Travel Essentials

Currency

The official currency of Sierra Leone is the Leone (LE or SLL), which are available in coins of 100 and 500 and bills of 1,000, 2,000, 5,000 and 10,000. Due to the exchange rate, you will likely mostly use 10,000 bills while travelling in country. While it is illegal to pay in US dollars or exchange money in the street through unlicenced money dealers, you can exchange your foreign currency at commercial banks, foreign bureaux de change, hotels and supermarkets.

Some hotels and restaurants will accept credit cards to settle bills, but please be advised to check beforehand. ATMs are also available for Leone cash withdrawals in the main centres, but these are not available prolifically.

One of the most common forms of payment in Sierra Leone, and growing, is the use of mobile money. Both Africell and Orange have mobile currency solutions that can be used to settle bills.

Communication

Communication through its mobile networks is arguably the easiest way to stay connected while travelling in Sierra Leone. Both Africell and Orange have extensive networks across the country, and to a lesser extent Sierratel and QCell. On arrival, travellers will be offered a free sim card by Africell and Orange, and can choose to top up the sim with data and minutes for voice calls. Topping up when travelling around the country is easy. Touts and small kiosks selling airtime and data are ubiquitous in villages, towns and cities. Simply keep a look out for the Africell and Orange branding. Individuals can also transfer data and minutes to another number via their mobile. Most hotels will offer free, uncapped Internet, however the quality thereof is not always consistent and high-quality free WiFi is not widely available.

Health

The Sierra Leone healthcare system is driven by government, private-sector healthcare stakeholders and NGOs, of which there are over 100 operating in Sierra Leone’s healthcare sector. There are some 80 hospitals operating in Sierra Leone, both private and public, while the First Responder Coalition of Sierra Leone provides rapid emergency medical response when required. Yellow fever and malaria are endemic to Sierra Leone, and epidemic outbreaks of disease including cholera, Lassa fever and meningitis do occur. In 2014, there was an Ebola virus in Sierra Leone. The country was declared Ebola-free in March 2016.

Food

Rice is the staple food in Sierra Leone, and it is served in large quantities with any meal, very often with stews, including such ingredients as cassava leaf, potato leaf or peanut. Other firm favourites accompanying rice-based meals include plantain, okra, beans, goat, chicken or beef. Palm oil is also used ubiquitously in Sierra Leonean cuisine.