On a map, The Gambia resembles a bent toothpick piercing the coast of Senegal. A tiny sliver of a country in West Africa, it is little wider than the banks of the River Gambia. Enough of the country, however, lies on the coast where clusters of oceanside resorts cater to European and Canadian tourists on low-budget package vacations. For travelers from the U.S., The Gambia is probably better known for one of its interior villages: Juffure, which was celebrated by author Alex Haley in his book Roots as the home of his ancestor Kunte Kinte.

The Gambia was also known, until 1994, as Africa's longest-running democracy. A small group of army lieutenants staged a coup in that year, and the ensuing uncertainty following the uprising led to a decline in tourism, adding further stress to an already fragile economy. With the elections of 2001 and 2006, The Gambia has regained its status as a democracy, but it is a tenuous title, as poverty continues to rise, freedom of the press is occasionally threatened, and basic infrastructure such as road conditions and electricity slides backward rather than forward. Given the continuing uncertainty, we can recommend the country as a destination only for those experienced in travel to less developed—and possibly unstable—countries.

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