Border crossings are one of my favorite parts of traveling. Since I do believe that they are the most authentic way to get to know a country, in this case, two countries at a time, I try to find a way to fit a border crossing into my itinerary whenever possible.
Leaving out the Europeans ones where borders are now open, I have done a couple of important border crossings so far: Argentina-Brazil, Canada-USA, Brazil-Paraguay, and lately Gambia-Senegal. Each one has its own story to tell.
When I first visited Gambia, I was still a Sri Lankan passport holder. And when they saw me at the Amdellai- Karang border with my Sri Lankan passport they got a bit upset. They have never seen a Sri Lankan down there, so they started to ask me for paper after paper in order to issue the visa. It all seemed so hard that I gave up the idea of crossing the border and I stayed in Gambia for the rest of my holidays.
So the second time, when I returned to the Gambia, since I had dual citizenship (Sri Lankan and Italian), I tried to cross the Amdellai- Karang border with my Italian passport. It was all so much easier. By the time I was there, tourist visas were not required for Italian passport holders to get into The Gambia and Senegal.
How to reach the Gambian border in Amdellai by bus?
The first stage of the Amdellai- Karang border crossing is reaching a city called Barra. And then, once in Barra, you should take the bus to Amdellai. The bus will leave you about 300 meters away from the Amdellai customs so you can just walk to the border.
Busses run regularly every 15 minutes from Barra Ferry station to Amdellai for 30 Dalasi.
What you need to do first at Amdellai – Karang border?
Once you are at the border in Amdellai, you must first register your exit from Gambia. Immigration officers on the Gambian side will let you enter the office, ask you two or three questions, and then stamp your passport with the date and the name of the city from where you are leaving the country, which is Amdellai in this case.
Second step of Amdellai – Karang border crossing.
After registering your exit from Gambia at the Gambian customs, you now need to register your entry in Senegal at the Senegalese immigration office in Karang. Contrary to the Gambians, Senegalese won’t allow you to enter the office. They just check your documents at the entrance, ask you a couple of questions, and put the stamp on the passport.
Exchanging money at the Amdellai – Karang border.
As we walked closer to the border, money exchangers who wanted to sell cfa (Senegalese currency) started to approach. In fact, taken by the rush I immediately exchanged some money. The one thing you should never do!!! If I had waited, I could have had a better exchange rate on the Senegalese side. In any case, I advise that before exchanging some money, you inquire among the money exchangers who at every single step will try to sell Dalasi or cfa.
Since the border does not have any gates, you can walk back and forth to choose the best rate. Pay attention because they will try to fool you and since the place is very chaotic, you can easily lose control and be cheated.
How to enter Senegal once at the Amdellai – Karang border.
While on the Gambian side, the bus from Barra will leave you very close to the border. Once in Senegal, you need a vehicle to reach the bus station in Karang (Gare in Wolof) since it is far – about one or two km. As a means of transport from the border to the bust station they commonly use scooters with drivers. So you just sit on the back seat, and they will drive you to the right bus. Helmets were not needed.
If you have bags, then you can take a taxi.
Corrupt Immigration officials at the Amdellai- Karang border.
None of the policemen explicitly asked for money, but at one point while inspecting our documents, they started to ask unexpected questions. Even if you have all the needed documents on hand, know that they may try to disorient you by pretending you need something which is not required. So, be alert.
In fact, one immigration officer asked me for the yellow fever vaccination card which was not required for Senegal at that time. You understand that they act like that for money.
This kind of corruption also exists at the Blaise Diagne International Airport in Dakar.
If you insist on not paying, they finally let you go. I said to them that I was a student and that I was travelling with a small budget.
How much time do you need at the Amdellai – Karang Border?
It took about two hours before we got done with all the bureaucracy. Let’s say that if it was only for the verification of the documents, the process of course would have been very fast, but the thousand extra questions they ask to get some money out of you is very time consuming.
In addition to that, sometimes they leave you there, and they go to do some other things while you just stay there and wait without understanding.
What to expect at the Amdellai – Karang Border?
As I said in my introduction, I love border crossings. Even if they always come with a bit of “tum tum” in the heart, these are unique crazy experiences from which you come out stronger and stronger. And, when you are used to a European lifestyle, managing a border crossing in Africa is not that easy, you know!
At the Amdellai-Karang Border, you will see an entirely different world. With the policemen going around and around, such a strange immigration office with plenty of prisoners closed in their cells who are looking at you while you wait to get the passport stamped, children who follow you for no reason, teenagers selling phone cards, ladies selling food items and water bags, shops with unimaginable things, animals like hens, goats, and dogs going here and there, even inside the immigration office, stalls everywhere selling second hand everything, creates a chaos that deserves to be observed.
One thing that made me really laugh was the policeman at the Gambian immigration office, watching a soap opera while inspecting my documents. He was so interested in the story that I felt like I was disturbing him. It was the funniest thing I have ever seen.
Sadly, photos were not allowed there!!! I would have loved to take some.
Coronavirus updates for Amdellai – Karang Border Crossing.
Due to the high number of confirmed cases of Coronavirus in Senegal (more than one hundred and fifteen in Senegal while The Gambia only registered three confirmed cases in March 2020), no person is allowed to cross the Amdalai-Karang border except diplomats and vehicles carrying foodstuffs.
This move is in response to the agreement reached by the Governments of The Gambia and Senegal in March 2020 to close their borders in a bid to arrest the spread of the deadly Coronavirus.
The borders will remain closed probably until the situation gets stable, At the Karang border, there will be heavy presence of security personnel who will turn back travellers from The Gambia going to Senegal.
So, before planning to cross the border from the Gambia to Senegal, I advise that you check the updates directly with the Gambian and Senegalese embassies.