National Tourist Board
International Conference Centre
Aberdeen Hill P.O. BOX 1435
Tel: (22) 272520/ 272396/ 229067,
Fax: 272 1 97
Sierra Leone

Physical geography

Sierra Leone is situated on the West Coast of Africa, latitudes 7° and 10° North and longitudes 10.50° and 13° West. It is bounded on the North and North East by the Republic of Guinea, on the east and southeast by Liberia and on the West and South by the Atlantic Ocean with a coastline stretching some 300 miles extending from the boundary with the Republic of Guinea to the north of the mouth of the Great Scarcies river on to southeast at the mouth of Mano river.

From an approximately 70 mile-wide coastal belt of low-lying land the country rises to a mountain plateau near the eastern frontier, to a height of some 4,000 to 6,000 feet in the rich timber forest region. The western area consists of the Sierra Leone Peninsula, the small islands of Sherbro, Tasso, Plantain, Banana, Turtle, York and others, as well as areas of inland territory approximately 255 square miles in all. The country has a total land area of some 27,925 square miles (73,326 sq km),with a population of four million people.

The Peninsula on which the capital and main commercial centre Freetown stands is 25 miles long and ten miles wide. A mountainous promontory, it rises in places to 300 feet above sea level, and is one of the few parts on the West African Coast where there is such high land so near the sea. This area has one of the world's best white sandy beaches, azure seas, pulsating resorts where the lush green forest spills down the hillsides to meet the most beautiful and unspoilt beaches.

Tourists are just beginning to recognise Sierra Leone's potential for tropical winter sunbathing and fishing. Fortunately, the pleasant months of the year are the dry season, (November to April) which fall in the winter months of the temperate zones. Package cruises, tours and individual tourists are now a regular feature during the tourist season.

Sierra Leone became an independent state on the 27 April 1961, and attained Republican status on 19 April 1971.


Sierra Leone is a tropical country with temperatures averaging 80°F (26°C). There are two seasons. The dry season November to April has the best holiday weather. The wet season is from May to October.


Freetown the capital has the highest density per sq km, and roughly about a quarter of the inhabitants of the western area are Creoles.

The Temnes and Mendes comprise two-thirds of the population.

Economic geography

Agriculture is the backbone of the nation's economy. About 80 per cent of the country's manpower is engaged in agricultural activities. The social organisation of agriculture is still based on land tenure. The land is communally owned by the tribe, but legal ownership is vested in the Chief on trust for the whole tribe. This practice is predominant in the rural areas. Land can also be inherited in some tribal communities which cannot be sold or bought by non-members. However, land tenure does not apply to the Western Area where the West European system of land tenure applies.

Diamonds and other minerals still form a substantial portion of the country's export earnings. The main diamond and gold mining areas are in the Eastern Province: Tongo Field in the Kenema District, Yengema, Njaima Sewafe, Njaima Nimikoro, Tumbudu, Sefadu, and Koidu in the Kono District. There is alluvial mining also in the South. Gold mining also takes place in the Tonkolili and Koinadugu Districts in the Northem Province.

Visitors are advised that it is illegal to buy or smuggle diamonds or gold out of the country without the necessary licences. Other important products that are also traded for export are timber, gold, bauxite, rutile, iron ore, coffee and ginger.

Industrialisation is making a steady progress. This pace will be considerably accelerated when the hydroelectric project at Bumbuna is complete.


Although Sierra Leone lacks the big games of the East African plains, wildlife is diverse in the hinterland. The forest and nature reserves support most wildlife species of interest. There are now 21 protected wildlife areas scattered throughout the country. Government therefore realises that these protected areas serve as focal points for eco-tourists since they contain the most significant biophysical attributes of the country.

It is against this background that Government now advocates for the development of eco-tourism, as a means of diversifying the country's tourist product to meet the growing demand internationally for the eco-tourism product. The majority of the tourist attractions in the country are nature-oriented.

As a new phenomenon, the Government is therefore committed to the protection of the natural resource base and the development of tourism, which is sensitive to the environment so that the people of Sierra Leone can also feel that eco-tourism is in their long-term interest.

In developing our marketing strategy, a premium has been put on the unspoilt nature of the environment and the emphasis on eco-tourism development in Sierra Leone is to minimise the negative effects of tourism. In short, there is increased awareness of environmental protection of plant and animal life.

A brief history

The history of the name Sierra Leone dates back to the visit of a Portuguese explorer, Pedro da Cintra in 1462 to the coast of present day Freetown. As a result of the topographic configuration and climatic conditions experienced by the explorer at the time, he called the land of his instant experience 'Sierra Lyoa' which we are told means 'Lion Mountains'. With time, and going through years of British Colonisation, the original name was modified and it became 'Sierra Leone', the name by which the country is known today.

Sierra Leone was for many years used as a trading outpost until it was gradually phased out and later, in the 18th century, it became a settlement for freed slaves after the English philanthropist Granville Sharp, who was deeply concerned about the welfare of freed slaves, published his proposal to take them all back to Africa and settle them there where they could prosper in a genial climate.

During the British colonisation, Sierra Leone served as the seat of Government for other British Colonies along the West African Coast. The first college for higher education in West Africa and indeed in tropical Africa, was established in Sierra Leone in 1827. The country is therefore well known for its early achievements in the fields of medicine, law and education which have earned it the name, 'the Athens of West Africa'.

Freetown, the capital, seat of government and centre of all commercial activities in the country has spread considerably, from its population of a mere 7,400 in 1874 to about 700,000 inhabitants now; and this figure is still growing. Freetown also provides natural anchorage and berthing facilities for ships at the Queen Elizabeth II Quay, the third largest natural harbour in the world.

The City contains many important buildings and landmarks of historical and cultural interest, the most prominent and significant of which is the Cotton Tree, standing almost in the centre of Freetown, and reputed to be more than 300 years old.

The local name for Freetown before the White man came was 'Romarong, meaning the place of the 'Wailers', so-called because of the constant weeping and screaming of victims of storm and cross-current disasters at the mouth of the Sierra Leone river. Significantly, therefore, when the Portuguese sailor, Pedro da Cintra called the place by its present name 'Sierra Lyoa', meaning 'Lion Mountain', he had not deviated much from the concept of the indigenous people.

Languages spoken by nationals

The official and commercial language of the country is English, but each ethnic group has its own language. In all, there are 15 ethnic languages. However, an important vehicle of communication is Krio, the Lingua Franca which is widely spoken within the country.




The local currency is the Leone: This is made up of 100 cents, and it is circulated in the following denominations:

Le500, Lel00, 50c, Le50, Le20, Le10, 10c, Le5, Le2, 1Le1.

Official holidays

Movable - 1 January - New Year - Ed- Ul - Fitli, 27 April - Independence Day - Ed - Ul - Adha, 25 December- Christmas Day - Maulid - Ul - Nabi, 26 December - Boxing Day - Good Friday, Easter.

Main holiday sports

Sierra Leone offers visitors a variety of sporting activities. Soccer is the most popular sport. The National Stadium in Freetown with a seating capacity of 50,000 is an ultra-modern complex with first-class pitch, eight lanes of rubberised running tracks, floodlights provide facilities for tennis, basketball, swimming and boxing. Cricket is also played during the Dry season. There are tennis courts, swimming pools and squash courts in some of the hotels and temporary membership for these facilities are available at the Aqua Sports Club where boating facilities is also available and at the Freetown Golf Club. Golfing is also available for temporary visitors.

There are also a variety of water sports: jet ski, water ski, pedalo, ascending parachute, canoeing, scuba diving, small and big game fishing, etc. Hunting expeditions could also be arranged through the handling agents.

How to dress

Casual, lightweight and informal apparel of cotton and linen, but don't forget to take along your beach wear.

What to buy

There is a bustling pavement emporium of African curios, handicrafts, the famous Sierra Leonean tie and dye gara cloths and other embroidered native cloths ideal for ladies' dresses, skirts and men's shirts. This is mostly available at the Sewa Grounds in Freetown.

Woodwork and leather goods, masks, carved animals, traditional carvings, game sets jewellery and typical local scenes in paintings. Snake skins, wallets, animal skin handbags, leather cushions, mythological figures, masks and the world's famous nomolis.

Other interesting souvenirs such as the traditional musical instruments like the native guitars and xylophones, necklaces, bangles, sandals, hammocks and gongs, etc, can be bought along the Freetown streets and pavements in the city. To export a significant quantity of Sierra Leonean handicraft such as artwork, wood carvings and paintings, etc, kindly contact the Monuments and Relics Commission at the Museum in Freetown.

Frontier formalities


All persons entering Sierra Leone are required to have in their possession a valid passport or travel document, except passengers arriving and departing on the same flight or transferring to another flight at the Lungi International Airport.

Entry permits and visas entry permits and visas are required by all persons entering Sierra Leone including diplomats and United Nations personnel, except passengers in transit. Ecowas citizens are exempt. There is a fee for entry and re-entry visas in respect of Non-Commonwealth citizens and can be obtained in all our Overseas Missions or at the airport. Group tourists visas are issued on arrival provided the names are sent on 48 hours beforehand.

Customs regulations

Non-residents can take foreign exchange out of Sierra Leone up to the amount brought in by them. Incoming non-residents are therefore advised to disclose amounts of foreign exchange brought into Sierra Leone if they anticipate taking out amounts in excess of the permitted allowance. Disclosure is, however, optional.

One quart of spirits, one quart of wine and 200 cigarettes may be brought in by visitors or purchased on arrival at the Lungi Airport Duty-Free shop.

Currency regulations

Travellers can take Leones out of Sierra Leone up to Le50,000 per trip.

Sierra Leone operates a floating exchange rate system. Foreign currency can be freely exchanged or bought at any of the commercial banks, Foreign Exchange Bureaux and hotels. Travellers cheques and credit cards: American Express, Diners Card and Visa are widely accepted in hotels and some restaurants. Main airport: Lungi International Airport.

Departure tax: $20, payable by non-Sierra Leonean passport holders and its equivalent in Leones by Sierra Leonean passport holders.

Travel documents

As well as having valid passport you should have an entry visa - these can be obtained at any of the Sierra Leone Overseas Missions, or through your tour operator, or on arrival at Lungi International Airport, Lungi; provided 48 hours notice is given to the immigration authorities.

Health requirements

A vaccination certificate against yellow fever is required. It is advisable to take antimalaria tablets and consult your doctor or travel agent on what other precautions may be advised.


Incentive and conference facilities

Sierra Leone satisfies incentive facilities at most of the hotels accommodating between ten and 300 persons. The Miatta Conference Hall and the Freetown International Conference Centre caters for 300 to 800 persons respectively.


A holiday in Sierra Leone makes all the difference that will ensure a memorable and never-to-be-forgotten event in your life. While you are encouraged to use your cameras and video cameras throughout your vacation, there are few dos and don'ts in certain areas. Please ask your Guide. The National Monuments and Relics Commission has declared 18 monuments which are of historic importance. For further details contact the Commission at the Sierra Leone National Museum near the Cotton Tree in Freetown. From the almost modern setting of the Freetown metropolis to the peaceful calm and remote village settlements in the Provinces still basking in their pre-20th century serenity, you are assured of an enjoyable night life.


Telegrams, Telex and Fascimile. Satellite communications is available at the main Sierra Leone External Telecommunications (SLET) Head Office and at some main resort hotels. The country code is (IDD) 232 22.

Valid International Driving Licence. Sierra Leone drives on the right.

Main travel routes

Most visitors come to Sierra Leone by air. Direct flights from most European countries take an average of six and half hours. The following Airlines fly to Freetown:

KLM, Sabena, Ghana Airways, Belview Airlines, ADC Airlines, Air Guinee.

There are charter flights from Europe. The main Airport - Lungi International Airport is separated by a river from Freetown. A ride on the ferry from the Airport is an experience in itself. Nearly all airlines provide bus service to and from the airport for an average fare of US$25 one way.

Cruise ships during the tourist season call at Freetown Harbour, which is the third largest natural harbour in the world.

Road transport

The Handling Agents and other private companies offer hire service for jeeps, cars and buses. Taxis with yellow number plates are found all over and fares are fixed for certain areas. There are also taxis found in various hotels with white number plates and their tariffs are displayed in all major hotels.

Useful telephone numbers

Tourist information: 272520, 272396
International Calls (SLET): 017 225941
Police: 22300 1
Immigration: 223034, 222643, 224544
Airport Information: 223881, 025-225, 225505
Fire Service: 222009
Hospital: Connaught: 222087
Netlands: 230133
Post Office (SALPOST): 225319, 222138
Bank of Sierra Leone: 226501
Department of Foreign Affairs: 223514, 226005, 227781
Sierra Leone National Telecommunications: 224647
Enquires: 012 Faults: 018
Makeni Exchange: 052
Kenema Exchange: 042
Bo Exchange: 032
Juba Exchange 024
Lungi Exchange: 025
Freetown Aqua Sports Club: 230268
Freetown Golf Club 272345

For further information contact: The General Manager, National Tourist Board of Sierra Leone, International Conference Centre, PO Box 1135, Aberdeen Hill, Freetown, Sierra Leone, Tel: (22) 272520/272396/229067, Fax: 272197.

We have been able to publish the present tourist information on Sierra Leone thanks to the co-operation of the National Tourist Board of Sierra Leone.