|Area||total: 71,740 sq km |
water: 120 sq km
land: 71,620 sq km
|Language||English (official), Mende (principal vernacular in the south), Temne (principal vernacular in the north), Krio (English-based Creole)|
|Religion||Muslim, Christian, indigenous beliefs|
|Country Calling Code||+232|
Sierra Leone is located on the West Coast of Africa between 7 and 10 degrees N, and longitudes 10.5 and 13 degrees W. The Republic of Guinea is to the north and northeast; Liberia is to the east and southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean on the west and south. It has 402 km of coastline.
From an approximate 100km coastal belt of low-lying land, the country rises to a mountain plateau near the eastern frontier rising 1200m to 2000m with a rich timber forest region.
The western area, on which the capital and main commercial centre of Freetown stands, is 40km long and 17km wide.
- Freetown - Capital city in Western area
- Bo - Second city and capital of Southern region
- Kenema - Major city in Eastern region
- Makeni - Major city in Northern region
Sierra Leone is recovering from several years of a brutal civil war which killed and maimed many thousands. The war ended in 2001. The government, with considerable international assistance has put in place measures which have stabilised the country politically and economically. Whilst the government sector still suffers from chronic shortage of resources, the private sector is booming. The potential for tourism is vast, but currently unrealised. Tour operators are looking closely at what the country has to offer and if the government can maintain the current momentum, Sierra Leone has a very bright future.
Sierra Leone has a tropical climate, typified by warm temperatures and high humidity. Night time temperatures rarely drop below 24C and daytime temperatures reach 30C throughout the year. From October to March the weather is generally dry with many fine, hot, sunny days. From April to September, is the rainy season. The rainfall increases to a peak in July and August and then decreases until rain has almost ceased by November.
Coastal belt of mangrove swamps, wooded hill country, upland plateau, mountains in east.
Lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
Highest point: Loma Mansa (Bintimani) 1,948 m
Electricity is officially 220V/50Hz. Sockets are British standard. Supplies are erratic and blackouts frequent. Sierra Leone does not have sufficient generation capacity to meet demand. Of the current 27MW capacity only about 15MW is operational. The Bumbuna Dam Project (http://www.bumbuna.com/index.php) is expected to provide 50MW by 2006/7.
Sierra Leone has fixed line phone service in Freetown, Freetown and Freetown usually have high speed access, some with wireless networks.
Passport and Visa
All persons entering Sierra Leone must have a valid passport or travel document. Citizens of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) do not require a visa to enter the country. All other nationalities will require a visa, which are issued at Sierra Leone's overseas missions.
The international airport is at Lungi, the other side of the estuary from Freetown. A short helicopter ride is required on old Russian MI8's to the Aberdeen part of Freetown. Alternatively a ferry runs to the main part of Freetown and a hovercraft sometimes runs. By road it is 2-3 hours to the city.
Currently Sierra Leone can be accessed by road from Guinea(Conakry). Special permits are required if transiting the border with a private vehicle. Private taxis, buses and trucks commute daily to and from Conakry/Freetown.
Public transport is not generally recommended.
Sierra Leone has the 3rd largest natural harbour in the world and is looking forward to the arrival of cruise ships. Cargo and Passenger ships berth at the Queen Elizabeth II quay, while some passenger/Cargo and private crafts can land at the Government Wharf in central Freetown, arriving most times from Conakry and Banjul. Enquiries should be made to Cargo Shipping Agencies.
English (official, regular use limited to literate minority), Mende (principal vernacular in the south), Temne (principal vernacular in the north), Krio (English-based Creole, spoken by the descendants of freed Jamaican slaves who were settled in the Freetown area, a lingua franca and a first language for 10% of the population but understood by 95%)
The unit of currency is the Leone, symbol SLL. Leone coins have the value Le50 and Le100. Bank notes are Le500, Le1000, Le2000,Le5000 and 10000
Exchange rates (March 2005):
Credit cards are accepted virtually nowhere at present. The Cape Sierra Hotel and the airport duty free shop do take major cards. Some of the other hotels are planning to take cards. It is possible to get money from some banks with a credit card, but the process can be long and rather costly. There are ATM's in Freetown but they are not internationally linked.
The main staple of Sierra Leonean food is rice, often accompinied by soup i.e. stews. These stews may include a flavorful and often spicy mix of meat, fish, seasonings, greens, etc., often taking hours to prepare. There are plenty of good quality restaurants offering a variety of local and international dishes.
The national brewer Sierra Leone Breweries Limited produces the high quality Star beer. Many European beers are also imported. Soft drinks such as Coca Cola and Fanta are also locally produced. Wine is available from restaurants and supermarkets, but can be expensive and not well kept.
There are some excellent hotels/guest houses in Freetown. Facilities are very limited in other cities, although improvements are being made.
Blackheath Guest House 3 Wilkinson Road Freetown
Bookings Contact: 44 (0)7946 886849 (UK)
Sierra Leone was for many years on the list of countries to avoid (as published by the UK's malaria and other tropical diseases are prevalent. You should consider taking medication to protect against malaria and using insect repellent. Vaccination against rabies and yellow fever (required to enter Guinea) are strongly advised. HIV/AIDS is prevalent. Lassa fever can be contracted in Kenema and the east. If you have travelled in this region you should seek urgent medical advice for any fever not positively identified as malaria.
Medical facilities are poor. You should carry basic medical supplies. You are advised to take medical advice before travelling and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up to date.
Sierra Leone has a long history of religious harmony. Both Muslims and Christians live and worship side by side.