Electricity

Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz, but supplies are erratic and power failures common. Round three-pin plugs or rectangular three-blade plugs are used.

Language

English is the official language, although each ethnic group has its own tribal language, used more widely in the interior of the country. Krio is a form of Pidgin English that is widely spoken in Freetown.

Money

The official currency is the Leone (SLL), which is divided into 100 cents. Foreign currency can be exchanged at banks, foreign exchange bureaux or hotels. Banks are open on weekdays only. The use of credit cards is very limited, although a few top hotels and restaurants in Freetown might accept them for payment. Not all ATMs accept foreign cards, but some major banks, such as Ecobank and United Bank for Africa (UBA), accept foreign cards.

Tipping

A service charge of about 10 percent is included in restaurant and hotel bills, but otherwise tipping is optional.

Health

Sierra Leone is one of three countries that has been at the heart of the Ebola outbreak in previous years, causing serious alarm in West Africa. The WHO officially declared Sierra Leone Ebola transmission free on 17 March 2016, and the FCO no longer advise against all but essential travel to Sierra Leone. However, travellers are advised to familiarise themselves with the disease and current health and travel advice for the country before travelling to Sierra Leone. Some travel restrictions may be in place due to the Ebola outbreak.

Health policies require that all travellers arriving from a yellow fever area have a vaccination certificate, but yellow fever is a risk throughout the country and immunisation is recommended for all visitors. Other recommended vaccinations include Hepatitis A, typhoid, rabies, and polio. Malaria and dengue fever are high risks and precautions against mosquito bites are advised, as well as prophylaxis for malaria, which occurs throughout the year.

Outbreaks of Lassa fever is endemic in the east. HIV/AIDS is prevalent. Diarrhoea and dysentery are common complaints and water should be treated before drinking. Cholera is also a concern. Travellers should bring adequate supplies of personal medication to the country, as supplies are often not available in pharmacies. Medical care is limited in Freetown and almost non-existent elsewhere. An emergency hospital is located near Freetown, but the bad road makes it difficult to get there; there is no ambulance service in the country. Comprehensive travel insurance is advised, which includes emergency evacuation.

Safety

Most visits to the country pass without incident, though a small number of incidents involving British nationals being robbed, sometimes at knifepoint, have been reported. The incidents were reported around Congo Cross, Wilkinson Road, Lumley Beach and Aberdeen, and visitors are advised to be cautious in these areas after dark. Petty crime is more common, with pick-pocketing and other opportunistic crimes prevalent throughout the country. Visitors should take care not to flash valuables or cash.

Travel outside of the Western Area that includes Freetown can be difficult, as roads are poor and transport unreliable. All road or sea transfers from the airport to Freetown should be done in daylight hours due to safety concerns. Political demonstrations and large gatherings should be avoided as these have the potential to turn violent.

Local customs

Homosexuality is illegal. There is a strong Muslim culture and visitors should be sensitive to religious customs, particularly during the month of Ramadan when eating, drinking, and smoking during daylight hours should be discreet as it is forbidden by the Muslim culture. Visitors should be aware it is illegal to buy or export diamonds, gold, or ivory without the necessary licenses.

Doing business

Punctuality is not necessarily expected, especially if the delay relates to traffic or if it concerns the person who called the meeting. English is the most common language for business and most business meetings require only casual comfortable clothing. Shaking hands for men and women is the most common form of introduction and business cards are exchanged. It is acceptable to address colleagues by their first names at business meetings. Business hours are generally 8am to 12pm and 2pm to 5pm Monday to Friday.

Duty free

Travellers may bring 200 cigarettes or 225g tobacco, and 1 litre of wine or spirits into the country without paying customs duty. Narcotics are strictly forbidden.

Communications

The international dialling code for Sierra Leone is +232. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the UK). Most good hotels and some restaurants offer free wifi, and mobile phone service is good, with SIM cards being widely available.

Passport & Visa

Visitors travelling on tourist visas can get a visa on arrival for $80, which must be paid in cash in US dollars. Anyone travelling to the country for a purpose other tourism, a visit or business will need to get a visa before they arrive. It is highly recommended that visitors' passports have at least six months' validity remaining after the intended date of departure from their travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

Entry requirements

US nationals require a visa and a valid passport.

UK nationals require a visa and a valid passport.

Canadians require a visa and a valid passport.

Australians require a visa and a valid passport.

South Africans require a visa and a valid passport.

Irish nationals require a visa and a valid passport.

New Zealand nationals require a visa and a valid passport.

Useful contacts

National Tourist Board, Freetown: +232 77 347810 https://ntb.gov.sl/

999 (Police)

Embassies / consulates in other countries

Sierra Leone Embassy, Washington DC, United States (also responsible for Canada): +1 202 939 9261.

Sierra Leone High Commission, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7404 0140.

Consulate General of Sierra Leone, Sydney, Australia: +61 2 8964 8851

Sierra Leone High Commission, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (also responsible for South Africa): +251 1 710 033.

Sierra Leone High Commission, Beijing, China (also responsible for New Zealand): +86 10 6532 1222.

Embassies / consulates in Sierra Leone

United States Embassy, Freetown: +232 22 515 000.

British High Commission, Freetown: +232 76 541 386.

Canadian Embassy, Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire (also responsible for Sierra Leone): +225 2 030 0700.

Australian High Commission, Accra, Ghana (also responsible for Sierra Leone): +233 (302) 216 400.

South African Embassy, Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire (also responsible for Sierra Leone): +225 2 244 5963.

Irish Embassy, Abuja, Nigeria (also responsible for Sierra Leone: +234 9 462 0611.