Sierra Leone Traveler Information - Travel Advice
Travel Advice with a Travel Advisory overview from the US State Department. Here we cover Visa, Safety & Security, local Laws and Insurance in our Sierra Leone Traveler Information guide.
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Note: Always check that your destination country is one approved for travel by your travel insurance provider.
PASSPORT VALIDITY: 6 months.
BLANK PASSPORT PAGES: 1 page per stamp.
TOURIST VISA REQUIRED: Yes.
VACCINATIONS: Yellow Fever.
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY: $10,000.
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT: None.
Embassies and Consulates
Southridge, Hill Station
Freetown, Sierra Leone
Telephone: + (232) (99) 105-000
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: + (232) (99) 905-029
See the Department of State’s Fact Sheet on Sierra Leone for information on U.S. – Sierra Leone relations.
Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements
Please visit the Embassy’s COVID-19 page for more information on entry/exit requirements related to COVID-19 in Sierra Leone.
A valid passport and visa are required for travel to Sierra Leone. Visitors to Sierra Leone are required to show their International Certificates of Vaccination (yellow card) upon arrival at the airport with a record of vaccination against yellow fever.
Visit the Embassy of the Republic of Sierra Leone’s website for the most current visa information.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Sierra Leone.
Safety and Security
Areas outside Freetown lack basic services. Travel outside the capital after dark is not allowed for U.S. Embassy officials and should be avoided by all travelers. Emergency response to vehicular and other accidents ranges from slow to nonexistent.
Crime: Crime is widespread in Sierra Leone. U.S. citizens have experienced armed mugging, assault, and burglary. Petty crime and pick pocketing of wallets, cell phones, and passports are very common, especially on the ferry to and from Lungi International Airport, as well as in bars, restaurants, and nightclubs in the Lumley Beach and Aberdeen areas of Freetown.
Demonstrations occur frequently. They may take place in response to political or economic issues, on politically significant holidays, and during international events.
- Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly become violent.
- Avoid areas around protests and demonstrations.
- Check local media for updates and traffic advisories.
Internet romance and financial scams are prevalent in Sierra Leone. Scams are often initiated through Internet postings or profiles, or by unsolicited emails and letters. Scammers almost always pose as U.S. citizens who have no one else to turn to for help. Common scams include:
- Romance/Online dating
- Money transfers
- Lucrative sales
- Gold purchase
- Contracts with promises of large commissions
- Grandparent/Relative targeting
- Free Trip/Luggage
- Inheritance notices
- Work permits/job offers
- Bank overpayments
Victims of Crime: U.S. citizen victims of sexual assault should first contact the U.S. Embassy at (232) (99) 105 500. Report crimes to the local police at (232) (76) 614 362.
Remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime.
See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas.
- help you find appropriate medical care
- assist you in reporting a crime to the police
- contact relatives or friends with your written consent
- explain the local criminal justice process in general terms
- provide a list of local attorneys
- provide our information on victim’s compensation programs in the U.S.
- provide an emergency loan for repatriation to the United States and/or limited medical support in cases of destitution
- help you find accommodation and arrange flights home
- replace a stolen or lost passport
Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence are encouraged to contact the Embassy for assistance.
Tourism: The tourism industry is unevenly regulated, and safety inspections for equipment and facilities do not commonly occur. Hazardous areas and activities are not always identified with appropriate signage, and staff may not be trained or certified either by the host government or by recognized authorities in the field. In the event of an injury, medical treatment is typically available only in or near major cities and there are few medical specialists in country able to treat complicated medical conditions. First responders are generally unable to access areas outside of major cities and are not trained to provide urgent medical treatment. U.S. citizens are encouraged to purchase medical evacuation insurance. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.
Local Laws & Special Circumstances
Criminal Penalties: You are subject to local laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.
Arrest Notification: If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy immediately. See our webpage for further information.
Exports: Sierra Leone's customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning the export of gems and precious minerals, such as diamonds and gold. All mineral resources, including gold and diamonds, belong to the State, and only the Government of Sierra Leone can issue mining and export licenses. The National Minerals Agency (NMA) can provide licenses for export, while the agency’s Directorate of Precious Minerals Trading is responsible for Kimberly Process certification of diamonds. For further information on mining activities in Sierra Leone, contact the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources, or see the Department of State’s annual Investment Climate Statement.
The Embassy has received reports in recent years of U.S. citizens investing in Sierra Leone who have been victims of fraud, often in the mining industry. Examples of fraud include advance-fee schemes where individuals have approached U.S. citizens urging them to purchase diamonds directly from Sierra Leone. The U.S. Embassy cannot interfere or intervene in any legal disputes, including those related to precious minerals. Please be aware that the U.S. Embassy cannot conduct checks on potential local partners.
Photography: Travelers must obtain official permission to photograph government buildings, airports, bridges, or official facilities including the Special Court for Sierra Leone and the U.S. Embassy.
Dual Nationals: U.S. citizens who are also Sierra Leonean nationals must provide proof of payment of taxes on revenue earned in Sierra Leone before being granted clearance to depart the country.
Faith-Based Travelers: See our following webpages for details:
- Faith-Based Travel Information
- International Religious Freedom Report – see country reports
- Human Rights Report – see country reports
- Hajj Fact Sheet for Travelers
- Best Practices for Volunteering Abroad
LGBTI Travelers: Consensual sexual relations between men are criminalized in Sierra Leone. Although the U.S. Embassy is not aware of any recent prosecutions for consensual sexual activity between men, such activity is illegal and penalties can include imprisonment. While there is no explicit legal prohibition against sexual relations between women, lesbians of all ages can be victims of “planned rapes” initiated by family members in an effort to change their sexual orientation.
Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance: Sierra Leone law does not prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities and offers no specific protections for such persons. The law does not mandate accessibility of buildings or assistance to disabled persons and there is no government policy or program to assist persons with disabilities.
Women Travelers: Rape, including spousal rape, is illegal in Sierra Leone and punishable by a minimum of 15 years in prison. However, rape is common and indictments are rare. Domestic violence is illegal and punishable by a fine of up to five (5) million leones ($943) and up to two years in prison. However, domestic violence is common and police are unlikely to intervene.
Female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) is widespread in Sierra Leone.
See our travel tips for Women Travelers.
Please visit the Embassy’s COVID-19 page for more information about COVID-19 in Sierra Leone.
Medical facilities and services in Sierra Leone are severely limited. The standard of care, including basic medical services such as imaging or blood tests, is much lower than that of the United States.
For emergency services in Sierra Leone, dial 117.
Ambulance services are:
- not widely available and training and availability of emergency responders may be below U.S. standards.
- not present throughout the country or are unreliable in most areas.
- not equipped with state-of-the-art medical equipment.
- not staffed with trained paramedics and often have little or no medical equipment.
Injured or seriously ill travelers may prefer to take a taxi or private vehicle to the nearest major hospital rather than wait for an ambulance.
We do not pay medical bills. Be aware that U.S. Medicare/Medicaid does not apply overseas. Most hospitals and doctors overseas do not accept U.S. health insurance.
Medical Insurance: Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers overseas only accept cash payments. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage. Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more information on type of insurance you should consider before you travel overseas.
We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation.
Always carry your prescription medication in original packaging, along with your doctor’s prescription. Check with the Sierra Leone’s Federal Office of Public Health to ensure the medication is legal in Sierra Leone.
Vaccinations: Be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Further health information:
Air Quality: Visit AirNow Department of State for information on air quality at U.S. Embassies and Consulates.
The U.S. Embassy maintains a list of doctors and hospitals. We do not endorse or recommend any specific medical provider or clinic.
Water Quality: In many areas, tap water is not potable. Bottled water and beverages are generally safe, although you should be aware that many restaurants and hotels serve tap water unless bottled water is specifically requested. Be aware that ice for drinks may be made using tap water.
Altitude: Many cities in Sierra Leone, such as Kabala, are at high altitude. Be aware of the symptoms of altitude sickness and take precautions before you travel. Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for more information about Travel to High Altitudes.
Adventure Travel: Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for more information about Adventure Travel.
General Health: The following diseases are prevalent:
Use the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended mosquito repellents and sleep under insecticide-impregnated mosquito nets. Chemoprophylaxis is recommended for all travelers even for short stays.
Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for more information regarding specific issues in Sierra Leone.
- Air pollution is a significant problem in several major cities in Sierra Leone. Consider the impact seasonal smog and heavy particulate pollution may have on you and consult your doctor before traveling if necessary.
- The air quality varies considerably and fluctuates with the seasons. It is typically at its worst in the dry season between December and February. People at the greatest risk from particle pollution exposure include:
- Infants, children, and teens
- People over 65 years of age
- People with lung disease such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema;
- People with heart disease or diabetes
Travel and Transportation
Road Conditions and Safety: Most main roads in Freetown are navigable, but narrow and often have potholes. There is limited roadside assistance in-country and it is often difficult to find adequate fuel for longer journeys. Serious accidents are common, especially outside of Freetown, where the relative lack of traffic allows for greater speeds. Nighttime travel should be avoided.
Traffic Laws: International road signs and protocols are not routinely observed in Sierra Leone. In the event of a traffic accident, you should follow all police instructions. Large mobs often form at the scene of an accident and threaten the safety of the driver. You should go to the nearest police station for safety, even in the smallest of accidents.
Public Transportation: Public transport (bus or group taxi) is erratic, unsafe, and not recommended. U.S. Embassy officials are prohibited from using public transportation or taxis.
Motorcycle taxis are ubiquitous in Freetown and are often the cause of serious accidents. The U.S. Embassy strongly advises against utilizing these motorcycles. Pick pocketing is common in public taxis and mini-buses.
See our Road Safety page for more information.
Visit the website of Sierra Leone’s national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety.
Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Sierra Leone, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Sierra Leone’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.
Maritime Travel: Mariners planning travel to Sierra Leone should also check for U.S. maritime advisories and alerts. Information may also be posted to the U.S. Coast Guard homeport website, and the NGA broadcast warnings.
For additional travel information
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
- Call us in Washington, D.C. at 1-888-407-4747 (toll-free in the United States and Canada) or 1-202-501-4444 (from all other countries) from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
- See the State Department’s travel website for the Worldwide Caution and Travel Advisories.
- Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
- See traveling safely abroad for useful travel tips.
International Parental Child Abduction
For additional IPCA-related information, please see the International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act (ICAPRA) report.
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