Cost of Living in The Gambia

A map of The Gambia.

The Gambia is in Western Africa, and its official name is the Republic of The Gambia, “the” included. The country is surrounded by Senegal, with a small western border on the Atlantic Ocean. It’s the smallest nation in Africa and is similar in size to the island of Jamaica. The country has a rich and complex history.

The British and French set the borders as both fought to control The Gambia River in the 1600s. Eventually, the British took control, and they used the area during the slave trade. In the late 1800s, the French helped the British establish the boundaries of the country. 

It became an independent nation in 1965, though it was still under the British monarchy rule. In the 1990s and early 2000s, The Gambians and Senegalese organized political coups against the British Commonwealth. After several years of fighting, The Gambians began rejoining the Commonwealth, finalizing the decision in 2018. 

The people of Gambia speak English as their official language, and the 1.5 million people in the country use money called The Gambian dalasi. It has a hot, tropical rainy season between June and November, with a cool, dry season between November and May. The climate, the cost of living, and the coastal cities are the attractions that bring expats to the small African nation. 

What is The Gambian Cost of Living Index

A cost-of-living index shows the differences between the costs of items like rent, groceries, and transportation in cities worldwide. 

To set an index, the base location is giving the number 100. The destination location is based on that number. If the destination is at 80, then the cost of living is about 20% less than the base location. If the destination has a 110, then it is about 10% more expensive to live there. 

So, to determine Gambia’s cost-of-living, let’s use New York City. If New York ranks 100, the cost of living in The Gambia is about 61. The capital, Banjul, has one of the lowest costs of living in the world. According to Mercer’s 2020 Cost of Living survey, only five cities are less expensive to live in than Banjul. 

The cities with a lower cost of living than Banjul were in Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Namibia, and Tunisia.

Related: Cost of Living in Liberia

Cost of Living in The Gambia in USD  

When looking at the cost of living, in terms of USD in The Gambia, it is significantly less. The majority of the essentials are much less expensive than they are in the US. 

Cost of Internet and Other Utility Expenses in The Gambia

When compared to the United States, internet expenses are quite expensive in The Gambia. In general, Gambians do not get unlimited internet. They pay for a set number of megabytes and download speeds each month. 

At the low end, Gambians pay $0.50 for 512 kilobytes per second for mobile internet. When it comes to satellite internet the costs could go as high as $335 for 0.5-10 Mbps of internet speed.

The other household utilities — gas, electricity, and heat  — cost about $100 for two people. This is much less than a two-person household in the US. 

Cost of Transportation in The Gambia

The small African nation does not have much of a public transportation system. They do have shared taxis, which are incredibly inexpensive. A shared ride costs about $.20 for a trip in a cramped taxi. 

You can own a car, and the typical compact car in the nation costs, on average, about $18,000, with gasoline priced around $1 per liter. 

Groceries / Cost of Food in The Gambia 

Most groceries cost less than groceries in the United States. One exception is milk. On average, a gallon of milk costs about $4.50. Most other foods cost comparatively lesser than the US. These are the prices you can expect to see in USD at Gambia grocers:

  • A loaf of bread: $.20
  • A pound of rice: $.30
  • Dozen eggs: $1.75
  • A pound of chicken: $1.35
  • A pound of apples: $1.09
  • A pound of oranges: $.88
  • Head of lettuce: $.45
  • 1.5 liter of water: $.35
  • 20-pack of cigarettes: $1.50
  • A 12-ounce bottle of beer: $1.74
  • A 12-ounce bottle of Coke: $.62

Cost of Dining Out

The Gambia is home to several quality restaurants, especially in the cities along the Atlantic coast. You can get meals for a range of prices. 

  • Fast food combo meal: $2.90
  • Three-course dinner for two at a casual restaurant: $26.00
  • Inexpensive meal: $1.00
  • Regular cappuccino: $1.83

Clothing Costs

Clothing costs are significantly less in The Gambia than in European countries and the United States. For example, a pair of Levis costs about $8.50 USD. Nike sneakers cost, on average, around $54 USD. A pair of leather shoes cost about $40. A dress purchased from a global chain store like H&M costs around $13.50. 

Childcare Costs

Compared to childcare costs in the US, the price to send a child to preschool or primary school for care is low. The Gambian Education Policy dictates schools to be free, equitable, and inclusive. However, the government struggles to pay for those services. Hence, many Gambians choose private schools. 

The cost of sending a child to preschool for one month is around $51. Whereas, the cost to send a child to an international primary school for one year is about $338. It’s worth noting that parents in the US can pay over $20,000 to send their children to private elementary schools. 

Rent in The Gambia

Monthly rent in The Gambia is also much less expensive than in the US, especially in cities like New York City and San Francisco. The rent in the country is based on square footage and location, either in the city or out of the city. 

  • 900-square foot apartment in the city: $482
  • 900-square foot apartment outside of the city: $290
  • 480-square foot apartment in the city: $212
  • 480-square foot apartment outside of the city: $135

In New York City and San Francisco, a studio apartment costs around $3,000. In San Francisco, the average rent prices are about $2700 for a one-bedroom.  

Related: Cost of Living in Seychelles

Entertainment Costs in The Gambia

Entertainment in The Gambia is similar to available experiences around the world. Gambians enjoy going to clubs, watching sporting events, and playing at the beach. You can see a movie or watch a major soccer event at local cinemas. You can go to clubs to listen to local bands. Most clubs have dance floors, too. 

While at the beach, you can go to beach clubs to play volleyball or fly kites. Beach clubs often have weekly entertainment specials like local bands or special dining events. Some hotels and resorts offer horses that you can pay to ride in one-hour increments. It costs about $3 to rent a horse for an hour at a resort in The Gambia. 

The cost of entertainment is low, especially when compared to other countries. When compared to New York, $500 worth of entertainment costs about $370. A movie ticket costs about $11, and a membership to an athletic club costs about $45 per month—most tickets in the US cost between $12 and $20. In the US, the average athletic club cost is $60 per month. 

A bottle of beer at a Gambian nightclub costs about $1.50.

Related: Cost of Living in Madagascar

Cost of Healthcare In The Gambia

Compared to the US, costs are low for healthcare in this African nation. Healthcare in the country is organized into three tiers: primary, secondary, and tertiary. There are only four hospitals in the country, with only about one hospital bed per 1000 residents. Health care facilities are organized in individual villages, but there aren’t many modern facilities in the country. 

Health care costs are low, but so is the quality of health care. The World Health Organization is working with the country’s government to improve its health care, and the progress is slow. These are some health care costs, according to the WHO:

  • Daily rate for primary hospital bed: $18
  • Daily rate for secondary hospital bed: $24
  • Daily rate for tertiary hospital bed: $33
  • Primary outpatient visit: $4.85
  • Secondary outpatient visit: $6.88
  • Tertiary outpatient visit: $10

Sample Budget in Gambia

Before factoring rent costs, the average two-person household in The Gambia needs about $273 per month. You can add between $135 and $482 to your monthly rent expenses. 

Real Estate Prices in The Gambia

Expats wanting to buy property in foreign lands are often limited in what they can buy, but this is not the case with The Gambia. There are some restrictions, but they are minimal. Foreigners can purchase private or state-owned land. They do not need any permission and have the right to use the land for all types of services. 

The only restrictions for foreigners are the land’s size and how long the expats own the land. They cannot hold the land for more than 21 years, and the land cannot exceed 2,500 square meters. 

How Much Does a House Cost in The Gambia?

Expats looking to live in a city can expect to pay a range of prices for a detached home. A two-bedroom townhouse can cost about $100,000 while a five-bedroom home can cost around $350,000. Expats can buy condos and apartments for around $100,000. 

If you move outside of the cities, three-bedroom detached homes are under $100,000. You can buy a terrace house for around $85,000 or a semi-detached home for under $70,000.  

Taxes in The Gambia

There are several taxes in The Gambia. Businesses pay a company tax based on profit and revenue. The country also has a capital-gains tax. There are also several local taxes for things like education, expats, and residential rent. 

Income Tax

Income taxes for Gambians is based on monthly income. The rates are based on The Gambian dalasi: 

  • GMD 0 to GMD 18,000 ($450 USD) — 0% 
  • GMD 18,001 to GMD 28,000 ($700) — 5% 
  • GMD 28,001 to GMD 38,000 ($950) — 10% 
  • GMD 38,001 to GMD 48,000 ($1,200) — 15% 
  • GMD 48,001 to GMD 58,000 ($1,450) — 20% 
  • Above GMD 58,000 (over $1,450) — 30%

VAT Tax  

The country does assess a value-added or VAT tax. The tax is paid on goods made in The Gambia as well as for importing goods and services. VAT taxes are assessed in increments as items are produced, distributed, and sold. 

The VAT tax is assessed when someone makes products that exceed one million GMD. The VAT tax can range between 0% to 15%

Real Estate and Property Taxes

The Gambia imposes a rental tax of 10% per year for anyone who receives rent from lessees. The country does not have any real estate or property taxes. Property received from inheritances is subject to capital gains taxes as well. The net gains have a 15% tax rate, and the selling price of the property has a 5% levy. Whereas transferred property has low fees between $188 and $500. 

Goods and Service Tax

According to the World Bank, Gambia receives about 32 percent of its revenue from goods and services taxes. On average, most countries receive about 31 percent of their revenue from goods and services taxes. 

Retirement Tax

The Gambia does not have a retirement tax, but they do have an expat tax. Expats from countries outside of West African pay 40,000 GMD ($770). West Africans who are not Gambian pay 10,000 GMD ($190). 

Average Income in The Gambia

The country has a minimum wage of 50 dalasi per day, which is under $1 USD. Among the 197 countries in the world, Gambia ranks 86th in the minimum wage. The minimum annual salary is $1610.  

The average income in the country is 410,956 GMD, but after taxes, it is lowered to 336,312. In USD the average gross income is under $8000. 

Can I Use USD in The Gambia?

If you are traveling to The Gambia, the best currency to use is British pounds sterling. It is not easy to exchange money in the country, so having hard cash, like sterling, is helpful. 

How Much Cash Can I Bring Into Gambia? 

The Gambia does not have currency restrictions. However, you cannot take out more currency than you imported. 

How Much Do I Need to Live Comfortably in The Gambia?

If you are renting, you will need about $800 monthly to live comfortably in The Gambia. 

How Much Do You Need to Retire in The Gambia? 

The Gambia does offer social security retirement benefits for retired people who are at least 60 years old and have contributed to the system for 10 years. Otherwise, you can retire and live on $800 per month.