Getting Around Sierra Leone
Private airlines can be chartered, connecting Hastings, Bo, Kenema, Yengema and Freetown airports. Ask local travel agents such as VSL Travel (www.vsltravel.com) or the national touristboard (www.welcometosierraleone.sl). Major hotels may also be able to organise flights.
Usually included in the air fare. However private airlines serving smaller, privately owned airports, set the taxes at their own discretion. Inquire about prices prior to undertaking the trip.
Most privately-owned, domestic airlines, are owned by mining companies like London Mining and African Minerals. It's at their discretion whether they will charter one of their planes or helicopters. Due to Sierra Leone’s small size, it's advisable to travel by road.
Travelling by road in Sierra Leone can be a daunting task, but there are a number of good quality tarmacked roads that connect the major cities, and a good network of dirt roads connecting the smaller more remote towns and villages. It's important to note that although it is possible to travel everywhere by road during the dry season (November-May), during the rainy season there are many roads that aren't accessible.
There are several options for travel by road, each at a different price. You can rent a vehicle from a number of car hire companies or charter a taxi from one of the taxi parks in the major towns.
Side of the roadRight
Although the principal highways have a tarred surface, the secondary roads are poorly maintained and often impassable during the rainy season.
There are some roadblocks at night on major roads near centres of population.
Highways, motorways, inner city roads, provincial roads and non-classified roads.
Car hire (with driver) is available from Sierra Leone Car Hire (www.sierraleonecarhire.com). Most major hotels and travel agents can arrange car hire. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises against car travel outside of Freetown at night.
In major towns there are reliable taxi services that travel predetermined routes. Taxis are yellow and black, and range from five-seaters to people carriers. Usually, a taxi picks up a number of people along the route and charges a ‘one-way’ or ‘two-way’ rate depending on the distance. It's possible to rent a taxi for yourself or to share with a group.
You can charter taxis, for long distances, from all the major cities in Sierra Leone.
Ocadas (motorbike taxis) are abundant all over Sierra Leone. A more risky (but equally exciting) mode of transport, they are a fast and reliable way of crossing one side of a town to the other, and of navigating the dirt roads in the provinces.
A regular coach service journeys between the major towns of Freetown, Bo and Kenema throughout the day. For more information contact the Road Transport Corporation (tel: +232 78 524 054).
You should carry identification such as a passport with you at all times when driving in Sierra Leone. An International Driving Permit is required, and you must be 18 years of age or over. Inner-city roads usually have a speed limit of 50kph (30mph) while highways and motorways have a 130kph (80mph) limit.
Drink driving and driving while using a mobile phone are illegal, but the regulations are not enforced. It's not uncommon to see people on their mobile phones while driving.
There are no breakdown services in Sierra Leone. However, there are several private mechanics in major towns who will be willing to come out and assist with a breakdown, at a price of course.
A valid International Driving Permit is required.
It's advisable not to travel at night outside the major cities. Accidents are common, due to the lack of lighting and the prevalence of speed driving.
A poda-poda (minibus) is the main means of transport between towns. You can find these at the poda-poda parks in major towns or along the most frequented commuter routes (there are currently no pre-determined stops and buses are run on an ad-hoc basis). Alternatively, take the government bus routes (currently only serving Freetown-Bo-Kenema), or for shorter journeys you can hitch a ride on an okada (motorbike taxi).
There are currently no commercial rail services in Sierra Leone.
Ferries connect the coastal ports of Freetown, Pepel and Sherbro Island.
A variety of privately owned tourism establishments run chartered boat services along the Western Area Peninsula, below Freetown, connecting the Sierra Leone’s pristine and secluded beaches (Bureh Beach, John Obey, Black Johnson, River No.2 and Lakka) and tropical islands (Turtle Island, Banana Island and Bunce Island). For more information enquire with local resorts.
Another option for shorter journeys out to sea is to charter a boat from local fishermen along the coast. Befriending the fishermen suddenly opens the doors to traditional fishing, visiting the smaller islands off the coast or for longer but more exciting beach-hopping tours for a reasonable price.
It's advisable to wear a life jacket on any water tour that you decide to go on. However some of the more locally owned modes of transport do not provide this option.