Duration Farafenni: 1.5 hrs (30m Senegal, 1h Gambia)
Duration Soma: 1h (45m Gambia, 15m Senegal)
Costs involved Senegal: 500 CFA for filling out the passavant form
Costs involved Gambia: 1000 CFA unofficial (Farafenni) , 1000 CFA official (Soma)
We wanted to head for the Casamance region from Mbour and the shortest connection is through the Gambia. The Gambia is notorious for its corruption so we heard. This time unfortunately, we can’t but confirm the rumours.
Step 1: Immigration office in Senegal for getting your passport stamped. Friendly and correct.
Step 2: Customs Senegal for stamping the Carnet de Passages. Customs insisted on getting them stamped, despite the mere 30 kms through the Gambia. The export voucher was not witheld.
Step 3: Getting a passavant form filled out in a shop just opposite the customs office for 500 CFA. This is not an official price but there seems to be some Senegalese guy who got himself a job that consists of filling out the forms for little money. You may as well fill it out yourself that’s for sure. Customs insists not to use the Carnet de Passages for the Gambia. The passavant would be sufficient for the transit ride.
Stap 4: Cross the border and go to the Gambian police to get your passports checked. The policeman asked for 1000 CFA followed by a hefty discussion. I tell him I don’t have a clue why he wants money from me, but he has the passports and he refuses to give them back unless I pay the 1000 CFA. If I wanted a receipt, the price would go up to 15000 CFA.He asks if I have a Carnet de Passages which I confirm but I explain him that I don’t want to use it now. He then tells me I have to use the CDP and it will cost me 20 € per bike, but after I tell him I am a journalist, the passavant apparently is still possible, but it will cost me 1000 CFA. The discussion seems to go on way too long and I decide to surrender and pay the 1000 CFA.
Step 5: Customs asks for 1000 CFA to stamp the passavant, without receipt. Again I tell the guy I know what is going on with the unofficial money and that I notice him knowing it too. He refuses to stamp the documents and he says everybody just pays. I tell him I am not just everybody, I am a journalist. 30 seconds later his superior stamps the passavants. When I go see the police for the passports, the same story seems to start all over again: 1000 CFA… That same customs superior grabs the passports and hands them over to me, stamped. They kind of got suspicious I guess.
Step 6: We enter the Gambia and pay 400 CFA/bike for the ferry to Soma.
Step 7: Getting back out of the Gambia. Gambian immigration: again 1000 CFA. The lady wants her money or I won’t get the passports back. I refuse and when she looks away for just a moment, I manage to grab the passports and just calmly walk away. I can still hear her shouting something but I haven’t heard or seen her since. All cool.
Step 8: Customs seem to be well briefed about us and as they see me approaching the office window, one of the guys promptly starts calling. It takes a while and he asks me how much I paid when entering the Gambia. In the meantime I try to make clear I am not going to pay unofficial money here. They call back and forth over the phone for 15 minutes. I don’t understand. Something seems to be going on here. All of a sudden, some guy steps into the office with a brand new booklet with blank receipts. They fill out two of them and ask for 1000 CFA for each bike. They tried to make a point here I think. They wanted to convince me they did everything by the book.
Step 9: A police officer registers us in a logbook and stamps the passports. 1000 CFA? I take the passports and just say “non”, then walk away without any problem.
Step 10: We enter Senegal, pass at immigration first for the passports, then at customs for the carnets which they appear to be able to fill out here. We don’t need to pay anything and smile as we enter Casamance in Snegal. No corruption here.