- For the first time in decades, the entire country of Sierra Leone has been a relative safe travel destination. The British Foreign Office is the first government agency to lift earlier travel warnings to remaining parts of Sierra Leone. Britain no longer advises against travelling to the areas bordering Liberia.
London's Foreign Office today revised its "Travel Advice for Sierra Leone", telling British travellers that the entire country now in general is relatively safe. "We are no longer advising against travel to areas of Sierra Leone bordering Liberia due to improvements in the security situation," the government office says in a statement.
According to the updated British travel advice, "visits to the Western area of Sierra Leone, including Freetown, are usually trouble free. Travel outside the Western Area can be difficult, as roads and infrastructure are poor." Regarding safety, London warns of a high petty crime rate in all of Sierra Leone, but notes that "the threat from terrorism is low."
This updated travel advice from the British Foreign Office marks the first time in more than a decade that all of Sierra Leone is considered a relatively safe travel destination. A brutal civil war in Sierra Leone and spill-over from the warfare in neighbouring Liberia had caused great risks for foreign travellers and local civilians, including kidnapping.
The all-clear signal from Sierra Leone's ex-colonial power comes after the large but down-scaling UN peacekeeping mission in the country declared that the security situation is under control. The UN peacekeepers are now slowly handing powers over to Sierra Leonean military and police troops, which have been trained by the UN. While the national forces have less capacity than the UN troops, they are reported to be able to have control in the areas left to them.
The British clearing of safety alerts for Sierra Leone is issued before any other major Western country. The US State Department still bars its Embassy employees to travel to the "Tongo Fields in Kenema District and the area between the Moa River and the border with Liberia." US citizens in general are advised to avoid the Liberian border area.
Also the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs still advices against travelling to various parts of Sierra Leone. "Travels to the interior that are not planned within the framework of aid or development projects should be cleared with the German Embassy in Freetown. This is particularly the case for travels to the Liberian border area," the Berlin Ministry advices German citizens.
Sierra Leone still has to recover from the enormous damages caused by the civil war, which left most infrastructures in ruins and caused the country to become the world's poorest nation. Private and public investments are however contributing to a marked reconstruction and business trips to Freetown are becoming more frequent.
Regarding regular tourism, Sierra Leone still has very little to offer travellers due to lack of infrastructure. Currently, almost all tourist and first class hotels are located in Freetown, but others are being developed in other areas of Sierra Leone. The Sierra Leonean government in particular is hoping to develop Bunce Island - a large British castle important in slave shipments to North America - into a major African tourist destination for Afro-Americans.
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