Bargaining is common, especially at markets – haggle hard, but realise that Liberia is one of the world's poorest nations. Foreigners will always pay more than locals.
Dangers & Annoyances
- Liberia has some of the strongest rip currents in the world. Check with locals before you swim, never swim alone and learn how to negotiate rip tides before you dip your toes into the ocean.
- The biggest dangers are the roads.
- The security situation is somewhat stable, although it's wise not to walk in Monrovia after dark and be vigilant about staying in secure lodging.
- Exercise caution if using motorbike taxis and don't be afraid to ask the driver to go slow.
- Electric shocks are common in badly wired buildings; wear shoes before plugging in appliances.
Voltage is 110V. Plugs are a mixture of US-style (two flat pins) and European-style.Grid power is gradually improving in Monrovia, although most hotels and apartment blocks still rely on fuel-heavy generators. Outside of the capital, it's generators all the way.
Emergency & Important Numbers
|Liberia's country code||231|
|Emergency (Fire, Police, Ambulance)||911|
Embassies & Consulates
Canadians and Australians should contact their high commissions in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire and Accra, Ghana, respectively.
UK Embassy Honorary consul, emergency assistance only; otherwise contact the British High Commission in Freetown, Sierra Leone.
Entry & Exit Formalities
Visas are required by all except nationals of Economic Community of West African States or South Korea. Costs vary depending on where they are procured.
A three-month single-entry visa for US citizens costs US$131. In a pinch, airport visas can be secured but you must have a company apply to immigration ahead of time and someone must bring the visa to meet your plane at the airport.
Visas can be extended at the Bureau of Immigration in Monrovia.
Visas for Onward Travel
Bring one passport photo and leave your passport between 9am and 1pm or 2pm to 3pm Monday to Friday. A one-month single-entry visa costs US$75 for all nationals. Processing usually takes five working days but can be done faster at no extra cost if you're in a hurry.
Bring two passport photos and leave your passport between 9.30am and 4pm Monday to Friday. One-month single-entry visas cost US$65 for citizens of the EU, Australia and New Zealand, or US$100 for US and Canadian nationals. Processing takes 24 hours.
You'll need two passport photos and a photocopy of your passport to get a visa. Applications are accepted only between 10am and 2pm on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and single-entry visas valid for up to three months cost US$100 for citizens of the EU, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. US citizens are charged US$131.
- Greetings Handshakes are the common way to greet others in both formal and personal settings, but the Liberian handshake is tough to master – after the shake, the middle finger clicks against the other person's, creating a snapping sound.
- Dress Dress conservatively and neatly as often as possible, especially if invited into someone's home.
- Gifts It is normal for locals to ask foreigners for money, and acceptable to give it. Each individual needs to decide if they will do so or not. A small gift is also acceptable in lieu of money.
Gay & Lesbian Travellers
Homosexual acts in Liberia are punishable by one year in jail, and the idea of making a same-sex relationship a felony crime (punishable with a 10-year prison sentence) has been floated by the government. LBGT campaigners in the country have also been targets of violence. Needless to say, gay travellers need to be extremely cautious travelling here.
Internet cafes are popping up more and more, but service (always slow) is limited in rural areas. Wi-fi spaces are increasing (especially in Monrovia). Internet access costs from US$4 to US$6 per hour; wi-fi in hotel lobbies and bars is usually free with a purchase.
- Newspapers There are dozens of national newspapers; among the best-regarded are the New Dawn, the Observer and Front Page Africa.
US currency is used for all transactions over a few dollars. The official currency, the Liberian dollar, only used for small items costing less than US$5.
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
Restaurants Add 10% for all meals except takeaway.
Taxis You don't need to tip taxi drivers, but if you hire a guide or a driver for the day, tip roughly 5%.
The Liberian dollar is tied to the US dollar at L$70 to US$1. When in the country, US dollars are used for anything over approximately US$5. You can pay for anything in US dollars and your change may be in either currency (often a mix of both).
Make sure your US dollars are new (ideally issued after 2000) and in good shape, or risk them being rejected. Counterfeit US dollars is a serious issue, so be sure to closely inspect any bills you receive as change.
Monrovia has ATMs that dispense cash in US dollars. Elsewhere, bring cash. Western Union and Moneygram operate in most towns.
Banks 9am to 4pm Monday to Friday, 9am to noon Saturday.
Shops 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm Saturday.
Businesses 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday.
New Year's Day 1 January
Armed Forces Day 11 February
Decoration Day Second Wednesday in March
JJ Roberts' Birthday 15 March
Fast & Prayer Day 11 April
National Unification Day 14 May
Independence Day 26 July
Flag Day 24 August
Liberian Thanksgiving Day First Thursday in November
Tubman Day 29 November
Christmas Day 25 December
- Smoking Banned in all public spaces in Liberia.
The country code is 231.There are no area codes or landlines.
Pick up a Cellcom or Lonestar SIM card from booths on the street for US$6 to US$8.
Liberia is on GMT/UTC, but does not observe Daylight Savings time.
Public toilets range from standard toilets (often with a bucket to flush) and squat toilets to holes in the ground, with the latter being more common in rural areas. Always carry toilet paper. Upmarket hotels and restaurants will have Western-style toilets where you may or may not be allowed to flush the paper.
There are no formal tourist information offices in the country.
Travel with Children
Child seats and baby-changing facilities are generally not available; high chairs are available at upmarket restaurants. Pavement is generally uneven or nonexistent, so prams (push chairs) tend to be more cumbersome than helpful. Stay at upmarket hotels if you require a lift or reliable electricity. However, Liberians love children – expect a lot of extra attention if traveling with kids, and the beaches offer a solid dose of fun for kids of all ages – just keep in mind that currents are often strong and lifeguards are not always present.
Travellers with Disabilities
High-end hotels will generally have facilities for the mobility-impaired (lifts, wheelchairs), but beyond that Liberia is not ideal for travellers in wheelchairs. Many locals have lost limbs, however, so amputees receive sympathetic treatment and locals are accustomed to encountering people missing a limb.
There are no notable local volunteering resources. Travellers are advised to seek opportunities from global volunteering organisations before arriving in Liberia. A helpful website is the African Volunteer Network (www.african-volunteer.net), which lists many volunteer projects.
Weights & Measures
- Weights & Measures Liberia has been trying to convert to the metric system but the imperial system (feet, yards) is still commonly used.
Most non-nationals from outside Africa obtain work permits via international organisations. Most are involved in development or in the medical field.