Money & Shopping
The unit of currency is the Leone, symbol Le. Leone coins have the value Le50, Le100 and Le500. Bank notes are Le1000, Le2000,Le5000 and Le10000. On May 14th 2010, new bank notes were introduced. The new notes are slightly different in size to the originals and are supposedly more durable. The old Le500 note has not been replaced. The designs are very similar to the old notes. The new notes far outnumber the old type as of the end of May 2010, so it can be expected that people will not want to accept the old notes for much longer. The old type can be exchanged at banks for one year after the launch date of the new notes.
Exchanging money is very easy, either through the black market or banks. The small bank at the airport offers reasonable rates. GB£, Euro or US$ are most popular, although others are possible.
Exchange rates (December 2015):
Credit cards are accepted in a few supermarkets, restaurants and hotels (Visa mostly). The airport duty free shop does take major cards. Some of the other hotels are planning to take cards. It is possible to get money from some banks with a credit card, but the process can be long and rather costly.
- There are ATMs in Freetown. Rokel Commercial Bank has a visa card ATM. and Ecobank has ATMs that accept international master card/ Visa cards for cash withdrawal.
Money and daily life
As much as Sierra Leone is a poor country it will surprise you with the high cost of everything. The lack of a good import system and high import duties plus 15% Goods and Services Tax (GST) mean that many goods are double the price that one would expect to pay in other countries.
Foreigners usually pay considerably more than the price quoted to locals when it comes to goods you find on the street so make sure to bargain and lower the price as much as you can. If you are prepared to stay in cheap guest houses (and that means not a safe location with bed bugs in the bed) and travel only by local bus (poda poda) and eat only at street corners (not recommended for your health), you can get by in Freetown on a minimum of around LE 220,000 (about $55) per day. If you want to eat a decent restaurant meal every now and then and stay in mid-range accommodation, a more realistic budget is around LE 440,000 (about $110). If you want to eat and sleep well, you can easily chew through LE 880,000 (about $220)per day.