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SIERRA LEONE - Exercise a high degree of caution
There is no nationwide advisory in effect for Sierra Leone. However, you should exercise a high degree of caution due to increasing levels of crime.
Safety and security
Safety and security
Be particularly 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.
Difficult economic conditions are contributing to an increase in crime throughout the country. Pickpocketing and purse snatching frequently occur in the main cities. Armed robberies, carjackings and residential burglaries have been reported in expatriate and foreign officials’ homes. Burglars reportedly do not hesitate to use violence. There is a heightened risk of serious crime after dark.
Avoid walking alone, particularly after nightfall, don’t display any signs of affluence in public and don’t leave your valuables or bags unattended.
Demonstrations occur and have the potential to suddenly turn violent. They can also lead to significant disruptions to traffic and public transportation. Avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings, follow the advice of local authorities and monitor local media.
There have been commercial and Internet fraud attempts through email originating from Sierra Leone. See our Overseas Fraud page for more information on scams from abroad.
Local transportation services between Freetown-Lungi International Airport and the capital city of Freetown are available by land (approximately four hours), by ferryboat (approximately one and a half hours), by helicopter (approximately 15 minutes) and by speed boat (approximately one hour). None of those options are risk-free and travel time may vary considerably during the rainy season. You should plan to land early enough to be able to arrive to your destination before nightfall, and make arrangements for transportation prior to arrival.
Public transportation (bus or group taxis) is poorly maintained and generally unsafe.
Other than the main roads (Freetown to Makeni or to Bo), roads are in poor condition and rarely paved outside Freetown. Moreover, their condition deteriorates significantly during the rainy season. Land travel outside Freetown should only be undertaken in a four-wheel-drive vehicle. Renting a car and driving yourself is not recommended, as overland travel can be hazardous.
Travel after dark is particularly dangerous and is not recommended. There are no operating traffic lights, and most roads are unlit. Poor driving habits, overloaded vehicles, pedestrians and roaming animals pose a hazard. Difficulties may be encountered at roadblocks and checkpoints, including requests for payments.
The Government of Canada does not assess foreign domestic airlines’ compliance with international aviation safety standards. See Foreign domestic airlines for more information.
General safety information
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.
Travel outside the capital should be carefully planned. In remote regions, tourist facilities are almost non-existent. Also, certain essential services are lacking, and water and gas shortages occur from time to time.
Telecommunications can be unreliable, particularly in remote areas.
You should always maintain sufficient supplies of food, water and other essentials.
Carry your identification and vehicular documentation with you.
It is the sole prerogative of every country or territory to determine who is allowed to enter or exit. Canadian consular officials cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet entry or exit requirements. The following information has been obtained from the Sierra Leonean authorities and is subject to change at any time. The country- or territory-specific entry/exit requirements are provided on this page for information purposes only. While every effort is made to provide accurate information, information contained here is provided on an "as is" basis without warranty of any kind, express or implied. The Government of Canada assumes no responsibility, and shall not be liable for any damages in connection to the information provided. It is your responsibility to check with the Embassy of Sierra Leone for up-to-date information.
Official (special and diplomatic) passport holders must consult the Official Travel page, as they may be subject to different entry requirements.
Canadians must present a valid passport to visit Sierra Leone. Before you leave, ask your transportation company about its requirements related to passport validity, which may be more stringent than the country's entry rules.
Temporary passport holders may be subject to different entry requirements. Check with diplomatic representatives for up-to-date information.
Canadians must be in possession of a visa to visit Sierra Leone.
Tourist visa: Required
Business visa: Required
Student visa: Required
Children and travel
Children need special documentation to visit certain countries. See Children for more information.
See Health to obtain information on this country’s vaccination requirements.
Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
Vaccines to Consider
You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones 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.
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.
Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or by touching objects and surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus. Get the flu shot.
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease and is common in most parts of the world. Be sure your measles vaccination is up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
There is a risk of polio in this country.
- Be sure that your vaccination against polio is up to date. Polio is part of the routine vaccine schedule for children in Canada.
- One booster dose of the polio vaccine is recommended as an adult.
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 (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).
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.
- There is currently a shortage of the yellow fever vaccine in Canada. It is important for travellers to contact a designated Yellow Fever Vaccination Centre well in advance of their trip to ensure that the vaccine is available.
- Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care provider.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites.
About Yellow Fever
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.
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 bacterial disease that is most often spread by drinking water or eating food that has been contaminated. It causes diarrhea and in severe cases it can lead to dehydration and even death.
Most travellers are at very low risk. Travellers at higher risk include those visiting, working or living in areas with limited access to safe food, water and proper sanitation, or to areas where outbreaks are occurring. Travellers at higher risk should discuss with a health care provider the benefits of getting vaccinated.
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.
- 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 for children, travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives or travelling for a long period of time. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should speak to a health care provider about vaccination.
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.
- Dengue fever occurs in this country. Dengue fever is a viral disease that can cause severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases it leads to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.
- The risk of dengue is higher during the daytime, particularly at sunrise and sunset.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine or medication that protects against dengue fever.
- 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.
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 and rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.
Ebola virus disease
There is currently an outbreak of Ebola virus disease in this country. Ebola virus disease is caused by a virus that is spread through contact with infected bodily fluids (from people or animals). It is a rare, but very serious and often fatal, disease. Avoid contact with blood, tissues, and other bodily fluids. There is no vaccine or standard treatment for Ebola virus disease.
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.
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 provider.
High-risk travellers include those visiting or working in prisons, refugee camps, homeless shelters, or hospitals, or travellers visiting friends and relatives.
Medical services and facilities
Medical facilities are extremely limited and only offer basic services. The recent Ebola outbreak has further weakened the health infrastructure. 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.
Keep in Mind...
The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.
Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.
Laws and culture
Laws & culture
You are subject to local laws. See Arrest and detention for more information.
Restricted or illegal activities
A licence issued by the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources is required to export precious minerals, such as diamonds and gold. Seek legal advice before engaging in commercial transactions involving precious minerals. Penalties for smuggling or illegally exporting diamonds include imprisonment.
The laws of Sierra Leone prohibit sexual acts between individuals of the same sex. LGBT travellers should carefully consider the risks of travelling to Sierra Leone. See Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender travel for more information.
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.
An International Driving Permit is required.
Dual citizenship is legally recognized in Sierra Leone. However, Canadian officials may be limited in their ability to provide you with consular services if local authorities consider you a Sierra Leone citizen. You should always travel using your valid Canadian passport and present yourself as Canadian to foreign authorities at all times to minimize this risk. You may also need to carry and present a Sierra Leone passport for legal reasons, for example to enter and exit the country (see Entry/exit requirements to determine passport requirements). Citizenship is determined solely by national laws, and the decision to recognize dual citizenship rests completely with the country in which you are located when seeking consular assistance. See Travelling as a dual citizen for more information.
You should respect religious and social traditions to avoid offending local sensitivities. Common sense and discretion should be exercised 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. Traveller’s cheques and credit and debit cards are not widely accepted. There are very few automated banking machines 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
Natural disasters & climate
The rainy season extends from May to November. Heavy rains may result in localized flash flooding, 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
There is no resident Canadian government office in Sierra Leone. You can obtain consular assistance and further consular information at the High Commission of Canada in Accra, Ghana.
Accra - High Commission of Canada
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. The Government of Canada takes the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provides credible and timely information in its Travel Advice to enable you to make well-informed decisions regarding your travel abroad. In the event of a large-scale emergency, every effort will be made to provide assistance. However, there may be constraints that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide services.
See Large-scale emergencies abroad for more information.
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