COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Liberia is a country in West Africa that suffered from years of instability and conflict from 1990-2003, with attendant destruction of buildings, roads, infrastructure, and public institutions. A comprehensive peace accord ended the conflict in August 2003 and a United Nations peacekeeping force (UNMIL) was deployed to facilitate disarmament and demobilization, help arrange democratic elections, and provide for security of the country. In late 2005, Liberians went to the polls and elected Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as president. A new government was inaugurated in January 2006, and has made progress towards restoring security and stability to the country. President Sirleaf was re-elected in November 2011.
Despite ten years of peace andeconomic growth, Liberia is still one of the poorest countries in the world and many basic services (e.g., public power, water and sewage, landline phones) are either limited or unavailable. Facilities for foreign visitors are adequate in the capital, Monrovia, but virtually non-existent in the rest of the country. The official language of Liberia is English. Read the Department of State’s information on bilateral relations with Liberia for additional information.
SMART TRAVELER ENROLLMENT PROGRAM (STEP) / EMBASSY LOCATION: If you are going to live in or travel to Liberia, please take the time to tell us about your trip. If you enroll in our Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, we will be able to keep you up to date with the latest safety and security announcements. Your enrollment can also help us reach your family and friends in case of emergency. Here is the link to the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment page.
Local embassy information is available below and at the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates.
U.S. Embassy Monrovia
The U.S. Embassy is located at 502 Benson Street, Mamba Point, Monrovia.
Emergency after-hours telephone: 231-77-677-7000
U.S. citizens who wish to write to the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia may address letters to:
8800 Monrovia Place
U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C. 20521-8800.
ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A passport and a visa are required for entry, as is evidence of yellow fever vaccination. Immigration officials do not issue visas at the airport. Persons arriving without a visa may be deported immediately, without being permitted to exit the airport. Persons arriving from the United States must obtain a Liberian visa before traveling. . For the latest information on entry requirements, visa fees, and the airport tax for Liberia, contact the Embassy of the Republic of Liberia at 5201 16th Street NW, Washington, DC 20011, tel. (202) 723-0437, or visit the Embassy of Liberia website. Overseas, inquiries should be made at the nearest Liberian embassy or consulate.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Liberia.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.
THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY: The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to plan proposed travel to Liberia carefully and to exercise caution when traveling in Liberia. Before traveling to Liberia, U.S. citizens are urged to make arrangements for transportation from the international airport into the city center. Taxis are available at the international airport, which is located 40 miles outside of Monrovia, but public transportation (such as buses) is not available. U.S. citizens traveling to Liberia are also urged to ensure that they have confirmed reservations at a reputable hotel, as rooms can be scarce and difficult to find without advance plans.
U.S. citizens who travel to or reside in Liberia should realize that Liberia's police force has limited resources and is rebuilding. There is a UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), but its mandate is to ensure political stability. UN Police (UNPOL) officers serve as advisors to the Liberian National Police. They do not have the authority to arrest or detain, and they are unarmed. The Liberia National Police has a strong presence in Monrovia, but less of a presence outside of Monrovia. The police can be both a source of assistance as well as one creating problems for visitors. Although concerns about police corruption have decreased, travelers may be detained by police officers soliciting bribes. U.S citizens are encouraged to carry a photocopy of their passports with them at all times so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and citizenship is readily available. If detained or arrested, U.S. citizens should always ask to be allowed to contact the U.S. Embassy.
U.S. citizens in Liberia should be aware of their surroundings at all times and use caution when moving around, especially at night. Travel outside of Monrovia after dark is strongly discouraged, as roads are in poor condition and there are few public street lights. U.S. citizens should avoid crowds, political rallies, and street demonstrations, and should maintain security awareness at all times.
Stay up to date by bookmarking our Bureau of Consular Affairs' website, which contains the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution. Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well.
You can also call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the United States and Canada, or a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444, from other countries. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Take some time before travel to consider your personal security – things are not the same everywhere as they are in the United States. Here are some useful tips for traveling safely abroad.
The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s extensive tips and advice on traveling safely abroad.
CRIME: While incidence of crime in Liberia is high, most crimes that occur within the expat community are crimes of opportunity (which increase during the hours of darkness), with an occasional residential burglary or armed robbery (with use of a knife or machete). Criminal activity has been reported in both urban and rural areas. The Liberian National Police have limited capacity to respond to crime events, thus crime is much higher in Liberian communities where police are not visible. Driving in Monrovia presents danger to residents and visitors, as traffic laws are either nonexistent or not enforced by police. Traffic accidents are frequent and often result in injury or loss of life. The police are poorly equipped and largely incapable of providing effective protection or investigation.
Perpetrators of business fraud often target foreigners, including U.S. citizens. Formerly associated with Nigeria, these fraud schemes are now prevalent throughout western Africa, including Liberia, and pose a danger of both financial loss and physical harm. An increasing number of U.S. citizens have been the targets of such scams. The best way to avoid becoming a victim of fraud is common sense – if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. U.S. citizens should carefully check any unsolicited business proposal originating in Liberia before committing any funds, providing any goods or services, or undertaking any travel, particularly if the proposal involves the mining or sale of gold and diamonds. There has also been an increase in the number of Liberian/American Internet relationships in which there are eventual requests for financial assistance under fraudulent pretenses. For additional information, please see the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure on International Financial Scams.
Petty corruption is rampant; poorly paid government officials may ask for fees for doing their job. Travelers may be inconvenienced for not paying them.
Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, you may also be breaking local law.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you are the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate (see end of this sheet or see the Department of State list of embassies and consulates). This includes the loss or theft of a U.S. passport. The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, help you find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds may be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime are solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Liberia is 911.
In an emergency, dialing 911 or 355 from a cellular phone within Liberia will put you in contact with a cellular phone at the Liberian National Police (LNP) Headquarters. Please note that there is no landline telephone service in Liberia, and cellular phone communication is subject to occasional disruptions in service.
Please see our information for victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
CRIMINAL PENALITIES: While you are traveling in another country, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own. In some places you may be taken in for questioning if you don’t have your passport with you. In some places, it is illegal to take pictures of certain buildings. In some places driving under the influence could land you immediately in jail. These criminal penalties will vary from country to country. There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States, and you can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods or engage in child pornography. While you are overseas, U.S. laws don’t apply. If you do something illegal in your host country, your U.S. passport won’t help. It’s very important to what’s legal and what’s not where you are going.
Persons violating Liberian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Liberia are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
If you are arrested in Liberia, you have the right to request authorities alert the U.S. Embassy of your arrest.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Consensual same-sex sexual relations are criminalized in Liberia. The U.S. Embassy is not aware of any recent prosecutions, however such activity remains illegal as a first degree misdemeanor with penalties ranging up to one year in prison. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender travelers should review the LGBT Travel Information page.
Lodging, fuel, transportation, and telephone services are unevenly available in Liberia, and are nonexistent or severely limited in rural areas. Neither running water nor electricity is commercially available in Liberia, except in some parts of Monrovia. Most hotels have utilities available, but not always on a 24-hour basis. There is no working landline telephone system in Liberia. Several cell phone companies provide service in Monrovia and some areas outside the capital. U.S. cellular phones do not always work in Liberia and it is advisable to rent or purchase a local cellular phone. The postal system is slow and unreliable. Commercial air courier service is available through UPS, Federal Express (FedEx), and other companies.
The U.S. dollar is readily accepted in Liberia. While there is no limit on the amount of foreign currency that can be transported into and out of the country, sums in excess of U.S. $10,000 must be reported at the port of entry and no more than U.S. $7,500 in foreign currency banknotes can be moved out of the country at one time. Larger sums must be transferred via bank drafts or other financial instruments; persons without a Liberian bank account are limited to two outgoing U.S. $5,000 over-the-counter cash wire transfers per month. Wire transfers are not widely used and are subject to substantial fees. ATMs are available in Monrovia but traveler's checks and credit cards are not accepted anywhere in Liberia except some major hotels.
Swimming Hazard: Liberia has many excellent beaches along the Atlantic coastline that tourists and those who live in the country enjoy throughout the year; however, U.S. citizens should be aware of the threat of dangerous rip currents better known as rip tides. These strong currents can occur anywhere on the coast given the right surf conditions. The Liberia Weather Service does not provide information on where and when these tides form and there are no lifeguards posted on beaches. Do not swim in the Atlantic if you are unfamiliar with swimming in water where very strong rip currents occur.
Photographing military installations, air and sea ports, and important government buildings is prohibited. Visitors should not take photographs of sites or activities that might be considered sensitive, as police are liable to confiscate the camera.
Accessibility: There are no accommodations for individuals with disabilities in Liberia. U.S. citizens with disabilities that hinder mobility should take this into consideration before planning travel to Liberia.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Hospitals and medical facilities in Liberia are very poorly equipped and are incapable of providing many services. Emergency services comparable to those in the U.S. or Europe are non-existent, and the blood supply is unreliable and unsafe for transfusion. For treatment of serious medical problems, U.S. citizens in Liberia travel to or are medically evacuated to the United States, Europe or South Africa. Medicines are scarce, often beyond expiration dates, and generally unavailable in most areas. As there is neither an effective garbage removal service nor a functioning sewer system, sanitation throughout urban areas is very poor, which increases the potential for disease. Upper respiratory infections and diarrhea are common, as well as more serious diseases such as typhoid and malaria. All travelers to Liberia must be vaccinated against yellow fever and should carry a supply of all prescription medication, including anti-malaria medication, adequate for their entire stay. A typhoid vaccination is also recommended.
You can find Information on vaccinations and other health precautions on the CDC website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the the World Health Organization (WHO) website. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: You can’t assume your insurance will go with you when you travel. It’s very important to find out BEFORE you leave. You need to ask your insurance company two questions:
In many places, doctors and hospitals still expect payment in cash at the time of service. Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctors’ and hospital visits in other countries. If your policy doesn’t go with you when you travel, it’s a very good idea to take out another one for your trip. For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Liberia is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Road travel in Liberia can be hazardous. Potholes and poor road surfaces are common, making safe driving extremely challenging. Cars, trucks, motorcycles, and taxis are often overloaded with people and goods and make frequent stops without signaling. Drivers overtake on the right as well as the left. Many vehicles operate with threadbare tires, and blowouts are frequent. Public taxis are poorly maintained and usually overloaded. Approach intersections with extreme caution – the widespread absence of public street lights makes it difficult tosee pedestrians walking in city streets or on country roads. Drivers and pedestrians are cautioned that high-speed car convoys carrying government officials require all other vehicles to pull off the road until they have passed.
Travelers should expect delays at UNMIL security checkpoints, as well as time-consuming detours around the many bridges and roads damaged by war, neglect, or the heavy annual rains occurring between May and November. Travelers can expect strict enforcement of border controls by Liberian, Ivorian, Sierra Leonean, and Guinean authorities. At times, border crossings to neighboring countries are closed.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Liberia, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Liberia’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.
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This replaces the Country Specific Information for Liberia dated April 27, 2012 to update all sections.