It can be a bit complicated to get your Leones and payment options are limited. Not many enterprises accept credit card payments and debit cards are almost useless. The best way to go around is to have Leones in cash that you either get through exchanging on the black market or withdraw from ATM’s.
Black market exchange
Here by far the most recommended way of getting your Leones is by bringing lots of USD or EUR (GBP can work too, but sometimes cannot be changed) in cash. The black market is actually a very reliable way to exchange currency, just make sure you do not go for the first price they give you and that you always count the money. As a general rule, the more money you exchange the better the rate. Also, the traders often do not accept older 100$ bills (from before 2013).
You can recognise the traders by the piles of money they hold in their hands and the fact that they will try to get your attention the moment they see you. They often have the best rates and operate at any time of the day (not on Sundays). They gather around:
- Fuel stations
- Lumley roundabout (at Safecon fuel station)
- Aberdeen, opposite of the Radisson Blu
- Siaka Stevens Street, town, near the banks.
Often with good rates too, supermarkets exchange most major currencies. Ask at the counter whether they exchange and what their rate is. These are the supermarkets we are certain exchange money and we will update this article as often as possible, but there might be other supermarkets that exchange that are not on this list.
- St Mary’s – Hill Station, Spur road
- Freetown Mall – Wilkinson road
- Choitrams – Bai Bureh road (in the east), Kroo town road (in the west)
- Larger mini-marts
Some restaurants in town exchange money or you can pay your bill in dollars or euro’s and get the change in Leones. This is no promise though; they sometimes change their policy weekly, depending on the rates and how the cashflow is.
– Bliss restaurant – Wilkinson road
– Gina’s and Crown Bakery – Wilkinson road (accepts euro’s/dollars as payment and gives leones as change)
– Crown Bakery – Wilkinson road and Wilberforce street (downtown)
There are several ATM’s around town where you can withdraw money with your credit card. Be aware of high commissions and be check for skimming devices on the machine. Also, the ATM’s can easily run out of cash and are less reliable during the weekends. Nationwide internet failures still occur and will make it unable for you to withdraw anywhere. The ATM’s are connected to the banks and accept either VISA or Mastercard (sometimes both). Also, the banks will have different terms of agreement on using their service, such as a maximum withdrawal per day. Here is a list of some of the ATM’s around Freetown. They are mostly down town (area of the Cotton Tree) and along Wilkinson road.
- EcoBank > Mastercard & VISA : Family Kingdom, Congo Cross, Siaka Stevens Street, Lumley, Spur Road
- UTBank > Mastercard & VISA (most reliable)
- Access Bank> Mastercard & VISA
- UBA> Mastercard & VISA: Charlotte street, Kissy road/ Jenkins street
- GTBank> VISA only: Wilberforce street, Wilkinson road
Esther Kamara is a Dutch-Sierra Leonean that was born and raised in Amsterdam. After finishing her bachelor Media Studies from the University of Amsterdam she moved to Freetown, where she now works as a freelance writer and artist manager. Her brainchildren are otherworldly short stories and peculiar drawings of non-existing characters.