You’ve heard good stories about Makeni (insert link to article) and Kabala and you’d like for to venture inland. Now, how do you get there? It is recommended to rent a car with driver (link to car rental service), especially since many roads are still under construction or full of potholes. This slows any vehicle without a 4-wheel drive down, but if your budget is tight or you’re a hard-core backpacker with steel muscles and iron patience, you might want to use public transport. We have done the necessary research to save you the hassle of finding out how to travel to the provinces.
Firstly, the official government-owned bus company is called the Sierra Leone Road Transportation Corporation (SLRTC). They provide public transport to all major towns and cities throughout the country and even to Conakry. The buses leave from two terminals in Freetown. The main bus station is at Wallace Johnson Street in the centre of Freetown, right opposite of the Sierratel main office. The smaller bus terminal, Shell bus station, is in the eastern part of town. Most buses leave from the main bus station, but some only depart from Shell, see the schedule for more details.
Pro’s and cons
The advantage of taking one of the SLRTC buses is that the prices are set, the amount of seats in the bus correspond with the amount of passengers they take and that any issues will be handled by a government official. On the other hand, it takes longer to arrive on location, and you have to get up at the break of dawn to catch the bus.
It is highly recommended to buy your tickets in advance. You can get them at the main bus station at Wallace Johnson street. Only buy tickets at the official stand because tickets bought at any other location might be fake or overpriced. The office is opened from 9am until 4pm and you can only buy a ticket for the following day.
On your return to Freetown, you can pre-buy your ticket with agents at the point of arrival, or with the bus driver himself. Again, you can only buy for the following day.
Departure times and schedule
It’s best to be at the right bus terminal at 6 am in the morning. Most buses leave around 7 am, but at times they leave earlier. If you still need to buy a ticket on the day itself, you will have to arrive even earlier, say 5-5.30 am, but there is a high chance that there are no more seats available. The only option then is to take alternative transport, which will be elaborated on in the next paragraph.
Private vehicles and poda poda
Now, this is where it gets adventurous. If you’re prepared to travel with goats, squirm in between people like sardines in a can and stop every 10 minutes because the driver is buying and selling coal as he goes along; take a private vehicle or a poda poda.
To clarify, a private vehicle means any car that is not a poda poda or an official bus, that takes along passengers for a set price. If you are lucky you can find a person that can take you along just for fun and you can have the front or backseat to yourself, but most likely the driver will try and squeeze all money from your thick foreign pocket and have you share it with three other people in the back, or one other person in the front seat.
Poda poda’s, or mini vans with the seats replaced by iron or wooden benches, work the same, but will manage to have five (or seven) people where normally you’d have three people and are a bit cheaper.The advantage of taking this type of transport is that you can find them anywhere and at any time. The disadvantages speak for themselves; sore muscles after bending into awkward shapes for hours and hours, it’s more expensive than government buses, there’s a fair chance that the car or poda poda will break down on the way and it is questionable whether the vehicles are properly maintained.
Contact details for SLRTC
Chernor barrie- +23278524037.
Abubakarr Mansaray +23278988822
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.