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Sierra Leone

SIERRA LEONE TRAVEL GUIDE

Sierra Leone is a small West African country that boasts a rich culture, breathtaking landscapes, and welcoming people. This diamond-shaped nation is bordered by Guinea to the north and east, Liberia to the southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean to the southwest. Despite its tumultuous past, Sierra Leone has rebounded and now offers tourists an opportunity to explore a country with a diverse mix of history, culture, and nature.

Sierra Leone's capital, Freetown, is a bustling port city located on the country's western coast. It is known for its vibrant markets, historical landmarks, and lively nightlife. The city's most popular attraction is the National Museum, which houses artifacts and exhibits that showcase the country's rich cultural heritage.

 

Beyond Freetown, Sierra Leone has much to offer adventurous travelers. The country is home to lush rainforests, pristine beaches, and a variety of wildlife, including chimpanzees, pygmy hippos, and various bird species. Tourists can explore the Tiwai Island Wildlife Sanctuary, visit the stunning Outamba-Kilimi National Park, or relax on the idyllic Banana Islands.

 

Despite its many attractions, Sierra Leone remains relatively off the beaten track, making it a great destination for travelers seeking a more authentic experience. The people of Sierra Leone are warm and hospitable, and the country's unique culture and traditions are sure to leave a lasting impression on any visitor.

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  • Capital: Freetown

  • Currency: leone (SLL)

  • Area: 71,740 km²

  • Population: 7,65 million (2018)

  • Language: English (official), Krio (English-based Creole), Mende (south), Temne (north)

  • Religion: Islam, Christianity, indigenous beliefs

  • Electricity: 220V, 50Hz (UK plug)

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BEST TIME TO VISIT SIERRA LEONE

The best time to visit Sierra Leone is during the dry season, which runs from November to April. During this time, the weather is generally sunny and pleasant, with lower humidity levels and less rainfall. This makes it an ideal time for outdoor activities, such as hiking, wildlife watching, and beach visits.

 

However, it is worth noting that Sierra Leone's weather can be unpredictable, and occasional rain showers can occur even during the dry season. Additionally, the Harmattan wind from the Sahara Desert can bring dry and dusty conditions in December and January, which may affect air quality and visibility.

 

The wet season in Sierra Leone runs from May to October, with the heaviest rainfall typically occurring between June and September. While this time of year can be lush and green, with beautiful scenery and fewer tourists, it can also make travel more challenging due to flooded roads and transportation disruptions.

 

Ultimately, the best time to visit Sierra Leone depends on your personal preferences and travel plans. If you're looking to enjoy outdoor activities and soak up the sun, then the dry season may be the best time to visit. If you're interested in experiencing the country's lush landscapes and culture, then the wet season may offer a unique and rewarding experience.

 

SAFETY IN SIERRA LEONE

Sierra Leone has made significant progress in terms of stability and security in recent years, and the country is generally considered safe for tourists. However, like any destination, there are still some risks and precautions to be aware of. Petty crime, such as theft and pickpocketing, can occur in tourist areas, so it is important to take common sense precautions such as keeping valuables out of sight, avoiding isolated or poorly lit areas at night, and using reputable transportation services. Visitors should also be aware of scams and avoid carrying large amounts of cash.

 

Sierra Leone is a malarial country, so visitors should take measures to prevent mosquito bites and consider taking antimalarial medication. Other health risks include food and water-borne illnesses, so it is important to only drink bottled or filtered water, and to be cautious about consuming raw or undercooked food.

 

It is also important to be respectful of local customs and traditions, and to dress modestly, particularly in religious sites or when visiting rural areas. Additionally, Sierra Leone is a conservative society, and same-sex relationships are not widely accepted.

 

Overall, with some sensible precautions and awareness of the local environment, Sierra Leone can be a safe and rewarding destination for tourists. It is always a good idea to check the latest travel advice and to consult with a trusted travel professional before making any travel arrangements.

Best Time To Go

SIERRA LEONE WEATHER SYNOPSIS

Tropical; Hot, Humid; Summer Rainy Season (May To December); Winter Dry Season (December To April)

Sierra Leone

SEASONS AT A GLANCE

Most destinations have different times of the year when they’re more or less popular with tourists. 

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BEST TIME FOR

SNOW SPORT IN SIERRA LEONE

Sierra Leone, with its tropical climate, does not experience snowfall and therefore does not have traditional snow sports. The country's climate is hot all year round, with a rainy season from May to November due to the African monsoon. 


However, Sierra Leone offers a variety of other sports and recreational activities, with football being the most popular. There are also opportunities for water sports such as scuba diving and sport fishing, particularly around Banana Island.

HIKING & CYCLING IN SIERRA LEONE

Sierra Leone offers a variety of trekking opportunities for those looking to explore its diverse landscapes. The Loma Mountains, for instance, provide challenging trails leading to Mount Bintumani, the highest peak, where adventurers can enjoy backcountry camping and breathtaking views. 


The Tiwai Island Wildlife Sanctuary also offers unique hiking experiences with guided walks through habitats of rare primates and the pygmy hippopotamus. 


With its rich biodiversity and stunning sceneries, Sierra Leone is indeed a hidden gem for trekkers and nature enthusiasts. The best time to embark on these adventures is during the dry season, from October to May.

BEACH OPTIONS IN SIERRA LEONE

Sierra Leone boasts some stunning beaches, with Lumley Beach and Tokeh Beach being among the favorites for their beautiful sands and vibrant atmosphere. 


The best time to visit these beaches is during the dry season, which runs from November to April, offering warm temperatures and clear skies, ideal for beach activities and relaxation.

SURFING IN SIERRA LEONE

Sierra Leone offers a variety of surfing opportunities, particularly known for its warm waters and consistent swells. 


The prime time for surfing in Sierra Leone is between March and October when the swells are larger. However, the water remains warm throughout the year, making it a great destination for surfers anytime. The dry season, from November to May, also offers consistent swells and favorable weather conditions for surfing. 


Bureh Beach is the heart of the country's surf scene, boasting a consistent left-hander that caters to all levels of surfers. River No. 2 Beach is another spot that's friendly for beginners but also offers fun for more advanced surfers. 


With a tropical climate and a coastline that receives swells year-round, Sierra Leone is an emerging surfing destination with a rich cultural backdrop waiting to be explored.

KITESURF IN SIERRA LEONE

The prime season for kitesurfing in Sierra Leone is typically during the dry months, which run from October to April. This period offers consistent trade winds and pleasant weather, making it ideal for both beginners and experienced kitesurfers. Locations like Lumley Beach and the Turtle Islands are popular spots, offering a mix of conditions from flat waters to medium waves. Always remember to check local weather conditions and seek advice from local kitesurfing schools or guides before planning your trip.

BEST TIME FOR

Sierra Leone, with its tropical climate, does not experience snowfall and therefore does not have traditional snow sports. The country's climate is hot all year round, with a rainy season from May to November due to the African monsoon. 


However, Sierra Leone offers a variety of other sports and recreational activities, with football being the most popular. There are also opportunities for water sports such as scuba diving and sport fishing, particularly around Banana Island.

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TRAVEL SAFETY IN SIERRA LEONE

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Travel Safety

HEALTH RISKS IN SIERRA LEONE

Be aware of possible health risks in 

Sierra Leone

Yellow fever - The yellow fever virus is found in tropical and subtropical areas of Africa and South America. The virus is spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no medicine to treat or cure an infection. To prevent getting sick from yellow fever, use insect repellent, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and get vaccinated.

Zika Virus - Zika is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects. There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika.

Malaria - Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease caused by a parasite that commonly infects a certain type of mosquito which feeds on humans. People who get malaria are typically very sick with high fevers, shaking chills, and flu-like illness. Although malaria can be a deadly disease, illness and death from malaria can usually be prevented.

Dengue - Dengue is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. About one in four people infected with dengue will get sick. For people who get sick with dengue, symptoms can be mild or severe.

SIERRA LEONE TRAVEL COSTS

The cost of traveling to Sierra Leone can vary depending on a number of factors, including the time of year, the length of your stay, your travel style, and your personal preferences.

 

In general, the cost of flights to Sierra Leone can range from around $500 to $1,500 or more, depending on where you are traveling from and the time of year. Accommodation options range from budget hostels to luxury hotels, with prices starting at around $10 per night for basic accommodation, and going up to several hundred dollars per night for high-end options.

 

Food and drink costs in Sierra Leone can be relatively inexpensive, with local street food and market stalls offering a range of tasty and affordable options. A typical meal can cost anywhere from $1 to $10, depending on where you eat and what you order. Western-style restaurants and cafes are also available in some areas, but these tend to be more expensive.

 

Transportation costs in Sierra Leone can also be relatively low, with public buses and shared taxis providing cheap and convenient options for getting around. Private taxis and rental cars are also available, but these tend to be more expensive.

 

In summary, the cost of traveling to Sierra Leone can vary depending on a number of factors, but it is generally a relatively affordable destination. Travelers on a tight budget can find plenty of affordable options, while those looking for more luxury and comfort can also find high-end options.

Cost & Spending

SIERRA LEONE TRAVEL TIPS

Here are some travel tips for visiting Sierra Leone:

  • Get vaccinated: Make sure you have all the necessary vaccinations before traveling to Sierra Leone, including yellow fever, hepatitis A and B, and typhoid. You may also need to take antimalarial medication.

  • Dress appropriately: Sierra Leone is a conservative country, and visitors should dress modestly, particularly in religious sites or when visiting rural areas. It is also worth noting that Sierra Leone can be hot and humid, so lightweight and breathable clothing is recommended.

  • Be prepared for the weather: Sierra Leone has a tropical climate, with two distinct seasons – the dry season (November to April) and the wet season (May to October). Visitors should pack accordingly, taking into account the season and expected weather conditions.

  • Use reputable transportation services: When traveling around Sierra Leone, it is best to use reputable transportation services, such as registered taxis and buses. Avoid unlicensed or unofficial taxis, as these can be unsafe.

  • Respect local customs and traditions: Sierra Leone has a rich culture and traditions, and visitors should be respectful of local customs and practices. This includes dressing modestly, being mindful of local sensitivities, and asking for permission before taking photos.

  • Carry cash: While credit cards are accepted in some places, it is best to carry cash, particularly in rural areas. ATMs are available in major cities, but it is worth noting that these can sometimes be unreliable.

  • Be cautious with food and water: Tap water in Sierra Leone is not safe to drink, so it is important to only drink bottled or filtered water. Visitors should also be cautious about consuming raw or undercooked food, particularly from street vendors.

  • Stay up-to-date with travel advice: Before traveling to Sierra Leone, it is a good idea to check the latest travel advice from your embassy or consulate. This can provide important information about safety and security issues, as well as any local customs or cultural practices to be aware of.

Travel Tips

SIGHTS & HIGHLIGHTS OF SIERRA LEONE

Sierra Leone is a country with diverse landscapes and cultural attractions. Here are the main regions worth visiting and their highlights:


Freetown:

The capital city and the cultural and economic hub of Sierra Leone.

  • Visit the Cotton Tree, a historic symbol of Freetown.

  • Relax on Lumley Beach, one of the most popular beaches in the city.

  • Explore the bustling markets like the Big Market or the Waterside Market.

  • Learn about Sierra Leone's history at the National Museum.


Western Area Peninsula:

Offers stunning beaches and beautiful landscapes.

  • Visit the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary to see rescued chimpanzees.

  • Enjoy the pristine beaches of Tokeh, Bureh, and River Number Two.

  • Take a boat trip to Banana Islands for snorkeling and diving opportunities.

  • Hike through the rainforest to reach the historic Bunce Island, a former slave trading post.


Northern Province:

Known for its lush greenery, mountains, and rich cultural heritage.

  • Explore the historic city of Makeni and its bustling markets.

  • Visit the Outamba-Kilimi National Park for wildlife viewing, including elephants, hippos, and chimpanzees.

  • Trek to the top of Mount Bintumani, the highest peak in Sierra Leone.

  • Discover the traditional Temne culture in the villages around the region.


Eastern Province:

Offers diverse landscapes including rainforests, rivers, and savannahs.

  • Explore the Tiwai Island Wildlife Sanctuary, home to rare primates and birds.

  • Visit the bustling town of Kenema known for its lively markets.

  • Discover the traditional Mende culture in villages like Blama and Kailahun.

  • Take a boat trip on the Moa River and explore the remote villages along its banks.


Southern Province:

Known for its beautiful beaches, islands, and rich cultural heritage.

  • Relax on the pristine beaches of Turtle Islands and the Banana Islands.

  • Explore the colonial architecture and history of Bonthe, a historic port town.

  • Visit the Turtle Islands Marine Park for snorkeling and diving.

  • Experience the vibrant culture of the Sherbro people in villages like Shenge and Pujehun.

Each region of Sierra Leone offers its own unique charm, whether it's the vibrant culture, stunning landscapes, or rich history, making it a rewarding destination for travelers.

Highlights
What To See & Do
Travel Map

WHAT TO SEE AND DO IN SIERRA LEONE

Sierra Leone is a beautiful and diverse country with a rich history and culture. Here are some of the best things to see and do when visiting Sierra Leone:

  • Visit the beaches: Sierra Leone is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in West Africa, such as Lumley Beach and Aberdeen Beach in Freetown, Tokeh Beach in the Western Area Peninsula National Park, and River No. 2 Beach in the Turtle Islands.

  • Explore Freetown: Sierra Leone's capital city has a rich cultural heritage and a mix of modern and colonial architecture. Highlights include the National Museum, the historic Cotton Tree, the bustling markets, and the vibrant nightlife.

  • Go on a wildlife safari: Sierra Leone is home to a range of wildlife, including primates, elephants, and rare bird species. National parks such as the Western Area Peninsula National Park, Gola Rainforest National Park, and Outamba-Kilimi National Park are great places to go on a wildlife safari.

  • Learn about the country's history: Sierra Leone has a rich and complex history, from its colonial past to its role in the transatlantic slave trade. Visitors can learn about this history by visiting sites such as Bunce Island, the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary, and the Sierra Leone Peace Museum.

  • Enjoy the local cuisine: Sierra Leonean cuisine is diverse and delicious, with a mix of West African and colonial influences. Some local specialties to try include cassava leaves, groundnut soup, and jollof rice.

  • Take part in cultural activities: Sierra Leone has a vibrant culture, with music, dance, and festivals playing an important role in daily life. Visitors can take part in cultural activities such as attending a masquerade dance, watching a local performance, or visiting a traditional village.

  • Go trekking or hiking: Sierra Leone has a range of stunning landscapes, from rainforests to mountains, that are perfect for trekking or hiking. Some popular trekking routes include the Loma Mountains, the Tingi Hills, and the Kangari Hills.

These are just a few of the many things to see and do when visiting Sierra Leone. Visitors can also experience the warmth and hospitality of the Sierra Leonean people, who are known for their friendliness and welcoming nature.

Sierra Leone
What To Eat

WHAT TO EAT IN SIERRA LEONE

WHAT TO EAT IN SIERRA LEONE

Sierra Leonean cuisine is diverse and delicious, with a mix of West African and colonial influences. Here are some local dishes to try when visiting Sierra Leone:

  • Cassava Leaves: Cassava leaves are a staple in Sierra Leonean cuisine and are typically cooked with palm oil, onions, and peppers, and served with rice.
  • Groundnut Soup: Groundnut soup is a rich, flavorful soup made with peanuts, vegetables, and spices. It is often served with rice or bread.
  • Jollof Rice: Jollof rice is a popular West African dish made with rice, tomatoes, onions, and spices. It is often served with grilled or fried chicken or fish.
  • Pounded Yam and Egusi Soup: Pounded yam is a starchy dish made from boiled yam that is pounded until it has a dough-like consistency. It is often served with egusi soup, a rich soup made from ground melon seeds and vegetables.
  • Akara: Akara is a popular street food in Sierra Leone made from black-eyed peas that are ground into a paste, mixed with spices and onions, and then fried into small balls. It is often served with bread or as a snack on its own.
  • Grilled Seafood: Sierra Leone is known for its delicious seafood, including grilled fish and shrimp, which are often marinated with spices and served with rice and vegetables.
  • Bitter Leaf Soup: Bitter leaf soup is a popular soup made from bitter leaves, meat, and spices. It is often served with rice or fufu, a starchy dish made from cassava or yam.

These are just a few of the many delicious dishes to try when visiting Sierra Leone. Visitors can also sample local snacks such as fried plantains, coconut bread, and groundnut cakes.

LGBTQ IN SIERRA LEONE

Sierra Leone

WHERE TO STAY IN SIERRA LEONE

For your first visit to Sierra Leone, it's essential to choose a base that allows you to experience the country's unique culture, stunning beaches, and natural beauty. Here's a breakdown of top areas and accommodations:


Where To Stay In Freetown:

Freetown, the capital city, offers a mix of historical landmarks, cultural attractions, and beautiful beaches, such as Lumley Beach and River Number Two Beach.

  • Budget Accommodation: Consider staying at The Family Kingdom Resort for affordable rooms and a central location near the beach and city center.

  • Mid-range Accommodation: The Radisson Blu Mammy Yoko Hotel provides comfortable accommodations with modern amenities and easy access to Freetown's attractions.

  • Luxury Accommodation: Opt for the luxurious ambiance of The Country Lodge Complex, featuring upscale rooms, a swimming pool, and panoramic views of the city.

Best Value Tip: Visit during the dry season (November to April) for pleasant weather and better accommodation rates.


Where To Stay In The Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary:

Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary offers visitors a chance to observe rescued chimpanzees in a natural habitat and explore the surrounding rainforest.

  • Mid-range Accommodation: The Tacugama Forest Reserve Eco-Lodge offers comfortable accommodations with a focus on sustainability and conservation.

  • Luxury Accommodation: There are limited luxury options in this area, but nearby Freetown offers upscale accommodations for travelers seeking luxury.

Best Value Tip: Book accommodations at least a few weeks in advance, as options may be limited due to the sanctuary's remote location.


Where To Stay in Lakka Beach:

Lakka Beach is known for its pristine white sands and turquoise waters, offering visitors a serene and relaxing coastal retreat.

  • Budget Accommodation: Consider staying at Lakka Beach Resort for affordable beachfront rooms and a laid-back atmosphere.

  • Mid-range Accommodation: The Riverside Guesthouse provides comfortable accommodations with easy access to Lakka Beach and nearby amenities.

  • Luxury Accommodation: While luxury options are limited in this area, nearby Freetown offers upscale accommodations for those seeking luxury amenities.

Best Value Tip: Visit during the weekdays or offseason (June to October) for quieter beaches and better accommodation deals.


By choosing a base in Freetown, Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary, or Lakka Beach, you'll have access to Sierra Leone's diverse attractions while enjoying a range of accommodation options to suit your budget and preferences. Consider visiting during the optimal seasons for each location to maximize your travel experience while getting the best value for your stay.


Booking.com consistently return the cheapest rates for accommodation in Sierra Leone. For longer stays, find unique homes worldwide on Holiday Swap, the most affordable travel platform that allows you to book homes anytime, anywhere in only a few clicks.

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