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Sierra Leone Travel Information

The Basics

Time

Local time is GMT.

Electricity

Electrical current is 230 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

Sierra Leone is one of three countries that has been at the heart of the Ebola outbreak in previous years, causing serious alarm in West Africa. The WHO officially declared Sierra Leone Ebola transmission free on 17 March 2016, and the FCO no longer advise against all but essential travel to Sierra Leone. However, travellers are advised to familiarise themselves with the disease and current health and travel advice for the country before travelling to Sierra Leone. Some travel restrictions may be in place due to the Ebola outbreak.

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.

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

Most visits to the country pass without incident, though a small number of incidents involving British nationals being robbed, sometimes at knifepoint, have been reported. The incidents were reported around Congo Cross, Wilkinson Road, Lumley Beach and Aberdeen, and visitors are advised to be cautious in these areas after dark. Petty crime is more common, with pick-pocketing and other opportunistic crimes prevalent throughout the country. Visitors should take care not to flash valuables or cash.

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 due to safety concerns. Political demonstrations and large gatherings should be avoided as these have the potential to turn violent.

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

Punctuality is not necessarily expected, especially if the delay relates to traffic or if it concerns the person who called the meeting. English is the most common language for business and most business meetings require only casual comfortable clothing. Shaking hands for men and women is the most common form of introduction and business cards are exchanged. It is acceptable to address colleagues by their first names at business meetings. 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). Most good hotels and some restaurants offer free wifi, and mobile phone service is good, with SIM cards being widely available.

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.

Become our Sierra Leone Travel Expert

We are looking for contributors for our Sierra Leone travel guide. If you are a local, a regular traveller to Sierra Leone or a travel professional with time to contribute and answer occasional forum questions, please contact us.