I’ve been asked by several Americans how to set up travel to Sierra Leone, and what to bring when visiting Tribewanted. Here are those answers so you can share with others! This has been updated with new information from my trip to SL in Jan 2013.
- Download a visa form from this website. Your contact info in SL will be Tribewanted, John Obey, Sierra Leone. Their number is +232 782 90578.
- Obtain a $160 money order/cashier’s check payable to Embassy of the Republic of Sierra Leone, great news – this is now a 3-year multiple-entry visa!
- Make sure your passport has 6 months before expiration and a few pages left in it
- Obtain passport photo
- Staple proof of yellow fever to passport
- Obtain self-addressed pre-paid envelope for return of passport
- Copy of round trip flight
- Copy of bank account with enough money in it to buy a return flight if needed
Send all of the above to the embassy in DC. Nerve racking sending a passport, but I’ve never had a problem!
Consult your physician – a travel doctor is best. Start by looking into yellow fever, hepatitis a & b, typhoid, polio, MMR booster, tetanus, tb, and flu shot. Also get a prescription for an anti-malarial. I haven’t had any trouble on malarone, and there’s now a generic for it so it isn’t too expensive.
If you’re traveling in the country extensively it’s easy to pick up a Nokia cell phone for cheap, or you can get a local SIM card for your own phone. Credit units are available for purchase everywhere – so it is pay as you go.
It’s a painfully slow connection so I’d suggest just trying to stay away from it. There are internet cafes in Freetown and USB sticks can be purchased to connect wirelessly if you’re willing to be patient.
Click here to download my Africa Packing List for SL.
You exchange American dollars (USD) at the airport when you arrive. It’s hard (though not impossible) to take out more money, so just bring extra USD in cash that you keep as a reserve. You’ll use that for the ferry (80 USD round-trip pp, can pay American or Leone once you get there), truck ride to JO (<50), any taxis (5-10), side trips (a long day trip that’s guided is less than 100, other guided hikes and stuff closer to TW are maybe 10 or less), gifts (100), laundry (2.50) or drinks ($20/week at most; see drink section). Maybe bring $200 to exchange into Leones and save another 200 for ferry and drinks in USD if you need it. You can pay Tribewanted in USD if you run out of Leones and TW can help you exchange USD to Leones with no trouble. New as of Jan 2013 – US bills need to be of the “2000″ dates, anything with a year of 1999 or older will return a lower exchange rate or not be exchanged at all.
We drink bottled water at TWSL, for purchase from TWSL for $5000 Leone, about $1.14. The same is true for cold soda and local star beer. Wine is also available for purchase.
The food at Tribewanted is great. Breakfast is usually oatmeal, fruit, tea/coffee, bread and peanut butter, sometimes eggs. Lunch during the week is African style – spicy and cooked with oil it can take a few days to get used to – but I ate the African lunch almost everyday. It’s a fish stew over rice, though if you need a day of just plain rice the kitchen is happy to accommodate. Dinner is a great mix of salad, fruit, fish, pasta, plantain. I suggest buying local snacks from the village – groundnuts, breads, sesame cakes, fruit – if you are hungry between meals or need snacks for an excursion. You can purchase more expensive seafood dishes like lobster and oyster from Tribewanted when available.
Things to do
Hang out in the fishing village, snorkel at the shipwreck, visit Charlotte Falls and chimp sanctuary, teach at local primary school, build Earth Domes, garden, help cook, teach an English lesson, take a Krio or history lesson, visit the Craig Bellamy Foundation, or take a guided hike through the forest. Definitely don’t miss out on hammock time either!
The beach is safe for swimming – take care to watch the water before you get in as the tides and beach profile can create some decent sized waves at times. I stay away from freshwater in SL as there is a risk of contracting schistosomiasis.