Long absent from the tourist map on account of the decade-long civil war that devastated the country during the 1990s, Sierra Leone is now slowly coaxing travellers back with its lush jungles, palm-fringed coastlines and resilient people.

Set against the verdant mountain range that inspired the country’s name, the Freetown peninsula offers plenty of opportunities for seaside lounging, beach combing and wildlife spotting, while traditional arts and customs can still be observed in the inland villages. Tourism here is raw and very much in its infancy. But as far as real life experiences go, it’s one that can't easily be pipped.

Our Sierra Leone trips

Sierra Leone travel highlights

Sierra Leone holiday information

At a glance

Best time to visit Sierra Leone

Geography and environment

Best Beach Escapes in Sierra Leone

Health and Safety

Further reading

Sierra Leone travel FAQs

SIERRA LEONE:
Australia: Yes - in advance
Belgium: Yes - in advance
Canada: Yes - in advance
Germany: Yes - in advance
Ireland: Yes - in advance
Netherlands: Yes - in advance
New Zealand: Yes - in advance
South Africa: Yes - in advance
Switzerland: Yes - in advance
United Kingdom: Yes - in advance
USA: Yes - in advance

Please apply for your visa in advance at your closest embassy or consulate. You will most likely be required to supply a completed visa application form, 2 passport photos, a copy of your itinerary, a copy of hotel bookings, your passport and payment. Dragoman will supply the hotel confirmation letter.

At established restaurants a 10 to 15 per cent service charge is usually included in the bill. Where it’s not, 10 per cent is the acceptable gratuity. Although tipping at other places isn't mandatory, it will be much appreciated given the low wages that Leonian service workers are typically paid. Setting aside a small amount for porters, guides and drivers is also a good idea.

Internet cafes, generally with slow connections, can be found all over Freetown, Bo and Kenema.

Mobile phone coverage is good in Sierra Leone’s large cities and towns, but less so in rural and mountainous areas. The major local telephone companies are Airtel, Africell and Comium. Ensure you have global roaming activated before leaving home if you wish to use your mobile phone.

While Sierra Leone’s toilets do vary in design and cleanliness, a visit is unlikely to be the highlight of your time there. Western-style toilets are sometimes available in large hotels, tourist attractions and other modern buildings, though may not be of the flushable variety. Be prepared for squat toilets, even in major centres, and carry your own supply of soap and toilet paper.

1.5L bottle of water = 2500 SLL
Bottle of Star beer= 2000 SLL
Basic meal = 12,000 SLL

Tap water isn't safe to drink in Sierra Leone. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying bottled water. Instead, bring water purification tablets or ask your leader where filtered water can be found.

Only some shops, supermarkets, hotels and restaurants in Freetown accept credit cards (Visa only).

Although there are some ATMs (Visa only) in Freetown, Bo, Kenema, Makena and Koidu it isn't recommended to rely on these for accessing funds. The machines can be unreliable, and not all are internationally connected. There are no Mastercard ATMs in the country. Some branches of some banks will give cash advances on Visa cards.

Absolutely. All passengers travelling with Intrepid are required to purchase travel insurance before the start of your trip. Your travel insurance details will be recorded by your leader on the first day of the trip. Due to the varying nature, availability and cost of health care around the world, travel insurance is very much an essential and necessary part of every journey.

For more information on insurance, please go to: Travel Insurance

  • 1 Jan New Year's Day
  • 2 Jan New Year Holiday
  • 8 Mar International Women's Day
  • 14 Apr Good Friday
  • 17 Apr Easter Monday
  • 27 Apr Independence Day
  • 25 Jun Eid-ul-Fitr / End of Ramadan
  • 26 Jun Eid-ul-Fitr / End of Ramadan Holiday
  • 1 Sep Eid-ul-Adah / Feast of Sacrifice
  • 30 Nov The Prophet's Birthday
  • 25 Dec Christmas Day
  • 26 Dec Boxing Day

Please note these dates are for 2017. For a current list of public holidays in Sierra Leone go to: http://www.worldtravelguide.net/sierra-leone/public-holidays

Responsible Travel

Intrepid is committed to travelling in a way that is respectful of local people, their culture, local economies and the environment. It's important to remember that what may be acceptable behaviour, dress and language in your own country, may not be appropriate in another. Please keep this in mind while travelling.

Top responsible travel tips for Sierra Leone

1. Be considerate of Sierra Leone’s customs, traditions, religion and culture.

2. Keep it quiet during meal-times. In Leonian culture talking during a meal can signify a lack of respect for the food.

3. Watch those hands! Giving a ‘thumbs up’ is the Sierra Leone equivalent of giving the rude finger. And only ever use your right hand in dealing with locals, as the left is used for ‘unhygienic tasks’.

4. Dress modestly and respectfully. Shoulders to knees should be covered, especially when entering places of worship.

5. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying bottled water. Fill a reusable water bottle or canteen with filtered water.

6. Always dispose of litter thoughtfully, including cigarette butts.

7. Learn some local language and don't be afraid to use it - simple greetings will help break the ice.

8. Shop for locally made products. Supporting local artisans helps keep traditional crafts alive and supports the local community.

9. When bargaining, stay calm, be reasonable and keep a smile on your face. It's meant to be fun!

10. Refrain from supporting businesses that exploit or abuse endangered animals.

11. Please ask and receive permission before taking photos of people, including children.

12. When on community visits or homestays, refrain from giving gifts or money to locals.