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Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet

Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet for Liberia

Liberia - Consular Information Sheet
July 11, 2001


TRAVEL WARNING (issued May 31, 2001): The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against travel to Liberia due to the unstable security situation throughout the country. Because of the security situation, the Department prohibits dependents from accompanying U.S. Government employees to Liberia.

Although the Department has terminated the authorized departure of U.S. Embassy personnel in non-emergency positions from Liberia on May 31, 2001, U.S. citizens in Liberia should carefully review their own personal security situation in determining whether to remain in the country. U.S. citizens should be aware that the ability of the U.S. Embassy to provide direct assistance to U.S. citizens outside of the Monrovia area is severely limited.

U.S. citizens should be cautious of their surroundings at all times. The presence of many ill-trained and armed government security personnel continues to constitute a potential danger. The northwestern part of the country is unsettled as rebel activity in Sierra Leone and Guinea continues to affect stability along the Sierra Leone-Guinea-Liberia border areas. In particular, there have been reports of intensified hostilities in upper Lofa County. Travel anywhere in Liberia after dark is discouraged. From time to time, the U.S. Embassy restricts the travel of U.S. Government employees both by time and location. U.S. citizens in Liberia should check with the Embassy for current information regarding these restrictions.

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Liberia is a developing west African country which is recovering from seven years of devastating civil war (1989-97). Although a democratically elected government was installed in August 1997, limited progress has been made toward the following goals: resettlement of refugees and displaced persons, reintegration of former combatants, reconstruction of the country's infrastructure, respect for human rights and the rule of law, a stable environment for economic development, and the elimination of corruption. Tourism facilities are poor or, in many cases, nonexistent.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A passport and visa are required, as is evidence of a yellow fever vaccination. For persons who are traveling from countries that do not have a Liberian Embassy or Consulate, an airport entry visa may be obtained, but the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization must authorize the visa in advance of arrival. Further information on entry requirements for Liberia can be obtained from the Embassy of the Republic of Liberia, 5201 16th street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20011. The telephone numbers are (202) 723-0437 to 723-0440. Overseas inquiries should be made to the nearest Liberian mbassy or Consulate.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

SAFETY AND SECURITY: The ability of Liberia's security forces to maintain law and order in the countryside is open to question, and travelers should check with the U.S. Embassy Consular Section or Security Office before undertaking travel outside Monrovia. U.S. Government employees require special Embassy authorization to travel outside the greater Monrovia area. Travelers are advised to avoid northwest Liberia as continued instability and strife in southeastern Sierra Leone heightens government sensitivity about security in the border area.

Due to the potential for violence, U.S. citizens should avoid crowds, political rallies, and street demonstrations and maintain security awareness at all times. In addition, due to recent animosities among security forces, U.S. citizens should avoid any gathering of such forces.

CRIME: Monrovia's crime rate is high. Theft and assault are major problems and occur more frequently after dark. Foreigners, including U.S. citizens, have been targets of street crime and robbery. Residential armed break-ins are common. The police are ill-equipped and largely incapable of providing effective protection.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad, for ways to promote a trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, .

MEDICAL FACILITIES: Hospitals and medical facilities are poorly equipped and incapable of providing basic services. Medicines are scarce or often unavailable in most areas.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations.

When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of 50,000 dollars (US). Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.

OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international traveler's at telephone 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299); or by visiting the CDC Internet home page at http://www.cdc.gov.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Liberia is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of public transportation: Poor
Urban road conditions/maintenance: Poor
Rural road conditions/maintenance: Poor to nonexistent
Availability of roadside assistance: Poor to nonexistent

Road travel can be hazardous. Cars, trucks, and taxis are frequently overloaded with people and goods and make frequent stops without signaling. Many vehicles operate with threadbare tires and blowouts are common. There are no operating traffic lights in the country; therefore, intersections should be approached with caution. There are also no public streetlights; pedestrians in Monrovia's streets and those walking on country roads are difficult to see at night. Pedestrians often walk in the streets and cross busy roadways with little or no warning. Drivers and pedestrians are cautioned that high-speed car convoys carrying government officials force vehicles to pull off the road until they have passed.

Although it is possible to travel overland to and from Cote d'Ivoire and Guinea, travelers should expect frequent delays at government security checkpoints, as well as time-consuming detours around the many bridges and roads damaged during the civil war or by the heavy annual rains which occur from May to November. Travelers can expect strict enforcement of border controls by Liberian, Ivoirian, and Guinean authorities.

For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service by local carriers at present, or economic authority to operate such service, between the U.S. and Liberia, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Liberia's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards.

For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618)229-4801.

All international commercial air service to Monrovia now arrives at Roberts International Airport (RIA), located 35 miles (approximately one hour by car) outside Monrovia. Very limited daytime air service exists to Freetown, Sierra Leone; Conakry, Guinea; Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire; and Accra, Ghana. Most airlines do not meet Western standards of punctuality, security, or service. Luggage and passengers undergo inspection prior to boarding. At this time, an armed para-military security force provides airport security. Conditions at the airport upon arrival and departure are frequently crowded and chaotic. As public transportation to Monrovia is not always available, travelers should attempt to make arrangements for an expediter and chauffeur through their hotel, employer, or business associates.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Liberian law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Liberia are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

CONSULAR ACCESS: The Embassy does not always receive timely notification of the arrest of U.S. citizens by Liberian authorities. U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passports with them at all times, so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship are readily available. If arrested, U.S. citizens should always ask to be allowed to contact the U.S. Embassy (see Registration/Embassy Location below).

COUNTRY INFRASTRUCTURE: Lodging, fuel, transportation, and telephone services are unevenly available in Liberia. They are nonexistent or severely limited in rural areas. Neither water nor electricity is commercially available in Monrovia. Most hotels have utilities available, but not on a 24-hour basis. Few facilities and homes have telephones, and disruption of telephone service is common. Public mail delivery is very unreliable, but commercial air courier service is available through DHL and Federal Express.

CURRENCY REGULATIONS: The U.S. dollar is readily accepted in Liberia. While the official rate of exchange is one U.S. dollar to one Liberian dollar, the street rate is substantially different and varies. In the past few months, the street rate has been 40-50 Liberian dollars to one U.S. dollar. The Central Bank of Liberia has recently issued new currency and all older Liberian currency such as the "Liberty" and the "JJ" is no longer legal tender. The use of traveler's checks is subject to substantial fees and few commercial establishments accept them. ATMs are unavailable and credit/debit cards are not accepted anywhere in Liberia. Wire transfers through Western Union and some banks are available but subject to substantial fees.

PHOTOGRAPHY RESTRICTIONS: Taking photographs of military installations, air and seaports, and important government buildings is restricted. Visitors should refrain from taking pictures of any sites or activities, including official motorcades or security personnel that might be considered sensitive.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone (202) 736-7000.

REGISTRATION/EMBASSY LOCATION: U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to register and to obtain updated information on travel and security in Liberia at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy at 111 United Nations Drive, Mamba Point, Monrovia, Liberia, telephone (231) 226-370, fax (231) 226-154. U.S. citizens who wish to write to the U.S. Embassy may address letters to the American Embassy Monrovia, Consular Section, Washington, D.C. 20521-8800. Consular assistance in Liberia is limited to the greater Monrovia area.

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This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated May 11, 2001 to include the revised the Travel Warning of May 31, 2001 and to update sections on Entry/Exit Requirements, Medical Insurance, Currency Regulations, and Aviation Safety Oversight.



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