Republic of Sierra Leone
Travel Warnings: Issued when Protracted situations make a country dangerous or unstable. Defer or reconsider travel.
Travel Alerts: Issued when short-term conditions pose imminent threats. Defer or reconsider travel.
Embassy Messages: Issued when local security issues arise.
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A 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.
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.
Messages regarding demonstrations and strikes, explosive device/suspicious packages, and weather-related events are posted on the Embassy’s website.
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 the bars, restaurants, and nightclubs in the Lumley Beach and Aberdeen areas of Freetown.
Victims of Crime:
There is no local number equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Sierra Leone. Local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting 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) 771 721 and contact the U.S. Embassy at (232) (99) 105 500.
See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas.
Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence may contact the Embassy for assistance.
For further information:
There are no 911 equivalent ambulance services in Sierra Leone. Travelers should expect only the most rudimentary health care facilities. The most recent Ebola Virus Disease outbreak taxed the country's healthcare system and the possibility of another outbreak exists.
The quality of medications in Sierra Leone is inconsistent and counterfeit drugs remain a problem. In the event medications are needed, travelers may contact the U.S. Embassy's American Citizens Services (ACS) Unit to receive general information about reliable pharmacies. ACS maintains a list of physicians, clinics, and pharmacies.
We do not pay medical bills. Be aware that U.S. Medicare does not apply overseas.
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.
We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation.
If traveling with prescription medication, check with the Government of Sierra Leone to ensure that the medication is legal in Sierra Leone.
Carry prescription medication in original packaging, and a copy of your doctor’s prescription.
The following diseases are prevelant:
Vaccinations: Be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Further health information:
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:
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 up to 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. The government imposed a moratorium on practicing FGM/C as an emergency health response to the Ebola outbreak, and the moratorium remains in place, but the prohibition is not actively enforced.
See our travel tips for Women Travelers.
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 rotinuely 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 Siera 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 at www.marad.dot.gov/msci. Information may also be posted to the U.S. Coast Guard homeport website, and the NGA broadcast warnings website.