Sierra Leone - Consular Information Sheet
August 21, 2001
TRAVEL WARNING (ISSUED AUGUST 20, 2001): The Department
of State warns U.S. citizens against travel to Sierra Leone. Although
security in Freetown has improved over the past year and there
are encouraging signs that the UN peacekeeping force is making
progress in disarming and demobilizing the Revolutionary United
Front (RUF) rebel force and pro-government Civil Defense Force
(CDF), the overall security situation remains tenuous and dangerous.
Travel outside the capital is still somewhat dangerous in many
areas due to the presence of rebel military groups and undisciplined
pro-government militia that have not yet been disarmed or demobilized.
The U.S. Embassy in Freetown operates with a small staff. Because
of the security situation, family members are not authorized to
accompany U.S. government employees assigned to Sierra Leone.
Currently only emergency consular services to U.S. citizens are
available, and the Embassy's ability to provide these services
is limited. U.S. citizens in Sierra Leone should review their
own personal security situations in determining whether to visit
or reside in the country. American citizens needing emergency
assistance should contact the Embassy by calling (232)(22) 226-481.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A passport and visa are required
and the visa must be obtained in advance. Travelers should obtain
the latest information and details from the Embassy of Sierra
Leone, 1701 19th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009; telephone (202)
939-9261. Overseas, inquiries should be made to the nearest Sierra
Leonean embassy 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.
DUAL NATIONALITY: U.S. citizens who are also Sierra Leonean
nationals must provide proof of payment of taxes on revenues earned
in Sierra Leone before being granted clearance for departure from
Sierra Leone. The ability of the U.S. Embassy to assist dual U.S.-Sierra
Leonean national is extremely limited because Sierra Leonean authorities
do not recognize dual
nationality and view such individuals as Sierra Leonean
SAFETY AND SECURITY: While UN peacekeeping forces control
the capital city of Freetown and major cities in the southern
areas of the country and have deployed in many other regions of
the country, areas outside the cities remain dangerous due to
the presence of still armed rebel combatants and pro-government
milita. Travel outside Freetown is hazardous. While a ceasefire
has essentially held since November 2000, rebel forces still remain
a serious potential threat. Because many Sierra Leoneans do not
speak English, it can be difficult for a foreigner to communicate
his or her identity. Travelers may also encounter difficulties
at unauthorized roadblocks and checkpoints outside Freetown. U.S.
citizens should avoid political rallies and street demonstrations,
maintain security awareness at all times, and comply with Freetown's
strictly-enforced curfew regulations.
In January 1999, at least 5,000 persons (including several foreign
nationals) were killed when rebel forces attacked Freetown. Despite
a July 1999 peace agreement between the government and rebel forces,
and several subsequent agreements, much of the country is still
not fully under government control. In May 2000, over 20 protesters
and an unknown number of rebel guards were killed in an exchange
of gunfire in Freetown near the home of the rebel leader.
CRIME: Petty crime and theft of wallets and passports
are common. Requests for payments at military roadblocks are common.
Armed robberies and burglaries of residences are frequent occurrences.
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport abroad 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 pamphlets, A
Safe Trip Abroad and Tips
for Travelers to Sub-Saharan Africa to provide useful
information on promoting personal security while traveling abroad
and on travel in the region in general. Both are available from
Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office,
Washington, DC 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs,
MEDICAL FACLITIES: Medical facilities fall critically
short of U.S. standards. Persons with medical conditions that
may require treatment or medications are discouraged from traveling
to Sierra Leone. Medicines are in short supply, sterility of equipment
is questionable, and treatment is unreliable. Many primary health
care workers, especially in rural areas, lack professional training.
Instances of misdiagnosis, improper treatment and administration
of improper drugs have been reported.
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, 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
travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (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 Sierra Leone is provided for general reference
only and may not be totally accurate in a particular location
Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor
Most main roads in Freetown are paved but have potholes; unpaved
side streets are generally navigable. There is a major road resurfacing
and repair program ongoing in Freetown that is improving the quality
of roads in the city. Most roads outside Freetown are unpaved,
but passable for a 4-wheel drive vehicle. Public transport (bus
or group taxi) is erratic, sometimes unsafe, and generally not
additional general information about road safety, including links
to foreign government sites, please 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 Sierra Leone, the
U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Sierra
Leone's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international
aviation safety standards for oversight of Sierra Leone's air
carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact
the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873,
or visit FAA's
Internet home page 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 service. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific
carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618) 229-4801.
REGIONAL AIR SERVICE: No American or European air carriers
fly to Lungi International Airport. Some regional airlines service
the airport. Small planes and helicopters are available in connection
with most major regional flights to fly passengers from the international
airport to the capital and to the small airport near Freetown.
PHOTOGRAPHY RESTRICTIONS: Permission is required to photograph
government buildings, airports, bridges, or official facilities.
Areas prohibiting photography are not marked or defined. Individuals
sometimes do not want to be photographed for religious reasons
or may want to be paid for posing. Photographers should ask permission
before taking pictures.
CRIME 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 Sierra
Leonean law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs
in Sierra Leone are strict, and convicted offenders can expect
jail sentences and heavy fines.
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
REGISTRATION/EMBASSY LOCATION: U.S. citizens living in
or visiting Sierra Leone, despite the Department's warning, are
encouraged to register with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy
in Freetown at the corner of Walpole and Siaka Stevens Streets,
and to obtain updated information on travel and security in Sierra
Leone. The telephone number is (232)(22) 226-481, and the fax
number is (232)(22) 225-471.
Consular services for U.S. citizens are limited to emergency
services in Freetown only. The U.S. Embassy's consular section
remains closed and will not be able to issue or replace U.S. passports.
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated January 19,
2001 to include the updated Travel Warning of August 20, 2001
and to update the sections on Entry/Exit Requirements, Crime,
Safety and Security, Children's Issues, and Medical Insurance.