Travelling to Sierra Leone requires a fair amount of planning and flexibility so we advise arranging as much as possible in advance. Keep in mind that Sierra Leone is still one of the poorest countries in the world, therefore do not expect everything to work as it would in more developed countries.
If you are going to be on holiday, it is probably not the place if you always desire the finest things in life but nevertheless, Sierra Leoneans will welcome you with open arms and wide smiles. It is a beautiful and enchanting country.
Visas, insurance, vaccinations, hotels, what to bring – you need answers to all these questions, and we are here to help.
Visas and Travel Documents
All persons entering Sierra Leone must have a valid passport or travel document. Citizens of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) do not require a visa to enter the country, but citizens of all other countries do. Everyone needs a work permit. It is not advisable to try and get a visa on arrival as some flights will not allow you to board for Sierra Leone in the first place. Visas are issued at Sierra Leone’s overseas missions but if there isn’t one in close proximity then have a look at our visa service page to see how we can help you get one.
A vaccination certificate for yellow fever is required if traveling to and from certain areas. Consult the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) (http://www.nathnac.org/travel/index.htm) or the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (http://www.cdc.gov/travel/) for up to date travel health information. You should take anti-malaria tablets and consult your doctor or specialist travel clinic at least six to eight weeks prior to travel regarding other health precautions for traveling to tropical regions. If you travel outside of Freetown, there will be fewer opportunities for health care, particularly in remote regions. Even in Freetown services are significantly more limited than you would have at home.
Travel Insurance / Medical Insurance
We advise that visitors purchase comprehensive travel insurance covering injury, illness, death, delayed lost or damaged baggage and personal belongings. A medical evacuation policy should be added to your coverage.
Credit Card Use in Sierra Leone
Credit card use in Sierra Leone is very limited. You can now withdraw cash at ATMs for some major banks (Ecobank, Access Bank, UBA, Rokel Bank) and visa machines (POS) are being installed at some select business. However, the majority of transactions are done in cash. When bringing cash, big denominations of the Dollar are better and it is best to bring 2006 and later series. You should definitely avoid 1996 series as it is rejected by many businesses and some banks. All services provided by Visit Sierra Leone can be settled in advance using your credit card through Paypal.
Hotels and Other Accommodation Options
As Sierra Leone continues to develop, it is becoming more attractive to international chains and the Radisson Blu is now operational whilst the Cape Sierra Hilton Hotel is under construction. Still, some of the better hotels in Sierra Leone would probably be 3-star hotels if ranking internationally. Bear in mind that even though you may be staying at one of the more expensive hotels, the service can still be a bit suspect. Other options include renting a room with a Sierra Leonean family, or staying in one of the cheaper guesthouses in the centre of town. For longer stays have a look through our Real Estate listings.
Local People and Customs
The people of Sierra Leone welcome visitors and are proud to show off their country. There are few social restrictions, though sensitivity is suggested in the more rural areas. English is widely spoken in Freetown though Krio and tribal languages are more prevalent in the countryside. Translators are available.
Always ask permission before taking pictures of nationals. In most cases they will be happy to comply, especially if you promise to send them a copy of the picture! But if you promise, be sure to follow through!
If you have more questions, check out our forum’s “Travel Advice” section, where someone from our community is likely to have almost any answer you need.