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  • Overview

    Freetown, the capital and largest city in Sierra Leone, earned its name when it was founded in 1792 as a colony for freed slaves. The city, although a commercial centre, offers visitors a base from which to explore the rest of the country.

    While the tourist infrastructure is underdeveloped, there are some wonderful attractions for visitors without competing with hordes of tourists. The history of Freetown can be discovered at the Sierra Leone Museum, the National Rail Museum, the Cape Sierra Leone Lighthouse, and the colonial stilt houses at Hill Station.

    For those that crave the outdoors, the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary is a must-see, located 40 minutes outside of town. However, the trip must be planned in advance, as both a 4x4 and an appointment are necessary to visit.

    One of the best things to do in Freetown is to hit the beach. Beautiful and largely unspoilt, beaches such as Lunley and Lakka offer accommodation and great amenities. Nearby, the community-driven shops and restaurants at No. 2 River Beach are also worth a visit, as well as the historical fishing villages at Kent Beach.

    Violent civil war in the 1990s took its toll, but today Freetown is working to regain its vibrancy, and the tourist industry is sure to grow as travellers find this hidden treasure on the West African Coast.

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    Similar to the rest of the country, Sierra Leone's capital of Freetown has a tropical monsoon climate with a rainy season from May to November, and a dry season from December to April. Naturally, during the monsoon season rainfall levels are higher and range between 7-31 inches (177-787mm) per month. Throughout the year, there is very little variation in Freetown's temperatures, which range from 74°F (23°C) to 97°F (36°C). However, during the monsoon season, humidity levels rise considerably. The best time to visit Freetown is from November to February, when the climate becomes more comfortable due to the gentle Harmattan trade wind, which blows down from the Sahara.

    Freetown-Lungi International Airport
    Location: The airport is situated across the Sierra Leone River from Freetown, 13 miles (21km) north of the city.
    Time: No GMT offset.
    Getting to the city: Travel options from the airport to Freetown are limited. Currently there is a ferry that crosses the river to the city, or a route by road which takes about four to six hours and is not recommended at night. The ferry is the cheapest option, but there can be long queues (several hours on either end). There is also a risk of crime and overloading. Passengers are advised not to use this service alone, or as a foot passenger. Private boat services are available for the crossing, but passengers are advised to avoid using the local fishing boats. For safety reasons, all passengers arriving at the airport at night should wait until daylight to travel to Freetown; there are several hotels and guesthouses near the airport, but these need to be booked early due to high demand.
    Car Rental: No car hire facilities are available at the airport.
    Airport Taxis: Water taxis are available for the journey across the estuary to Freetown. Private chartered speedboats are also available.
    Fascilities: Facilities include shops, restaurants, currency exchange and banking services, a business centre, a prayer room, and ticket offices for transportation to the city. There are also a few hotels near the airport.
    Parking There is a parking facility near the terminal.

    Useful Contacts:

    Public transport in Freetown is somewhat informal. Shared taxis run along fixed routes and can be hailed on the street; fares are cheap and it is possible to negotiate a price with the driver. Travellers can also ask their hotel to call a private taxi for them. These vehicles are generally more comfortable than the shared taxis, but also more expensive.

    Poda-podas are shared minibus taxis which can easily be found on every main road in Freetown. The start point and final destination of the vehicle is displayed in the front window. The travelling conditions in poda-podas are not very comfortable as drivers often overload their vehicles and drive quite erratically.

    Travellers also have the option of hiring a car in Freetown which can be arranged through car rental companies. Rental cars in Sierra Leone generally come with a local driver, which will remove the stress of dealing with the chaotic driving conditions. People travelling outside Freetown are advised to hire a 4x4 vehicle, which will be better equipped to handle rural roads.

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