Krio is the first language along with a selection of regional dialects. English is the language of business and government and is widely understood in Freetown but is used less elsewhere.
Sierra Leone’s time zone is GMT.
220 V, British-style 3 square pin plugs are most common though occasionally you will find South African style 3 round pin plugs.
Mains electricity has recently become available in Freetown for the first time in a decade and the supply is frequently interrupted. Hotels in Freetown typically run 2 – 4 back-up generators, but you should expect power interruptions and take a torch with you if you leave you room after dark. Surges are common. Outside Freetown, electricity is only available from generators, or in a few locations, solar panels. You should not expect 24-hour electricity and generally power is only available for lighting rather than recharging cameras or mobile phones. Consider buying a cable so you can charge your camera in vehicles.
Mobile Phone Coverage & Wi-Fi
Sierra Leone has an excellent cell-phone network covering almost the entire country. Remember to ensure your mobile is set up for international roaming.
Your free baggage allowance on BA flights is shown on your e-ticket in the column headed ‘BAG’. It's usually 20kg in economy class.
The local currency is the Leone (Le).
Sierra Leone is a cash economy and you should ensure that you take enough cash to cover your expenses. US$ is the easiest currency to change and you will find you get a much better rate for changing $100 bills, rather than smaller notes. (Avoid series older than the year 2000 as they are mostly refused or you’ll get very bad exchange rates) Cash is easier to exchange than travellers cheques.
Credit cards are very rarely accepted for payment in Sierra Leone. It is possible to get credit card advances at the Freetown branches of Rokel Bank using a Visa, MasterCard or American Express card, but it is a lengthy and arduous process and should be treated as a last resort.
Sierra Leone is in a yellow fever area and you may be asked to present a certificate of vaccination either on entry or exit. This is important in order to avoid unnecessary delays. The vaccination needs to be obtained a minimum of 10 days prior to departure.
There is a risk of malaria and precautions, including anti-malaria tablets and insect repellent, are imperative. Some strains of malaria are resistant to some prophylactics and you are advised to take precautions (eg insect repellent, long trousers etc).
Never drink un-purified water. Bottled water is available almost everywhere but you should always check that bottles are properly sealed before drinking, especially when travelling in rural areas or purchasing water from local markets. Avoid salads, locally-made yoghurt and ice-cream, and peel all fruit before eating.
In Sierra Leone, the strong rays of the sun can cause severe burns and sunstroke in a few hours, so dont forget to take the necessary precautions (light clothing, hat, sunglasses and sun block).
AIDS is widespread in Sierra Leone.
Your own doctor is the best source of specific and accurate information about all travel health requirements and you should be guided by his/her advice.
Your passport must be valid for at least one year beyond your intended stay in Sierra Leone and must contain at least two completely blank pages, one for the visa and one for the entry stamp. Failure to comply may mean you are denied entry to Sierra Leone. British and most other passport-holders require a visa for entry to Sierra Leone, which must be obtained prior to arrival. You can apply for a visa in person or by post. Visit the Sierra Leone High Commission UK for more information.
Sierra Leoneans are generally warm and welcoming and enthusiastically receive foreign visitors. Conversation will be helped if you are up-to-date on the latest news and results from the English Premier League!
Always dress in a manner that will avoid causing offence.
Sierra Leone has an admirable tradition of religious tolerance and Christians and Muslims live side by side in relative harmony. You are likely to be asked about your religious beliefs as a matter of interest rather than because these are likely to be challenged.
You should exercise sensitivity when talking about Sierra Leone’s recent history. The conflict of the 90s is not a taboo subject but you should be aware that many people were affected and may have lost friends or family members.
It's not advisable to take photographs around government buildings, military bases or police check points. Always request permission before photographing people, and note you may be asked to make a payment for any photos taken; ask your guide to assist you with this.