Sierra Leone travel advice
Latest updates: The Health section was updated - travel health information (Public Health Agency of Canada)
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- Risk level
- Safety and security
- Entry and exit requirements
- Laws and culture
- Natural disasters and climate
- Need help?
Sierra Leone - Exercise a high degree of caution
Exercise a high degree of caution in Sierra Leone due to crime.
Safety and security
Be vigilant in border areas. The area bordering Liberia has been highly unstable in the past. There is a high level of trans-border military, militia and criminal activity in the border area with Guinea.
Crime occurs throughout the country.
Pickpocketing and purse snatching frequently occur in the main cities.
Armed robberies, carjackings and residential burglaries have occurred in foreigners’ homes. Burglars do not hesitate to use violence. There is a heightened risk of serious crime after dark.
- Avoid walking alone, particularly at night
- Don’t display any signs of affluence in public
- Don’t leave your valuables or bags unattended
Demonstrations occur. Even peaceful demonstrations can turn violent at any time. They can also lead to disruptions to traffic and public transportation.
- Avoid areas where demonstrations and large gatherings are taking place
- Follow the instructions of local authorities
- Monitor local media for information on ongoing demonstrations
There have been commercial and Internet fraud attempts through email originating from Sierra Leone.
Tourist facilities are extremely limited. When possible, check the level of security at hotels, lodges or any other type of accommodation before booking your stay.
Plan carefully any travel outside the capital. In remote regions, tourist facilities are almost non-existent.
Certain essential services are lacking, and water and gas shortages occur from time to time.
You should always maintain sufficient supplies of food, water and other essentials.
Telecommunications can be unreliable, particularly in remote areas.
Local transportation services between Freetown (or Lungi) International Airport and Freetown are available by:
- speed boat
None of those options is risk-free. You should plan to land early enough in the day so that you can arrive at your destination before nightfall. Arrange for transportation prior to arrival.
Public transportation (bus or group taxis) is poorly maintained and generally unsafe.
Other than the main roads, from Freetown to Makeni or to Bo, roads are in poor condition and rarely paved outside Freetown.
Road conditions deteriorate significantly during the rainy season.
You should only undertake land travel outside Freetown in a four-wheel-drive vehicle. You should rent a car with a hired driver, as overland travel can be hazardous.
You should not travel after dark, as it is particularly dangerous. There are no operating traffic lights, and most roads are unlit.
Poor driving habits, overloaded vehicles, pedestrians and roaming animals pose a hazard.
You may encounter difficulties at roadblocks and checkpoints, including requests for payments.
We do not make assessments on the compliance of foreign domestic airlines with international safety standards.
Entry and exit requirements
Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders. The Government of Canada cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet your destination’s entry or exit requirements.
We have obtained the information on this page from the Sierra Leonean authorities. It can, however, change at any time.
Verify this information with the Foreign Representatives in Canada.
Entry requirements vary depending on the type of passport you use for travel.
Before you travel, check with your transportation company about passport requirements. Its rules on passport validity may be more stringent than the country’s entry rules.
Regular Canadian passport
Your passport must be valid upon entry.
Passport for official travel
Different entry rules may apply.
Passport with “X” gender identifier
While the Government of Canada issues passports with an “X” gender identifier, it cannot guarantee your entry or transit through other countries. You might face entry restrictions in countries that do not recognize the “X” gender identifier. Before you leave, check with the closest foreign representative for your destination.
Other travel documents
Different entry rules may apply when travelling with a temporary passport or an emergency travel document. Before you leave, check with the closest foreign representative for your destination.
Tourist visa: required
Business visa: required
Student visa: required
Children and travel
Learn about travel with children.
Learn about potential entry requirements related to yellow fever (vaccines section).
Be sure that your routine vaccines, as per your province or territory, are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
Some of these vaccines include: measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, varicella (chickenpox), influenza and others.
Pre-travel vaccines and medications
You may be at risk for preventable diseases while travelling in this destination. Talk to a travel health professional about which medications or vaccines are right for you.
Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread through contaminated food and water or contact with an infected person. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.
Yellow Fever - Country Entry Requirements
Yellow fever is a disease caused by a flavivirus from the bite of an infected mosquito.
Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.
- There is a risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
- Proof of yellow fever vaccination for travellers from all countries.
- Vaccination is recommended.
- Contact a designated Yellow Fever Vaccination Centre well in advance of their trip to arrange for vaccination.
- Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care professional.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites.
Yellow Fever Vaccination Centres in Canada
* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Rabies is a deadly illness spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from an infected animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (e.g., are children, have an occupational risk, or in close contact with animals, including free roaming dogs in communities).
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease. It can spread quickly from person to person by direct contact and through droplets in the air..
Anyone who is not protected against measles is at risk of being infected with it when travelling internationally.
Regardless of where you are going, talk to a health care professional before travelling to make sure you are fully protected against measles.
Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment, sharing needles, tattooing, acupuncture or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.
- There is a risk of malaria throughout the year in the whole country.
- Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no vaccine against malaria.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in enclosed air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider pre-treating clothing and travel gear with insecticides and sleeping under an insecticide-treated bednet.
- See a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss the benefits of taking antimalarial medication and to determine which one to take.
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) has identified this country as no longer poliovirus-infected but at high risk of an outbreak. Polio can be prevented by vaccination, which is part of the routine vaccines for children in Canada.
- Be sure that your vaccination against polio is up to date.
- One booster dose of the polio vaccine is recommended as an adult.
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious viral disease. It can spread from person to person by direct contact and through droplets in the air.
It is recommended that all eligible travellers complete a COVID-19 vaccine series along with any additional recommended doses in Canada before travelling. Evidence shows that vaccines are very effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19. While vaccination provides better protection against serious illness, you may still be at risk of infection from the virus that causes COVID-19. Anyone who has not completed a vaccine series is at increased risk of being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 and is at greater risk for severe disease when travelling internationally.
For destination entry and exit requirements, including for COVID-19 vaccination requirements, please check the Entry/exit requirements section.
Regardless of where you are going, talk to a health care professional before travelling to make sure you are adequately protected against COVID-19.
Food and Water-borne Diseases
Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.
In some areas in West Africa, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in West Africa. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!
Cholera is a risk in parts of this country. Most travellers are at very low risk.
To protect against cholera, all travellers should practise safe food and water precautions.
Travellers at higher risk of getting cholera include those:
- visiting, working or living in areas with limited access to safe food, water and proper sanitation
- visiting areas where outbreaks are occurring
Vaccination may be recommended for high-risk travellers, and should be discussed with a health care professional.
Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
Risk of developing travellers' diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor standards of hygiene and sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.
Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among children, travellers going to rural areas, travellers visiting friends and relatives or those travelling for a long period of time.
Travellers visiting regions with a risk of typhoid, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation, should speak to a health care professional about vaccination.
Schistosomiasis can be spread to humans through freshwater sources contaminated by blood flukes (tiny worms). The eggs of the worms can cause stomach illnesses like diarrhea and cramps or urinary problems. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Avoid swimming in freshwater sources (lakes, rivers, ponds). There is no vaccine available for schistosomiasis.
Insects and Illness
In some areas in West Africa, certain insects carry and spread diseases like African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), chikungunya, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, dengue fever, leishmaniasis, lymphatic filariasis, malaria, onchocerciasis, Rift Valley fever, West Nile virus, yellow fever and Zika virus.
Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.
There is a risk of chikungunya in this country. The risk may vary between regions of a country. Chikungunya is a virus spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. Chikungunya can cause a viral disease that typically causes fever and pain in the joints. In some cases, the joint pain can be severe and last for months or years.
Protect yourself from mosquito bites at all times. There is no vaccine available for chikungunya.
- In this country, risk of dengue is sporadic. It is a viral disease spread to humans by mosquito bites.
- Dengue can cause flu-like symptoms. In some cases, it can lead to severe dengue, which can be fatal.
- The level of risk of dengue changes seasonally, and varies from year to year. The level of risk also varies between regions in a country and can depend on the elevation in the region.
- Mosquitoes carrying dengue typically bite during the daytime, particularly around sunrise and sunset.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine or medication that protects against dengue fever.
Animals and Illness
Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. Certain infections found in some areas in West Africa, like avian influenza, ebola, and rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.
Lassa fever is a risk in this country.
Lassa fever is caused by a virus carried by rodents. Humans get sick when they inhale or come into close contact with feces, saliva, or urine of infected rodents or the blood or bodily fluids of infected humans.
Lassa virus can be very serious. Avoid rodents and rodent-infested areas.
Monkeypox is a risk in this country. It is a viral disease that can cause serious illness in some circumstances. Risk is generally low for most travellers.
Monkeypox spreads in 3 ways:
- from animals to humans through direct contact or by eating or preparing undercooked meat of infected animals or coming into contact with an infected animal's body fluids
- from person to person through close contact, including direct contact with the skin lesions, blood, body fluids, or mucosal surfaces (such as eyes, mouth, throat, genitalia, anus, or rectum) of an infected person
- through direct contact with contaminated objects such as bedding and towels, or by sharing personal objects used by an infected person
Follow recommended public health measures and avoid contact with animals such as rodents and primates to help prevent getting or spreading the infection
Tuberculosis is an infection caused by bacteria and usually affects the lungs.
For most travellers the risk of tuberculosis is low.
Travellers who may be at high risk while travelling in regions with risk of tuberculosis should discuss pre- and post-travel options with a health care professional.
High-risk travellers include those visiting or working in prisons, refugee camps, homeless shelters, or hospitals, or travellers visiting friends and relatives.
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks and impairs the immune system, resulting in a chronic, progressive illness known as AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome).
High risk activities include anything which puts you in contact with blood or body fluids, such as unprotected sex and exposure to unsterilized needles for medications or other substances (for example, steroids and drugs), tattooing, body-piercing or acupuncture.
Medical services and facilities
Medical facilities are extremely limited and only offer basic services.
Ambulance services are available, but access could be limited.
In the event of a serious illness or accident, medical evacuation will be necessary. Medical transport is very expensive and payment is often required up front.
Medicines are scarcely available.
Make sure you get travel insurance that includes coverage for medical evacuation and hospital stays.
Laws and culture
You must abide by local laws.
Learn about what you should do and how we can help if you are arrested or detained abroad.
You need a licence, issued by the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources, to export precious minerals. This includes diamonds and gold.
Seek legal advice before engaging in commercial transactions involving precious minerals. Penalties for smuggling or illegally exporting diamonds include imprisonment.
Taking photographs of airports, government installations, official buildings and bridges is prohibited, and laws are strictly enforced. These areas may not be clearly marked or defined. If in doubt, do not take pictures.
The laws of Sierra Leone prohibit sexual acts between individuals of the same sex.
2SLGBTQI+ travellers should carefully consider the risks of travelling to Sierra Leone.
Carry your identification and vehicular documentation with you.
You must carry an international driving permit.
Dual citizenship is legally recognized in Sierra Leone.
If you are a Canadian citizen, but also a citizen of Sierra Leone, our ability to offer you consular services may be limited while you're there. You may also be subject to different entry/exit requirements.
International Child Abduction
The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is an international treaty. It can help parents with the return of children who have been removed to or retained in certain countries in violation of custody rights. It does not apply between Canada and Sierra Leone.
If your child was wrongfully taken to, or is being held in Sierra Leone by an abducting parent:
- act as quickly as you can
- consult a lawyer in Canada and in Sierra Leone to explore all the legal options for the return of your child
- report the situation to the nearest Canadian government office abroad or to the Vulnerable Children’s Consular Unit at Global Affairs Canada by calling the Emergency Watch and Response Centre.
If your child was removed from a country other than Canada, consult a lawyer to determine if The Hague Convention applies.
Be aware that Canadian consular officials cannot interfere in private legal matters or in another country’s judicial affairs.
- International Child Abduction: A Guidebook for Left-Behind Parents
- Travelling with children
- Canadian embassies and consulates by destination
- Emergency Watch and Response Centre
Dress and behaviour
You should respect religious and social traditions to avoid offending local sensitivities. Exercise common sense and discretion in dress and behaviour.
The currency is the leone (SLL).
The economy is cash-based and strict rules limit the import of foreign currency in the form of cash.
Credit and debit cards are not widely accepted.
There are very few ATMs in Freetown. You should exchange foreign currency at banks or official foreign exchange offices only. The U.S. dollar and the Euro are the best currencies for exchange.
Natural disasters and climate
The rainy season extends from May to November. Heavy rains may result in localized flash flooding, landslides, and roads may become impassable in affected areas. Keep informed of regional weather forecasts and plan accordingly.
In case of emergency, dial:
- police: 112
- medical assistance: 999
- firefighters: 033 / 300 / 301
To reduce the transmission of COVID-19, the High Commission of Canada in Accra is limiting in-person services. If you need consular assistance, contact the High Commission by email or telephone.
Freetown - Consulate of Canada
Accra - High Commission of Canada
Sierra Leone, Togo
For emergency consular assistance, call the High Commission of Canada in Accra, Ghana and follow the instructions. At any time, you may also contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa.
The decision to travel is your choice and you are responsible for your personal safety abroad. We take the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provide credible and timely information in our Travel Advice to enable you to make well-informed decisions regarding your travel abroad.
The content on this page is provided for information only. While we make every effort to give you correct information, it is provided on an "as is" basis without warranty of any kind, expressed or implied. The Government of Canada does not assume responsibility and will not be liable for any damages in connection to the information provided.
If you need consular assistance while abroad, we will make every effort to help you. However, there may be constraints that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide services.
Learn more about consular services.
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