks such as biscuits, bananas, and peanuts will be available to buy in any town or village. Complimentary tea and coffee will be available onboard on a self-service basis.
We are happy to cater to any particular dietary needs, so please complete the pre-trip questionnaire to ensure that we understand your requirements.
Gambians are famously hospitable, particularly when it comes to food. Expect to be invited to join Gambians, even total strangers, around a communal bowl of food if you are with them at mealtime. Feel free to join, as Gambians see it as a sign of bonding if you share their food with them. If a Gambian is invited to eat but they are not hungry, they will often eat one or two mouthfuls to be sociable.
When eating from a communal bowl, Europeans will often be offered a spoon, while Gambians will usually eat with their hands. If no spoons are available, you will be offered water to wash your hands. Always use the right hand for taking food from the bowl. Eating with Gambians is one of the joys of travelling in this most welcoming country. But be aware that Gambian dishes cooked locally often contain peanuts, MSG, and small fish bones.
When packing, please bear in mind that space is limited. Up-country there are relatively few occasions when a formal or very smart dress will be required. It is possible to have clothes laundered local style for a modest fee in many of the places we visit.
230v electricity onboard is provided by a 250W solar electric panel. This powers a small fridge and provides phone and battery charging. Guests are encouraged to use electricity efficiently and as far as possible to charge batteries during daylight hours. We also ask that you bring only power-efficient smart devices and avoid bringing laptops (or perhaps bring one between the group) due to their high power demand. This particularly applies to older, larger models of laptops.
Most people in the Gambia drink tap water. However, if you are concerned, we recommend that you drink bottled water which is available in most towns and villages or onboard.
Restaurants and bars with Wi-Fi can be found in the built-up coastal area but are not available up-country. In theory, there is a 3G service nationwide, but it is often very slow or sometimes non-existent.
Roaming charges for UK networks tend to be extortionate from the Gambia. We recommend bringing an unlocked phone to The Gambia so you can use a Gambian SIM card during your stay. We will have this ready for you on arrival if you request us to do so. To use the phone, phone credit can be purchased from most corner shops.
The shopping options up-country are very limited, so any important items that you forget to bring from the UK should be sourced at the coast before you board the boat.
Small craft items will be available across the country and buying these things in the up-country regions spreads the benefits of tourism away from the coastal area.
Haggling is an accepted (and often enjoyable) part of buying something in The Gambia. Do not be afraid to ask for a reduction from the starting price. And remember that the thing you are buying does not have a fixed value. It is worth what you are happy to pay for it. Smile, be polite, and even if you don’t end up buying you’ll enjoy meeting the person who’s doing the selling.
What to wear
The Gambia is one of the most liberal Muslim countries in the world, but still, most Gambian women cover their legs with long skirts, trousers, or leggings. Tightness is not an issue with clothing, nor is showing arms.
Short shorts are not generally worn by Gambians of either gender, so outside of the tourist resorts we recommend long shorts or calf-length trousers. Some kind of hat or scarf is recommended to protect you from the sun during the day.
Mosquitoes are active in the cooler parts of the day.We recommend long-sleeved tops, long trousers, and socks for the morning and evening.
The Gambia is a very safe country with a very low crime rate. We would say that it is generally safe to walk around at night almost anywhere in the Gambian provinces. However, pickpocketing does sometimes occur in certain areas. We recommend using a money belt and keeping a close eye on possessions, particularly in tourist enclaves and busy urban areas.
We will provide safe and lockable storage facilities onboard but we cannot be held responsible for any losses to the property whilst staying with us, so please be careful at all times. Our insurance does not cover theft or loss of your property. It is important that you have your own comprehensive property insurance.
Health and safety
The Gambia does not have the same strict health and safety regulations or precautions that you will be used to in your home country so you must be must more aware of your own personal health and safety at all times. Traffic behaviour is far less predictable than in Europe and vehicles are not subject to MOTs and other checks, so please take extra care when crossing roads or walking near traffic.
When swimming in the sea, be aware that there is sometimes a strong undercurrent that can carry you out to sea. Also, there are rocks concealed under the water in some places so be sure to ask local people about the safety of swimming anywhere you go.
You will have plenty of opportunities to swim in the river if you wish. Please make sure that you have the Captain’s approval before you do so, as strong currents and wildlife can be hazardous. Fair Play Gambia cannot be held liable for any risks to personal safety and activities are carried out at your own risk.
Your Captain Ebrima (Cablaka) Camara will ensure that you are fully briefed on onboard safety, and will explain the whereabouts of emergency equipment and what to do in the event of a problem. For your own safety, please listen carefully and follow his instructions at all times.
The official language of the Gambia is English and you will be able to chat with most of the Gambians that you meet on your journey. Gambians are very sociable people and they will be keen to talk to you. Up-country, some people will speak little or no English.
There are around ten tribal languages regularly used in The Gambia, with the three most widely used being Wollof, Mandinka, and Fula. Your crew will be happy to teach you some useful words and phrases.
The exchange rate varies from day to day, but at present, it is around 69 Dalasi to the Pound Sterling. You can draw money from ATMs on the coast with Visa or MasterCard credit or debit cards, but fees are high and exchange rates are poor. Such services are not available up-country. We recommend that you bring Pounds Sterling or Euro notes, for which we will help you to find the best exchange rate. Exchange rates for notes are better in the coastal region than up-country.
Visa and MasterCard are generally not accepted in The Gambia.
Alcohol and Drugs policy
The majority of Gambians are Muslim and so many of them don’t drink alcohol. However, they have a very relaxed attitude to other people doing so. Extreme drunkenness is frowned upon but alcoholic drinks are available at some restaurants, bars, and onboard The Fula Princess.
Drugs including marijuana are illegal in the Gambia and not permitted during your time with us.
Dealing with people who approach you
As a Westerner, you will get used to people approaching you on the street for a chat. Often this will be out of a genuine interest in meeting you and is part of the welcoming Gambian culture.
However, there are also young men (and a few women, but mostly men) who work in the unofficial tourism industry and will chat to you with a view to some kind of financial gain. These young people are commonly referred to as ‘Bumsters’, but this is a pejorative term and we prefer to use the term ‘Chanter’.
Chanters are generally friendly enough and are usually working hard in difficult circumstances to provide for their families. Please do not be afraid to engage in conversation with the people you meet but be polite and firm if / when you do not wish to engage or if you feel that they are trying to pressurise you in any way. Common sense is always advised and we cannot take responsibility for any problems with arrangements made outside of our company.
Dealing with beggars
Begging isn’t such an issue as it is in countries like India or Morocco and there are relatively few actual beggars around. It is not a problem to give them a few Dalasi if you wish. However, we do not recommend giving money or items such as footballs to children or young people as it encourages an unhealthy begging culture. In particular, we ask you not to give sweets or other unhealthy items. If you would like to make a donation or offer support to anyone in the community, please discuss this with Dave or your crew to ensure that it is done in an appropriate and sustainable way.
Although most people find the Gambia a very liberal and tolerant country, it is important to note that homosexuality is not legal in the Gambia and overt homosexual behaviour will evoke a poor response from the community.
Our environmental policy
The Gambia does not have municipal recycling facilities: rubbish is taken to large open-air rubbish dumps and burned, sending out large amounts of toxic fumes into the air and causing considerable health issues for local people. Therefore we urge you to avoid purchasing disposable items or packaging made from plastic, metal or any other non-disposable items.
Our social policy
We work hard to promote sustainable and equitable tourism practices. Therefore we ask you to be mindful of your interactions with people and the environment at all times. Life in the Gambia can be slow and therefore frustrating at times for foreigners, but we ask for your patience, empathy, and understanding when interacting with people in the Gambia.
Please bear in mind that English is not the first language for Gambians and therefore patience is required when communicating. Gambian English is different to the English you will speak at home, so speaking clearly and using simple English will help your communication with local people.
FairPlay Gambia requires all visitors to have comprehensive travel insurance to fully cover all medical issues as well as loss of key possessions. We ask guests to provide details of this before travelling to The Gambia so that we can make contact in the case of an emergency.
Please check whether your insurance company considers this a group booking and ensure that you have the correct insurance.
Guide to maintaining good health in The Gambia
Eating good food, keeping hydrated, and getting enough rest are vital to keep yourself strong and fit during your stay. The most important thing is to monitor your body and to recognise when it has had too much heat or sun.
Medical facilities on the coast are not European standard and local medical facilities in the rural areas are very limited. In the case of a serious accident or illness, we will take guests to the best medical facilities in the coastal region. It is also essential that you have comprehensive travel insurance and that you make the details available to us prior to your trip.
Please take advice from your GP surgery in plenty of time to ensure the efficacy of any vaccinations or anti-malaria treatments that they recommend.
Many problems that people suffer from are avoidable with the right precautions. Please consider our guidance below so that you do not miss any of your stays due to avoidable sickness.
It gets very hot in the sun in the Gambia and it’s very important to watch how much your skin is exposed to the sun. Please use a suitable sunblock and monitor how long you spend in the sun at any one time. Remember that a cool breeze can deceive you into thinking that you are not burning, when in fact you are.
Sunstroke is caused by overexposure to heat and sun. Visits and excursions that require a lot of walking or other physical exertion, should be planned for the morning until around midday or from 3 pm onwards so as to avoid the hottest part of the day.
Because of the heat, you should drink much more water than you will be used to in your home country. We recommend that you keep a water bottle with you at all times. And try and keep a count of how many litres you are drinking in a day. Aim to be drinking at least three litres a day.
4. Upset stomach
We do everything we can to maintain high standards of hygiene in order to avoid any upset stomachs. However, many European visitors to The Gambia find that their stomachs take a little time to adjust to the heat and the different food and water. This is completely normal so don’t be too concerned if it happens to you.
Severe or prolonged diarrhoea can cause dehydration and we recommend bringing rehydration salts in case of a bad stomach.
To reduce the risk of malaria we recommend all precautions to avoid mosquito bites. Mosquitoes mostly appear from dusk until daybreak. During this time wear clothes to cover your skin, including long sleeves, trousers, and even socks. Also use a natural mosquito repellent. At night always sleep under a mosquito net which will be provided. Your doctor will recommend malaria tablets.
Mosquito bites are itchy and scratching them can lead to an infection. Avoid scratching and keep infection at bay by applying tea tree oil or using antihistamines to reduce itching.
6. Cuts and injuries
Because of the heat and dust in the Gambia, it’s very important to treat any cuts or breakages immediately. Plus take all precautions to stop infection. We recommend using medical alcohol, plasters and bandages. Also, tea tree oil sanitises any wounds and helps them heal. We carry a first aid kit onboard.
The Gambia can be an exciting place to be – there is always something to do and people to see. However, as a result, sometimes people pack too much into their stay and end up exhausted. Make sure that you pace yourself and take proper rest and relaxation when necessary. Don’t worry if you feel you have overcommitted yourself to activities. We are happy to adjust any arrangement to suit you. And remember, the Gambia is a very relaxed place.
1. Consult GP re-vaccinations
2. Complete the pre-trip questionnaire
3. Unlocked mobile phone – to avoid expensive roaming charges
4. Long-sleeved tops, long trousers, and socks to protect from mosquitoes in the evening
5. Personal medicines and mosquito repellent
6. Sun hat, baseball cap, or scarf
7. Sunblock and after-sun
8. Money belt
9. ‘Day-pack’ – (small rucksack for excursions off the boat)
10. Pounds or Euros in cash (expect a better rate when exchanging cash than using an ATM card)
11. Flight tickets and travel documents
Contact details for FairPlay staff are as follows:
Dave Adams – Director – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tel: 00220 2334176 (Whatsapp) or 00220 348 4792
Yusupha Danso – Host and Logistics Manager – Tel: 00220 204 9211
Thank you for taking the time to read this useful information and remember not to hesitate to ask any questions you think important. We look forward to welcoming you to the beautiful Gambia!
Dave Adams (Director – FairPlay Gambia)