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HOMESierra Leone > tips

Sierra Leone travel tip

    • How to get there
    • Accomodation
    • Food
    • What to do there
    • Tariffs
    • Diamond mines
    • Kabala- Faranah by motorbike
    • Bottle water
    • Generators
    • Guide and info
    • Bribes
    • Local language
    • Photo of the mosque


My God, it has been a real pain!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I trusted an Italian visa agency who told me I didn't need any proof of reservation to get the visa. So I was quite surprised when my passport got rejected from the SL consulate in Milan. Then it started a two weeks long struggle to manage to have a damned 'proof of reservation'. I contacted a lot of agencies and I even tried to convince the consulate to bypass the normal procedure for my case, but unsuccessfully.
At the end, few days before the departure, I managed to have a letter of confirmation from the 'Family Kingdom hotel' in Freetown thanks to the site www.visitsierraleone.org.
Don't think that sending a mail could be enough; at least I didn't get any answer so I called the office in London (+44 20 7193 4532) and begged them to work on my reservation. Of course it's not for free, in fact a night in a single room cost me 80$, although the website claims 70$! However the Family Kingdom is the cheapest hotel I found in the website and I paid directly to them after having slept there. Following my pushing action, they sent me a email with a 'reservation number' (I guess I could have faked by myself) that in turn I faxed to the Consulate with a letter explaining I booked just one night since I wanted to visit the beautiful country, Regards, Best Wishes, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and bla bla bla...
After one day I got my single entry 3 months valid visa for only 100 euro+ 30 euro for the idiots of the agency!!!

Another opportunity is to get the visa in Conakry in Guinea. I took this as the very last chance, since being very short of time and in a holiday period I risked to wait my SL visa for days in the 'beautiful' town of Conakry. If you have more time I had, the following thread can turn out very useful:


As I know forget to get the visa at the airport unless you aren't part of an organised tour or you have the support of some organisation.



The Leone is the local currency and the change ratio at the time of the travel (Dec07) was:
1 USD= 2910 SLL. (buying SLL)
1 EURO= 4100 SLL (buying SLL)
You can change money almost everywhere and you can pay bigger amounts (i.e. accommodation) directly in $, but you risk to loose money with the change ratio




The yellow fever certificate is mandatory to get the visa. I had it attached to the passport so I cannot say if they border guards really require it, anyway I wouldn't' see the point to take the risk to travel without being vaccinatinated.
I took Lariam against Malaria. Be aware that, being one of the most humid tripical climates in the world, it's also one of the most risky as concerns Malaria. On the other hands if you travel in the dry season (Nov- April), having a mosquito net, wearing long pants, long sleeve shirts and abounding with insect repellent, you can avoid the famigerated Lariam profilassys.
Take into consideration to buy Malarone instead of Lariam, although it's a daily dose (Lariam weekly) and more expensive, it doesn't give Lariam side effects.
If you r gonna staying for a long period in the country, obviously you have to do your counts on risks, money and side-effects!

Morevoer I had the usual vaccinations: Ephatite A, B, Typhus, Tetanus, Meningitis.
I hadn't any problem with the food or the drinks, never drinking tap water, obviously.



Tiwai Island is a protected area on the Moa river. It's an island around 4x3km where many monkeys, chimpanzees, small hippos and crocodiles live.

How to get there:
By public means of transport it's a tough job, but feasible. From Bo take a shared taxi to Potoru (3h), here pay a lift on motorbike to the village of Kambama (17km, 30min). At the village take the boat to get to the Island (the boat trip is included in the entry price)
Kambama is connected also directly to Kenema without passing through Bo, and while I was on the jeep, I saw some minibuses and shared taxis passing on this way. If you have time and patience I'm sure you can do it by public means of transport, anyway by jeep it took the best of 3 bumpy hours.

A community based organisation rents some nice and sheltered tents on the island. They even have solar lamps, running water toilets, showers and a kind of veranda with seats and table.
Although it's recommended to book in advance in their office in Freetown or in Bo, you can pop up directly in Kambama and they will manage somehow to find a tent for you. Of course booking in advance you minimise the risks (address and telephone on the Sierra Leone section of the West Africa 6th edition, 2006 Lonely Planet)

You can find all the beers (and bottled water) you want, but forget having some choice of food. They didn't even manage to find some bananas for us in the nearby villages. At the end they found a chicken (so bad!), but the best it's you buy your own food in Bo or at worst in Potoru.

What to do there
Basically enjoying the peace and the sounds (or noises) of the animals. Boat trip and walks will let you see a lot of chimpanzee jumping among the trees, crocodiles tracks and, if you are lucky, the small hippos.

Fix tariffs (Dec07)

Tarif [$]
Entrance, sleeping, boat / each day
Entrance each day
Boat tour to the hippos (1-2 hours)
Canoe tour (but there was no canoe still)
Cooker (food not included
Walk in the forest with guide (2-3h)




Diamond mines
To visit a "diamond field" is a must for a travel in Sierra Leone, but at the moment there's nothing organised, so you have to work by your own. My suggestion (at least what I did) is to go to Tongo (50km north of Kenema by an awful dirty road by there's also some shared taxis) and once there, ask around avoiding making people suspicious. Don't go to the market shouting: 'I want to see the diamonds!".
For sure shortly you'll find somebody who has a friend who works there and can take you.
Once there ask for 'the boss', however he will reach you before you find him, and recognise his authority: speak him, explain who you are, ask if you can take snaps...
The fields are very near the town and theoretically you could walk there by yourself, but I don't think it's a good idea.
At the end I gave a 10.000 SLL (2$) tip both to the guy who took me there and to the boss; I know it can be less but, for the best experience of the whole travel, I think it's the right amount.

Kabala- Faranah by motorbike

Kabala (SL)- 50km- Kwendu (SL)- 10km- Heremakono (border town, GU)- 45km- Faranah (GU)
Tot distance= around 100km
Kabala to Heremakono: road completely unpaved and terrible
Heremakono to Faranah: the first 10km unpaved but quite flat the last 35km a wonderful tarred road

Read the funny story I wrote to get more details and a link to the TT LPlanet that turned out very helpful to me:

- SL entry from Faranah to Kabala without motorbike

Bottle water
Always check if the bottle is well sealed. Twice it happened to me to get an already opened bottle, I guess they refill with normal water.

If you r sensitive to the night noises, take into account the location of the generator choosing your room. Nevertheless your window can probably be next to the neighbour generators, so ear plugs could be the only solution

Guide and info
The best source of info I found is the Sierra Leone section of the West Africa 6th edition, 2006 Lonely Planet; it's 30 well done pages. Also the 14 pages of the Africa 2007 Lonely Planet are concentrated but fundamental. Then it comes the TT forum, essential to be updated about the safe areas in the country

Bribes from soldiers at the check points turned out to be not as bad as I thought. For sure border points are the shittest places from this point of view (from every point of view) but keep always some change with you. Corrupted soldiers don't give change :-)

Local language
The communication couldn't be easier in Sierra Leone since most of the people speak some sort of English. The local language is mainly Krio, a transformed form of English that often sounds funny.
Greeting the locals using their forms will be very rewarding; the most used ones are:
"How di body?"
"How di day?"

Photo of the mosque
After having been annoyed the all three times I took a snap of a mosque (quite far outside), the only thing I can recommend is to avoid handling your camera in front of the Holy Places

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