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How to deal with bumsters in The Gambia

My Magazine 2022/04
3 min
The Gambia has beautiful beaches that attract a lot of visitors every year. Many people fall in love in the country, make their homes here, or return yearly.

If your holidays are around tourist concentrated areas, and you will often go to the beach which doesn't belong to a hotel, you might meet young, unemployed men who are often called bumsters. Sometimes, people are even put off by them, and they refuse to go out of the hotels during their stay in The Gambia.

We understand that it can be very annoying to come on holiday in The Gambia, spend hard-earned money to enjoy a week or two, and suddenly lose the feeling of confidence to step out of the hotel room because someone is pestering you. 

But we also know that these individuals don't represent The Gambia as a whole. They present a minority of the Gambians. A true Gambian is interested in finding a proper job to provide for the family. And a country is full of smiling people, music, nice festivals, cultural experiences, and more. You should really not get stuck in the hotel during your stay, instead, you should go out as often as possible to feel the country, listen to the music, admire nature, spot animals, cook with locals, and more.

If you get worried or annoyed, please note that some of them may only want to chat with you, try to become friends, and maybe earn a few dalasis.

Handling the bumster fear or menace – starts with realising that there is no need to fear.

It is not in a bumster’s interest to chase or frighten a tourist away – that would be self-defeating – to their purpose.

Therefore, it is important to understand what the purpose of their approach is.

Why is a bumster a bumster? Google the word Bumster and thanks to the overwhelming posts by many tourists – the article that pops up is about The Gambia. By definition, a bumster is a young male who hangs around the popular beach or tourism areas, offering friendship, help, assistance and quite often a personal relationship – all in exchange for being a friend hoping at times it could develop into a more serious relationship and /or possibly marriage and a ticket to anywhere out of The Gambia or even in The Gambia.

Those who have complained about bumsters will attest to the fact that while being unpleasant has rarely led to anything more violent than an argument. Mostly they are non-violent. A rare case may have led to a scuffle.

Yes, some might want to marry you, but you are an adult person, and all that is needed here is common sense. 

The best way out of a bumster confrontation is to humour it – rather than fight it. An aggressive response at the first encounter is the catalyst for creating an unpleasant continuation.

Once you have ensured a polite banter, you can build up on the polite exit – which would not take as long as a Brexit – but tact is required.

One solution is to go around these areas with a Gambian friend or a guide/chaperon to stay with you when you are outside the hotel. This will keep others away as you are then already someone's revenue.

If you are alone, firm politeness should gradually take over – always with a hint that you are already engaged/married (even if not) and are a frequent visitor and a claim to residence will find you being cold-shouldered. In fact, once you have been bumstered and have chosen to ignore it – the triviality of the experience in today's hard, violent world is sure to strike you – you may not smile – but you will return.


Note: Photos were staged for the purpose of the No Women Left Behind Project by ITTOG.

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ITTOG, Institute of Travel and Tourism of The Gambia
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