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Sierra Leone Country Guide

  1. CountryFacts
  2. Health
  3. Media
  1. Intro
  2. Geography
  3. People
  4. Travel
  5. Embassies & Visas
  6. Finance
  7. Cities/Regions

Quick Facts

Region: Africa
Full Name: Republic of Sierra Leone
Capital City: Freetown
Language Spoken: English (official, regular use limited to literate minority), Mende (principal vernacular in the south), Temne (principal vernacular in the north), Krio (English-based Creole, spoken by the descendants of freed Jamaican slaves who were settled in the Freetown area, a lingua franca and a first language for 10% of the population but understood by 95%)

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Geographic data

8 30 N, 11 30 W

Elevation Extremes

lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m highest point: Loma Mansa (Bintimani) 1,948 m

Land boundaries

total: 958 km border countries: Guinea 652 km, Liberia 306 km

Natural hazards

dry, sand-laden harmattan winds blow from the Sahara (December to February); sandstorms, dust storms

Natural resources

diamonds, titanium ore, bauxite, iron ore, gold, chromite

Land use

arable land: 7.95% permanent crops: 1.05% other: 91% (2005)

Environmental current issues

rapid population growth pressuring the environment; overharvesting of timber, expansion of cattle grazing, and slash-and-burn agriculture have resulted in deforestation and soil exhaustion; civil war depleting natural resources; overfishing

Climate

Tropical and humid all year. Between November and April, it is very hot and dry, although the coastal areas are cooled by sea breezes. In December and January, the dry, dusty Harmattan wind blows from the Sahara. During the rainy season between May and November, rainfall can be torrential.

Time difference

time difference: UTC 0

Population

6,005,250 (July 2006 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 44.8% (male 1,321,563/female 1,370,721) 15-64 years: 52% (male 1,494,502/female 1,625,733) 65 years and over: 3.2% (male 90,958/female 101,773) (2006 est.)

Median age

total: 17.4 years male: 17.1 years female: 17.7 years (2006 est.)

Population growth rate

2.3% (2006 est.)

Birth rate

45.76 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Death rate

23.03 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Net migration rate

0.23 migrant(s)/1,000 population note: refugees currently in surrounding countries are slowly returning (2006 est.)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female under 15 years: 0.96 male(s)/female 15-64 years: 0.92 male(s)/female 65 years and over: 0.89 male(s)/female total population: 0.94 male(s)/female (2006 est.)

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 40.22 years male: 38.05 years female: 42.46 years (2006 est.)

Total fertility rate

6.08 children born/woman (2006 est.)

Business Practices

While local businessmen tend not to wear suit and tie for meetings, visitors are typically expected to do so. English is the most common language in business circles. Appointments and punctuality are expected. Visiting cards are essential. Office hours are 0800-1200 and 1400-1700 Monday to Friday.

Crime

Scams abound and thefts of property are increasing. Thefts during daylight hours in populated areas are rare and usually non-confrontational. Purse snatching have occurred in the beach areas and eastern parts of the city. Expatriate residents employ guards against nighttime home invasions and robberies. Police assistance is better than in the past, but the force is still poorly equipped, lacking radios, transport and fuel. Salaries are low and corruption is common. Few recoveries of stolen property are ever made. Often when a thief is caught in the act they are subjected to mob street justice. Visitors in Freetown are cautioned to carry limited cash and not to wear expensive jewelry. Visitors are advised to keep control of their bags at all times, as unattended property is likely to be stolen. Taxi drivers are known to stage car breakdowns, asking passengers to push the car to a jump-start, and then driving off with the passenger's belongings. There are many beggars on Freetown's streets. Visitors are advised not to encourage their actions, as it is very difficult to help just one. Visitors traveling in vehicles should make sure that all doors are locked and windows rolled up. Visitors hiring taxis should make it clear that no other passengers are allowed to ride along.

Hotels

Hotels in Freetown tend to be run down. Thefts from rooms of visitors are common occurrence. Recently, outside investors have refurbished a small number of hotels in the beach area. With the rehabilitation has come an effort to provide adequate security for hotels in the city. Additionally, there are three luxury hotels located on the peninsula at Lakka and Tokay. Hotels in the interior are rare, although in Bo there is now the Hotel Sir Milton, which is of international standard.

Communications

Telephone IDD service is available. The country code is 232. Outgoing international calls must go through the operator. Telex and telegram facilities are available at Slecom House, 7 Wallace Johnson Street, Freetown.

Electricity

is a 220/240 volts AC, 50Hz. Supply is subject to fluctuations. Electricity 220/240 volts AC, 50Hz. Supply subject to fluctuations.

Plug Types

D,G

Food And Dining

Restaurants in the capital serve Armenian, English, French and Lebanese food. African food is served in hotels.
National specialties:
? Excellent fish, lobster and prawns.
? Exotic fruit and vegetables.
Tipping:
Most hotels and restaurants include a service charge of 10 to 15 per cent. Taxi drivers do not expect tips.
Nightlife
Freetown has nightclubs and two casinos and there is music, dancing and local entertainment arranged by the hotels along Lumley Beach in the Cape Sierra district. Some beachside clubs organize concerts by local pop bands. SHOPPING Shopping hours: Mon-Sat 0800-1200 and 1400-1700.

Entry departure requirements

Restricted entry Nationals of Liberia need authorization from the Government of Sierra Leone or they will be refused admission.

Visa immigration information

Passports

Passport valid for a minimum of six months required by all.

Visas

Required by all except the following:
(a) nationals of Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, C?te d'Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea Republic, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo;
(b) transit passengers continuing their journey by the same or first connecting aircraft within 24 hours provided holding onward or return documentation and not leaving the airport transit area.

Types of visa and cost

Tourist: US$77 (single-entry); US$155 (multiple-entry). Express Tourist and Business: US$69 in addition to cost. Business: US$103 (single-entry); US$206 (multiple-entry: six months), US$344 (multiple-entry: one year).

Validity

Entry Permits and visas generally are valid for three months and allow a stay of one month in Sierra Leone for single-entry only. An extension is possible by application to the Department of Immigration in Freetown. Multiple-entry tourist and visitor visas are valid for six months; a business multiple-entry visa is valid for up to one year.

Application to

Consulate (or Consular section at Embassy or High Commission); see Passport/Visa Information.

Application requirements

(a) Completed application form. (b) Two passport-size photos. (c) Passport valid for six months. (d) Confirmation of hotel reservation for tourist visa. (e) Letter of invitation and company letter for business visa. (f) Vaccination against yellow fever, malaria and cholera are required in order to obtain a visa (see Health section). (g) Fee in cash or postal order for mail applications. (h) Evidence of sufficient funds.

Working days required

Three. Several weeks are required where referral to authorities in Sierra Leone is necessary. One day for Express visa.

HIV entry requirements

No Test Required

Departure tax

US$20 (payable in hard currency by all except nationals of Sierra Leone). Transit passengers and children under two years of age are exempt.

Embassies

High Commission for Sierra Leone in the UK

High Commission of Sierra Leone, 41 Eagle Street, Holborn, London WC1E 4TL
Tel: 0207 4040 140.
Opening hours: Mon-Thurs 1000-1300 and 1430-1500; Fri 1000-1300.
Website: http://www.slhc-uk.org/

Embassy of the Republic of Sierra Leone in the USA

1701 19th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20009, USA
Tel: (202) 939 9261.
Website: www.sierra-leone.org
There has been political unrest in 2005.
Visits to the Western Area of Sierra Leone, including Freetown are usually trouble-free.
Travel outside the Western Area can be difficult, as roads and infrastructure are poor.
Petty crime is common.
Travelers should take sensible precautions and maintain a high level of vigilance in public places.
The threat from terrorism is low, but you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate attacks, which could be against civilian targets including places frequented by foreigners.
This advice is based on information provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. It is correct at time of publishing. As the situation can change rapidly, visitors are advised to contact the following organizations for the latest travel advice:

British Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Tel: (0845) 850 2829.
Website: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/sierra-leone

US Department of State

Website: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/SierraLeone.html

Currency

Leone (SLL) = 100 cents. Notes are in denominations of SLL5000, 2000, 1000, 500, 100, 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1. Coins are in denominations of SLL100 and 50. In June 1986, a system of 'floating' exchange rates was introduced to correct persistent over-valuation of the Leone.

Currency restrictions

The import and export of local currency is limited to Le50,000. The import of foreign currency is unlimited subject to declaration; export of foreign currency is limited to the amount declared on arrival (amounts exceeding US$5000 must be authorized by the National Bank of Sierra Leone).

Banking hours

Mon-Thurs 0800-1330, Fri 0800-1400.

Currency exchange

Credit cards

These are not accepted.

Travellers cheques

These are generally not recommended.

City/RegionCity/Area codeFollowed by
Bo y Kenema(0)32+ 6 digit subscriber nr
Freetown(0)22+ 6 digit subscriber nr
  1. Health Information
  2. Recent Disease Outbreak
  3. Hospital Database

Dental care

There is little dental care available in Sierra Leone, and what there is, the standards of care and hygiene cannot be guaranteed

Medication Availability

Medication in short supply and even when available is often out of date or heat damaged and therefore should be avoided

Blood supplies

Blood supplies should be considered as unsafe

Medical facilities

Medical facilities fall critically short of Western standards. Persons with medical conditions that may require treatment or medications are discouraged from travelling to Sierra Leone. Medicines are in short supply, sterility of equipment is questionable, and treatment is unreliable. Many primary health care workers, especially in rural areas, lack professional training. Instances of misdiagnosis, improper treatment and administration of improper drugs have been reported.

General caution

Recent medical and dental exams should ensure that the traveler is in good health. Carry appropriate health and accident insurance documents and copies of any important medical records. Bring an adequate supply of all prescription and other medications as well as any necessary personal hygiene items, including a spare pair of eyeglasses or contact lenses if necessary. Drink only bottled beverages (including water) or beverages made with boiled water. Do not use ice cubes or eat raw seafood, rare meat or dairy products. Eat well-cooked foods while they are still hot and fruits that can be peeled without contamination. Avoid roadside stands and street vendors. Swim only in well-maintained, chlorinated pools or ocean water known to be free from pollution; avoid freshwater lakes, streams and rivers. Wear clothing which reduces exposed skin and apply repellents containing DEET to remaining areas. Sleep in well-screened accommodations. Carry anti-diarrheal medication. Reduce problems related to sun exposure by using sunglasses, wide-brimmed hats, sunscreen lotions and lip protection.

Specific concerns

AIDS occurs. Blood supply may not be adequately screened and/or single-use, disposable needles and syringes may be unavailable. When possible, travelers should defer medical treatment until reaching a facility where safety can be assured. Fungus and skin disorders are common during the rainy season. If washing clothes, towels or bedding, machine-dry them to avoid tumba fly infestation. The Department of State has warned that travelers to Freetown, Sierra Leone's capital, should be aware that there were two crashes involving helicopters serving the Lungi airport in early 1990. Two helicopter service companies provide a transportation service from the airport across Peninsular Bay to Freetown and, according to the State Department, both services have poor safety records. The State Department cautions that travelers may wish to consider alternate means of transportation from Lungi airport to Freetown, such as car or ferry.

Immunization

Cholera: Although limited in effectiveness, vaccination may be appropriate for persons living and/or working in less than sanitary conditions for more than 3 months where medical facilities are unavailable. Vaccination may also be appropriate for travelers with impaired gastric defenses who are planning an extended visit or being exposed to unsanitary conditions. Vaccination is not advised for pregnant women, infants younger than 6 months old, or persons with a history of severe reaction to the vaccine. Hepatitis A: Consider active immunization with hepatitis A vaccine or passive immunization with immune globulin (IG) for all susceptible travelers. Especially consider choosing active immunization for persons planning to reside for a long period or for persons who take frequent short-term trips to risk areas. The importance of protection against hepatitis A increases as length of stay increases. It is particularly important for persons who will be living in or visiting rural areas, eating or drinking in settings of poor or uncertain sanitation, or who will have close contact with local persons (especially young children) in settings with poor sanitary conditions. Hepatitis B: Vaccination is advised for health care workers, persons anticipating direct contact with blood from or sexual contact with inhabitants, and persons planning extended stays of 6 months or greater (especially those who anticipate using local health care facilities, staying in rural areas, or having intimate contact with the local population). Polio: A one-time booster dose is recommended for travelers who have previously completed a standard course of polio immunization. Refer to CDC guidelines for vaccinating unimmunized or incompletely immunized persons. Pregnancy is a relative contraindication to vaccination; however, if protection is needed, either IPV or OPV may be used, depending on preference and time available. Rabies: Preexposure vaccination should be considered for persons staying longer than 30 days who are expected to be at risk to bites from domestic and/or wild animals (particularly dogs), or for persons engaged in high risk activities such as spelunking or animal handling. Need for vaccination is more important if potential exposure is in rural areas and if adequate postexposure care is not readily available. Typhoid: Vaccination should be considered for persons staying longer than 3 weeks, adventurous eaters, and those who will venture off the usual tourist routes into small cities, villages and rural areas. Importance of vaccination increases as access to reasonable medical care becomes limited. Contraindications depend on vaccine type. Yellow fever: Vaccination is recommended for travelers over 9 months of age going outside of urban areas. Note: All routine vaccines (such as DTP or Td, Hib, MMR, polio, varicella, influenza and pneumococcal) should be kept up-to-date as a matter of good health practice unrelated to travel.

Disease risk summary

Insect-borne diseases: are major causes of illness. Many diseases, including yellow fever, are endemic to the area and sporadic cases are reported but from time to time more extensive outbreaks occur. Filariasis - prevalent Leishmaniasis - occurs (both cutaneous and visceral types may be found, particularly in the drier areas) Loiasis - prevalent Malaria - common Onchocerciasis (river blindness) - prevalent Relapsing fever - occurs Trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) - occurs (human type - mainly in small, isolated areas - is reported) Tungiasis - prevalent Typhus - occurs (louse-, flea-, and tick-borne types occur) Food-borne and water-borne illness: highly endemic. The dysenteries and diarrheal diseases, giardiasis, the typhoid fevers and viral hepatitis are widespread. Echinococcosis (hydatid disease) is widespread in animal-breeding areas. Cholera - occurs Dracunculiasis - occurs Helminthic (parasitic worm) infections - prevalent Lassa fever - occurs (risk in eastern areas, and people visiting these areas should take particular care to avoid rat-contaminated food or food containers) Schistosomiasis - common Other hazards: Diseases such as measles and diphtheria are commonly reported, and cases of polio still occur regularly. Influenza risk extends throughout the year. Rabies - prevalent Trachoma - prevalent

Entry requirements

Yellow fever: A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required from travelers coming from infected areas. (Contrary to published requirements, the U.S. Embassy reports that proof of yellow fever vaccination is required for all travelers.)

Recent disease outbreaks

No recent disease outbreaks

N/A

Media

Media freedom in Sierra Leone is limited, especially when it comes to reporting corruption; Broadcasters face many challenges, such as unreliable electricity supplies, a shortage of funds and a lack of advertising revenue. The UN Mission in Sierra Leone (Unmasil) operates some radio services, broadcasting news of UN activities and human rights information, as well as music and news.
Press: Newspapers include Awoko, The Democrat and Concord Times.
TV: Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service (SLBS) is a terrestrial network with limited coverage; ABC TV is private.
Radio: Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service (SLBS) is the national broadcaster. Private stations include Kiss FM and SKYY FM. FM relays of BBC World Service and Radio France Internationale are on the air in Freetown.

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