Sierra Leone - Country Commercial Guide
Business Travel
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Travelers are encouraged to check the information provided by the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs: Sierra Leone International Travel Information.

Visa requirements

United States citizen travelers should make visa inquiries at Sierra Leonean embassies and consulates before travel. Visit the Embassy of Sierra Leone website for the most current visa information. All visitors entering Sierra Leone should possess a valid passport. A visa is required for everyone except citizens of ECOWAS member states.  However, visas can be obtained on arrival at either the airport, seaport, or land borders from the immigration department. Visas on arrival are only available to people traveling to Sierra Leone for tourism, business, or religious activities. They are single entry and only valid for one month (but can be extended after arrival). People traveling to Sierra Leone for work, education, or as diplomats cannot obtain visas on arrival. 

U.S. Companies that require travel of foreign businesspersons to the United States are advised that security evaluations are handled via an interagency process. Visa applicants should go to the following link:  State Department Visa Website.


The local currency of Sierra Leone is the Sierra Leonean Leone (SLL or Le). Sierra Leone is generally a cash economy with a floating exchange rate system. 

In August 2021, the Government of Sierra Leone announced the redenomination of the country’s currency, eliminating three zeroes from the bank notes but keeping their value unchanged (ex: 10,000 old Leones are equivalent to 10 new Leones). The new Leone was launched on July 1, 2022. The old and new Leones have concurrently served as legal tender. According to the Central Bank of Sierra Leone, the old Leone shall cease to be legal tender on January 1, 2024.

The U.S. dollar can be exchanged for local currency relatively easily at local banks and numerous licensed foreign exchange bureaus in the country. Travelers are, however, advised to avoid non-licensed bureaus and individuals selling on the “black market” who change currencies on the roadside. There are thirteen commercial banks with several branches in various parts of the country. A number of these banks offer credit/debit and ATM facilities. However, some hotels and places of business do not accept these cards and traveler’s checks, so it is advisable to always carry a small amount of cash. Travelers must transmit large sums of money through banks or other financial instruments (Section 68 of Sierra Leone’s Anti-Money Laundering and Combating Financing of Terrorism Act of 2012).


The International direct country code for Sierra Leone is + 232 or 00 232. Sierratel provides fixed-line telecommunications services but is not widely in use. The mobile penetration rate is high with four major mobile phone operators: Orange, Africell, Sierratel, and QCell. Customers prefer mobile phones, though all phone lines can make landline and direct international calls.  

Internet penetration is low (32.4 percent in 2022) but continues to improve. An undersea fiber optic cable connects the country and enhances internet connection speed. All the major mobile phone companies provide data services (3G and 4G) that allow reasonably good internet connectivity throughout the country, though connection is spotty outside of urban centers. Some of the major telecommunications providers have also begun to roll out 5G networks, though this is primarily limited to the capital of Freetown. High-speed internet connections and Wi-Fi are available at many hotels, although connections are not always reliable, particularly outside of Freetown. 

Facebook,, and WhatsApp Mobile social media platforms are essential communication tools. Several data transfer companies have established networks and serve banks and other institutions. 

Sierra Leone’s electrical standard is 220 volts, the three-pronged G plug type is used almost exclusively, and adaptors are available at local electronic stores.


Despite improvements in the road network within the capital and connecting critical district headquarters, more roads still require upgrading to allow easy and safe access to major towns and villages. Passenger transportation options include buses, vans, taxis, auto rickshaws, motorcycles, ferries, outboard-powered boats, and self-propelled local boats. Taxis, auto rickshaws, and motorcycles are common in Freetown and major cities, though some are poorly maintained. Privately operated public transport vans, called “poda poda,” are often risky, overloaded, and should be avoided. Cars with drivers are also available for hire through hotels and car rental agencies, and using those services is a recommended alternative to taxis and auto rickshaws. 

For ease of movement in the city and to the provinces, it is advisable to hire a car and driver for safety, security, and reliability reasons. Four-wheel-drive vehicles with drivers for in-country travel are available at some hotels for hire. Fares should be negotiated before boarding, particularly to and from the airport. Travelers should always carry copies of their passports while traveling within the country. Driving after dark outside of Freetown or other major cities is not recommended due to the lack of adequate street lighting, the number of disabled vehicles blocking the roadside, the presence of animals and pedestrians, and the proportion of local drivers who do not habitually make use of their headlights.

Freetown International Airport in Lungi is Sierra Leone’s main airport. The airport is separated from the capital, Freetown, by an estuary, the Rokel River. Water taxis have agents at the airport to take passengers across to the capital, Freetown. Ferries are also available but require a taxi to take you to the terminal to board. Alternatively, one can hire a vehicle from the airport to drive to Freetown, which takes approximately three hours and traverses a toll road. 


English is the official language of Sierra Leone, and the second language for many Sierra Leoneans is Krio, the lingua franca. However, many others also speak indigenous languages, including Mende, Temne, Limba, Koranko, Kono, and Loko. There are 16 ethnic groupss, each with its own indigenous language, spoken mainly amongst family members, relatives, or other members of the ethnic groups. Business travelers will find that most government officials and businesspeople speak English well.


Medical services in Sierra Leone are severely limited. The standard of care, including basic services such as imaging or blood tests, is much lower than that of the United States. The emergency number, which is 117, is not always in regular operation. Ambulance services are not widely available and can be unreliable.  Training and availability of emergency responders may be below U.S. standards. Ambulances are not equipped with state-of-the-art medical equipment, and often have little or no medical equipment.  They are not staffed with trained paramedics. Injured or seriously ill travelers may prefer to take a taxi or private vehicle to the nearest major hospital rather than wait for an ambulance.

Medical facilities are available in Sierra Leone, but outside Freetown, there are fewer opportunities for health care, particularly in remote regions. Foreign visitors usually restrict themselves to private clinics, primarily available in large urban areas. Many common household medicines and some prescription drugs are locally available, but business travelers are encouraged to carry an ample supply of any medications required and only use reputable pharmacies when purchasing medicines. Generally, medical facilities are limited and are not up to U.S. standards. Doctors and hospitals may expect immediate cash payments for medical care.  The U.S. Embassy in Freetown maintains a list of doctors and hospitals. We do not endorse or recommend any specific medical provider or clinic.

Malaria, yellow fever, typhoid, dengue, travelers’ diarrhea, and rabies are prevalent in Sierra Leone. There are also infrequent outbreaks of cholera. Use the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended mosquito repellents and sleep under insecticide-impregnated mosquito nets. Malaria chemoprophylaxis is recommended for all travelers even for short stays, and dosing should begin before arriving in Sierra Leone.  Visitors should consult their physician about the appropriate measures to maintain their health and the current vaccinations recommended before visiting Sierra Leone. A vaccination certificate for yellow fever is required to enter Sierra Leone.  CDC recommends vaccinations for hepatitis A and B, rabies, typhoid, yellow fever, and COVID 19, as well as all routine vaccinations, prior to travel to Sierra Leone.

Pharmacies, with medications manufactured primarily in India and China, are common. Prices are generally cheaper than in the United States. However, supplies sometimes vary, and counterfeits are pervasive. Visitors with chronic medical conditions must bring sufficient supplies and medicines for their stay. Always carry your prescription medication in original packaging, along with your doctor’s prescription. Check with the Sierra Leone’s Federal Office of Public Health to ensure the medication is legal in Sierra Leone.

In many areas, tap water is not potable. Bottled water and beverages are generally safe, although you should be aware that many restaurants and hotels serve tap water unless bottled water is specifically requested. Be aware that ice for drinks may be made using tap water. Sanitary conditions are generally poor, so always ensure uncooked and non-peelable vegetables, salads, and fruits are washed and disinfected, fresh fish and seafood are properly sanitized, and meat is thoroughly cooked before eating. Swimming in the ocean is safe, but swimming in rivers and non-moving fresh water is not advised.

The climate in the dry season, November to April, is hot and humid, and extended sun exposure should be avoided to prevent excessive fluid loss and dehydration from perspiration. The rainy season is from May to October, with most rain falling in July and August. Many cities in Sierra Leone, such as Kabala, are at high altitude. Be aware of the symptoms of altitude sickness and take precautions before you travel. Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for more information regarding specific issues in Sierra Leone.

Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers overseas only accept cash payments. See the State Department’s webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage. Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more information on type of insurance you should consider before you travel overseas. We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation.

Local time, business hours, and holidays

The time zone is Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). Business institutions and government offices usually operate from 0800 to 1700 Monday through Friday and close from 1300 to 1400 for lunch. Some businesses are open on Saturday. Some offices close on Friday afternoons in observance of Muslim prayers. 

It is typical for many government offices and businesses to hold staff meetings on Monday and Friday mornings. The executive arm of the government often holds meetings on Wednesdays. Holidays falling on Saturdays and Sundays are typically observed the following Monday. Muslim holidays do not have specified dates but are observed as announced by the government based on the sighting of the moon. 

The following are holidays for 2024:

January 1             New Year’s Day 
February 18         Armed Forces Day    
March 8                International Women’s Day 
March 29              Good Friday 
April 1                  Easter day 
April 10                Eid al-Fitr (date tentative)
April 27                Sierra Leone Independence Day 
May 1                   International Workers (Labor) Day 
June 16                 Eid al-Adha (date tentative)
September 15       Mawlid al-Nabi (date tentative)
December 25       Christmas Day 
December 26       Boxing Day

Temporary Entry of Materials and Personal Belongings

Sierra Leone allows the temporary entry of traveler’s personal belongings subject to customs inspection (Section 91.6 of the Customs Act of 2011). The personal baggage of a visitor is admitted duty-free. Duty is not charged on items for personal use, including clothing, household items, electrical goods, and instruments/tools meant for professional use. No customs duty is required for visitors carrying portable computers/laptops and cellular telephones for their use. However, customs will levy duty on non-allowable personal effects and on those that are more than the allowable quantity. Unaccompanied personal and household effects must be declared as such and are subject to duties upon arrival in country. Illicit drugs, ammunition, and pornographic materials are prohibited. Currency declaration is required upon arrival for amounts in excess of the equivalent of US$10,000.