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Sierra Leone

If you’re travelling to Sierra Leone, our travel advice and updates give you practical tips and useful information.

Security Status

  • Normal precautions
  • High degree of caution
  • Avoid non-essential travel
  • Do not travel
  • Overview
  • Safety and Security
  • Local Laws and Customs
  • Health
  • Additional Information
  • Embassy Contact

Overview

Overview

General COVID-19 Travel Advisory in Operation:

Avoid non-essential travel until further notice:

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade advises against all non-essential travel overseas until further notice. This includes Great Britain but does not apply to Northern Ireland. It also includes all travel by cruise ship.

If you are currently travelling outside of Ireland:

Flight restrictions and route cancellations are happening on a daily basis worldwide and there is no guarantee that air routes will continue to operate. For this reason, where commercial flights are still an option, we recommend that people who wish to do so make arrangements to return to Ireland as soon as possible.

We are working with airlines to show maximum flexibility to those passengers who need to change their existing flight arrangements. Where commercial flights are no longer available, we are working side-by-side with our international partners to identify alternative options where possible.

It may not be feasible or possible for everyone who wants to travel back to Ireland to do so in the short term. We ask Irish citizens remaining abroad to make decisions that safeguard their health and well-being and that they follow local public health and safety requirements.  We ask that they remain in close contact with family, friends and their local Irish Embassy or Consulate. 

We know that this is a stressful situation for citizens and our embassy network is working around the clock to provide people with all the information and assistance that we can, bearing in mind the situation is unfolding across multiple countries and is not one under our control. 

What to do on entering Ireland from abroad:

The Irish Health Authorities require anyone coming into Ireland, apart from Northern Ireland, to restrict their movements on arrival for 14 days. Check the Irish Health Service COVID-19 Advice Page for full information on these requirements. This includes Irish residents. Exemptions are in place for providers of essential supply chain services such as hauliers, pilots and maritime staff.

Where to go for more information:

We continue to make updates to our online travel advice for over 200 countries and recommend that you download our TravelWise App and follow us on Twitter. If abroad you should register with your local Irish Embassy or Consulate and regularly check their website and especially their Twitter accounts for details of any local public health measures and travel restrictions.

Security Status

Avoid non-essential travel.

It is recommended that Irish citizens travelling in Sierra Leone register with the Embassy.

Latest Alerts

COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus

Cases of COVID-19 have now been confirmed in many African countries. Emergency response procedures are now in place in a number of countries and include restrictions on flights to and from Europe and the introduction of quarantine arrangements. New procedures have in some instances been brought in with immediate effect. In weighing decisions to travel to Africa at this time, Irish citizens should take into consideration the risk of restrictions being introduced during their travel and, also, the impact which responding to COVID-19 may have on local health care systems over the course of their proposed visit.

The Government of Sierra Leone has suspended all flights to and from Freetown International Airport effective Saturday 21 March for a period of 90 days. The Government has also placed restrictions on those travelling from countries affected by novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Travellers arriving at any point of entry in Sierra Leone with a fever above 37.5°C, a persistent cough OR difficulty breathing will be taken into isolation for investigation and management. Travellers arriving at any point of entry in from countries with 50 or more confirmed cases of COVID-19 will be taken to an isolation facility for a period of 14 days.

Conditions in the government-run quarantine facilities are extremely difficult and citizens in quarantine have a limited ability to access support. 

The government has also advised that travellers from countries with 200 or more confirmed cases may only enter Sierra Leone “if they have very crucial or essential functions to perform in the country”. 

Be alert to common signs of infection: respiratory problems, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. Seek medical advice if you experience these symptoms.

HSE medical advice to protect yourself from getting COVID-19 is below.

Do:

• wash your hands properly and regularly with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub
• cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve when you cough and sneeze
• put used tissues into a bin and wash your hands

Don’t:

• touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean

Additional information on COVID-19 can be found via the following links:

HSE

HPSC

ECDC

World Health Organisation

If you're planning to drive in Sierra Leone, you should be extremely careful as traffic accidents are common. Emergency medical services in Sierra Leone are limited, and poorly equipped to deal with road traffic accidents, particularly those involving complex trauma. Therefore, extra caution should be exercised when using the road, either as a driver or as a passenger.

The availability and quality of medical services in Sierra Leone is poor. Citizens should be aware that you may have difficulty accessing even basic medical services, particularly in remote areas. If you need treatment, you may be asked to pay up front. If you have a pre-existing medical condition or underlying health concerns, you should note that it may not be possible to get appropriate drugs or treatment during your stay. If you choose to travel, bring enough medication with you for the duration of your visit.

Emergency assistance

Consular assistance in cases of genuine emergency can be sought from the Embassy of Ireland in Sierra Leone. If you require emergency assistance out-of-hours, you can contact the Duty Officer on +232 79 250623.

Our tips for safe travels

  • Purchase comprehensive travel insurance which covers all your intended activities.
  • Add an alert for your destination within the Travelwise App.
  • Register your details with us so that we can contact you quickly in an emergency, such as a natural disaster or a family emergency.
  • Follow us on twitter @dfatravelwise for the latest travel updates.
  • Read our 'Know Before You Go' guide.

 

Safety and Security

Safety and security

Political Situation

There have been incidences of violence during by-elections in recent months. By-elections are a regular occurrence in Sierra Leone; there may be similar incidents in the near future. Irish citizens are advised to steer clear of polling centres on election days. Citizens are also advised to avoid political demonstrations. 

Crime

Crime levels in Sierra Leone are generally low and the greatest risk to short-term visitors is petty crime such as pick-pocketing. However burglaries can also occur, particularly around Christmas (from November until the New Year). Always take sensible precautions:

  • Don't carry your credit card, travel tickets and money together - leave spare cash and valuables in a safe place.
  • Take a number of photocopies of your passport with you in case your passport is lost or stolen. Leave a copy of your passport (and travel and insurance documents) with family or friends at home.
  • Avoid carrying valuables or large sums of cash in public.
  • Take particular care when in large crowds or when out at night, especially in central Freetown or in the beach area, or at bars or nightclubs. Concerts and sporting events at the national stadium are often overcrowded and unsafe, and pickpocketing is common. Theft of personal effects during political rallies is a possibility.
  • Avoid dark and unlit streets and stairways, and arrange to be picked up or dropped off as close to your hotel or apartment entrance as possible.
  • Keep a close eye on your personal belongings and hold on to them in public places such as internet cafés, train and bus stations.
  • Make sure that your accommodation and vehicle are well secured, with locked doors and windows at all times.
  • If you're a victim of crime while in Sierra Leone, you should make a report to the local police and contact the Embassy of Ireland.

Corruption and Fraud

Visitors should be aware that corruption and business fraud against foreigners is a problem. If you’re thinking of making an investment or entering into a contract, we advise you to research the person or company concerned before making any commitments. Be particularly careful when the business opportunity is the result of unsolicited contact or promises rapid financial gain.

Transport

Extreme care should be taken on the road in Sierra Leone, whether as a driver or passenger, as traffic accidents are common. Emergency medical services in Sierra Leone are limited, and poorly equipped to deal with road traffic accidents, particularly those involving complex trauma.

A major road construction and repair programme is underway across the country, with considerable improvement in major roads. However, conditions on minor roads remain generally poor, including in Freetown, and worse during the rainy season from May to October as heavy rains damage road surfaces and create large potholes. Most roads have no street lighting or painted markings and many local vehicles do not have functioning lights. A four-wheel drive vehicle is recommended for minor roads outside of Freetown.

Road traffic accidents can lead to heated disputes. If you are caught up in a serious road traffic accident, you are advised to remain inside your vehicle, with the doors locked, until such time as the police arrive. If it becomes unsafe to remain at the scene of a road traffic accident, you should make your way immediately to the local police station to report the incident.

If you are travelling outside of Freetown, you should plan your journey in advance and make sure that you are not on rural roads after dark. You should also travel in convoy where possible, to avoid getting stranded in the case of break-downs.
If you want to drive:

  • Bring your full Irish driver's licence and your International Driving Permit and make sure you have adequate and appropriate insurance.
  • Keep your vehicle doors locked, especially when stopped in traffic.
  • Remember that in Sierra Leone, you drive on the right-hand side of the road.
  • Makeshift roadblocks are commonly seen on rural roads, often manned by children and youths, requesting payment from travellers using the road.

Private taxis, ‘kekes’, motorbike taxis or ‘poda-podas’ (mini buses) can be hazardous as vehicle maintenance and driving standards are often very poor and vehicles overcrowded. The Embassy advises citizens not to use kekes, motorbike taxis or any form of public transport in Sierra Leone, and only to use trusted taxi drivers or official drivers. 

Border Regions

Sierra Leone shares its border with Guinea and Liberia. If travelling near the borders, it is advisable to seek local advice and keep informed of political developments. 

Swimming

Sierra Leone boasts some beautiful beaches. However, travellers should take caution when entering the ocean, as currents can be strong and beaches are not manned by lifeguards. You should not swim beyond your depth, and you should not enter the water at night-time or in a state of intoxication.

Terrorism

The threat of terrorism in Sierra Leone is low, although there is a global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks which can target areas frequented by foreign tourists.

Local Laws and Customs

Local Laws and Customs

Remember, the local laws apply to you as a visitor and it is your responsibility to follow them. Be sensitive to local customs, traditions and practices as your behaviour may be seen as improper, hostile or may even be illegal.

Personal ID

Although not common, you may be asked to produce valid photo ID. Therefore, you should carry a photocopy of your passport at all times. You should store your passport in a safe place.

Police Reports

The Sierra Leone Police levy a SLL300,000 fee for all foreign nationals who need a police report. They are unable to issue crime reference numbers without a police report. You should make your payment to the Sierra Leone Police Revenue Generation Fund Account at the Bank of Sierra Leone and get a receipt. Do no't pay the Sierra Leone Police directly. If you wish to report a crime but do not require a crime reference number or a written report, there will be no charge.

Illegal Drugs

Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of drugs are severe and you should not become involved in drugs in any way.

Precious gems and minerals

Sierra Leone’s customs authorities enforce strict regulations about the export of precious minerals and gems such as diamonds and gold.  Anyone exporting such exports should comply with Sierra Leonean law.

LGBTQI+

Homosexual activity is illegal. Caution and discretion are advised at all times. Transgender persons may face additional discrimination or adverse treatment.

Religion

The majority of the population of Sierra Leone is Muslim (60% - 70%) although there is also a sizable Christian community. There is little religious extremism in Sierra Leone and tension between religions is extremely low.

You should, however, be aware of your actions and take care not to offend the cultures or religious beliefs of others, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or other religious festivals, or if you intend to visit religious areas.

During Ramadan, Muslims are not permitted to eat, drink or smoke during daylight hours. To avoid offence, you should exercise discretion when eating, drinking or smoking in public during this time.

Health

Health

The availability and quality of medical services in Sierra Leone is poor. Visitors should be aware that you may have difficulty accessing even basic medical services, particularly in remote areas. If you need treatment, you may be asked to pay up front. If you have a pre-existing medical condition or underlying health concerns, you should note that it may not be possible to get appropriate drugs or treatment during your stay. If you choose to travel, bring enough medication with you for the duration of your visit and any unexpected delays.

If you develop fever, unexplained fatigue, diarrhoea or any other severe symptoms while in Sierra Leone, or in the few weeks following your departure from Sierra Leone, you should telephone your GP or Accident and Emergency Department mentioning your symptoms and your travel history; you may require immediate investigation and treatment.

Travel Insurance

Before travelling, we strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel insurance which will cover all overseas medical costs, including medical repatriation/evacuation, repatriation of remains and legal costs. You should check any exclusions and, in particular, that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake in Sierra Leone.

Vaccinations

Check what vaccinations you may need for your trip at least eight weeks before you travel. We cannot provide advice on vaccinations, but you can get information about vaccinations from your local GP or an International Health and Travel Centre.

The yellow fever vaccination is an entry requirement for Sierra Leone and a yellow fever vaccination certificate will be requested by border control on arrival in the country.

Lassa Fever

Lassa fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic fever illness that is transmitted to humans via contact with contaminated food or household items; or through contact with the bodily fluids of a person with Lassa fever.

Lassa fever is endemic in Sierra Leone; there are currently known cases in the northern province and near the border with Liberia. We advise Irish citizens working in medical facilities or caring for sick people in Sierra Leone to take particular care and seek expert advice on infection prevention.

You can find more information on Lassa fever and acute viral haemorrhagic fever on the WHO website

We advise Irish citizens to seek immediate medical attention if they experience symptoms of Lassa fever.

Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) 

The last known Ebola-infected patient in Sierra Leone was discharged from hospital on 5 February 2016. Sierra Leone then entered a 42-day period of heightened surveillance, which ended on 17 March 2016, at which point the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone was declared over.

The risk to travellers of contracting Ebola is extremely low. Nonetheless, travellers should exercise due caution. Travellers should avoid being directly exposed to any bodily fluids from a dead or living Ebola-infected person, including through unprotected sexual contact with patients that have recovered from Ebola. If you do become exposed, you should seek immediate medical attention. You should contact the medical care facility by phone before your visit, in order to enable medical personnel to use appropriate protection at the time of admission.

Further information on Ebola is available from the WHO website .

If you develop fever, unexplained fatigue, diarrhoea or any other severe symptoms while in Sierra Leone, or in the few weeks following your departure from Sierra Leone, you should telephone your GP or Accident and Emergency Department mentioning your symptoms and your travel history, since it may result from an infection like malaria that requires immediate investigation and treatment.

Malaria

Malaria, including cerebral malaria which can be fatal within 72 hours, is endemic in Sierra Leone and we strongly recommend using a malaria prophylaxis, together with other precautions such as using bed nets and insect repellents, and wearing closed shoes, long sleeves and trousers. You should also bring enough malaria treatment for the duration of your visit.

Water-borne diseases

Cholera and other water-borne diseases such as diarrhoea, giardia, dysentery and typhoid are also very common, so practise good hygiene, drink and brush your teeth with bottled water only, and avoid eating uncooked vegetables, salads, seafood and meats. 

Rabies

Rabies is a risk in Sierra Leone, and treatment may not be available in-country. Ensure that you avoid contact with wild or stray animals and seek immediate medical attention if bitten. 

Other diseases

Other diseases, including but not limited to HIV, hepatitis A and B, meningitis, polio and Lassa fever are also present in some parts of Sierra Leone and can pose a risk.

 

Additional Information

Additional information

Airport Transfers

Lungi airport is situated on the far side of a wide estuary from Freetown. There are several transfer options from Lungi airport: road, ferry, and water taxi.

  • Road – the journey time by road is normally between 3 and 5 hours. You should prearrange pick-up as there are no car hire facilities at the airport. It is not recommended to use this option after dark.
  • Ferry – the journey time is about 1 hour on the water. The service terminates in Freetown in the eastern end of the city. You should pre-plan your onward journey from there, particularly if you are arriving at night. The service offers a crossing for both foot passengers and vehicles. The ferry lacks basic safety equipment. Foreign foot passengers have reported being pick-pocketed.
  • Water taxi – the journey time is 25 to 45 minutes on the water. These water taxis operate between Freetown (Aberdeen) and Lungi (Mahera Beach). They have navigational aids, night lights and provide life jackets for passengers. They have limited additional safety equipment and rescue capability.

Visas

Irish citizens require a valid visa to enter Sierra Leone. Visa applications from Ireland should be submitted to the Sierra Leone High Commission in London. Those travelling to Sierra Leone are also required to show evidence of having received a yellow fever vaccination.

The Government of Sierra Leone recently approved a ‘Visa on Arrival’ scheme for EU citizens; however, the Embassy has limited information on whether the system is fully operational. Irish citizens are advised to continue applying for visas in advance until more information is available.

Currency

The national currency of Sierra Leone is the Leone (SLL). Sierra Leone is a cash-based economy; it is advisable to bring enough cash to cover your expenses while you are here. Credit cards and travellers’ cheques are rarely accepted and you should not rely on them.
Although there are a number of ATMs in Freetown, many do not accept foreign bank or credit cards and the security of the transactions cannot be guaranteed. The exchange rate given by ATMs is also highly unfavourable.

There are restrictions on how much cash you can bring into the country, and you should verify the latest requirements with your nearest Embassy or Consulate of Sierra Leone before travelling. The government has prohibited the use of foreign currency in the country; you will not be able to pay in Euro or US dollars locally. Foreign currency can be exchanged for Leones in banks or official foreign-exchange offices. Always be careful when carrying cash.

Climate

The climate in Sierra Leone is consistently hot and humid year round, with temperatures fluctuating between 25 and 35 degrees Celsius. The dry season extends from November to April and the rainy season lasts from May to October. The rainy season brings extremely heavy rainfalls and thunderstorms, which can lead to flash floods and landslides in exceptional circumstances as well as deteriorating road conditions.

Language

English is the official language of Sierra Leone and is widely spoken in Freetown. Krio, an English-based creole dialect, is the lingua franca of Sierra Leone and is widely spoken across the country.

Water and Power

Mains water is limited, and tap water should be boiled before drinking it. Bottled water is readily available.

Power is improving but remains unreliable, particularly during the dry season. Rented accommodation and hotels rely on generators and private water supplies.

Embassy contact

Embassy Contact

Consular assistance in cases of genuine emergency can be sought from the Embassy of Ireland in Sierra Leone out-of-hours. If you require emergency assistance out-of-hours, you can contact the Duty Officer on +232 79 250623.

Embassy of Ireland,
8 St Joseph’s Avenue,
off Spur Road,
Freetown,
Sierra Leone

Tel: +232 79 250628

Monday to Thursday 09:00-17:00; Friday 09:00-13:00

Contact us