Security Alert
May 17, 2024

Worldwide Caution

International Travel


Learn About Your Destination

Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone
Republic of Sierra Leone
Exercise increased caution in Sierra Leone due to crime and civil unrest.

Reissued with obsolete COVID-19 page links removed.

Exercise increased caution in Sierra Leone due to crime and civil unrest.

Country Summary: Violent crimes, such as robbery and assault, occur frequently in Sierra Leone, especially in Freetown.  Local police often lack the resources to deal effectively with serious criminal incidents.

Demonstrations and protests occur in Sierra Leone and on occasion have resulted in violence.

If traveling outside the Freetown peninsula, make all efforts to complete your travel during daylight hours due to increased safety hazards at night.  The U.S. Embassy is unable to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens outside of Freetown at night as U.S. government employees are prohibited from traveling outside the capital after dark.

Read the country information page for additional information about travel to Sierra Leone.

If you decide to travel to Sierra Leone:

  • Do not physically resist any robbery attempt.
  • Do not display signs of wealth, such as expensive watches or jewelry.
  • Use caution when walking or driving at night.
  • Always carry a copy of your U.S. passport and visa (if applicable). Keep original documents in a secure location.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
  • Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Review the Country Security Report for Sierra Leone.
  • Prepare a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the Traveler’s Checklist.
  • Visit the CDC page for the latest Travel Health Information related to your travel.

Embassy Messages


Quick Facts


6 months.


1 page per stamp.




Yellow Fever.





Embassies and Consulates

U.S. Embassy Freetown
Southridge, Hill Station
Freetown, Sierra Leone
(+232) 99-105-000
Emergency after-hours telephone: (+232) 99-905-029

Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements

A valid 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.

Find information on dual nationality, prevention of international child abduction and customs regulations on our websites.

Safety and Security

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.

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 bars, restaurants, and nightclubs in the Lumley Beach and Aberdeen areas of Freetown.

Demonstrations occur frequently. They may take place in response to political or economic issues, on politically significant holidays, and during international events.  

  • Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly become violent.
  • Avoid areas around protests and demonstrations.
  • Check local media for updates and traffic advisories.

International Financial Scams: See the Department of State and the FBI pages for information on scams.

Internet romance and financial scams are prevalent in Sierra Leone. Scams are often initiated through Internet postings or profiles, or by unsolicited emails and letters. Scammers almost always pose as U.S. citizens who have no one else to turn to for help. Common scams include:

  • Romance/Online dating
  • Money transfers
  • Lucrative sales
  • Gold purchase
  • Contracts with promises of large commissions
  • Grandparent/Relative targeting
  • Free Trip/Luggage
  • Lotteries
  • Inheritance notices
  • Work permits/job offers
  • Bank overpayments

Victims of 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) 692 830.

Remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime.

See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas.

We can:

  • help you find appropriate medical care
  • assist you in reporting a crime to the police
  • contact relatives or friends with your written consent
  • explain the local criminal justice process in general terms
  • provide a list of local attorneys
  • provide our information on victim’s compensation programs in the U.S.
  • provide an emergency loan for repatriation to the United States and/or limited medical support in cases of destitution
  • help you find accommodation and arrange flights home
  • replace a stolen or lost passport

Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence are encouraged to contact the Embassy for assistance.

Tourism: The tourism industry is unevenly regulated, and safety inspections for equipment and facilities do not commonly occur. Hazardous areas and activities are not always identified with appropriate signage, and staff may not be trained or certified either by the host government or by recognized authorities in the field. In the event of an injury, medical treatment is typically available only in or near major cities and there are few medical specialists in country able to treat complicated medical conditions. First responders are generally unable to access areas outside of major cities and are not trained to provide urgent medical treatment. U.S. citizens are encouraged to purchase medical evacuation insurance

Local Laws & Special Circumstances

Criminal Penalties: You are subject to local laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.

Furthermore, some laws are also prosecutable in the United States, regardless of local law. For examples, see our website on crimes against minors abroad and the Department of Justice website.

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.

See our LGBTI Travel Information page and section 6 of our Human Rights report for further details.

Travelers with Disabilities: The law in Sierra Leone does not prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities and offers no specific protections for such persons. Social acceptance of persons with disabilities in public is as prevalent as in the United States. Expect accessibility to be limited in public transportation, lodging, communication/information, and general infrastructure throughout the country. Rental, repair, replacement parts for aids/equipment/devices, and service providers, such as sign language interpreters, are not available.

Students: See our Students Abroad page and FBI travel tips.

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.


Please visit the Embassy’s COVID-19 page for more information about COVID-19 in Sierra Leone.

Medical facilities and services in Sierra Leone are severely limited. The standard of care, including basic medical services such as imaging or blood tests, is much lower than that of the United States.

For emergency services in Sierra Leone, dial 117.

Ambulance services are:

  • not widely available and training and availability of emergency responders may be below U.S. standards.
  • not present throughout the country or are unreliable in most areas.
  • not equipped with state-of-the-art medical equipment.
  • not staffed with trained paramedics and often have little or no medical equipment.

Injured or seriously ill travelers may prefer to take a taxi or private vehicle to the nearest major hospital rather than wait for an ambulance.

We do not pay medical bills. Be aware that U.S. Medicare/Medicaid does not apply overseas. Most hospitals and doctors overseas do not accept U.S. health insurance.

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. Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more information on type of insurance you should consider before you travel overseas.

We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation.

Always carry your prescription medication in original packaging, along with your doctor’s prescription. Check with the Sierra Leone’s Federal Office of Public Health to ensure the medication is legal in Sierra Leone.

Vaccinations: Be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Further health information:

Air Quality: Visit AirNow Department of State for information on air quality at U.S. Embassies and Consulates.

The U.S. Embassy maintains a list of doctors and hospitals. We do not endorse or recommend any specific medical provider or clinic.

Water Quality:

  • In many areas, tap water is not potable. Bottled water and beverages are generally safe, although you should be aware that many restaurants and hotels serve tap water unless bottled water is specifically requested. Be aware that ice for drinks may be made using tap water.


  • Many cities in Sierra Leone, such as Kabala, are at high altitude. Be aware of the symptoms of altitude sickness and take precautions before you travel. Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for more information about Travel to High Altitudes.

Adventure Travel:

  • Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for more information about Adventure Travel.

General Health:

The following diseases are prevalent:

Use the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended mosquito repellents and sleep under insecticide-impregnated mosquito nets. Chemoprophylaxis is recommended for all travelers even for short stays.

Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for more information regarding specific issues in Sierra Leone.

Air Quality:

  • Air pollution is a significant problem in several major cities in Sierra Leone. Consider the impact seasonal smog and heavy particulate pollution may have on you and consult your doctor before traveling if necessary.
  • The air quality varies considerably and fluctuates with the seasons. It is typically at its worst in the dry season between December and February. People at the greatest risk from particle pollution exposure include:
    • Infants, children, and teens
    • People over 65 years of age
    • People with lung disease such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema;
    • People with heart disease or diabetes

Travel and Transportation

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 routinely 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 Sierra 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. Information may also be posted to the U.S. Coast Guard homeport website, and the NGA broadcast warnings.

For additional travel information

International Parental Child Abduction

For additional IPCA-related information, please see the International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act (ICAPRA) report.

Last Updated: November 19, 2021

Travel Advisory Levels

Assistance for U.S. Citizens

U.S. Embassy Freetown
Southridge, Hill Station
Freetown, Sierra Leone
+ (232) (99) 105-000
+(232) (99) 905-029
No Fax

Sierra Leone Map