Stay safe & healthy
Despite the horrific violence of the 90s—or actually, because of it—Sierra Leone is a very safe country to visit. While petty pick-pocketing, bag-snatching, and other non-violent crimes are a problem in parts of Freetown (and the police are non-responsive), violent crime is extremely rare throughout the country by any international standards, even in the capital.
Corruption is less of a problem than it once was. The current president initially led a somewhat successful campaign against corruption, with a series of high-level arrests and initiatives to, say, prevent police from charging bogus fines. Freetown (Lungi) airport has been refurbished and is quite good by African standards.
The usual dangers found in undeveloped sub-Saharan Africa, though, are present: traffic and disease. Traffic accidents are far less common than they have any right to be, but be aware that the overcrowded, barely hanging together poda-podas are physics-defying death-traps. Similarly, moto-taxis love speed, with total disregard to the lurking dangers of broken roads, gaping potholes, charging trucks lurking in the dust. There have been a small number of very serious crashes involving buses in remote areas. Walking around the cities at night is hazardous not so much for fear of crime, but rather because the lack of lighting can cause a fall, or a driver might not see you in the road. Locals carry cell phones that have flash-lights, if yours does not, always bring a torch.
The dangers associated with tropical disease are basically neither more or less than anywhere else in West Africa, but there are no hospitals anywhere close to Western standards. Malaria is, as usual, the biggest danger, and any foreign visitor travelling without anti-malarials and possibly a mosquito net is risking their life.
The use of drugs, particularly marijuana is not permitted and the police do enforce the laws against drug use.
Water-borne diseases, malaria and other tropical diseases are prevalent. You should consider taking medication to protect against malaria and using insect repellent. Vaccination against yellow fever is now required and against rabies might be recommended. HIV/AIDS is prevalent. Lassa fever can be contracted in Kenema and the east. In 2010, it has also spread to the North, resulting in 48 deaths between the start of the year and November. If you have travelled in these regions you should seek urgent medical advice for any fever not positively identified as malaria.
Medical facilities are very poor. You should carry basic medical supplies. You should take medical advice before travelling and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up to date. Drink only bottled water and be aware of what you eat and how well cooked it is.
In March 2014, an outbreak of the often fatal and largely untreatable Ebola viral haemorrhagic fever had spread from neighbouring Guinea and Liberia.
Various precautions were put into place to quarantine infected persons and restrict travel in or out of affected areas; many airlines cancelled scheduled flights into Sierra Leone. Nonetheless, over 4000 people died from the disease. As of November 2015, the country was declared free of Ebola. However, a period of enhanced monitoring will last for a few more months. Health checks will remain at the airport until the end of this period.
The virus is spread through direct unprotected contact with the blood or secretions of an infected person (alive or dead), or through exposure to objects (such as needles) that have been contaminated with infected secretions. Symptoms include chills, lower-back pain, fatigue, diarrhoea, headaches, and bleeding from the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and rectum.
Avoid contact with any persons exhibiting these symptoms.
Medical evidence suggest that the virus may persist in semen for 6 months after someone has been declared cured. Condom use or abstinence is essential for at least this period. Fatality rate in this outbreak has been around 55% for those treated early, it may be as high as 90% for those not seeking early treatment.
Call 117 free from a mobile phone for any suspected case/contact.