First impressions of what to expect in Sierra Leone were not encouraging. The Sierra Leone High Commission in the UK, where tourists are required to apply for visas, is on a narrow street in central London. The reception area was dark and shabby.

Visa applicants were directed along a gloomy passage to an official sitting area in a small room behind a desk piled high with a clutter of papers and forms. Fortunately, the process proved to be less arduous than feared, and the official who issued the visa was courteous and amiable.