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Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone is on the West Coast of Africa. The potential for tourism is vast, but largely unrealised. Tourists are starting to return after the end of the Civil War in 2002, and tour operators are looking closely at what the country has to offer. Sierra Leone is rich in natural resources. It has some of the best beaches in the world, a rich heritage, and some stunning scenery, but its greatest asset is its welcoming, friendly populace, most of whom will go out of their way to make a foreigner comfortable.


  • Freetown — capital city in the western part of the country
  • 2 Bo — second largest city and capital of the southern region
  • 3 Bonthe — An old administrative town on Sherbro Island, now quiet and charmingly decayed
  • 4 Kenema — Major town in the eastern part of the country
  • 5 Koidu — Another town in the east, capital of the diamond mining Kono district
  • 6 Makeni — Fast developing town in the north
  • 7 Magburaka — Former capital of the northern region and end of the defunct railway branch line

Other destinations

  • 1 Banana Islands — prime tourist spot in Sierra Leone with the idyllic environment of pristine tropical islands
  • 2 Mount Bintumani — Highest peak between Morocco and Cameroon


Sierra Leone was founded as a colony for freed slaves originating in the British Empire.

Sierra Leone achieved its independence from Britain in 1961. Since the end of its civil war in 2002, the government, with considerable international assistance, has made noticeable improvements in the country's infrastructure which should help the tourism sector: most major trunk roads are tarred to a high standard and Bumbuna hydroelectric dam supplies electricity when water levels are high enough (completed in 2009). While the government sector still suffers from chronic shortage of resources, the private sector is booming.

In 2014, the outbreak of Ebola virus, which crossed the border from Guinea threatened to set back the improvements in the countries economy and development. More than a year of development was lost whilst the country focused on the fight against the disease. Visits by tourists and foreign businesspeople are only just starting again. The country is now considered to be completely clear of the virus.


Sierra Leone has a tropical climate, typified by warm temperatures and high humidity. Night time temperatures rarely drop below 24 °C and daytime temperatures reach 30 °C throughout the year. From October to March the weather is generally dry with many fine, hot, sunny days. From April to September is the rainy season. The rainfall increases to a peak in July and August and then decreases until rain has almost ceased by November.


The country has a coastal belt of mangrove swamps with wooded hill country, upland plateau and mountains in the east. The highest point is Loma Mansa (Bintimani) at 1,948 m. It has 402 km (250 mi) of coastline.

From an approximate coastal belt 100 km (62 mi) long of low-lying land, the country rises to a mountain plateau near the eastern frontier rising 1,200 m (3,900 ft) to 2,000 m (6,600 ft) with an important timber forest region.

The peninsula, on which the capital and main commercial centre of Freetown stands, is 40 km (25 mi) long and 17 km (11 mi) wide with a mountainous interior.


Electricity is 220 V/50 Hz. Sockets are British standard. Supplies are unreliable, but parts of Freetown do now get a reasonable supply. The Bumbuna Dam hydro-electric project was commissioned on 6 November 2009, which in theory provides up to 50 MW of electricity to the capital, however, this even with additional thermal power does not meet rapidly increasing demand. Away from Freetown, mains electricity is only available in Lungi (airport), Bo, Makeni and Kenema and comes and goes unpredictably. Koidu has a new power station under construction.


In 1462, Pedro de Cintra mapped the hills surrounding what is now called Sierra Leone, naming the oddly shaped mountain, Lion Mountains. It came under British rule from 1808 until independence was declared on 27 April 1961. The country then became the scene of civil war from 1991 until 2002. Since 1971, Sierra Leone has governed under a constitutional republic.


Sierra Leone is home to 16 different ethnic groups, each with their own language.


There are no accurate figures for the religious make up of Sierra Leone. Most visitors will see that there is a near equal balance between Muslims and Christians. Like other west African countries, there is a long history of religious tolerance and cooperation between the faiths. Indigenous beliefs are also common, particularly in more rural areas. A significant part of the population believes in witchcraft and this has certainly hampered improvements in healthcare and disease control. The 2014 Ebola outbreak was reported to have made far worse by people believing it was caused by witchcraft rather than seeking proper medical treatment.


English is the official language, but Krio is the lingua franca: a creole with vocabulary derived from English, Yoruba, Igbo, and to a lesser extent Portuguese and French. The minority Krios, who mostly live in the Freetown Peninsula take English as a second language, while the Temnes, Mendes, and other groups have their tongues occupied with Krio as their second language. This makes getting around the peninsula pretty easy for English speakers, but the entire rest of the country is more or less Krio-only land. While Krio vocabulary is predominantly from English, it is not intelligible to your average English speaker—although you might be able to follow a little bit if you know some basic vocabulary.

In the provinces, Mende is the principal vernacular in the south and Temne is the principal vernacular in the north; regular Krio use is mostly limited to provincial cities.

Get in

Yellow Fever vaccination certificates are required for most nationalities. Proof of vaccination might be required to get a visa and is checked at the airport on arrival.

Passport and visa

Everyone entering Sierra Leone must have a valid passport or travel document. Citizens of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) do not require a visa to enter the country. All other nationalities will require a visa, which are issued at Sierra Leone's overseas missions and at the land borders. Visas are not too hard to get, it is unlikely that anyone will be refused unless there is a very good reason for the government not to want them in the country. Visa prices vary considerably based on your citizenship: US citizens need to fork out around US$160 for one, a 3-month visa for UK citizens got in London cost £109, German citizens pay €100, while most others can get away with as little as $40. Contact the local embassy for current prices (UK, USA). Getting the visa in Conakry takes 72 hours and even after waiting that long the consul might ask you for extra money so it is better to arrange it in Monrovia or elsewhere.

  • The Sierra Leone embassy in Gambia is a good place to get a visa, which costs US$100.

By plane

The international airport is at Lungi, the other side of the estuary from Freetown. Most people choose to use the water taxi services. There are now 2 main companies - Sea Coach Express (Pelican) which goes to Aberdeen Bridge and Sea Bird Express going to Murray Town. Both charge around US$40 for a single adult journey. The larger boats now have air conditioning and WiFi. The hovercraft and helicopter services no longer operate. Sea Coach Express now have a mobile app which gives schedules and discounted online tickets.

Three often-overloaded car ferries run to the east end of Freetown from Tagrin at the southern tip of Lungi, docking at Kissy Ferry Terminal, which cross the water in 45-70 minutes, but can take several hours including waiting/loading times. For those with a light load, local speedboats (US$1.25) and larger, slower "pampa" boats (US$0.50) are by far the most affordable, if not safest, option. They run fairly frequently, when full, on the same route as the car ferries. The landing in Lungi is wet, but porters wait to carry you in or out of the boats for a small fee (US$0.25).

By road it is 5 hours or more to the city, via Port Loko using some poor roads. This would probably be the most miserable route, and it's not clear that anyone uses it.

Safety concerns have been expressed over all of the different transport options from the airport to Freetown.

Air France flies to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (via Conakry). Brussels Airlines flies to Brussels 4 times per week.

Flights to Amsterdam (KLM), Nairobi (Kenya Airways), Casablanca (Royal Air Maroc), Accra (ASKY Airlines, Kenya Airways), Lagos (Arik Air), Banjul (Arik Air, ASKY Airlines), Conakry (ASKY Airlines), Nouakchott (Mauritania Airlines International), Monrovia (Royal Air Maroc) and Bamako (ASKY Airlines) Istanbul with Turkish Airlines are all available.

It can be very difficult finding seats in December because of local people returning for the Christmas holidays. Booking early is essential.

Thefts from hold baggage used to be common at the airport, especially on the way out of the country. Security has been improved, but still carry anything of value in your cabin luggage.

By car

Sierra Leone can be accessed by road from Guinea (Conakry) and Liberia. Special permits are required if transiting the border with a private vehicle. Private taxis, buses and trucks commute daily to and from Conakry/Freetown.

The Guinea (Kopoto)/Sierra Leone (Kambia) was open as of January 2013, as was the border with Liberia at Bo (Waterside).

Crossing with a car or motorcycle is made possible with the 'Laissez-Passer Pour Vehicule', available at the Guinea Embassy (US$40) and with the 'Vehicle Clearance Permit', available at the Sierra Leone Embassy (US$40). And additional 'Ecowas International Circulation Permit' will be required for Sierra Leone, available at the border for Le100,000.

An Ecowas 'Brown Card' may also be needed for proof of insurance for the vehicle.

By bus

The Sierra Leone Road Transport Authority has some buses which link the major cities. There are minibuses which can be used in Sierra Leone called poda poda. They are run by private individuals with some of the worst driving skills in the country and can cost Le2500-5000 (£0.50-1). There are no designated bus stops and so one can stand on a street and wave to get it to stop. However, be careful with personal belongings as petty theft is common on these buses. They are also usually dangerously overloaded.

By boat

Sierra Leone has the 3rd largest natural harbour in the world and is looking forward to the arrival of cruise ships. Cargo and Passenger ships berth at the Queen Elizabeth II quay, while some passenger/Cargo and private crafts can land at the Government Wharf in central Freetown, arriving most times from Conakry and Banjul. Enquiries should be made to Cargo Shipping Agencies.

Get around

By car

The road network fell into disrepair during the civil war. However, there has been a substantial reconstruction programme which means the main roads to regional cities such as Bo, Kenema and Makeni are in excellent condition. The road to Kabala mostly smooth tar, with a few terribly potholed patches. The road to Kono/Koidu is for three quarters tar, but the remaining quarter is in mostly terrible condition. It means it takes as much time to cover 3/4 of the distance as it takes for the balance 1/4. Government has planned to upgrade the last stretch.

The peninsular road is good from Eastern Freetown clockwise around the peninsular to Tokeh. Work has started on the remaining section to Lumley, but at the beginning of 2016 is complete only from Lumley to Sussex, with the section between No. 2 Beach and Tokeh being nearly impassable to all but high-clearance 4WD and motorbikes.

The roads in Freetown are difficult to characterize. In central Freetown, the main roads are mostly smooth and pothole-free, having been constructed from high-quality asphalt a long time ago. Side streets are often a mixture of dirt and gravel, sometimes with large protruding stones, deep crevasses, and other potential dangers. Some main feeder roads are in atrocious condition. Wilkinson Road and Spur Road have been reconstructed as dual carriage ways. The Hillside bypass road is also being constructed, which will make the transit from east to west much easier. Work has also been completed on Regent Road through the mountains, Main Motor Road, Wilberforce, Signal Hill Road, Aberdeen/Sir Samuel Lewis Road and Lumley Beach Road. The ongoing reconstruction works mean that roads can be closed and alternative routes have to be used.

Street parking on major routes such as Wilkinson Road is not permitted. This also applies to the layby's, where stopping is only permitted for a short time. The local police are using wheel clamps which can very quickly be applied. These will require a visit to the local police with Le300,000 to get released.

Driving under the influence of alcohol was often not taken seriously in the past. The police do now have breathalysers and will test and act against anyone suspected of being drunk whilst driving. Traffic lights have started to appear in Freetown and are usually observed by drivers.

When walking, always keep your eyes in front of you: most of the sidewalks in Freetown have "death traps" - missing blocks of cement that could lead to a nasty fall into an open gutter. For this reason, most Freetown residents choose to walk in the street and avoid sidewalks, a major contributing factor to the city's congestion.

By poda-poda

Poda-poda is the Sierra Leonean term for the West African bush taxi. Poda-podas are a lot less fun than your average bush taxi, though, reflecting the country's relative poverty compared to the rest of the region. The vehicles seem to be stitched together with thread, always nearly at the breaking point, six people for each row of three seats, blaring hip hop turning off and on with application of the accelerator, never sure whose sweat that is, never sure whether it will make it up the next hill. They are really cheap, though. Intercity trips often cost Le1,500-2,500 (in 2017, less than US$0.50), and any trip within Freetown just Le1,000. Shared taxis are marginally more comfortable, but still packed to the gills, and usually about the same price.

By boat

The Sea Coach Express boathouse under the bridge between Aberdeen and Murray Town in Freetown is happy to charter the same nice speedboats they use for airport transfers to take you up and down the coast and up the Sierra Leone River. If you have a larger group of people, dropping US$300-400 for a daytrip down to the Banana Islands, Bonthe Island, Turtle Islands, or even just some random stretch of long-lost beach could be absolutely worth the cost.

By motorbike

Moto-taxi is a very efficient way of getting around, with low prices, decent mobility on bad roads, and the ability to skirt past traffic. But they are dangerous. And when traveling on dirt roads, you will wind up covered in dust, often choking on the stuff kicked up by larger vehicles. The driver is required to wear a helmet and to have one to offer to the passenger. Yeah, right. It's also against the law nowadays to have more than two people on one motorcycle. So if you have three people on one bike, and you are approaching a vehicle check, one person will have to get off and walk through the checkpoint.

Buying your own motorcycle is probably the ideal mode of independent travel. Even the worst roads will be passable in dry season, and you won't have to worry about being transported by careless drivers. Be aware that driving your bike inside the major cities is dangerous due to the crazy traffic, but outside the cities you should be OK as long as you wear a helmet with a visor to protect yourself from dust.


The beaches of the Freetown peninsula are spectacular, and on an average day, deserted. There are at least ten that could be described as world-class.

Bonthe Town, on Sherbro Island, is a former British Colonial Town, with several beautiful stone churches, and a rich culture.

Tiwai Island (in the middle of a river in SE Sierra Leone) is teeming with rare wildlife.

Rural West African villages: experience hospitality and the tranquillity of the bush.

Snorkelling and scuba diving around Banana Island.

The Turtle Islands, difficult to get to, but idyllic.

Outamba-Kilimi National Park is a park consisting of savannas and jungles with diverse wildlife.

Mount Bintumani is the highest mountain in Sierra Leone with excellent views from the summit.

Sierra Leone has vast swathes of rainforests.




The unit of currency is the Leone, denoted by the symbol "Le" (ISO currency code: SLE). On 1 July 2022 new bank notes were issued. The new notes are similar in design to the old ones but are phsically smaller and revalue the Leone by removing three zeros. The former Le10,000 note is now a Le10 note. The old notes ceased to be legal tender on 1 October 2022. New Leone notes are Le1,2,5,10 and Le20 and coins 1 (10 old Leones),5,10,25 and 50 cents.

Exchanging money is very easy, either through the black market or banks. The small bank at the airport offers reasonable rates. British pounds, euros and US dollars are most popular, although others are possible.

Credit cards are accepted in a few supermarkets, restaurants and hotels (Visa mostly). The airport duty free shop does take major cards. Some of the other hotels are planning to take cards. It is possible to get money from some banks with a credit card, but the process can be long and rather costly.


  • There are ATMs in Freetown. Rokel Commercial Bank has visa card ATMs and Ecobank has ATMs that accept international Mastercard or Visa cards for cash withdrawal.


As much as Sierra Leone is a poor country it will surprise you with the high cost of everything. The lack of a good import system and high import duties plus 15% Goods and Services Tax (GST) mean that many goods are double the price that one would expect to pay in other countries.

Foreigners usually pay considerably more than the price quoted to locals when it comes to goods you find on the street so make sure to bargain and lower the price as much as you can.

If you are prepared to stay in cheap guest houses (and that means not a safe location with bed bugs in the bed) and travel only by local bus (poda poda) and eat only at street corners (not recommended for your health), you can get by in Freetown on a minimum of around Le220,000 (about US$40 in 2017) per day. If you want to eat a decent restaurant meal every now and then and stay in mid-range accommodation, a more realistic budget is around Le440,000 (about US$80). If you want to eat and sleep well, you can easily chew through Le880,000 (about US$160) per day.


The main staple of Sierra Leonean food is rice, often accompanied by soup, i.e., stews. These stews may include a delicious and often spicy mix of meat, fish, seasonings, greens, etc., often taking hours to prepare. There are plenty of good quality restaurants offering a variety of local and international dishes.

The diet of Sierra Leoneans like many African countries is very healthy. Many tend to eat some fresh fruit picked from trees growing in their homes or freshly picked by market vendors that very day. They also eat seafood particularly in the capital Freetown which is on the Atlantic coast. It is common to go to areas such as Lumley Beach where one can find local fishermen pulling in nets from the Atlantic filled with fish such as crabs, lobsters, oysters, snappers and many, many more.

The locals of Sierra Leone keep healthy by eating many plant-based dishes which are high in fibre, such as cassava leaves, potato leaves, okra, and more.


The national brewer Sierra Leone Breweries Limited produces Star beer and as of October 2013, the premium Mützig beer. Star is now available in small and large bottles. Many European beers are also imported. As in many African countries Guinness is widely popular. Soft drinks such as Coca Cola and Fanta are locally produced. Wine is available from restaurants and supermarkets, but can be expensive. Local brewed palm wine (called "poyo" in Krio), is very popular throughout Sierra Leone. Beware of spirits (whisky, gin, etc.) which are sold in large plastic containers - the quality and safety is not certain.


There are some high standard hotels/guesthouses in Freetown, including the 4 star Radisson Blu Mammy Yoko. Facilities are very limited in other cities, although improvements are being made. Makeni now has at least one good hotel. There are a few nice, very small, resort-style getaways, notably at Banana Island and Bonthe Island.

Overnights in Sierra Leone are quite expensive, and similar to what one might spend in the United States, but with poorer amenities. There are guesthouses to be found in towns of any significant size, usually for US$35-50 for a single room, and will almost always have shared bath/toilet. Average hotels are around US$100-180 for a single room.

The cheapest accommodation in SL is found in the villages—ask for the chief (who should speak some Krio, if not any English), and then request a guest house ("guest house" is the right term in Krio, so you will be understood). There is no formal charge associated with the chief's hospitality, but you should "pay him respects" in the morning to the tune of about US$6-8, and then expect to be handing out 10,000 leone notes to the guesthouse caretaker, the water-fetcher, and at least one other person for some random reason.


Sierra Leone is an excellent place to pursue independent research. Possible areas of study are African music, dance, history, politics, as well as zoology, botany, and traditional medicine. Krio teachers are easy to find. Unfortunately, the idea of advertising private drum and dance lessons hasn't caught on like it has in other West African countries like Ghana and Senegal, but the possibility exists for those willing to search for a qualified instructor. It's unlikely you'd want to come to Sierra Leone to study at Fourah Bay College or Njala University. These institutions are famous for corrupt practices such as awarding of grades in exchange for monetary payment or sexual favors, and the facilities are generally poor. Most Sierra Leoneans with the financial means aspire to attend university abroad.


Many British and American citizens, as well as other Europeans, find short-term volunteer work with international or local NGOs. Finding paid work can be more challenging, but not impossible, especially if you are trained in a field that is lacking qualified locals. You may have to pay for an annual work permit, which costs US$1000.

Stay safe

Despite the horrific violence of the 1990s—or actually, because of it—Sierra Leone is a very safe country to visit. While petty pick-pocketing, bag-snatching, and other non-violent crimes are a problem in parts of Freetown (and the police are non-responsive), violent crime is extremely rare throughout the country by any international standards, even in the capital.

Corruption is less of a problem than it once was. There have been somewhat successful campaigns against corruption, with a series of high-level arrests and initiatives to, say, prevent police from charging bogus fines. Freetown (Lungi) airport has been refurbished and is quite good by African standards.

The usual dangers found in undeveloped sub-Saharan Africa, though, are present: traffic and disease. Traffic accidents are far less common than they have any right to be, but be aware that the overcrowded, barely hanging together poda-podas are physics-defying death-traps. Similarly, moto-taxis love speed, with total disregard to the lurking dangers of broken roads, gaping potholes, charging trucks lurking in the dust. There have been a small number of very serious crashes involving buses in remote areas. Walking around the cities at night is hazardous not so much for fear of crime, but rather because the lack of lighting can cause a fall, or a driver might not see you in the road. Locals carry phones that have flash-lights, if yours does not, always bring a torch.

The dangers associated with tropical disease are basically neither more or less than anywhere else in West Africa, but there are no hospitals anywhere close to Western standards. Malaria is, as usual, the biggest danger, and any foreign visitor travelling without anti-malarials and possibly a mosquito net is risking their life.

The use of drugs, particularly marijuana is not permitted and the police do enforce the laws against drug use.

Stay healthy

Water-borne diseases, malaria and other tropical diseases are prevalent. You should consider taking medication to protect against malaria and using insect repellent. Vaccination against yellow fever is now required and against rabies might be recommended. HIV/AIDS is prevalent. Lassa fever can be contracted in Kenema and the east. In 2010, it also spread to the North, resulting in 48 deaths between the start of the year and November. If you have travelled in these regions you should seek urgent medical advice for any fever not positively identified as malaria. As well, 2014-15 saw an outbreak of the often fatal and largely untreatable Ebola viral haemorrhagic fever that had spread from neighbouring Guinea and Liberia.

Medical facilities are very poor. You should carry basic medical supplies. You should take medical advice before travelling and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up to date. Drink only bottled water and be aware of what you eat and how well cooked it is.




The country code is 232. Sierra Leone has fixed line phone service in Freetown, Bo and Kenema. The mobile phone networks use GSM/3G/4G technology (as in Europe) and use is widespread. The format for dialling is: +232-##-######, where the first "##" designates the area code. Like other countries, when dialling locally, "00" is used to access an international number (and followed by the country code) and "0" is used to access a national number (followed by the area code). Nearly all towns enjoy good coverage as well as major national roads. International roaming is available. International calling is relatively cheap. Some of the mobile networks charge as little as US$0.35/minute to all countries with some countries costing just US$0.15 per minute.

Airtel was taken over by Orange in 2016 and was re-branded as Orange. It used to be known as Zain and Celtel.

Sierra Leone uses 112 for emergency calls from any phone network. Calls are free and will be directed to the relevant emergency service.

Phone area codes

22 Freetown land lines
32 Bo
25 Sierratel CDMA
77/88/30 Africell GSM/3G
76/78 Orange GSM/3G
33 Comium (now defunct)
44 Smart Mobile (now defunct)


Internet access is generally slow. The major hotels in Freetown usually have wireless networks. FGC Wireless covers parts of Freetown with a pay-as-you-go wireless broadband service, although it is fairly slow. Onlime is rolling out a Wi-Fi network which is free. The situation improved in February 2013 when the country was connected by fibre optic cable to Europe and South Africa.

Orange and Africell offer 3G/4G services which work quite well. USB modem wireless internet is also available from Orange, Africell and Sierratel. 4G connectivity is also provided by Sierratel.

Fixed internet service is available from Afcom, Onlime (Lime Line), Atlas, IPTEL and Sierratel.

Exercise a high degree of caution; see also regional advisories.

The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The Government of Canada takes the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provides credible and timely information in its Travel Advice. In the event of a crisis situation that requires evacuation, the Government of Canada’s policy is to provide safe transportation to the closest safe location. The Government of Canada will assist you in leaving a country or a region as a last resort, when all means of commercial or personal transportation have been exhausted. This service is provided on a cost-recovery basis. Onward travel is at your personal expense. Situations vary from one location to another, and there may be constraints on government resources that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide assistance, particularly in countries or regions where the potential for violent conflict or political instability is high.

You should exercise a very high degree of caution in the areas bordering Liberia. Although security forces are present at border points, this region has been highly unstable in the past.

Combined presidential, parliamentary, and local government elections took place peacefully on November 17, 2012. Some aspects of the election process were challenged, and although the National Electoral Commission acknowledged that there were some irregularities, the Supreme Court ruled that the results would not be overturned. The ruling has resulted in demonstrations and clashes in Freetown. Be particularly vigilant in the coming days.


In general, the security condition in Sierra Leone has greatly improved since the end of the civil war in 2002. However, difficult economic conditions undermine an already fragile security environment, contributing to an increase in crime throughout the country. Pickpocketing and purse snatching are frequent in the main cities. Armed robberies, carjackings, and residential burglaries have been reported in expatriate and foreign officials’ homes. Burglars reportedly do not hesitate to use violence. There is a heightened risk of serious crimes after dark, and you are advised to stay in your hotel or residence once night falls.

As visitors have been targeted, avoid walking alone, displaying any signs of affluence in public, and leaving valuables or bags unattended.

You should be aware that local police have a limited capacity to investigate and may not be able to offer assistance.


Sporadic incidents of violence can occur during public demonstrations, as shown by the politically motivated clashes that took place in March 2009 between supporters of the main political parties in different parts of the country, including in Freetown. Despite a negotiated peace agreement between political parties and an agreement reached with the help of the international community, the possibility of unrest remains. As robust security measures are often used by local police forces and injuries often occur during such clashes, you should avoid all public gatherings and demonstrations, which have the potential to suddenly turn violent. Remain vigilant, follow the advice of local authorities and monitor local media.


There have been commercial and Internet fraud attempts through email originating from Sierra Leone.  See our Overseas Fraud page for more information on scams abroad.

Should you receive a questionable email or letter, please contact one of the organizations listed below.

Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada
West and Central Africa Relations Division
125 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0G2

Ask for the Commercial Officer responsible for the Republic of Sierra Leone at (613) 944-4000. If you already have a contact name, you can fax your request to (613) 996-9709.

High Commission for the Republic of Sierra Leone
1701-19th Street N.W., Washington, D.C.
20009, U.S.A.
Tel.: 202-939-9261
Fax: 202-483-1793

Commercial Crime Branch
Royal Canadian Mounted Police
1200 Vanier Parkway
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0R2
Tel.: 613-991-4331
Fax: 613-993-4299

Local transportation

Local transportation services between Lungi International Airport and the city of Freetown are available by land (approximately four hours), by ferryboat (approximately one and a half hours), by helicopter (approximately 15 minutes) and by speed boat (approximately one hour). None of those options are risk-free and travel time may vary considerably during the rainy season.

The helicopter service, which was suspended in 2007 following an incident that caused the death of all passengers, has resumed. You are advised to check for schedules and availability in advance for all transportation services.

Public transportation (bus or group taxis) is poorly maintained and generally unsafe. There is no rail network. You should arrange for transportation prior to arrival.

Air travel

Few air carriers fly to Sierra Leone and a number of incidents have been reported in the past few years.

Consult our Transportation FAQ in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.

Road travel

Other than the main roads (Freetown to Makeni or to Bo), roads are in poor condition and rarely paved outside Freetown. Moreover, their condition deteriorates significantly during the rainy season. Land travel outside Freetown should only be undertaken in a four-wheel-drive vehicle. Renting a car and driving yourself is not recommended, as overland travel can be hazardous.

Travel after dark is particularly dangerous and is not recommended. There are no operating traffic lights, and most roads are unlit. Poor driving skills, overloaded vehicles, pedestrians routinely dodging traffic and roaming animals pose a hazard. Difficulties may be encountered at roadblocks and checkpoints, including requests for payments.

General safety information

Tourist facilities are extremely limited. When possible, check the level of security at hotels, lodges or any accommodation before making bookings.

Travel outside the capital should be carefully planned. In remote regions, tourist facilities are almost non-existent. Also, certain essential services are lacking, and water and gas shortages occur from time to time.

There are telephone networks throughout the country, although at times, in more remote locations, there may be no coverage. Telecommunications can be unreliable.

You should always maintain sufficient supplies of food, water and other essentials.

Carry your identification and vehicular documentation with you.


Related Travel Health Notices
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.

Routine Vaccines

Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.

Vaccines to Consider

You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread by contaminated food or water. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.


Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.


Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.


There is a risk of polio in this country. Be sure that your vaccination against polio is up-to-date.


Rabies is a disease that attacks the central nervous system spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from a rabid animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).


Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives, or with weakened immune systems. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should consider getting vaccinated.

Yellow Fever Vaccination

Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
  • There is a risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
  • Proof of yellow fever vaccination is required for travellers from all countries.
  • Vaccination is recommended.
  • Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care provider.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites.

Food and Water-borne Diseases

Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.

In some areas in West Africa, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in West Africa. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!


There have been cases of cholera reported in this country in the last year. Cholera is a bacterial disease that typically causes diarrhea. In severe cases it can lead to dehydration and even death.

Most travellers are generally at low risk. Humanitarian workers and those visiting areas with limited access to safe food and water are at higher risk. Practise safe food and water precautions. Travellers at high risk should get vaccinated.


Schistosomiasis is caused by blood flukes (tiny worms) spread to humans through contaminated water. The eggs of the worms can cause stomach illnesses like diarrhea and cramps or urinary problems. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Avoid swimming in contaminated water. There is no vaccine available for schistosomiasis.

Travellers' diarrhea
  • Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
  • Risk of developing travellers’ diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
  • The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.


Insects and Illness

In some areas in West Africa, certain insects carry and spread diseases like African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), chikungunya, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, dengue fever, leishmaniasis, lymphatic filariasis, malaria, onchocerciasis, Rift Valley feverWest Nile virus and yellow fever.

Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.

Dengue fever
  • Dengue fever occurs in this country. Dengue fever is a viral disease that can cause severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases it leads to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.  
  • Mosquitoes carrying dengue bite during the daytime. They breed in standing water and are often found in urban areas.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine available for dengue fever.



  • There is a risk of malaria throughout the year in the whole country.
  • Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by mosquitoes. There is no vaccine against malaria.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in well-screened air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider sleeping under an insecticide-treated bednet or pre-treating travel gear with insecticides.
  • See a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss the benefits of taking antimalarial medication and to determine which one to take.


Animals and Illness

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. Certain infections found in some areas in West Africa, like avian influenza and rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.


Person-to-Person Infections

Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.


HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks and impairs the immune system, resulting in a chronic, progressive illness known as AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). 

Practise safe sex while travelling, and don’t share needles, razors, or other objects which could transmit infection.

Remember that HIV can also be spread through the use of unsterile medical equipment during medical and dental procedures, tattooing, body piercing or acupuncture. Diseases can also be spread though blood transfusions and organ transplantation if the blood or organs are not screened for HIV or other blood-borne pathogens.


Tuberculosis is an infection caused by bacteria and usually affects the lungs.

For most travellers the risk of tuberculosis is low.

Travellers who may be at high risk while travelling in regions with risk of tuberculosis should discuss pre- and post-travel options with a health care provider.

High-risk travellers include those visiting or working in prisons, refugee camps, homeless shelters, or hospitals, or travellers visiting friends and relatives.

Medical services and facilities

Medical services and facilities

Medical facilities and supplies are extremely limited and only offer basic services. Emergency and ambulance services are also very limited. In the event of a serious illness or accident, medical evacuation will be necessary. Medicines are scarcely available.

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention page for more information.

Restricted or illegal activities

A licence issued by the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources is required to export precious minerals, such as diamonds and gold. Seek legal advice before engaging in commercial transactions involving precious minerals. Penalties for smuggling or illegally exporting diamonds include imprisonment.

Homosexual activity is illegal.

Taking photographs of airports, government installations, official buildings and bridges is prohibited, and laws are strictly enforced. These areas may not be clearly marked or defined. If in doubt, do not take pictures.

An International Driving Permit is required.


You should respect religious and social traditions to avoid offending local sensitivities. Common sense and discretion should be exercised in dress and behaviour.


The currency is the leone (SLL). The economy is cash-based and strict rules limit the import of foreign currency in the form of cash. Traveller’s cheques, credit and debit cards are not widely accepted and automated banking machines (ABMs) are unavailable. You should exchange foreign currency at banks or official foreign exchange offices only. The American dollar and the Euro are the best currencies for exchange.


The rainy season extends from May to November. Heavy rains may result in localized flash flooding, and roads may become impassable in affected areas. Keep informed of regional weather forecasts and plan accordingly.

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