In the more developed cities, particularly the greater Banjul area, electricity is available most everyday.  However even in the best areas there are still prolonged outages.  Flashlights, batteries, and candles are still important items to keep around.  Upcountry some cities do not turn on the power until the evening when the sun goes down.  Wealthy families and organizations (hospitals, NGOs, government) employ generators and solar setups to supplement their power needs.  Some schools purchase solar panels to power computer labs.  That being said, the average village in the provinces does not have access to electricity in the home.


Batteries of suspect quality are available at local shops and degrade quite rapidly.  Many volunteers bring basic solar chargers (under $100 USD) with adapters to fit their cell phones, music players, e-book readers, and other devices.  Almost all laptops cannot be charged with these smaller panels.


Everything you bring is at risk to the elements.  At times the Gambia is very dusty.  Dirt and sand will get into your things.  The Gambia also gets exceptionally humid, a combination that is bad for your electronics.  Your things will get dinged and battered especially the more you travel with them in country.  Try to buy durable cases and protectors for your items that will keep them shielded from these threats.


Voltage Differences


The Gambia adheres to the European system where electricity flows at ~220V not the standard ~110V found in the USA.  Read closely the chargers for your laptop, music player, speakers, electric clippers, battery rechargers, and so forth to see that they support the ~220 standard.  The outlets also are of a different variety, mainly the English Type-G 3 prongs but also the 2 prong Type-C Europlug.  Many volunteers purchase universal adapter kits before arriving.  Another issue is the spiking nature of the electricity.  Just because the power is on does not mean it is being fed at a constant rate.  Volunteers with access to electricity tend to invest in a voltage regulator or at the very least a surge protector.  These are readily available in country and can be bought with your move in allowance.  Voltages too high or too low can permanently damage your electronics.


Cell-Phones


Having a cell phone is a must as a volunteer and Peace Corps will give you the opportunity to buy one early during in training.  You have the option of bringing your own phone from home, provided it is unlocked and works with GSM quad-band.  You must also be able to insert a newly issued SIM card in your phone.  The most common brand of phones here are Nokias but any will do.  Make sure your charger is easily replaceable in the event it gets damaged or lost.  Most of your communication will be done over text messaging because voice calling locally and internationally rapidly drains your battery.  The international calling code for the Gambia is +220 followed by your number.  Keep this in mind if you are interested in using Skype or Google Voice for cheap communication back home.


It is not an uncommon event to break, lose, or have your cell phone stolen in The Gambia.  Volunteers have been known to go through 2 or 3 replacements during their service.  Consider this before investing too much money in a cell phone or any single electronic item.  There is also the option to take out supplemental insurance for anything of value you bring to The Gambia.


Computers


Most computers in The Gambia are donated making them significantly older than what you are used to using.  They are almost exclusively running Windows XP.  Poor electricity, harsh climate, makeshift facilities, and lack of maintenance cause many of the school computer labs to break down or fall into disrepair.  Viruses run rampant because anti-virus software is not installed or is never updated.  Viruses are mainly spread by connecting USB flash drives.  If you are definitely bringing a computer consider a Macintosh, Linux, or newer Windows operating system with better security.  Realize CDs and DVDs are easily scratched, damaged, and even infected by microorganisms in The Gambia.  It may be good advice to make copies of any CDs and DVDs you bring or are given in your time here.  Consider purchasing backup batteries for your laptop if you plan on using it regularly.


Personal Music Players and Radios


Most volunteers bring their iPod or other music player to country.  There are many solar options for keeping your iPod charged.  Compact portable speakers are very useful to plug into your computer or iPod when you are having a gathering or at the beach.


Americans and Gambians alike revel in listening to music.  Radios are cheaply available to purchase in country.  The batteries for running them as stated are of poor quality.  You'll be disappointed if you don't purchase European or USA branded batteries from the stores.  Consider bringing a battery recharger (~220V compatible) for the most environmentally friendly solution.  Local batteries invariably get discarded in the soil near where people get their drinking water or grow their food.  The majority of trash in the Gambia is burned and not recycled so plan accordingly.


Most Gambians get their news through radio channels.  It is nice to hear the English language from time to time on the BBC, Voice of America, GRTS, and other broadcasts.


Internet Access


Volunteers can access the internet in the volunteer lounge at the Peace Corps Office, Fajara Transit House, and the Basse Office and Transit House.  The Fajara Transit House offers wireless internet where you can use your own laptop.


Currently cellular providers offer 3g internet that you can purchase.  The initial investment is between ~$75 - $100 USD for the physical usb radio stick if you plan on connecting it to your laptop.  Otherwise if you simply want internet on your smartphone you may be able to avoid this cost.  Plans are available to pay for data usage or pay by the hour.  Some plans are limited to hours of the day such as between 7pm and 7am or only on weekends.  A monthly plan could cost in the range of $15 - $30 USD.  Those volunteers placed with NGOs or similar organizations may have internet access at their office.  Download and upload speeds are severely limited, so it is best to keep expectations realistic for posting photographs and streaming media.  Internet cafes can also be found in some cities and villages.


Solar Setups


Occasionally volunteers with no electricity have purchased solar systems in country.  Solar setups are very expensive (> ~500 USD) and cannot be paid for out of your volunteer allowance.  When volunteers leave they can usually sell some components of their system.  Volunteers have also left their solar setups with their host families who can charge others phones for a small fee.

 
 

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