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Sierra Leone Travel Guide: All you need to know to visit Sierra Leone in 2023

Welcome to Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone landscape

Sierra Leone is an undiscovered beach paradise in West Africa. Glorious beaches rise from the calming seas of the Atlantic, with a backdrop of sun-tinted colors, the green of the rainforest, and the red highways of the north.

Here's the ultimate Sierra Leone travel guide with practical tips and travel inspiration to make the most of your trip.

Document checklist Sierra Leone

  • Visa (if applicable)

  • Valid passport

  • Sufficient funds to cover your trip

  • Yellow fever vaccination certificate

Essential Sierra Leone travel information

  • Currency - The leone (SLL) is the currency of Sierra Leone. USD 1 is equivalent to approx. SLL 19,750.

  • Daily budget for 1 person - Expect to spend around USD 50 (SLL 1,079,560) per day.

  • Languages - Although English is the official language in schools, the government, and the media, Krio is widely used as the lingua franca.

  • Number of travelers per year - According to the latest data from the World Bank, the number of international tourist arrivals in Sierra Leone was approximately 74,000 in 2019.

  • Socket type - Type D and G. Sierra Leone operates on a 230V supply voltage and 50Hz.

  • Top 3 major cities to visit - Freetown, Bo, and Kenema.

  • Top 3 landmarks/monuments - Martello Tower, Banana Islands, and De Ruyter Stone.

Visa information for Sierra Leone

Foreign nationals traveling to Sierra Leone typically require a visa to enter the country. Sierra Leone offers several types of visas, including tourist visas, business visas, and transit visas.

The type of visa you need will depend on the purpose and length of your stay. Check the travel document requirements, or if you’re eligible for a visa on arrival via our handy Visa Checker Tool or the government website.

Visa difficulty index for Sierra Leone

Accessibility: 3/5

You can apply for a visa on the government website. Some people, mostly from African nations, can get a visa on arrival for a small fee.

Time to get your visa: 4/5

A Sierra Leone visa is usually processed within 2-3 business days.

Costs: 4/5

Visa fees vary depending on the type of visa and your nationality.

Typical costs and budget for Sierra Leone

A guide to what you'll spend daily in Sierra Leone on a mid-range budget:

  • Daily spending - Your daily budget should be around USD 50 (SLL 1,079,560). This includes:

  • Meals - A meal at a mid-range restaurant can cost around USD 10 (SLL 215,912).

  • Transport - A short taxi ride within the city can cost around USD 5 (SLL 108,014), while a long-distance bus ride can cost approx. USD 10 (SLL 215,912).

  • Hotel - A budget hotel or guesthouse in Sierra Leone can cost from USD 20 (SLL 432,059) per night.

For one week, two people should expect to spend around USD 700 (SLL 15,122,082) in total.

Transport and best ways to travel around Sierra Leone

There are many ways to get to and around Sierra Leone, whether by flying or by bus. Here are some tips for navigating the country safely.

Getting to Sierra Leone by plane

All inbound and outbound passengers in Sierra Leone use Lungi International Airport, about a 4-hour drive from Freetown.

The following airlines fly to Sierra Leone:

  • Kenya Airways

  • Brussels Airlines

  • Air France

  • Air Peace Limited

  • Air Senegal

  • Royal Air Maroc

  • Turkish Airlines

Getting to Sierra Leone by road

The main road linking Sierra Leone and Guinea is the Trans-Guinea Highway, which connects Freetown with Conakry, the capital of Guinea. The road connecting Freetown and Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, is the Mano River Union Road, which is currently under construction.

While there is no direct road link between Sierra Leone and Côte d'Ivoire, it is possible to travel from Abidjan to Freetown via Guinea.

Arrival and immigration tips for Sierra Leone

Here are some arrival tips to prepare for your trip to the country:

  • For entry into Sierra Leone, you need a vaccination certificate against yellow fever.

  • To enter the country, you must first register online through the Sierra Leone government's travel portal. This helps the Sierra Leone government track the health status of visitors. iVisa can help you apply for this health declaration online.

  • Take all your documents with you to pass through immigration. This is located shortly after you leave the plane and enter the airport building.

Taxis in Sierra Leone

Local taxis are by far the most popular mode of transportation within and between cities, although they are not always the safest alternative. The poda-poda is the equivalent of the African bush taxi in Sierra Leone.

The vehicle is usually a mini bus or something similar, packed with everything from people and luggage to food and livestock.

While riding in a poda-poda is undoubtedly a unique experience, the dangerous environment may deter some travelers. Most poda-podas are in disrepair and should not be on the road. Still, rides are relatively inexpensive, and you can reach your destination quickly.

Moto taxis in Sierra Leone

An alternative for individual tourists is the moto-taxi, a simple motorcycle that picks up individual passengers along the way. Prices are reasonable, and these vehicles have the added advantage of avoiding traffic jams.

Longer rides on the back of a motorcycle can be tiring and dangerous, especially on dirt roads, as there is little protection from dust and debris. While it is mandatory that both riders of a motorcycle wear a helmet, many do not. Therefore, it is in the traveler's best interest to wait for another motorcycle (usually not far behind) that offers a helmet.

Car travel in Sierra Leone

It’s possible to rent a private vehicle in Sierra Leone if you have an international driving permit. While there are no international car rental agencies, several local car rental agencies offer reliable service. Major hotels or travel agencies in the larger city centers can arrange such rentals.

As for safety, driving conditions in Sierra Leone can be challenging due to poorly maintained roads, heavy traffic, and unpredictable driving habits of other road users. It is important to exercise caution and follow local driving laws and customs.

Safety in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone can be a relatively safe country to travel to, but travelers should exercise increased caution due to crime and civil unrest. Violent crimes such as robbery and assault frequently occur in Sierra Leone, particularly in the capital city of Freetown.

Here are a few tips to help you navigate the country safely:

  • Petty crimes such as pickpocketing and theft can also occur in tourist areas such as Lumley Beach and Aberdeen in Freetown, so be sure to keep an eye on your belongings and avoid carrying large sums of cash.

  • It is highly recommended that travelers to Sierra Leone obtain medical travel insurance to cover overseas medical costs, including coverage for accessing medical facilities, medical evacuation, and basic medical services.

  • Familiarize yourself with local laws and customs, especially regarding dress, behavior, and social interactions.

  • Monitor local media for the latest safety and security updates.

  • In case of an emergency, go to the nearest police station or call the emergency services. Always be polite and respectful to local authorities and local police officers, and follow their instructions.

  • Use only official foreign exchange offices to exchange currency. To recognize these, you can look for the Bank of Sierra Leone logo or emblem on the premises. The logo typically features an image of a lion's head with the name of the bank written underneath.

Weather in Sierra Leone

The best time to visit Sierra Leone is during the dry season, which lasts from November to April. During this time, the weather is generally sunny and dry, making it ideal for outdoor activities such as beach trips, hiking, and wildlife viewing. The temperatures are also milder, ranging from the mid-70s to mid-80°F (around 24-29°C).

The rainy season in Sierra Leone typically runs from May to October, and during this time, the weather can be unpredictable, with heavy rains and occasional flooding. Some roads and tourist attractions may be inaccessible due to the rainy conditions.

However, the rainy season also brings lush green vegetation, and some travelers may prefer to visit during this time to experience Sierra Leone's natural beauty.

Must do and see in Sierra Leone

Don’t miss these awesome sights on your holiday to Sierra Leone:

  1. Lumley Beach: A popular beach located in the capital city, Freetown. It offers stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean and is a great place for swimming and sunbathing.

  2. Bunce Island: The historic site that served as a major slave-trading post during the transatlantic slave trade. It offers a glimpse into the country's dark history and is a must-visit for those interested in African heritage.

  3. River No. 2 Beach: This picturesque beach on Freetown's outskirts offers clear blue water and white sand, and is an excellent spot for surfing.

  4. Outamba-Kilimi National Park: A protected area that is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including elephants, chimpanzees, and leopards. It offers visitors the chance to experience the country's natural beauty and wildlife.

  5. Aberdeen Creek: This tranquil spot is located on the Freetown Peninsula. It offers a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of the city and is a great spot for canoeing and bird-watching.

Typical Sierra Leonean food to try

Here are a few dishes you must try on your trip to Sierra Leone:

  • Cassava Leaves - These are a staple food in Sierra Leone and are often served with rice. The leaves are cooked with spices, palm oil, and sometimes groundnut paste to make a hearty and flavorful stew.

  • Jollof Rice - This popular West African dish is a must-try in Sierra Leone. It is a one-pot dish made with rice, tomatoes, onions, and a variety of spices. It is often served with chicken or beef.

  • Groundnut Stew - Also known as peanut stew, is a popular dish in Sierra Leone. It is made with a peanut butter base and is typically served with rice or fufu, a starchy dough made from cassava or yams.

  • Grilled Fish - Sierra Leone has a long coastline, which means there is an abundance of fresh seafood available. Grilled fish is a popular street food that is usually served with spicy pepper sauce and plantains.

  • Okra Soup- This is a traditional Sierra Leonean dish that is made with okra, tomatoes, onions, and spices. It is frequently served with fufu and is an excellent option for vegetarians.

Vaccine information for Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone has a high risk of yellow fever transmission, and proof of vaccination is mandatory for all travelers over nine months of age.

Before booking your trip to Sierra Leone, it's essential to know which other vaccinations and COVID-19 measures are required. We advise you to check the CDC website for more info.

Visit Banana Island in Sierra Leone

Banana Island is a beautiful and remote island located off the coast of Sierra Leone. It is a popular destination for tourists who want to experience the country's natural beauty and rich culture. Here is some information on visiting Banana Island in Sierra Leone and how to get there.

Getting to Banana Island

To get to Banana Island, you will need to travel to Kent, a town located on the mainland of Sierra Leone. You can fly into Lungi International Airport near the capital city of Freetown, and from there, take a taxi or public bus to Kent.

Once you reach Kent, you can hire a boat to take you to Banana Island. The boat ride can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on weather conditions.

Things to do on Banana Island

Banana Island is a small, remote island that is perfect for those looking for a peaceful and relaxing getaway. The island is surrounded by clear blue waters and has beautiful beaches that are perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and snorkeling.

You can also go fishing with local fishermen, take a boat tour around the island, or explore the island's rocky cliffs and forests.

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  • iVisa is NOT affiliated with any government agency. This app does not provide legal advice and we are not a law firm. None of our customer service representatives are lawyers and they also do not provide legal advice. We are a private, internet-based travel and immigration consultancy provider dedicated to helping individuals travel around the world. You may apply by yourself directly on the various government websites. The source of information: https://slid.gov.sl/
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