Banjul traces its history back to 1816 – it was then that the British colonialists founded a trading post and a center for sending slaves to the continent in the Gambia Delta. Therefore, it is not surprising that the historical center of Banjul clearly resembles some bonton English town: neat streets, Victorian mansions and an indispensable cathedral as the center of city life. But Africa is more than enough here: the local market sells the brightest fabrics, hot spices and frightening masks designed to scare away evil spirits. Despite its capital status, just a dozen kilometers from Banjul are magnificent national parks with a staggering number of inhabitants. Banjul is also an excellent beach resort, the sands of which are carefully rolled to absolute smoothness by the rebellious waves of the Atlantic.
How to get to Banjul
There are no direct flights to Banjul from cities in Russia and the CIS countries, a connection will be required and, as a rule, not even one. Among the most convenient and cheapest options are flights via Paris and Dakar with Air France or Air Senegal, Brussels and Dakar on the wings of Brussels Airlines, and Madrid and Gran Canaria with Air Europe. Among other things, Dakar and Banjul are connected by daily flights of Air Senegal. The national carrier “Gambia Bird” operates regular flights to Barcelona, which can be reached on the wings of “Iberia”, “Vuelunga” or Russian airlines. In any case, you need to prepare to spend at least 20 hours on the road. You can also get to Banjul on a Royal Moroccan Airlines flight with the only change in Casablanca, but the ticket will cost a pretty penny.
According to wholevehicles, Banjul Yundum International Airport is located a few kilometers from the city. There is no own shuttle here, so the most reasonable and fastest way to get to the right hotel is to hire a taxi. Tourist taxis in green color are waiting in the parking lot at the exit from the arrivals hall. The trip will cost from 800 GMD and up, the price depends on the number of passengers.
Transport in the city
In Banjul and its numerous surroundings (the capital is an agglomeration with a dozen smaller cities), you can travel by tourist green taxis and “worker-peasant” yellow taxis and minibuses. The condition of tourist cars is controlled by a government agency, so they even have seat belts! – a thing unheard of in Africa. Of course, they charge more for the service – a trip around the city in such a taxi will cost 150 GMD.
Yellow jel-jel taxis and seven-seater minibuses travel to popular destinations within and outside the city. You can stop them by simply waving your hand at an approaching car, and when it slows down, loudly tell the driver the final destination of your journey. The fare is paid upon landing and in the city will cost no more than 8 GMD. For an individual trip within the city, you will need to pay from 75 to 200 GMD, prices in private taxis are not fixed, you need to bargain.
Banjul hotels are divided into city and beach hotels. City hotels are located, as the name implies, in the center of Banjul and are inexpensive hotels and guest houses at a price of no more than 50 USD for a double room. Perhaps the only exception is Corinthia Atlantic, located north of the center of the capital on the beach.
Beach hotels are located in the resort suburbs, 10-15 km west of the city center. These are ordinary resort hotels with a standard set of services: as a rule, their own access to the beach, umbrellas, beach bars and water sports stations. The cost of such accommodation varies from 2200 GMD in low season to 3000-7000 GMD for two in a good hotel in high season.
Cuisine and restaurants
The location of Banjul on the Atlantic coast, which is successful for a “fish” gourmet, has shaped the local cuisine: fresh seafood and dozens of varieties of deliciously cooked fish are served in numerous cafes and restaurants in the capital. If you are not a fan of the fish “diet”, you should order rice with vegetables, chicken and spices or meat stew, also garnished with rice. Pay attention to peanuts and dishes with its addition – this is the main agricultural crop of the country.
The “restaurant street” in Banjul is called the Senegambia Strip and stretches along the hotels of the Kololi resort area. Well, the most pompous place is the Nefertiti bar and restaurant, located right on the picturesque beach.
The sights of Banjul are Victorian mansions, cathedrals, a couple of good museums, and very pompous mosques.
Shopping and stores
Shopping in Banjul begins and ends at the legendary Albert Market dating back to the mid-19th century (hence the British name). Everything is sold here: fruits, vegetables, spices, fabrics, shoes, household and interior items. The market is open all day, but it is better to come early in the morning or in the evening to avoid the heat and especially the deafening crowds of buyers. Bargaining is a must!
A crazy variety of fabrics of all textures and colors will meet the tourist on Cairoba Avenue. Here you can not only buy your favorite cuts, but also order tailoring in one of the many ateliers.
For authentic souvenirs, head to St. Joseph’s Adult Education & Skills Centre, where Gambians learn folk crafts. The shop at the center sells excellent gizmos made by students and their teachers. You can also buy something for memory from the Gambia in tourist shops in the center of Banjul and in resort areas.
Entertainment, excursions and attractions in Banjul
Banjul, no matter how trite it sounds, is a city of contrasts. African traditions are mixed here with the colonial English past and modernity under the slogan of national identity. The portrait of the capital’s sights is just as colorful: there are Victorian mansions, and cathedrals, and a couple of good museums, and very pompous mosques.
Banjul’s most notable monument is the 35-meter white-stone arch called “22”, erected in honor of the coup d’état on July 22, 1994, which brought the country’s current president to power. Inside it is located the Museum of Textiles, where you can see samples of national fabrics.
An excellent view of the capital opens from the observation deck of the arch.
Next, you should go to the old city, the streets of which are full of buildings of colonial architecture. The most interesting are the government and court buildings of the early 19th century. If you haven’t visited the colorful Albert Market yet, be sure to take a look into its womb full of people and goods. The National Museum of the Gambia and the Museum of African Heritage are responsible for the cultural and educational component of the excursion, the expositions of which will introduce the history and traditions of the country and the continent from antiquity to the present day.
The Atlantic coast, and Banjul in particular, is a great ecotourism destination. 25 km from the capital, there is a small and oldest national park in the country – Abuko, which is home to more than 250 species of birds and 52 species of mammals, including Nile crocodiles, rare red colobus monkeys and bright turacos. Two other national parks in the immediate vicinity of Banjul – Bijilo and Tanzhi – are home to about 300 species of birds.