The Department of Foreign Affairs strongly recommends that comprehensive travel insurance, including medical insurance, is obtained before travelling to Sierra Leone. Travellers should note that the Irish Government does not provide funds for emergency medical repatriation or for repatriation of remains.
For entry requirements for Sierra Leone, please contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate.
It is advisable to take a number of photocopies of your passport with you. During your stay you should carry a photocopy of your passport at all times.
There is no travel restriction in place advising against travel to Sierra Leone. The most significant dangers to travellers relate to medical risks, traffic accidents and petty crime. The availability and quality of health care in Sierra Leone is poor and Irish citizens are strongly advised to take out comprehensive travel insurance, including medical insurance which will cover all overseas medical costs including medical evacuations, before travelling. Travellers should note that the Irish government does not provide funds for emergency medical repatriation or repatriation of remains.
Irish citizens planning to travel to Sierra Leone are encouraged to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Travel Registration service. It is advisable to carry a copy of your passport at all times and to keep your passport in a secure location.
Consular services to Irish citizens in Sierra Leone are provided by the Embassy of Ireland in Nigeria and by the Honorary Consul General of Ireland in Sierra Leone (links).
Safety and Security
Security and stability in Sierra Leone have improved significantly since civil war in the country ended in 2002, and peaceful presidential and parliamentary elections took place in November 2012. However, some tensions still remain and it is advisable to avoid large gatherings, political rallies and demonstrations.
The threat of terrorism is low, although Somali terrorist organisation Al-Shabaab has issued a threat against Sierra Leone due to its planned participation in a UN/African Union peace keeping mission in Somalia in 2012. There is also a global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks which can target areas frequented by foreign tourists.
Sierra Leone shares borders with Guinea and Liberia, which can pose security concerns. Travellers visiting border areas should seek local advice and keep informed of political developments.
Traffic accidents are a significant hazard in Sierra Leone and road users should exercise extreme care. A major road construction and repair programme is underway across the country, but road conditions are generally poor, including in Freetown, and worsen during the rainy season from May to October as heavy rains damage road surfaces and create large potholes. Most roads have no street lighting or painted markings. , A four wheel drive vehicle is recommended and outside of Freetown, travel outside of daylight hours should be avoided.
Makeshift roadblocks are commonly seen on rural roads, often manned by children and youths, requesting or demanding payment from travellers using the road. Travellers are advised that the private taxis, motorbike taxis or “poda-podas” (mini buses) available for public transport can be hazardous. Vehicle maintenance and driving standards can be very poor and vehicles are often overcrowded.
Irish citizens are strongly advised to take out comprehensive travel insurance, including medical insurance which will cover all overseas medical costs including medical evacuations, before travelling. You should check any exclusions and ensure that your policy will cover all the activities which you plan to undertake. You should contact your insurance company immediately if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment. Travellers should note that the Irish government does not provide funds for emergency medical repatriation or repatriation of remains.
Prior to visiting to Sierra Leone, visitors should consult a doctor about necessary vaccinations and precautions. The yellow fever vaccination is an entry requirement for the country and a yellow fever vaccination certificate will be requested by border control on arrival in Sierra Leone. Malaria, including cerebral malaria which can be fatal within 72 hours, is endemic in the country and the use of a malaria prophylaxis is strongly recommended, together with other precautions such as using insect repellent and keeping limbs covered at night. Travellers should also bring sufficient malaria treatment for the duration of their visit. Cholera and other water-borne diseases such as diarrhoea, giardia, dysentery and typhoid are also very common, so travellers should drink and brush their teeth with bottled water only, and avoid eating uncooked vegetables, salads, seafoods and meats. Other diseases including but not limited to, rabies, HIV, hepatitis A and B, meningitis, polio and Lassa fever are also present in some parts of Sierra Leone and can also pose a risk.
The availability and quality of medical services in Sierra Leone is poor, and generally only basic care can be obtained. Irish citizens in need of treatment may be asked to pay up front. Emergency services in Freetown, currently reached by dialling 112 or 900 from a Sierra Leone mobile phone network, are unreliable, and there are no emergency services outside the capital.
Irish citizens with pre-existing medical conditions or underlying health concerns are discouraged from visiting Sierra Leone. Should you choose to travel, you should bring with you sufficient medication for the duration of your visit, as it may not be possible to obtain appropriate drugs or treatment in the country.
Crime levels in Sierra Leone are generally low and the greatest risk to short-term visitors to the country is petty crime such as pick-pocketing. However muggings and assaults can also occur. The risk of such thefts and muggings increases further in the period around Christmas, from November until the New Year. Travellers are advised to exercise the normal precautions and to take particular care when in large crowds or when out at night, especially in central Freetown or in the beach area, or at bars or nightclubs. Avoid carrying valuables or large sums of cash in public. Concerts and sporting events at the national stadium are often overcrowded and unsafe, and pick-pocketing is common. Visitors should ensure that their accommodation and vehicles are well secured, with locked doors and windows at all times.
Business fraud against foreigners is also a problem. Business people considering making an investment or entering into a contract are advised to carefully research the individual or company concerned before making any commitments. Particular caution should be exercised when the business opportunity is the result of unsolicited contact or promises rapid financial gain.
Corruption is also a common problem in Sierra Leone.
Should you or a member of your travelling party be a victim of crime while in Sierra Leone, you are encouraged to make a report to the local police and to contact the Consular Office of the Embassy of Ireland in Nigeria or the Honorary Consul General of Ireland in Sierra Leone.
Local Laws and Customs
The majority of the population is Muslim although there is also a sizable Christian community. There is little religious extremism in Sierra Leone and tension between religions is extremely low. Travellers should be respectful of local traditions and should be particular mindful of this during the holy month of Ramadan.
Irish citizens in Sierra Leone are subject to local laws and regulations and those who commit criminal offences can expect to be prosecuted and jailed or expelled from the country. Prison conditions are extremely difficult. Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of drugs are severe and travellers should not become involved in drugs in any way. Homosexuality is illegal in Sierra Leone.
Sierra Leone’s customs authorities enforce strict regulations regarding the export of precious minerals and gems such as diamonds and gold. All such exports should be conducted in compliance with Sierra Leonean law.
Natural Disasters and Climate
The climate in Sierra Leone is consistently hot and humid year round. During the dry season, from November to April, temperatures and humidity are higher. The rainy season lasts from May to October and brings extremely heavy rainfalls and thunderstorms.
There is no significant risk of large scale natural disasters. Sierra Leone is not located in a seismically active area. However visitors should exercise caution when travelling during the rainy season as flash floods and falling debris can be hazardous.
Additional Country Info
Irish citizens require a valid passport, a visa and a yellow fever vaccination certificate for entry to Sierra Leone. For more detailed information, contact the nearest Embassy or Consular Office. The High Commission of Sierra Leone in the UK handles visa applications from residents of Ireland.
Sierra Leone is a cash based economy. The local currency is the Leone. Although there are a number of ATMs in Freetown, many do not accept foreign bank or credit cards and the security of the transactions cannot be guaranteed. Credit cards and traveller’s cheques are very rarely accepted and should not be relied upon.
Travellers should bring sufficient cash to cover expenses while in Sierra Leone. There are restrictions on the quantity of cash that can be brought into the country, and travellers should verify the latest requirements with the local Embassy or Consulate of Sierra Leone before travelling. US dollars and euros are often accepted for payment in high-end hotels, restaurants and supermarkets, although dollar notes printed before 2006 may not be accepted. Foreign currency can be exchanged for Leones in banks or official foreign exchange offices. The use of street vendors to exchange currency is not recommended. Care should be taken when carrying cash.
English is the official language of Sierra Leone and is widely spoken in Freetown. Krio, an English-based creole dialect, is the lingua franca of Sierra Leone and is widely spoken across the country.
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