6 Tips on How to Avoid Hassle from Gambia Bumsters

Bumsters on the Beach in The GambiaLast year I took an eleven-day backpacking trip to The Gambia with two girlfriends. The main reason for choosing The Gambia for our break was that it was going to be hot (very hot), plus the absolute bargain we got on flight prices which clinched the deal. To say it was an interesting experience would be an understatement – we had some great experiences and times…and a couple that were not so great. We tried to fit in much as possible including a few days in some more touristy beach resort areas around Banjul; a three-day round-trip tour to George Town (Janjanbureh) seeing lots of nature, history and culture en-route; and spent three nights on the (desert) Island of Jinack. . For now, I’ll just tackle the subject of how to avoid hassle from bumsters in The Gambia, the cause of a couple of our ‘not so great’ times.

Gambia Bumsters

Anyone who’s been to The Gambia will know that around the touristy beach, market, and nightlife areas you’re almost guaranteed to be hassled pretty incessantly by young men known as ‘bumsters’. They want to ‘be your friend’, to ‘help you’, to ‘show you around’ etc. If you’re a woman or group of women that level of hassle increases ten fold.

As soon as you set foot out of your hotel the bumsters descend on you, often in pairs or small groups. They then proceed to walk in-step with you until if and when you manage to lose them. If you don’t manage to give them the slip them it’s likely you’ll find yourselves with an uninvited escort for the rest of the day or evening. Once you’ve engaged in conversation with them it’s game over! Subsequently ignoring them, being firm but polite, or being downright rude does little to deter them. You’ll just hear their catch-phrase “be nice…it’s nice to be nice”, repeated over and over.

The behaviour of the bumsters is probably partly encouraged by some women who visit The Gambia specifically to make local ‘friends’, to enjoy some sexy time, or even to find true love. Of course, that is absolutely fine (each to their own), however, to us it felt rather seedy. These young, often handsome Gambian men entangled with a western lady, often several decades their senior. For some, I’m sure it is genuine, but for the majority of cases, I’m rather cynical about it all.

For many females visiting The Gambia, either alone or with friends, this type of hassle will be unwanted and has the potential to put a real dampener on your trip. Don’t get me wrong, for the most part, the bumsters are pretty pleasant in nature and we didn’t feel threatened…this post isn’t aimed to scare anyone. They were more of a very pesky annoyance, akin to a very persistent swarm of mosquitoes. That’s why I decided to share some helpful tips on how to avoid hassle from Bumsters in The Gambia.

How to Avoid Hassle from Bumsters

These six tips on how to avoid hassle from bumsters in The Gambia are based on experiences we had and advice we received from our tour guide, hotel staff, and expats we met whilst there.

#1  When bumsters ask “Your first time in the Gambia?” Always answer – “No I’ve visited before”. This quickly reduces their interest in you (probably because they know if you’re not already attached to a young man you’re not likely to be).

#2  Try not to engage in conversation in the first place, a repeated firm but friendly “No I want to walk by myself/ with my friends” etc. sometimes does the trick.

#3  When walking along the beach, take your shoes off and walk in the sea. bumsters generally don’t like getting their feet wet so won’t follow you.

#4  If you like to go out for food, drinks, and dancing in the evenings, position yourself in the middle of the restaurants away from the street and/ or visit the upper-level bars as the bumsters don’t tend to be allowed access to these.

#5  Tell them you already have a Gambian friend or that you’re married and your “husband wouldn’t like it”.

#6  As a last resort tell them you’re going to report them to the police and pointedly head in that direction. The activities of bumsters are actually illegal and the threat of being reported should scare them off.

Gambia: 6 Tips on how to Avoid Hassle from Bumsters

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We tried all of these tips ourselves whilst in the more touristy beach areas and I can confirm they do work and should hopefully reduce the amount of unwanted attention you receive. This was the only thing we really disliked about The Gambia, however, once we’d found ways to deal with it, we had an amazing time.


Have you been hassled by Gambia bumsters? I’d love to hear how you dealt with it and if I’ve missed any tips for avoiding it!

P.S. You can read more about Can Travel Will Travel, and Andy and I, both individually and as a couple via the following link:



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28 thoughts on “6 Tips on How to Avoid Hassle from Gambia Bumsters

    1. TanyaKorteling Post author

      Yes I think they could be useful in several places. Other than this though The Gambia was a great place to visit – especially ‘Off the Beaten Track’.

  1. Jodie

    I visited Gambia and found it quite overwhelming. I went in 2011 and even though it was known as super safe, I still felt uncomfortable.

    For instance, my then boyfriend and I were in the bank withdrawing money and 6 men had followed us in saying they would help us. There were no barriers between the back of the bank and the front and the doors were wide open. It was a bit of a scary situation to be honest, but saying that nothing bad happened to us.

    I went to a sacred crocodile pond which was awesome where they left them in their natural habitat but they were so calm we could go close to them and a monkey park where the monkeys could roam free. I really did have a great time and I would recommend going for sure.

    But yes, the hassle is intense. You just have to try and remember that these people have next to nothing and whilst it might be annoying for you it’s the only way some of these people can make their money. I agree with your points though but I would also say that if your ok with giving someone a bit of money to help them, they just love meeting new friends from richer countries and some of them have some very interesting life stories. Try to give some people the time but unfortunately these people don’t know that you have already been bugged by 20 people on your way past them so try to be empathetic at the same time.

    I did enjoy reading your post however it made me remember my time there which was a real amazing experience. You write really well too!

    1. TanyaKorteling Post author

      Hi Jodie,

      Thanks for you’re comment!

      I completely get what you’re saying about remembering these people have next to nothing and as responsible travellers I think it’s good to give back to the communities you’re travelling in. However I think in situations like that with the Bumsters in Gambia (especially for solo females), encouraging them or giving them money could potentially put you in an unsafe or uncomfortable situation. As always though everyone has different experiences and has to make a judgement call at the time as to the best way to react!

      I’d always go with the a polite/ non-rude method to remove myself from the hassle, if at all possible 😀

      We were going to visit the sacred crocodile pond but didn’t make it.Maybe next time as we’d love to return!

    1. TanyaKorteling Post author

      If you ever do get the chance it’s so worth it. Def try and get away from the coast to explore!

  2. Henry

    I’d never heard the term “bumsters” before, but I like it! I haven’t yet been to the Gambia, but I’ve seen similar behavior in other countries. It’s a tough line between deciding to be polite and understanding their economic situation, and just being rude to them because you want your own space.

    1. TanyaKorteling Post author

      Apparently it’s the general term used for these young men! I hadn’t heard it before either! You’re right it’s def hard to be empathetic whilst retaining your own space!

  3. Sandy N Vyjay

    Gambia, I haven’t heard much about this place but it seems to be pretty interesting! Ahh bumsters​ were something I never everheard about but it’s like and escort and the word used is quite funny! The tips mentioning of how to avoid them are amazing and it would definitely help! And mainly these tips can be used at several other places!

    1. TanyaKorteling Post author

      The Gambia is definitely worth a visit if you ever get the chance. I definitely think these tips could be used elsewhere too!

  4. Suruchi

    I haven’t been to Gambia and have never even thought about vacationing there. What I found out from your post is these Bumsters are really irritating. Anyways your tips are cool and will always keep them in mind.

    1. TanyaKorteling Post author

      Don’t let it discourage you from visiting The Gambia. This aside it’s an amazing place😀

  5. Marge

    It’s nice that you came up with these tips and that you turn it into an article of its own. It’s one of the things that we, bloggers, don’t pay much attention or don’t give much emphasis when we write about our travels. Most of the time we tend to just mention about it in passing, so this article is definitely great for those who want to make their travel to Gambia hassle free.

    1. TanyaKorteling Post author

      Thanks, when I started our blog I always said we’d be frank and honest and not beat around the bush! It’s not always great but I like to look for ways to salvage a situation and make the best of it! This was the only downside of The Gambia so hopefully these tips will encourage people to visit!

    1. TanyaKorteling Post author

      Yes absolutely we loved The Gambia, especially getting out away from the coast and exploring along the river. I’ll be writing a post about this soon!

    1. TanyaKorteling Post author

      The Gambias amazing. I have to say though I found the Bumsters much more persistent than the touts in SE Asia. Don’t let it put you off though, it’s still definitely worth a visit!

  6. Elisa

    I was always tempted to go by Gambia because there were always super cheap offers, hope there is much more to see than bumsters! I will keep this list in mind if I decide to go, I think that the most effective point must be #4 lol

    1. TanyaKorteling Post author

      There is a huge amount more to see. I shall be writing about our 3 day trip off the Beaten Track soon! It’s a wonderful country to visit!

    1. TanyaKorteling Post author

      Yeah it’s good to know both sides of a place but don’t let this one negative deter you from visiting The Gambia

  7. cathy

    great tips! Haven’t been to Gambia. When we’re traveling, little things like these we sometimes overlook. You have articulate and helpful tips in an orderly way. Ladies like us should consider these! Xx

    1. TanyaKorteling Post author

      Thankyou! I shall write another post soon about the amazing time we had there off the Beaten Track too!

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