SIERRA LEONE RISK REPORT
Security travel advice for Sierra Leone
Threat level: Low-Medium
The current travel safety advice for Sierra Leone is to remain cautious throughout your travels. There is a low threat from terrorism in the country but you should be vigilant after recent attacks in nearby countries such as Cote d’Ivoire, Mali and Burkina Faso, especially in popular tourist locations as foreign nationals are high value targets.
Sierra Leone was famed for the illicit gem trade as portrayed in the 2006 film “Blood Diamond”. The sale of these gems funded civil wars and other conflicts in a number of African countries including Sierra Leone itself, Angola, Liberia, Ivory Coast and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In recent years and due partly to international pressure the Sierra Leone government has cracked down on cross-border diamond trafficking operations.
Recent security events
Congo Cross, Wilkinson Road, Lumley Beach and Aberdeen have the highest crime areas in the country and tourists travelling to these areas should exercise particular caution at all times. Pick pocketing and muggings are the most common crimes committed, you should keep your valuables hidden and travel in a group when possible.
If you are staying for a long period of time in Sierra Leone make sure your property has security measures installed and it is highly advised to employ residential security.
It is advised to avoid large gatherings or political demonstrations as they can sometimes turn violent and escalate at a moment’s notice. Police have been known to use non-lethal weapons in the past to disperse crowds. Monitor local media as often as possible, familiarise yourself with your surroundings and remain vigilant.
The government of Sierra Leone maintains 16 Embassies and High Commissions across the world and has many strong diplomatic relationships with both Western nations and former Soviet Bloc countries. It is a member of the United Nations, African Union and the Commonwealth.
The United Kingdom has played a major part in providing aid to its former colony, together with administrative help and military training since intervening to end the Civil War in 2000.
If you plan to drive in Sierra Leone, you should be aware that most of the roads are in poor condition and have little or no lighting. The standard of driving is erratic and dangerous by road users, with many having little regard for others. You should operate your vehicle with caution and remain alert at all times.
Children will sometimes put a rope across the road and ask for a small donation for mending the road. If you don’t intend on stopping they will pull the rope tight so you drive into it. This is common in many places in Sierra Leone.
You can drive in Sierra Leone with a UK or EU driving licences as well as most other national driving licences. You should check with your local Sierra Leonean Embassy if you are unsure whether this applies to you.
Official languages: English and Bengali
Religion: Islam and Christianity
Currency: Sierra Leonean Leone
All persons visiting Sierra Leone should have a passport that is valid for at least 6 months beyond the duration of their proposed stay. Nationals of the Economic Community of West African States do not require a visa to enter the country, but citizens of all other countries do.
A vaccination certificate for yellow fever is required to enter Sierra Leone.
It is advised that visitors to Sierra Leone are up-to-date with primary boosters such as MMR. It is essential that you get vaccinated against Yellow Fever as there is risk of the disease throughout the country. It is an entry requirement that you present a certificate proving your immunisation. This should be completed at least 10 days prior to departure.
It is further recommended that most travellers get Tetanus, Typhoid and Hepatitis A vaccinations. Check with your local health professional prior to travel if you are unsure.
Other health risks
Malaria precautions should be taken as malaria risk is present throughout the country, especially during the wet season between May and November. Cholera is endemic in Sierra Leone with outbreaks mostly occurring in the wet season also.
Medical facilities in Sierra Leone are poor and you should keep this in mind when travelling to the country. Ensure you have an adequate supply of necessary medication as it may not be available or can be extremely expensive. Visitors are expected to pay before treatment occurs. There have been reports of medical staff refusing to admit travellers to hospital if they are unable to prove they can pay their bills.
Be aware of the Ebola risk in Sierra Leone. Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check what preventive measures you should take. In 2014 Guinean health officials announced the outbreak of Ebola in Sierra Leone and 3,955 people have died from the epidemic between then and 2016.
U.S. Embassy Freetown
Telephone: +232 0 991 050 00
British Embassy Freetown
6 Spur Road Freetown,
Telephone: +232 0 782 001 90
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +232 0 767 807 13