- Normal precautions
- High degree of caution
- Avoid non-essential travel
- Do not travel
- Safety and Security
- Local Laws and Customs
- Additional Information
- Embassy Contact
General COVID-19 Travel Advisory in Operation
Avoid non-essential travel.
Security Status Last Updated: 17 March 2020
It is recommended that Irish citizens travelling in Sierra Leone register with the Embassy.
Cases of COVID-19 have now been confirmed in all African countries. Emergency response procedures are now in place in a number of countries and include restrictions on flights to and from Europe and the introduction of quarantine arrangements. New procedures have in some instances been brought in with immediate effect. In weighing decisions to travel to Africa at this time, Irish citizens should take into consideration the risk of restrictions being introduced during their travel and, also, the impact which responding to COVID-19 may have on local health care systems over the course of their proposed visit.
There are a significant number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Sierra Leone, with the number steadily growing. Testing and tracing infrastructure is limited, so real case numbers may be significantly higher. The availability and quality of medical services is poor. Citizens should be aware that you may have difficulty accessing even basic medical services, particularly in remote areas.
Freetown International Airport remains open, with strict restrictions on those arriving in the country.
Before departure at point of origin, passengers are required to apply for authorisation to enter Sierra Leone at travel.gov.sl. This authorisation consists of:
- Negative PCR COVID-19 test result issued no longer than seven days before departure;
- Pre-departure public health passenger locator form;
- Proof of payment for COVID-19 testing on arrival, paid through the online platform.
This authorisation must be presented at the check-in desk before departure. Passengers also need to bring their negative COVID-19 test result and present it on arrival in Freetown.
All arriving passengers are subject to mandatory testing for COVID-19. Passengers are given a Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) and a PCR test, which takes longer to analyse. If the RDT test is negative, the passenger can depart the airport and observe social distancing; if positive, the passenger will be isolated at a hotel near the airport to await their PCR result, at their own cost. If the PCR test is positive, the passenger will be transferred to a treatment facility.
The Government of Sierra Leone has issued a directive that all incoming passengers will have their passports withheld at Freetown International Airport until their PCR test result has issued. Passports are to be collected at the NaCOVERC office along with the result certificate, once issued.
Passengers who were sitting close to positive case on the plane are required to self-quarantine.
The government have installed a number of restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19. Wearing a mask is mandatory in all public spaces; a curfew is also in place.
Passengers leaving Sierra Leone are also required to undergo a COVID-19 test no more than 72 hours before departure.
Additional information on COVID-19 can be found via the following links:
Accidents and Emergencies
If you're planning to drive in Sierra Leone, you should be extremely careful as traffic accidents are common. Emergency medical services in Sierra Leone are limited, and poorly equipped to deal with road traffic accidents, particularly those involving complex trauma. Therefore, extra caution should be exercised when using the road, either as a driver or as a passenger.
The availability and quality of medical services in Sierra Leone is poor. Citizens should be aware that you may have difficulty accessing even basic medical services, particularly in remote areas. If you need treatment, you may be asked to pay up front. If you have a pre-existing medical condition or underlying health concerns, you should note that it may not be possible to get appropriate drugs or treatment during your stay. If you choose to travel, bring enough medication with you for the duration of your visit.
Consular assistance in cases of genuine emergency can be sought from the Embassy of Ireland in Sierra Leone. If you require emergency assistance out-of-hours, you can contact the Duty Officer on +232 79 250623.
Our tips for safe travels
- Purchase comprehensive travel insurance which covers all your intended activities.
- Register your details with us so that we can contact you quickly in an emergency, such as a natural disaster or a family emergency.
- Follow us on twitter @dfatravelwise for the latest travel updates.
- Read our 'Know Before You Go' guide.
Safety and Security
Safety and Security
Safety and security
There have been incidences of violence during political demonstrations and by-elections in recent months. Irish citizens are advised to steer clear of all political demonstrations and protests, and of polling centres on election days.
Crime levels in Sierra Leone are generally low and the greatest risk to short-term visitors is petty crime such as pick-pocketing. However burglaries can also occur, particularly around Christmas (from November until the New Year). Always take sensible precautions:
- Don't carry your credit card, travel tickets and money together - leave spare cash and valuables in a safe place.
- Take a number of photocopies of your passport with you in case your passport is lost or stolen. Leave a copy of your passport (and travel and insurance documents) with family or friends at home.
- Avoid carrying valuables or large sums of cash in public.
- 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. Concerts and sporting events at the national stadium are often overcrowded and unsafe, and pickpocketing is common. Theft of personal effects during political rallies is a possibility.
- Avoid dark and unlit streets and stairways, and arrange to be picked up or dropped off as close to your hotel or apartment entrance as possible.
- Keep a close eye on your personal belongings and hold on to them in public places such as internet cafés, train and bus stations.
- Make sure that your accommodation and vehicle are well secured, with locked doors and windows at all times.
- If you're a victim of crime while in Sierra Leone, you should make a report to the local police and contact the Embassy of Ireland.
Corruption and Fraud
Visitors should be aware that corruption and business fraud against foreigners is a problem. If you’re thinking of making an investment or entering into a contract, we advise you to research the person or company concerned before making any commitments. Be particularly careful when the business opportunity is the result of unsolicited contact or promises rapid financial gain.
Extreme care should be taken on the road in Sierra Leone, whether as a driver or passenger, as traffic accidents are common. Emergency medical services in Sierra Leone are limited, and poorly equipped to deal with road traffic accidents, particularly those involving complex trauma.
A major road construction and repair programme is underway across the country, with considerable improvement in major roads. However, conditions on minor roads remain generally poor, including in Freetown, and worse 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 and many local vehicles do not have functioning lights. A four-wheel drive vehicle is recommended for minor roads outside of Freetown.
Road traffic accidents can lead to heated disputes. If you are caught up in a serious road traffic accident, you are advised to remain inside your vehicle, with the doors locked, until such time as the police arrive. If it becomes unsafe to remain at the scene of a road traffic accident, you should make your way immediately to the local police station to report the incident.
If you are travelling outside of Freetown, you should plan your journey in advance and make sure that you are not on rural roads after dark. You should also travel in convoy where possible, to avoid getting stranded in the case of break-downs.
If you want to drive:
- Bring your full Irish driver's licence and your International Driving Permit and make sure you have adequate and appropriate insurance.
- Keep your vehicle doors locked, especially when stopped in traffic.
- Remember that in Sierra Leone, you drive on the right-hand side of the road.
- Makeshift roadblocks are commonly seen on rural roads, often manned by children and youths, requesting payment from travellers using the road.
Private taxis, ‘kekes’, motorbike taxis or ‘poda-podas’ (mini buses) can be hazardous as vehicle maintenance and driving standards are often very poor and vehicles overcrowded. The Embassy advises citizens not to use kekes, motorbike taxis or any form of public transport in Sierra Leone, and only to use trusted taxi drivers or official drivers.
Sierra Leone shares its border with Guinea and Liberia. If travelling near the borders, it is advisable to seek local advice and keep informed of political developments.
The land borders with Guinea and Liberia are currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic; there have been some incidences of tension near the border. There is a curfew in place in Kambia district to keep the border restriction in place.
The threat of terrorism in Sierra Leone is low, although there is a global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks which can target areas frequented by foreign tourists.
Sierra Leone boasts some beautiful beaches. However, travellers should take caution when entering the ocean, as currents can be strong and beaches are not manned by lifeguards. You should not swim beyond your depth, and you should not enter the water at night-time or in a state of intoxication.
Local Laws and Customs
Local Laws and Customs
Local Laws and Customs
Remember, the local laws apply to you as a visitor and it is your responsibility to follow them. Be sensitive to local customs, traditions and practices as your behaviour may be seen as improper, hostile or may even be illegal.
Although not common, you may be asked to produce valid photo ID. Therefore, you should carry a photocopy of your passport at all times. You should store your passport in a safe place.
The Sierra Leone Police levy a SLL300,000 fee for all foreign nationals who need a police report. They are unable to issue crime reference numbers without a police report. You should make your payment to the Sierra Leone Police Revenue Generation Fund Account at the Bank of Sierra Leone and get a receipt. Do not pay the Sierra Leone Police directly. If you wish to report a crime but do not require a crime reference number or a written report, there will be no charge.
Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of drugs are severe and you should not become involved in drugs in any way.
Precious gems and minerals
Sierra Leone’s customs authorities enforce strict regulations about the export of precious minerals and gems such as diamonds and gold. Anyone exporting such exports should comply with Sierra Leonean law.
Homosexual activity is illegal. LGBT+ couples may face harassment in public spaces; caution and discretion are advised at all times. Transgender persons may face additional discrimination or adverse treatment.
The majority of the population of Sierra Leone is Muslim (60% - 70%) although there is also a sizable Christian community. There is little religious extremism in Sierra Leone and tension between religions is extremely low.
You should, however, be aware of your actions and take care not to offend the religious beliefs of others, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or other religious festivals, or if you intend to visit religious areas.
During Ramadan, Muslims are not permitted to eat, drink or smoke during daylight hours. To avoid offence, you should exercise discretion when eating, drinking or smoking in public during this time.
The availability and quality of medical services in Sierra Leone is poor. Visitors should be aware that you may have difficulty accessing even basic medical services, particularly in remote areas. If you need treatment, you may be asked to pay up front. If you have a pre-existing medical condition or underlying health concerns, you should note that it may not be possible to get appropriate drugs or treatment during your stay. If you choose to travel, bring enough medication with you for the duration of your visit and any unexpected delays.
Before travelling, we strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel insurance which will cover all overseas medical costs, including medical repatriation/evacuation, repatriation of remains and legal costs. You should check any exclusions and, in particular, that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake in Sierra Leone.
Check what vaccinations you may need for your trip at least eight weeks before you travel. We cannot provide advice on vaccinations, but you can get information about vaccinations from your local GP or an International Health and Travel Centre.
The yellow fever vaccination is an entry requirement for Sierra Leone and a yellow fever vaccination certificate will be requested by border control on arrival in the country.
Lassa fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic fever illness that is transmitted to humans via contact with contaminated food or household items; or through contact with the bodily fluids of a person with Lassa fever.
Lassa fever is endemic in Sierra Leone. We advise Irish citizens working in medical facilities or caring for sick people in Sierra Leone to take particular care and seek expert advice on infection prevention. If you develop fever, unexplained fatigue, diarrhoea or any other severe symptoms while in Sierra Leone, or in the few weeks following your departure from Sierra Leone, you should telephone your GP or Accident and Emergency Department mentioning your symptoms and your travel history; you may require immediate investigation and treatment.
You can find more information on Lassa fever and acute viral haemorrhagic fever on the WHO website.
Malaria, including cerebral malaria which can be fatal within 72 hours, is endemic in Sierra Leone and we strongly recommend using a malaria prophylaxis, together with other precautions such as using bed nets and insect repellents, and wearing closed shoes, long sleeves and trousers. You should also bring enough malaria treatment for the duration of your visit.
Cholera and other water-borne diseases such as diarrhoea, giardia, dysentery and typhoid are also very common, so practise good hygiene, drink and brush your teeth with bottled water only, and avoid eating uncooked vegetables, salads, seafood and meats.
Rabies is a risk in Sierra Leone, and treatment may not be available in-country. Ensure that you avoid contact with wild or stray animals and seek immediate medical attention if bitten.
Other diseases, including but not limited to HIV, hepatitis A and B, meningitis, polio and Lassa fever are also present in some parts of Sierra Leone and can pose a risk.
Freetown International airport is situated on the far side of a wide estuary from Freetown. There are several transfer options from Lungi airport: road, ferry, and water taxi. The journey by road can take up to five hours and is not recommended after dark; and the ferry lacks basic safety equipment. We therefore recommend the water taxi as the safest option for travel to the city. There are two water taxi companies: Seabird and Seacoach. Both depart from Freetown International Airport at Lungi and cost $40 for a single journey.
Irish citizens can avail of the visa on arrival scheme at Freetown International Airport. This costs $80. Those travelling to Sierra Leone are also required to show evidence of having received a yellow fever vaccination.
If you wish to arrange your visa in advance, you can do so through the Sierra Leone High Commission in London.
You can find more information on visas for Sierra Leone here.
The national currency of Sierra Leone is the Leone (SLL). Sierra Leone is a cash-based economy; it is advisable to bring enough cash to cover your expenses while you are here. Credit cards and travellers’ cheques are rarely accepted and you should not rely on them.
Although there are a number of ATMs in Freetown, the security of the transactions cannot be guaranteed. The exchange rate given by ATMs is also highly unfavourable.
The government has prohibited the use of foreign currency in the country; you will not be able to pay in Euro or US dollars locally. Foreign currency can be exchanged for Leones in banks or official foreign-exchange offices. Always be careful when carrying cash.
The climate in Sierra Leone is consistently hot and humid year round, with temperatures fluctuating between 25 and 35 degrees Celsius. The dry season extends from November to April and the rainy season lasts from May to October. The rainy season brings extremely heavy rainfalls and thunderstorms, which can lead to flash floods and landslides in exceptional circumstances as well as deteriorating road conditions.
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.
Water and Power
Mains water is limited, and tap water should be boiled before drinking it. Bottled water is readily available.
Power is improving but remains unreliable, particularly during the dry season. Rented accommodation and hotels rely on generators and private water supplies.
Consular assistance in cases of genuine emergency can be sought from the Embassy of Ireland in Sierra Leone out-of-hours. If you require emergency assistance out-of-hours, you can contact the Duty Officer on +232 79 250623.
Embassy of Ireland,
8 St Joseph’s Avenue,
off Spur Road,
Tel: +232 79 250628
Monday to Thursday 09:00-17:00; Friday 09:00-13:00
Get travel and medical insurance
Before travelling, the Department strongly recommends that you obtain comprehensive travel insurance which will cover all overseas medical costs, including medical repatriation/evacuation, repatriation of remains and legal costs. You should check any exclusions and, in particular, that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.