This advice has been reviewed and reissued with an amendment to the Health section. The overall level of the advice has not changed.
SAFETY AND SECURITY
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. Please read "Security and General Tips
" and "Risk of Terrorism when Travelling Overseas
" pages on the FCO website.
Pickpocketing, muggings and armed break-ins occur in Freetown.
You should avoid carrying valuables in public and be vigilant at all times, especially at night. In particular, you should also avoid the groups of youths who congregate in town centres.
On 28 February and 1 March, there were student demonstrations in Freetown city centre. On both occasions the demonstrations resulted in incidents of violence. You should always avoid demonstrations.
Sierra Leone is becoming more stable. The 10-year conflict ended in 2002 and Sierra Leone has successfully conducted both national (2002) and local (2004) elections.
The regional situation remains unstable. Liberia is still recovering after 14 years of conflict and Guinea is politically fragile.
There are no commercial flights available in Sierra Leone
You should be aware that during March and April fuel shortages have affected most areas in Sierra Leone. As well as making it difficult to buy petrol, this has in some areas led to steep increases in petrol prices
There are no restrictions on travelling around Sierra Leone. But travelling by road, particularly outside the Western Area, can be difficult. Public transport, where it exists, is neither reliable nor necessarily safe. Within the Western Area crowded private taxis provide transport along fixed routes. A limited number of private cars are available for hire on a short-term basis and major hotels and travel agencies offer cars for hire, with a chauffeur if required.
All roads are unlit and potholes are common, especially during the rainy season (May to November), so care should be taken when driving. The roads outside the capital are particularly poor and many are only accessible by four-wheel-drive. Travel after dark in the interior should be avoided.
Any airline from outside the EU or European Economic area, which wishes to pick up or put down passengers or cargo in the UK, requires a permit from the Secretary of State. It is a condition of the permit that the airline should be operated in accordance with international safety standards established by the International Civil Aviation Organisation. No airline registered in Sierra Leone currently has a permit to land in the UK.
Sierra Leone has many attractive beaches. But strong currents are common. Swimmers should take care and consult local advice before entering the water.
LOCAL LAWS AND CUSTOMS
You should not become involved with drugs of any kind. All precious stones require an export licence. Those who commit criminal offences, including drug trafficking and diamond smuggling can expect to be subjected to local law. There are heavy penalties for those convicted. Local prison conditions are harsh.
Homosexuality is illegal in Sierra Leone.
Single parents or other adults travelling alone with children should be aware that some countries require documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing lone parents to enter the country. For further information on exactly what will be required at immigration please contact the Sierra Leonean High Commission (address as above).
Visitors travelling via Conakry should ensure that they have the necessary multiple entry visas for Guinea and a certified Yellow Fever vaccination certificate.
On 9 and 10 May, there were reports of four deaths as a result of a cholera outbreak in the north west district of Kambia. We advise that you take particular care and recommend that you drink only boiled/bottled water.
We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive medical and travel insurance. This should include cover for medical treatment and evacuation, accidents, cancelled flights and stolen cash, credit cards, passport and luggage.
Medical facilities are poor. You should carry basic medical supplies. You are advised to take medical advice before travelling and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up to date. Waterborne diseases, malaria and other tropical diseases are prevalent. You should consider taking prophylaxis against malaria and using insect repellent. Vaccination against rabies and yellow fever (required to enter Guinea) are strongly advised. You should consult your doctor about these and other requirements before travelling. HIV/AIDS is prevalent. Lassa fever can be contracted in Kenema and the east. If you have travelled in this region you should seek urgent medical advice for any fever not positively identified as malaria.
For further information on health, check the Department of Health’s website at: www.dh.gov.uk
Credit cards are not accepted in Sierra Leone and the opportunities to exchange travellers' cheques are limited. All foreign exchange transactions must be handled through the banks and official exchange offices.
You should carry ID (passport or residence permit) at all times, particularly when driving or taking a taxi, when the likelihood of having to produce it is high.
You should reconfirm onward/return flights 72 hours in advance.
You should register with the British High Commission in Freetown as soon as possible after you arrive.