Traveling Luck for Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone is located in Western Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Guinea and Liberia.
Land in Sierra Leone is coastal belt of mangrove swamps, wooded hill country, upland plateau, mountains in east.
Sierra Leonean land covers an area of 71740 square kilometers which is slightly smaller than South Carolina
As for the Sierra Leonean climate; tropical; hot, humid; summer rainy season (May to December); winter dry season (December to April).
Sierra Leonean(s) speak English (official, regular use limited to literate minority), Mende (principal vernacular in the south), Temne (principal vernacular in the north), Krio (English-based Creole, spoken by the descendants of freed Jamaican slaves who were settled in the Freetown area, a lingua franca and a first language for 10% of the population but understood by 95%).
Places of note in Sierra Leone
Sierra Leonean National Map
The government is slowly reestablishing its authority after the 1991 to 2002 civil war that resulted in tens of thousands of deaths and the displacement of more than 2 million people (about one-third of the population). The last UN peacekeepers withdrew in December 2005, leaving full responsibility for security with domestic forces, but a new civilian UN office remains to support the government. Mounting tensions related to planned 2007 elections, deteriorating political and economic conditions in Guinea, and the tenuous security situation in neighboring Liberia may present challenges to continuing progress in Sierra Leone's stability.
Sierra Leone is an extremely poor African nation with tremendous inequality in income distribution. While it possesses substantial mineral, agricultural, and fishery resources, its economic and social infrastructure is not well developed, and serious social disorders continue to hamper economic development. About two-thirds of the working-age population engages in subsistence agriculture. Manufacturing consists mainly of the processing of raw materials and of light manufacturing for the domestic market. Alluvial diamond mining remains the major source of hard currency earnings, accounting for nearly half of Sierra Leone's exports. The fate of the economy depends upon the maintenance of domestic peace and the continued receipt of substantial aid from abroad, which is essential to offset the severe trade imbalance and supplement government revenues. The IMF has completed a Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility program that helped stabilize economic growth and reduce inflation. A recent increase in political stability has led to a revival of economic activity, such as the rehabilitation of bauxite mining.
Sierra Leonean natural resources include diamonds, titanium ore, bauxite, iron ore, gold, chromite
rainfall along the coast can reach 495 cm (195 inches) a year, making it one of the wettest places along coastal, western Africa
Sierra Leonean religion is Muslim 60%, indigenous beliefs 30%, Christian 10%.
Natural hazards in Sierra Leone include dry, sand-laden harmattan winds blow from the Sahara (December to February); sandstorms, dust storms.
- Visits to the Western Area of Sierra Leone, including Freetown are usually trouble-free. It is, however, currently very difficult to transfer from the international airport at Lungi to Freetown. None of the options are risk-free. Potential visitors should consider very carefully whether their visit is necessary at this time, and then study the transfer options carefully. Especially if you plan to arrive at night. Travel outside the Western Area can be difficult, as roads and infrastructure are poor. See Local Travel section for more information.
- December saw a rise in the number of crimes committed in Freetown this December. You should exercise caution when travelling in Freetown, particularly in the Eastern area of the city and in the central commercial district around Siaka Stevens Street and Lightfoot Boston Street.
- The main type of incident for which British nationals require consular assistance in Sierra Leone is for replacing lost and stolen passports. Petty crime is common. You should take sensible precautions and maintain a high level of vigilance in public places.
- Unofficial party political campaigning has begun for the 2007 elections and you should avoid public demonstrations and large crowds.
- The threat from terrorism is low, but you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate attacks, which could be against civilian targets including places frequented by foreigners.
- Water shortages are frequent. Networked power is rare; rented accommodation and hotels rely on generators and imported fuel supplies.
- There are few health facilities in Sierra Leone. We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake. Please see: Travel Insurance.
SAFETY AND SECURITY
Sierra Leone and its capital Freetown have a low crime rate, although reports are increasing. Nonetheless we receive several reports each month of incidents involving international travellers and expatriates, who are an obvious target for criminals. The greatest risk to short-stay travellers is that of pick pocketing and mugging in the capital, Freetown. Visitors staying for longer periods in rented or bought accommodation should consider the security of their property and are strongly advised to employ guards.
- Exercise caution when travelling in Freetown, particularly in the eastern area of the city and in the central commercial district around Siaka Stevens Street and Lightfoot Boston Street.
- Avoid carrying valuables in public.
- Avoid the groups of youths that congregate in the town centre and at roundabouts.
- Use a vehicle if you need to travel after dark in Freetown.
- Use a privately owned or rented vehicle rather than taxis or podapodas (minibuses).
- Avoid walking alone on beaches, especially Lumley beach. Lumley beach has seen a number of crimes against pedestrians recently, often when they are unaccompanied. The areas near hotels and lifeguards offer a greater level of security and incidents against groups are rare. Do not use the beaches after dark.
- Don’t drive outside Freetown after dark. Roads outside of Freetown are unlit; there are no regular police patrols along them and often no traffic for long periods. If you are involved in an accident you are less likely to reach assistance at night and are at increased risk of both a secondary collision and crime.
You should check the quality of any gems and/or minerals that you purchase before legally removing them from the country. You should also be aware that any deals that appear too good to be true, probably are.
Sierra Leone Country Profile.
Sierra Leone is becoming more stable. The 10-year conflict ended in 2002 and Sierra Leone has successfully conducted both national (2002) and local (2004) elections.
Those indicted of having the greatest responsibility for crimes committed during the country’s civil war are on trial at the Special Court of Sierra Leone in Freetown. Verdicts in some of the cases will begin in the first half of 2007 and could trigger protests. In particular, the ex-Civil Defence Force leader Sam Hinga Norman has a large popular following, which may demonstrate if he is found guilty.
Lungi airport is situated on the far side of a wide estuary from Freetown. Travel options from Lungi airport are currently very limited, and none is without risk. Potential visitors should consider very carefully whether their visit is necessary at this time and follow the advice in this section if they do intend to travel to Sierra Leone.
When travelling by road from Lungi to Freetown you should travel by day and use a privately owned, company or rental vehicle. We advise you not to use a taxi or poda-poda see road safety section. If possible you should arrange to be collected at the airport by a driver in your own car or a car provided by your employer. If this is not possible, you should arrange for a hotel, travel agency or car rental company to send a driver and car to collect you at the airport. There are no car hire facilities at Lungi airport. There is a list of Freetown-based companies that can provide hire cars for collection at Lungi at the end of this section.
We advise against using the private taxis and poda-podas (minibuses) that provide transport along fixed routes in Freetown and the Western Area. They are often crowded and not subject to European road safety standards. There have been several incidents recently of Western passengers in public taxis and poda-podas having belongings stolen.
- driving defensively.
- keeping a good first aid kit in your car and knowing how to use it.
- travelling in convoy with other cars.
- not travelling alone in a vehicle.
- having a communications system that covers where you are travelling.
- reporting your progress to someone who knows your route plan and agree with them what action they will take if you do not make contact at a scheduled time.
- planning how you will get medical treatment in case of an accident.
The EU has published a list of air carriers that are subject to an operating ban or restrictions within the community. You should check the following link to see whether this will affect your travel: http://europa.eu.int/comm/transport/air/safety/flywell_en.htm.
Any airline from outside the EU or European Economic area, which wishes to pick up or put down passengers or cargo in the UK, requires a permit from the Secretary of State. It is a condition of the permit that the airline should be operated in accordance with international safety standards established by the International Civil Aviation Organisation. No airline registered in Sierra Leone currently has a permit to land in the UK.
Following the crash (cause unknown) of a Boeing 737 operated by Bellview Airlines en route from Lagos to Abuja (killing all 117 passengers and crew) in October 2005, and a more recent emergency landing (hydraulic failure) by another Bellview operated Boeing 737 en route to Freetown at Accra, the airline was grounded for a week by Nigerian authorities. Regional flights from Lagos and Abuja to Freetown and the Bellview service from Freetown to London Heathrow have now resumed. However, we advise that these incidents are taken into consideration when planning any regional travel in West Africa.
Sierra Leone has many attractive beaches. But strong currents are common. Swimmers should take care and consult local advice before entering the water.
There is a ferry service between Lungi and Freetown. As a result of Paramount being grounded the ferry service has become extremely busy. Static queues of vehicles and passengers wait up to four hours at either end. The increase in international passengers on the ferry has also increased the risk of crime. You should avoid using the ferry alone or as a foot passenger. The ferry was warned by the Port Authorities in January 2007 about overloading, and has been known to operate in poor visibility without lights. There is a lack of basic safety equipment on board; there are few lifeboats or accessible life jackets. The public emergency services are not set up to respond to an emergency at sea.
LOCAL LAWS AND CUSTOMS
Medical facilities are poor. The emergency service response in Freetown is very slow and unreliable. Outside the capital you should assume that there would be no emergency service response if you get into medical difficulty. You should carry basic medical supplies.
You should seek medical advice before travelling and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up-to-date. For further information on health, check the Department of Health’s website at: www.dh.gov.uk
You should carry ID (passport or residence permit) at all times, particularly when driving or taking a taxi, when the likelihood of having to produce it is high.
You should reconfirm onward/return flights 72 hours in advance.
You should register with the British High Commission in Freetown as soon as possible after you arrive.
Credit cards are not accepted in Sierra Leone and the opportunities to exchange travellers' cheques are limited. All foreign exchange transactions must be handled through the banks and official exchange offices. A small number of banks in central Freetown may be prepared to accept credit cards for the purchase of local currency.