Cost of Living

Everything in The Gambia is incredibly cheap if you count in U.S. dollars. However, an average income for a modest family (10-15 people) is only about 1,500 dalasi per month or $38 USD. Teachers make about $50 per month. More than a third of the population lives on less than $1.25 USD per day.

As a Peace Corps volunteer, the idea is for me to live like the locals.  While I do make a modest wage by American standards, I luckily earn a bit more than the average Gambian which allows me to pay for extra costs they don’t typically have like postage and trips to the Internet cafe, pricey American food found in the city and transport to the capital for Peace Corps events and meetings.

One dollar is about 40 dalasis.

The following values are all in USD. I have listed the items by quantities that they are typically sold in.

-50kg of rice: $25
This is the biggest expense for most families, but it’s still the most economical way to feed an entire, typically large family. My family of ten usually goes through a bag and a half of rice per month.

-1 kg of chicken: $5
-2 medium-sized white fish: 37 cents
-1 can of beef: 87 cents

-1 cup of sugar: 20 cents
-1 cup of local peanut butter: 25 cents

A bucket of peanut butter (about $7).

A bucket of peanut butter (about $7).

-1 loaf of bread (French baguette style): 17.5 cents
-1 egg: 17.5 cents ($2.10 for a dozen)

-plate of ½ a fried chicken and fries at a restaurant: $4.35 to $7
-medium pizza at a restaurant: $6.25
-small side salad at a restaurant: $3.75
-plate of Gambian food at a restaurant: $1

-1 tea bag: ½ cent
-1 bag of ½ liter filtered water: 1 cent
-1 cup of fresh milk, straight from the cow: 40 cents ($1.60 for a quart)
-1 can of soda: 62 cents
-bottle of local beer (JulBrew): 87 cents

-4 mangos: 60 cents
-4 oranges: 60 cents
-1 apple: 40 cents
-1 slice of watermelon: 13 cents
-1 watermelon: $1.50

My sitemates Bill and Kimia slicing up a watermelon by the river.

My sitemates Bill and Kimia slicing up a watermelon by the river.

-1 kg of potatoes: $2.50
-1 onion: 40 cents
-1 eggplant: 55 cents
-1 avocado: 62 cents
-1 can of out of season veggies: $2

-1 meter of fabric: 50 cents-$2.50 depending on the quality
-1 wrap skirt: $3-$5
-1 custom-made dress: $9-15

-stamps to send a letter anywhere in the world: 63 cents|
-an hour of Internet: 62 cents

-gelly gelly ride from my village to the capital/coast (1 ½ to 2 hours): $1.50

Gelly gellies

Gelly gellies

-Rent: $15
Officially, I don’t pay rent. I am part of a family, and therefore pay a “family contribution” just like older working Gambian children pay their parents. But when you get down to it, the money goes to fixing my house if something breaks and so for all intents and purposes, it’s rent.

-Electricity: $3.75
This is the amount that I pay, which is about half of my entire family’s overall monthly bill. In Gambia, it’s all pre-paid by usage. Although we have current, we don’t have a fridge because it uses too much power and is too expensive.

-Lunch for a month: $15
I choose to only eat lunch with my family and I give them money to help pay for that cost. My contribution is about equal or more than they spend for the entire family to eat lunch.

-1 night in riverside hotel with nice accommodations including running water: $16
-1 night in beachfront hotel with nice, modern accommodations including internet: $25
(Anyone want to come visit me?!)

–JDF