Liberia travel guide
They say all publicity is good publicity, but Liberia might argue otherwise. Africa’s oldest republic has barely been out of the headlines in recent decades, but for all the wrong reasons; reports from the country have been dominated by two civil wars and an outbreak of Ebola. Suffice to say tourists have stayed away.
But Liberia has come a long way since the dark days of its civil war. The 2013 Ibrahim Index of African Governance proclaimed this small West African nation to be the most improved country on the continent – and many are hoping Liberia will continue in this vein.
Assuming it does, adventurous travellers will likely be tempted back to this small, coastal nation; a country characterised by its windswept golden beaches, luscious rainforests and verdant savannahs, where twittering birds, screeching monkeys and stomping elephants provide a wild soundtrack.
But there’s more to this country than natural wonders. Founded by freed American and Caribbean slaves, Africa’s oldest republic is home to a staggering diversity of cultures; its four million odd inhabitants are comprised of more than 16 established peoples, and there’s a burgeoning Asian and Middle Eastern population, too.
Art has long played an important role in Liberian culture, and the country’s various ethnic groups are renowned for their ornate wooden sculptures, particularly wooden masks, which are said to connect the living with ancestral spirits and ancient deities. Like art, religion is also woven into the fabric of Liberian life; casual ceremonies with sacred catfish hold force even while churches and mosques are full.
Liberia’s tropical climate, with a long dry season from September to June and rains peaking in August, still decide everything from transport to working schedules. During the monsoon roads become rivers and, at times, the country feels very much at the mercy of nature.
Yet Liberia is very much the master of its own destiny and its emergence as a credible tourist destination will depend largely on whether peace prevails and whether there is significant investment in the country’s creaking infrastructure.
111,369 sq km (43,000 sq miles).
4,615,222 (UN estimate 2016).
37.7 per sq km.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf since 2006.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf since 2006.
120 volts AC, 60Hz. American-style plugs with two flat pins (with or without round grounding pin) are most common.
Last updated: 10 October 2017
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Presidential and general elections will take place in Liberia on 10 October 2017. Political rallies and large gatherings are expected to become more frequent in the final week of the election campaign, particularly from 6 to 8 October 2017. Road blockages and considerable disruption to traffic in Monrovia are likely during this period – you’re advised to avoid driving in central Monrovia when rallies are taking place. Travel along the airport road may also be disrupted in the area of SKD Stadium on Saturday 7 October 2017 due to a political rally. If you’re due to travel to or from the airport on this day, you should take note of this and allow additional time for your journey.
Terrorist attacks in Liberia can’t be ruled out. Attacks could be indiscriminate. You should be vigilant, especially in places visited by foreigners.
General medical facilities throughout Liberia are unable to provide the same standard of healthcare as in the UK. Facilities in rural areas are rudimentary. Many medical facilities expect to be paid up-front for treatment. If you travel to Liberia, stay in contact with your employer or host organisation about the support that they can provide to you while you’re in the country.
If you’re concerned that you might have been exposed to, or showing symptoms of Ebola, you should seek immediate medical advice. If you’re in the UK call NHS on 111.
Avoid travelling at night outside Monrovia, except to or from Roberts International Airport. Make sure you have pre-arranged transport from the airport.
The small British Embassy in Monrovia can only offer limited consular assistance.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
Safety and security
There are sometimes clashes between armed groups from both sides of the Liberian/Cote d’Ivoire border in some of the more remote border areas of Grand Gedeh and River Gee counties. To avoid straying into these areas, use the main roads when travelling in these counties.
The ability of the national authorities and the UN to provide emergency help outside Monrovia is limited. Check the security situation before travelling to any part of the country. Violent incidents, particularly in rural areas, are possible as a result of land disputes, illegal mining and occupation of rubber plantations. Illegal rubber tappers have been responsible for a number of attacks on security forces in the Firestone rubber plantation. Avoid travelling away from the major routes within the plantation. Organised groups of former combatants may be present in areas of the country where there is limited government security presence, including Sinoe rubber plantation and Sapo National Park.
The Samuel K Doe Stadium in Monrovia can become overcrowded during major football matches or events.
There is a high level of crime in Monrovia, including armed robbery. The Liberian National Police has very limited capability to prevent or detect crime, or to provide emergency response in any part of the country. Levels of crime are much higher after dark. Don’t walk anywhere in the city at night.
Take care when walking alone and only do so during daylight hours in areas frequented by foreigners.
Most crime is opportunistic theft, but there are organised criminal gangs. Thieves are often armed with knives or machetes, but occasionally also carry firearms. While Liberians are the main victims of crime, the relative wealth of international visitors makes them an attractive target for criminals. Avoid carrying valuables in public and be vigilant at all times, especially at night. Mobile phones and laptops are common targets of theft.
Foreigners have been mugged in the Mamba Point and Sinkor areas of Monrovia (including Sinkor beach in broad daylight), where most international visitors stay. Be wary if you are approached by strangers. Criminals also operate in nightclubs and on beaches.
Accommodation occupied by international workers has occasionally been targeted by burglars. Thefts have occurred in taxis. You should avoid local public transport. There is a high incidence of rape in Liberia and there have been cases of rapes and attempted rapes involving foreign women.
Take extra care when driving in heavy traffic or off the main roads.
Consider your security arrangements carefully before your arrival in Liberia. Make sure you are supported by a reliable organisation with a comprehensive and adequate security plan. Stay only in reputable accommodation with adequate guarding and other security arrangements, and arrange for transport for the duration of your stay, including travel to and from the airport. Roberts International Airport is around 30 miles from central Monrovia, much of the journey passing through rural areas.
The roads from Monrovia to Roberts International Airport, the port town of Buchanan and to the border with Sierra Leone at Bo Waterside, and to the border with Guinea at Ganta are mainly paved and in reasonable condition. Most other roads outside Monrovia are unpaved. Driving and road conditions deteriorate significantly during the rainy season (May to November), and many roads may become impassable.
Avoid travelling at night outside Monrovia, except to or from Roberts International Airport. Roads are treacherous and all roads are unlit. Vehicles often do not have lights. You are more vulnerable to being robbed at an illegal check point at night.
Make precautionary arrangements for dealing with breakdowns, including considering travel with more than one vehicle. Traffic accidents can quickly draw hostile crowds, who may attempt to take justice into their own hands. Use a local driver outside Monrovia rather than driving yourself.
The standard of driving is generally poor. Be particularly alert to dangers from other vehicles swerving to avoid potholes and from taxis slowing or stopping unpredictably to pick up or drop off passengers and motorcycle taxis ‘Pein-Peins’ (the main cause of road accidents). Motorcycle taxis are very dangerous.
Be prepared to stop at checkpoints operated by the Liberian National Police, or other Liberian security authorities, which are found on roads throughout the country. Pull over to the side of the road immediately when instructed by security forces accompanying VIP convoys.
All airlines from Liberia have been refused permission to operate services to the EU because Liberia is unable to ensure that its airlines meet international safety standards. There are no commercial operators of domestic flights within Liberia.
River and Sea Travel
Liberia has many attractive beaches, but the Atlantic Ocean is subject to rip tides and other dangerous currents. Swimmers should take care and seek local advice before entering the water. Avoid canoes and fishing boats offering passenger services. They are regularly overwhelmed by strong waves and currents.
Liberia has become increasing stable since the internal conflict ended in 2003. The Liberian government is working closely with the UN and the international community to provide increased stability and development.
Presidential and general elections will take place in Liberia on 10 October 2017. The campaign to date has been mainly peaceful apart from a few isolated incidents.
Former Liberian President Charles Taylor is serving a long prison sentence in the UK following his conviction by the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Taylor’s supporters have warned that UK travellers in Liberia may be at risk of reprisal. You should be vigilant and avoid discussing political issues.
Terrorist attacks in Liberia can’t be ruled out. As seen in Mali, Côte D’Ivoire and Burkina Faso, terrorist groups continue to mount attacks on beach resorts, hotels, cafés and restaurants visited by foreigners. Be especially vigilant in these locations.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
Local laws and customs
Don’t become involved with drugs of any kind.
If you commit a criminal offence, including drug trafficking and diamond smuggling you can expect to be subjected to local law. There are heavy penalties for those convicted. Local prison conditions are harsh.
Homosexuality is illegal.
Carry photographic identification with you at all times, you may be asked to produce it at any time by immigration officials or the police.
The government office responsible for adoptions in Liberia is the Ministry of Justice. All petitions for adoption are filed in the Probate Court, which issues a decree of adoption if all legal requirements are met. Adoption orders from Liberia are not recognised in the UK. Liberian nationals require a visa to enter the UK. If you are returning to live in the UK, you will need to apply for entry clearance for the child as a child coming for adoption in the UK.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
British nationals need a visa to enter Liberia. You can get a visa from the Embassy of the Republic of Liberia in London.
Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay. No additional period of validity beyond this is required.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) aren’t valid for entry into Liberia. However, ETDs are accepted for airside transit and exit from Liberia.
Yellow fever certificate requirements
Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.
Registration of residents
If you are intending to live in Liberia, you will need to register with the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (BIN), Broad Street, Monrovia. Visitors do not need to register with the BIN.
Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.
Malaria is a serious problem throughout Liberia, including in Monrovia.
Hospitals and medical facilities throughout Liberia are poorly equipped. There are no emergency services. Blood supplies are unreliable and unsafe, and medication is scarce. There is no effective public or commercial accident and emergency or ambulance service anywhere in the country. You should carry basic medical supplies. Ensure you have adequate supplies of prescription medication, bearing in mind the risk of delays due to flight cancellations. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad, medical evacuation and repatriation.
The 2012 UNAIDS Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic estimated that around 18,000 adults aged 15 or over in Liberia were living with HIV; the prevalence percentage was estimated at around 0.9% of the adult population compared to the prevalence percentage in adults in the UK of around 0.25%. You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS.
Credit cards are not accepted in Liberia and very few outlets will accept travellers’ cheques. Several cash machines/ATMs accepting only Visa cards now operate in Monrovia, including in the two main hotels frequented by international visitors, but foreign exchange and banking facilities remain limited. Western Union and Moneygram have a number of agents in Liberia who are able to transfer money from the UK, although there are very few outside Monrovia. Bring sufficient funds, in US Dollars cash, to cover all expenses.
Travel advice help and support
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCO travel advice
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.