Sierra Leone Travel Information
Local time is GMT.
Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz, but supplies are erratic and power failures common. Round three-pin plugs or rectangular three-blade plugs are used.
English is the official language, although each ethnic group has its own tribal language, used more widely in the interior of the country. Krio is a form of Pidgin English that is widely spoken in Freetown.
A service charge of about 10 percent is included in restaurant and hotel bills, but otherwise tipping is optional.
Since the end of the 10-year civil war, the security situation has improved to a large degree, although it is still fragile. Political demonstrations and large gatherings should be avoided as these have the potential to turn violent. Travellers are advised to avoid the areas bordering Liberia and Guinea. There are incidences of violent crime in Freetown, including armed theft and assault. Petty crime is more common with pick-pocketing and other opportunistic crimes prevalent throughout the country and visitors should take care not to flash valuables or cash.
A number of violent incidents have taken place around the bars and nightclubs at Lumley Beach and visitors are advised to be cautious in the area after dark. Travel outside of the Western Area that includes Freetown can be difficult as roads are poor and transport unreliable. All road or sea transfers from the airport to Freetown should be done in daylight hours due to safety concerns.
Homosexuality is illegal. There is a strong Muslim culture and visitors should be sensitive to religious customs, particularly during the month of Ramadan when eating, drinking, and smoking during daylight hours should be discreet as it is forbidden by the Muslim culture. Visitors should be aware it is illegal to buy or export diamonds, gold, or ivory without the necessary licenses.
Business etiquette in Sierra Leone varies according to individual sectors, however it is always advisable to make appointments in advance and arrive on time for all meetings. Have everything set up before meetings, as it is percieved as impolite to ask your hosts for anything. For more formal dealings, lightweight suits are to be worn. Shaking hands for men and women is the most common form of introduction and business cards are exchanged. Business hours are generally 8am to 12pm and 2pm to 5pm Monday to Friday.
The international dialling code for Sierra Leone is +232. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the UK). The city code for Freetown is (0)22; other areas do not require a code. Africell and SierraTel provide national and international telephone services. Wifi can be found in some top hotels, and free international calls can be made using the internet. International roaming is available and the use of mobile phones is high due to the unreliability of landlines.
Travellers may bring 200 cigarettes or 225g tobacco, and 1 litre of wine or spirits into the country without paying customs duty. Narcotics are strictly forbidden.