- General Info
- Health Risks
- Security Concerns
- Weather Notes
- Electrical Standards
- Visa Info
- Time Zone
Since 1991, civil war between the government and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths and the displacement of more than 2 million people (well over one-third of the population), many of whom are now refugees in neighboring countries. After several setbacks, the end to the 11-year conflict in Sierra Leone may finally be near at hand. With the support of the UN peacekeeping force and contributions from the World Bank and international community, demobilization and disarmament of the RUF and Civil Defense Forces (CDF) combatants has been completed. National elections were held in May 2002 and the government continues to slowly reestablish its authority.
Source: CIA World Factbook
Food and waterborne diseases are the number one cause of illness in travelers. Travelers diarrhea can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites, which are found throughout the region and can contaminate food or water. Infections may cause diarrhea and vomiting (E. coli, Salmonella, cholera, and parasites), fever (Typhoid fever and toxoplasmosis), or liver damage (hepatitis). Make sure your food and drinking water are safe.
Malaria is a serious, but preventable infection that can be fatal.Your risk of malaria may be high in these countries, including cities. Prevent this deadly disease by seeing your health care provider for a prescription antimalarial drug and by protecting yourself against mosquito bites. All travelers to West Africa, including infants, children, and former residents of West Africa, are at risk for malaria. All travelers should take one of the following drugs (listed alphabetically): atovaquone/proguanil, doxycycline, mefloquine, or primaquine (in special circumstances).
Yellow fever vaccination is recommended and may be required for entry into certain of these countries. If you travel to West Africa, the easiest and safest thing to do is get a yellow fever vaccination and a signed certificate. For detailed information, see Comprehensive Yellow Fever Vaccination Requirements. Also, find the nearest authorized U.S. yellow fever vaccine center.
Dengue, filariasis, leishmaniasis, onchocerciasis, and trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) are diseases carried by insects that also occur in this region. Protecting yourself against insect bites will help to prevent these diseases.
Schistosomiasis, a parasitic infection, is found in fresh water in the region. Do not swim in fresh water (except in well-chlorinated swimming pools) in these countries.
Because motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of injury among travelers, walk and drive defensively. Avoid nighttime travel if possible and always use seat belts.
CDC recommends the following vaccines (as appropriate for age):
See your doctor at least 46 weeks before your trip to allow time for shots to take effect.
- Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG).
- Hepatitis B, if you might be exposed to blood (for example, health-care workers), have sexual contact with the local population, stay longer than 6 months, or be exposed through medical treatment.
- Meningococcal meningitis, for travel to most of these countries from December through June.
- Yellow fever.
- Rabies, if you might be exposed to wild or domestic animals through your work or recreation.
- Typhoid, particularly if you are visiting developing countries in this region.
- As needed, booster doses for tetanus-diphtheria, measles, and a one-time dose of polio vaccine for adults. Hepatitis B vaccine is now recommended for all infants and for children ages 1112 years who did not complete the series as infants.
- Wash hands often with soap and water.
- Drink only bottled or boiled water, or carbonated (bubbly) drinks in cans or bottles. Avoid tap water, fountain drinks, and ice cubes. If this is not possible, make water safer by BOTH filtering through an absolute 1-micron or less filter AND adding iodine tablets to the filtered water. Absolute 1-micron filters are found in camping/outdoor supply stores.
- Eat only thoroughly cooked food or fruits and vegetables you have peeled yourself. Remember: boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it.
- Take your malaria prevention medication before, during, and after travel, as directed. (See your doctor for a prescription.)
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites:
- Pay special attention to mosquito protection between dusk and dawn. This is when the type of mosquito whose bite transmits malaria is active.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats.
- Use insect repellents that contain DEET (diethylmethyltoluamide).
- Read and follow the directions and precautions on the product label.
- Apply insect repellent to exposed skin.
- Do not put repellent on wounds or broken skin.
- Do not breathe in, swallow, or get into the eyes (DEET is toxic if swallowed). If using a spray product, apply DEET to your face by spraying your hands and rubbing the product carefully over the face, avoiding eyes and mouth.
- Unless you are staying in air-conditioned or well-screened housing, purchase a bed net impregnated with the insecticide permethrin or deltamethrin. Or, spray the bed net with one of these insecticides if you are unable to find a pretreated bed net.
- DEET may be used on adults, children, and infants older than 2 months of age. Protect infants by using a carrier draped with mosquito netting with an elastic edge for a tight fit.
- Children under 10 years old should not apply insect repellent themselves. Do not apply to young children’s hands or around eyes and mouth.
- To prevent fungal and parasitic infections, keep feet clean and dry, and do not go barefoot.
- Always use latex condoms to reduce the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
SAFETY AND SECURITY: Security in Sierra Leone has improved significantly since the end of civil war in 2001. Government forces are deployed around the country, and the behavior of both the police and army has improved markedly following extensive international training efforts. Government forces exercise authority throughout Sierra Leone, aided by a large contingent of peacekeepers of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL). UNAMSIL is scheduled to withdraw completely by December 2004.
Areas outside of Freetown lack many basic services. Travelers are urged to exercise caution, especially when traveling outside of the capital. Embassy employees are free to travel throughout Sierra Leone with the exception of Tongo Fields in Kenema District and the area between the Moa River and the border with Liberia. Travel to these areas is reviewed on a case-by-case basis. There are occasional unauthorized roadblocks outside Freetown, where travelers might be asked to pay a small amount of money to the personnel manning the roadblock. Because many Sierra Leoneans, especially outside the capital, do not speak English, it can be difficult for a foreigner to communicate his or her identity.
In the past year, there have been periodic, isolated security incidents due to police operations to reclaim land from illegal occupants and to clear streets of petty traders and vendors. U.S. citizens should avoid political rallies and street demonstrations, and maintain security awareness at all times.
The U.S. Embassy in Freetown currently provides full consular services to U.S. citizens. See the section below on Registration/Embassy Location for more information.
CRIME: The continued poor state of the economy and the lack of opportunity for many in Sierra Leone have led many individuals or small groups to turn to criminal activity. There has been a moderate increase in armed robberies and residential burglaries. Petty crime and theft of wallets, cell phones and passports are very common. Americans traveling to or residing in Sierra Leone should maintain a heightened sense of awareness of their surroundings to help avoid being the victims of crimes.
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends, and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is 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.
U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad for ways to promote a trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.gpoaccess.gov, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.
BUSINESS FRAUD: Perpetrators of business fraud often target foreigners, including Americans. While such fraud schemes in the past have been largely associated with Nigeria, they are now prevalent throughout western Africa, including Sierra Leone. The scams pose a danger of both financial loss and physical harm. Recently, an increasing number of American citizens have been the targets of such scams.
Typically, these scam operations begin with an unsolicited communication (usually by e-mail) from an unknown individual who describes a situation that promises quick financial gain, often by assisting in the transfer of a large sum of money or valuables out of the country. A series of "advance fees" must then be paid in order to conclude the transaction: for example, fees to open a bank account, or to pay certain taxes. In fact, the final payoff does not exist; the purpose of the scam is simply to collect the advance fees. One common variation of this scheme involves individuals claiming to be refugees or other victims of various western African conflicts (notably Sierra Leone ) who contact U.S. citizens to request their help in transferring large sums of money out of Sierra Leone. Another typical ploy has persons claiming to be related to present or former political leaders who need assistance to transfer large sums of cash. Other variations include what appear to be legitimate business deals requiring advance payments on contracts.
The best way to avoid becoming a victim of advance-fee fraud is common sense - if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Any unsolicited business proposal originating from Sierra Leone should be carefully checked out before any funds are committed, any goods or services are provided, or any travel is undertaken. For additional information, single copies of the Department of State's brochure http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_987.htmlTips for Business Travelers to Nigeria are available at no charge by sending a self-addressed, stamped envelope to the Office of American Citizen Services and Crisis Management, SA-29, 4 th Floor, Department of State, Washington, D.C. 20520. This brochure and an accompanying booklet entitled Advance Fee Business Scams are also available on the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.
Source: U.S. Department of State
tropical; hot, humid; summer rainy season (May to December); winter dry season (December to April)
Source: CIA World Factbook
Sierra Leone's electrical current is 220/50 (volts/hz) and uses the plug adaptors listed to the right under Related Items. Many North American appliances are designed to operate only within the 100-125 volt range. These appliances will suffer damage if plugged into 220-250 volts without the proper transformer or converter.
To determine which plug adaptors you'll need and if you'll require a transformer or converter, use our Electrical Connection Wizard.
For a detailed discussion of international electrical standards, see our related article on Electrical and Phone Adaptation.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A passport and visa are required. Landing visas are available for American citizens for $100 upon arrival at Lungi Airport. However, for ease of travel, visitors are strongly recommended to obtain visas in advance. Visitors to Sierra Leone are required to show International Certificates of Vaccination (yellow card) containing evidence of vaccination against yellow fever upon arrival at airport. Travelers should obtain the latest information and details from the Embassy of Sierra Leone, 1701 19th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009 ; telephone (202) 939-9261. Overseas, inquiries should be made to the nearest Sierra Leonean embassy or consulate.
In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.
Source: U.S. Department of State
The time zone for Sierra Leone is 0 hours offset from GMT, which means that if it is 12:00 noon in New York, the time in Sierra Leone would be 5:00 pm
The unit of currency in Sierra Leone is the leone (SLL).
Look up the current exchange rate using XE.com's Universal Currency Converter
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