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Sierra Leone Travel Information

The Basics

Time

Local time is GMT.

Electricity

Electrical current is 220 volts 50Hz, but supplies are erratic and power failures common. Round three-pin plugs or rectangular three-blade plugs are used.

Language

English is the official language, although each ethnic group has its own tribal language, used more widely in the interior of the country. Krio is a form of Pidgin English that is widely spoken in Freetown.

Travel Health

Health policies require that all travellers arriving from a yellow fever area have a vaccination certificate, but yellow fever is a risk throughout the country and immunisation is recommended for all visitors. Other recommended vaccinations include Hepatitis A, typhoid, rabies and polio. Malaria and dengue fever are high risks and precautions against mosquito bites are advised, as well as prophylaxis for malaria, which occurs throughout the year. As of mid-2014, there has been an outbreak of ebola in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone resulting in roughly 400 deaths; visitors are advised to stay away from Kailahun District in the eastern region of the country. Outbreaks of Lassa fever is endemic in the east. HIV/AIDS is prevalent. Diarrhoea and dysentery are common complaints and water should be treated before drinking. Cholera is also a concern. Travellers should bring adequate supplies of personal medication to the country, as supplies are often not available in pharmacies. Medical care is limited in Freetown and almost non-existent elsewhere. An emergency hospital is located near Freetown, but the bad road makes it difficult to get there; there is no ambulance service in the country. Comprehensive travel insurance is advised, which includes emergency evacuation.

Tipping

A service charge of about 10 percent is included in restaurant and hotel bills, but otherwise tipping is optional.

Safety Information

Since the end of the 10-year civil war, the security situation has improved although it is still fragile. Political demonstrations and large gatherings should be avoided as these have the potential to turn violent. Travellers are advised to avoid the areas bordering Liberia and Guinea. There are incidences of violent crime in Freetown, including armed theft and assault, but petty crime is more common with pick-pocketing and other opportunistic crimes prevalent throughout the country. A number of violent incidents have taken place around the bars and nightclubs at Lumley Beach and visitors are advised to be cautious in the area after dark. Travel outside of the Western Area that includes Freetown can be difficult as roads are poor and transport unreliable. All road or sea transfers from the airport to Freetown should be done in daylight hours only due to safety concerns.

Local Customs

Homosexuality is illegal. There is a strong Muslim culture and visitors should be sensitive to religious customs, particularly during the month of Ramadan when eating, drinking and smoking during daylight hours should be discreet as it is forbidden by the Muslim culture. Visitors should be aware it is illegal to buy or export diamonds, gold or ivory without the necessary licenses.

Business

Business etiquette in Sierra Leone varies according to individual sectors, however it is always advisable to make appointments in advance and arrive on time for all meetings. For more formal dealings, lightweight suits are to be worn. Shaking hands for men and women is the most common form of introduction and business cards are exchanged. Business hours are generally 8am to 12pm and 2pm to 5pm Monday to Friday.

Communications

The international dialling code for Sierra Leone is +232. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the UK). The city code for Freetown is (0)22; other areas do not require a code. Sierratel provides national and international telephone services. A prepaid GSM900 mobile network is available in Freetown and other towns around the country, and prepaid cards can be bought throughout the country. International roaming is available. The use of mobile phones is high due to the unreliability of landlines. Internet cafes are available in Freetown and other provincial towns.

Duty Free

Travellers may bring 200 cigarettes or 225g tobacco, and 1 litre of wine or spirits into the country without paying customs duty. Narcotics are strictly forbidden.

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