Hustlers are young men who approach tourists walking on the streets of Banjul, Serrekunda or any other tourist-heavy town in Gambia and start a friendly chat with them, pretending to be helpful, but whose ultimate goal is to profit off the tourists. Some ask directly for money, for example a security guard at a bank asking tourists who want to withdraw money from the ATM to give him some change to buy coffee as a token of appreciation of his services, or a man on the street with a famished and hungry dog asking for money to feed his dog. In reality, it’s probably not even his dog but just a stray dog, and the money will certainly not be used to feed the animal. Gambia-hustlers-scamOther hustlers don’t ask for money directly, but attempt to “help” the tourist get a taxi or find a shop or restaurant, in order to take a commission on the money the tourist spends. They sometimes make deals with shops and taxi drivers to extravagantly overcharge the tourist and to split the excess profit.

Hustlers are particularly active in areas with many tourists, even directly at the exit of the hotels and sometimes even inside the hotels. They usually start their conversation asking the tourist where they are from and how long they are staying. Some even pretend to be working for the hotel the tourist is staying at (but they really aren’t!), just to gain trust.

Most tourists find the constant attention from hustlers annoying or feel uncomfortable with it, while others accept it and play the game with them. If you don’t appreciate their harassment, just ignore them. And if you feel like they are trying to scam you or in any other way being dishonest, confront them with their behavior and dismiss them. Don’t ever accept anything from them or commit to anything! If things start to get out of control, get the attention of the police. Hustlers don’t like them and will quickly get out of your hair.

If you decide to travel away from the tourist hotspots and into the outback, please realize that hustlers are a phenomenon that exists only at places with many tourists. A local who approaches you in a rural area usually is genuinely interested in you, and these kinds of contacts and experiences can make your holiday invaluable. The Gambian local citizens are very helpful and eager to tell you about their country and culture. The English language is spoken generally very well across Gambia. It would be a shame to dismiss a sincere and honest local in the rural areas because of your less pleasant experience with a hustler in a tourist hotspot.

Find experiences from real victims or post your own story in our Banjul and Gambia Tourist Scams Forum.

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