Liberia is a land boasting 350 miles (563km) oftropical beaches, with swathes of pristine wilderness and verdantrainforests. However, Liberia is also one of the world's poorestcountries, and while it may be on the mend following a damagingcivil war, there are still significant risks to prospectivetourists from a fragile political situation and a lack ofinfrastructure.
Originally founded as a refuge for liberated Americanslaves, there is still much evidence of its onetime link to the US.The capital of Monrovia is named after the fifth President of theUnited States, James Monroe, and the country's flag closelyresembles its American counterpart.
There are several worthwhile attractions outside ofthe capital. The city of Buchanan offers fine beaches, a modestselection of restaurants and a handful of guesthouses. A day tripto Robertsport is a must. Here, visitors can take a peek into thecultural history of Liberia and relax on some of the cleanest andmost beautiful beaches in the country.
Liberia's key attraction is the Sapo National Park,the largest untouched tract of rainforest in Western Africa,incorporating the Nimba Mountains, which are home to abundantwildlife such as elephants, leopards, buffalo, pygmy hippos andmonkeys. It is also popular to go game viewing by boat along theSinoe River.
Prospective visitors are well advised to travel onlyin an organised tour and never venture out alone. Although it isnot a popular tourist destination right now, when the politicalturmoil clears, Liberia is sure to be near the top of the list ofWest African destinations to visit due to its natural splendour andoff-the-beaten-track allure.
Monrovia has a tropical climate, which means that it is hot andhumid year-round and gets plenty of rain. Temperatures generallyrange between 68°F (20°C) and 89°F (32°C) year-round. The humiditymakes it seem hotter than it is, but there is an almost constantbreeze along the coast, which is refreshing.
The year can be divided into a wet and a dry season: betweenlate April and mid-November it is hot, wet, and cloudy, withfrequent heavy rain showers; and between December and March it isdry with hot days and cool nights. Monrovia is one of Africa'swettest capital cities, with annual rainfall averaging about 202inches (5,130mm), but rain seldom falls outside of the wetseason.
The best time to visit Liberia is in the dry season, betweenDecember and April. This time of the year is characterised by thehot, sandy Harmattan wind, which blows in from the Sahara Desert,but this is seldom very disruptive for travellers.
Liberia has a tropical climate, which means that it is hot andhumid throughout the year and gets plenty of rain. Whiletemperatures in Monrovia and along the Liberian coast generallyrange between 73°F and 89°F (23°C and 32°C), it is slightly hotterinland.
The humidity makes it seem hotter than it is, but there is analmost constant, refreshing breeze along the coast. The year can bedivided into a wet and a dry season. Between late April andmid-November, it is hot, wet and cloudy, with frequent heavy rainshowers. Between December and March, it is dry with hot days andcool nights.
Monrovia is one of Africa's wettest capital cities, with annualrainfall averaging about 4500mm, but rain seldom falls outside ofthe wet season. There is usually a dry spell of about two weeksduring the rainy season, sometime in July or August, but it is hardto predict.
The best time to visit Liberia is in the dry season, betweenDecember and April. The dry season is characterised by the hot,sandy, Harmattan wind, which blows in from the Sahara Desertbetween December and March. However, this is seldom disruptive fortravellers.
The Liberian Dollar (LRD) is the official currency of Liberia,but the United States Dollar is still widely accepted. Although theUS Dollar is the best foreign currency to carry. Other majorcurrencies, like the Euro, can also be exchanged. Money can beexchanged at the international airport, at foreign exchange bureausin Monrovia and at some banks. Credit cards are seldom, if ever,accepted and there are very few ATMs.
31 languages are spoken by the local population ofLiberia, but English is the official language.
Electrical current is 120 volts, 60Hz. NorthernAmerican non-grounded and grounded plugs are standard. Plugs in useare types A, B and F.
US citizens must have a passport that is valid upon theirarrival in Liberia. A visa is required.
British citizens must have a passport that is valid upon theirarrival in Liberia. A visa is required.
Canadian citizens must have a passport that is valid upon theirarrival in Liberia. A visa is required.
Australian citizens must have a passport that is valid upontheir arrival in Liberia. A visa is required.
South African citizens must have a passport that is valid upontheir arrival in Liberia. A visa is required.
Irish citizens must have a passport that is valid upon theirarrival in Liberia. A visa is required.
US citizens must have a passport that is valid upon theirarrival in Liberia. A visa is required.
New Zealand citizens must have a passport that is valid upontheir arrival in Liberia. A visa is required.
All foreign passengers to Liberia require a visa. Holders of apre-arranged visa can obtain a visa on arrival, provided that: (i)they are entering from a country without diplomatic representationof Liberia; (ii) their visa has been pre-arranged and paid for by alocal sponsor in Liberia; and (iii) the transporting carrier inMonrovia is informed of the following details: the passenger'sname, nationality, document number, flight number, date of arrival,and address of stay in Liberia. Note that passengers should not beboarded unless a telex confirmation from the airline's stationmanager in Monrovia is stapled to the ticket. A yellow fevervaccination certificate is required to enter Liberia. NOTE: It ishighly recommended that your passport has at least six monthsvalidity remaining after your intended date of departure from yourtravel destination. Immigration officials often apply differentrules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
Liberia is one of three countries that were part of the Ebolaoutbreak in previous years, causing serious alarm in West Africa.However, the WHO officially declared Liberia Ebola transmissionfree on 9 June 2016. The FCO no longer advise against all butessential travel to Liberia. However, travellers are advised tofamiliarise themselves with the disease and current health andtravel advice for the country. Some travel restrictions may stillbe in place due to the Ebola outbreak.
A yellow fever vaccination is required for all travellers toLiberia greater than one year of age. Vaccinations are alsorecommended for hepatitis A, hepatitis B and typhoid. Malaria is aproblem all over the country and prophylaxis of some kind should betaken in all areas. Those travellers who plan to spend a lot oftime outdoors and may be at risk of animal bites, or in closecontact with bats, should consider a rabies vaccination. Travellersare usually advised to be up to date on vaccinations for polio, MMR(measles, mumps, rubella) and tetanus-diphtheria.
Precautions should be taken with food and water: tap watershould never be drunk unless it has been boiled, filtered orchemically disinfected; fruit and vegetables should be peeled andcooked; no raw or uncooked meat or fish should be eaten; all cookedmeals should be eaten while still hot; and food from street vendorsis best avoided.
Medical facilities are extremely limited and even essentialmedicines and services are often unavailable. Travellers shouldensure that they have comprehensive travel and health insurance andshould bring all required medications with them, in the originalpackaging and accompanied by a signed and dated letter from adoctor detailing what it is and why it is needed.
Tips are appreciated in Liberia, although not always expected.The culture was brought in by returning Liberian-Americanimmigrants. Some restaurants add a service charge to the bill, butif they do not, a 10 percent tip is customary. Hotel service staffappreciate small amounts for good service.
Liberia is working with the UN and the international communityto encourage development and stability, but the security situationremains fragile and it can still be a dangerous travel destination.The UK Foreign Office advises against all but essential travel tothe Grand Gedeh and River Gee counties of Liberia, where armedgroups are active. All political gatherings and street protestsshould be avoided and every precaution taken to ensure personalsafety.
The US Department of State warns travellers that they must plantrips to Liberia carefully: arrangements for transport from theinternational airport to Monrovia as well as arrangements foraccommodation at a reputable hotel should be made in advance asthere is no reliable public transport and decent rooms can bescarce.
There is a high level of crime in Monrovia and although mostcrimes against foreigners are opportunistic and petty, there havebeen incidents of armed robbery as well.
The police force has very limited resources and cannot be reliedupon. Crime levels are much higher after dark and travellersshouldn't walk anywhere in the city at night. Theft is common onpublic transport, in markets and other crowded areas such as innightclubs and on beaches.
Travellers to Liberia should not be unduly worried abouttransgressing social etiquette. Avoid boisterous behaviour andostentatious displays of wealth. Remember to make sure you smile atand greet people in the street, especially when they have made eyecontact with you. Unfortunately, due to the extreme safetyprecautions one must exercise when visiting Liberia, foreigners mayfind it impossible to 'scratch under the surface' of Liberiansociety.
The country's reputation and the relative absence of foreignersmakes it hard to relax in Liberia. Although people may be curiousabout visitors, and the dangers are real, mostly travellers willfind that the locals are friendly and hospitable. Lastly, nevertake photographs of military or government buildings andinstallations without asking permission.
The 'Liberian fingersnap handshake' is an integral part of thecountry's culture, the audible snap said to represent how slaveowners would break slave's fingers. It is consequently acelebration of freedom in Liberia, seen throughout all levels ofsociety.
Liberia is one of the poorest countries in the world. Recentcivil war and government mismanagement have destroyed much ofLiberia's economy, which has in the past relied on foreign directinvestment, aid and the exportation of natural resources.
Lightweight suits or a shirt and tie are the ideal for meetingsand etiquette tends to be quite formal. People should be addressedby title and surname unless instructed otherwise. The exchange ofbusiness cards and handshakes is usual upon greeting. Meetingsseldom start punctually. Business hours are generally 8am to 12pmand 2pm to 5pm Monday to Friday.
Telecommunications infrastructure in Liberia was heavily damagedduring the civil war and cellular phone networks are a far morepopular and reliable means of communication than landlines. Theinternational dialling code for Liberia is +231.
At least four GSM service providers operate in the country.Internet services are essentially limited to Monrovia, with poorservice anywhere outside the capital.
Visitors to Liberia may import the following goods duty-free:200 cigarettes/25 cigars/250g of tobacco, one litre of spirits andone litre of wine, 100g perfume, and gifts valued at US$125.
There is no official public transport system in Monrovia. Taxicabs operate across the city, but these are not always the safestmeans of getting around; they are shared taxis and drivers willoften stop to pick up other passengers along the way.
Robberies and pickpocketing have been reported in shared taxis,and it's best to rather try hire a taxi exclusively for your owntrip. Motorbike taxis are a popular mode of transport, but althoughthey are relatively cheap and convenient, they are also notreliably safe.
Local buses travel along set routes in the city, but they arealso best avoided due to safety concerns as they are oftenovercrowded and hotspots for pickpocketing. Car hire is available,and a recommended option is to hire a car with a driver. Afour-wheel drive vehicle is recommended for travel outside ofMonrovia due to the poor road conditions.