Sierra Leone — Visas and Vaccinations
All travelers going to Sierra Leone, except those from countries in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), are required to have a visa before entering. Visas can be obtained either at embassies abroad or at certain overland border posts. The price of the Visa is determined by the citizenship of the traveler. Most travelers opt for a Single-entry tourist Visa, which allows for stays of up to one month, valid for three month after the date of issue. Multiple-entry visas are also available and are valid for six months. All travelers are required to be in possession of an official passport, valid for at least one year.
Health and Safety
Health care and medical facilities are not great in Sierra Leone, as most public health operations have few supplies and are poorly staffed. There are some private health care options that are run by mission and foreign aid organizations, but it is strongly advised that travelers take out medical or travel insurance before arrival. It is also recommended that any traveler suffering from chronic or specified conditions take a sufficient supply of medication with them, as there is no guarantee that these medications will be available.
There are also a few immunizations that travelers should consider receiving before departing for Sierra Leone, including hepatitis A and B, diphtheria, tetanus, poliomyelitis, and typhoid fever. All travelers are also required to show proof of yellow fever immunization, and might be prompted to produce a yellow fever certificate at the point of entry. It is also imperative that travelers either take malaria prevention medication before departing or during their stay, as there is a high risk of being bitten by mosquitoes, especially during the rainy season.
The water should be considered unsafe for consumption, and all water use for drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, and washing fruits and vegetables should be sterilized or boiled before use. Most milk in the country is also unpasteurized, which means that is needs to be boiled before drinking as well. The food in the country is generally safe to eat, but caution should be taken when eating at street vendors and local markets.
Sierra Leone has not been in a civil war or seen violence and uprisings of any kind for over a decade. The usual tourism-related crimes of pick-pocketing and muggings are apparent in the larger centers, especially in Freetown, so travelers are advised to move in groups, especially after dark. One of the biggest problems is the unresponsive nature of the local police, so travelers should brace themselves for a great deal of bureaucracy and red tape if they report petty crimes.
Visitors should also be aware that conditions on the country’s roads can be downright dangerous. Public transport vehicles tend to be rickety at best, and drivers pay no regard to the rules of the road, especially to speed limits.