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Travel & living abroad

Sub Saharan Africa

Liberia

Flag of Liberia
Still current at: 07 January 2011
Updated: 16 December 2010


This advice has been reviewed and reissued without amendment. The overall level of the advice has not changed; we advise against all but essential travel to all areas of Liberia outside Monrovia.

(see travel advice legal disclaimer )

Travel advice for this country

Travel Summary

  • We advise against all but essential travel to all areas of Liberia outside the capital, Monrovia. Be aware that the ability of the national authorities and the UN to provide emergency assistance outside Monrovia is limited and it is recommended that you do not travel overnight outside Monrovia. Do not travel to Liberia unless you have made adequate security arrangements with a reliable organisation in advance of your arrival. Check the security situation before travelling to any part of the country. 

  • Demonstrations anywhere in the country can quickly become violent. The Liberian National Police supported by UN peacekeepers will respond to any public order incidents but the response time can be very slow. Avoid large crowds. See Safety and Security - Political Situation.

  • Violent crime is prevalent in Monrovia, particularly after dark. Do not walk anywhere in Monrovia at night.  See Safety and Security - Crime section.

  • There is no British Embassy in Liberia. The British Government has limited ability to assist British nationals in Liberia. There is an Honorary Consul in Monrovia, but he can only offer limited consular assistance.   See General - Representation.

  • Most British visitors to Liberia are working for the UN or international NGOs. We are not aware of any British nationals requiring consular assistance in Liberia in the period 01 April 2009 – 31 March 2010.

  • There is a low threat from terrorism, but you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks which could be in public areas, including those frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.

  • You should take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.  See General insurance .

  • As a result of labour disputes at the Guthrie Rubber Plantation there are regular large scale blockages of the Bo Waterside road leading to the border with Sierra Leone. Check the latest position with the police or UNMIL before attempting to drive along this route.

Safety and security

Safety and Security - Terrorism
There is a low threat from terrorism, but you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks which could be in public areas, including those frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.

See our terrorism abroad page.

Safety and Security - Crime

There is a significant level of crime in Monrovia - including violent crime. The Liberian National Police has very limited capability to prevent or detect crime, or to provide emergency response in any part of the country. Levels of crime are much higher after dark, and you should not walk anywhere in the city at night. Avoid walking alone at any time.

Most crime is opportunistic theft, although there are some more organised criminal gangs. Thieves are often armed with knives or machetes, but occasionally also carry firearms. While Liberians are the main victims of crime, the relative wealth of international visitors makes them an attractive target for criminals when the opportunity arises. Avoid carrying valuables in public and be vigilant at all times, especially at night.

There have been incidents of muggings of foreigners in the Mamba Point and Sinkor areas of Monrovia, where most international visitors stay. Criminals also operate in other areas frequented by foreigners, such as nightclubs and beaches. Accommodation occupied by international workers has occasionally been targeted by burglars. Thefts have occurred in taxis, and you are advised not to use local public transport.  There is a high incidence of rape in Liberia and there have been a number of rapes and attempted rapes involving expatriate women. See our rape and sexual assault abroad page.

Breakouts from prisons around Liberia are a regular occurrence and the escapees rarely caught. Be aware that such people will be desperate to avoid capture and are likely to be armed; take extra care when approached by strangers and when driving through high density areas or off the main roads.

Consider your security arrangements carefully before your arrival in Liberia. Ensure that you are supported by a reliable organisation with a comprehensive and adequate security plan. Stay only in reputable accommodation with adequate guarding and other security arrangements, and arrange for transport for the duration of your stay, including travel to and from the airport.

See our victims of crime abroad page.

Safety and Security - Local Travel

We advise against all but essential travel to all areas of Liberia outside the capital, Monrovia, and in particular against spending the night outside Monrovia. UNMIL and the local security services are less able to offer assistance outside the capital. The availability of secure accommodation in most towns and in rural areas is very limited. Medical facilities are even more basic than in Monrovia, and in many areas non-existent.

Many organisations, including the UN and the US Embassy, impose restrictions on staff travel outside Monrovia. If you decide to travel outside Monrovia, avoid travelling alone, particularly at night and to secluded places.

Do not travel to Liberia unless you have made adequate security arrangements with a reliable organisation in advance of your arrival. Check the security situation before travelling to any part of the country, for example on UNMIL radio 91.5 FM.

Be prepared to stop at checkpoints operated by UNMIL, the Liberian National Police, or other Liberian security authorities, which are found on roads throughout the country. Immediately pull over to the side of the road when instructed by security forces accompanying VIP convoys.

Be aware that the Samuel K Doe Stadium in Monrovia can become overcrowded during major football matches or events.

The rainy season (May to November) makes travel to outlying areas particularly difficult and hazardous.

Roberts International Airport is around 30 miles from central Monrovia. There is no reliable public transport between the airport and the city centre. Arrange for private transport in advance of arrival.

Public transport (including taxis) may be neither reliable nor safe; you are advised not to use local public transport.

Safety and Security - Local Travel - Road Travel
Road conditions are generally poor. Apart from a small number of major roads in central Monrovia, all roads are unlit. The roads from Monrovia to Roberts International Airport, to the border with Sierra Leone at Bo Waterside, and to the border with Guinea at Ganta are paved and in reasonable condition. Most other roads outside Monrovia are unpaved. Driving and road conditions deteriorate significantly during the rainy season (May to November), and many roads may become impassable. Make precautionary arrangements for dealing with breakdowns with the general security situation in mind, including considering travel with more than one vehicle. Traffic accidents can quickly draw hostile crowds, who may attempt to take justice into their own hands. Use a local driver outside Monrovia and in the high density areas rather than driving oneself.

The standard of driving is generally poor. If driving yourself, be particularly alert to dangers from other vehicles swerving to avoid potholes and from taxis slowing or stopping unpredictably to pick up or drop off passengers.

See our driving abroad page.

Safety and Security - Local Travel - Air Travel
The European Commission has published a list of air carriers that are subject to an operating ban or restrictions within the European Union. Check the following link to see whether this will affect your travel - European Commission Transport - air.  When planning any regional travel in West Africa take into consideration the list of air carriers that are subject to an operating ban or restrictions within the European Union..

Any airline from outside the EU or European Economic area, which wishes to pick up or put down passengers or cargo in the UK, requires a permit from the Secretary of State. It is a condition of the permit that the airline should be operated in accordance with international safety standards established by the International Civil Aviation Organisation. No airline registered in Liberia currently has a permit to land in the UK. There are currently no commercial operators of domestic flights within Liberia.

For more general information see airline security.


Safety and Security - Local Travel - River and Sea Travel
Liberia has many attractive beaches, but the Atlantic Ocean can be unpredictable and subject to rip tides and other dangerous currents. Swimmers should take care and consult local advice before entering the water. Canoes and fishing boats plying the coast and offering passenger services are regularly overwhelmed by strong waves and currents and are best avoided. In June a boat carrying some 40 passengers went down with only eight survivors.

See our river and sea safety.

Safety and Security - Political Situation

Liberia country profile

The overall security situation in Liberia has improved following the end of conflict in 2003, but remains volatile. A democratically-elected Liberian government is working closely with the UN and the international community to provide increased stability and development.

UN Peacekeepers from the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) are deployed to the main population centres around Liberia, and patrol the principal roads. They have the ability to deploy in any part of the country in response to any public order incidents or other threat to security. However, some more remote areas of the country may be patrolled only irregularly under normal conditions.

Localised protests over political developments, salaries or working conditions can quickly turn into violent demonstrations. In June 2009 a demonstration outside the JJ Dossen hospital turned violent and resulted in the destruction of the hospital and a number of other official buildings. The local security authorities, supported by UNMIL, respond to outbreaks of public disorder. Avoid all crowds. The controversial Population Threshold Bill and TRC Report remained key political issues and the political climate on the streets is becoming more volatile.

In March 2010, there was an outbreak of violence at a mining camp, near Greenville, Sinoe County, south east Liberia. A large group of members of the local community invaded the camp over a local grievance and held some of the international staff hostage for less than two hours. The incident was controlled and the local authorities mediated the situation but neither the domestic police nor the UN military were able to reach the site until 24 hours after trouble broke out.

On 26 February 2010 there was an outbreak of ethno/religious based violence, with some fatalities, in the streets of Voinjama, Lofa County, near to the border of Guinea. Considerable amount of property was destroyed including churches and mosques and the market. It was reported that some prisoners had also escaped. Voinjama remains under a dawn to dusk curfew. Following the Voinjama incident, rumours that Muslims (Mandingoes) were preparing to take their revenge on Christians, spread in two high density areas of Monrovia (Red Light and Jacob's Town) causing panic and mayhem, until the authorities were able to reassure people that the rumours were untrue.

Violent incidents, particularly in rural areas, are also possible as a result of land disputes, illegal mining and occupation of rubber plantations. In November 2007 a dispute with local communities over the expansion of the LAC rubber plantation in Grand Bassa County led to the fatal shooting of the plantation manager, a Belgian national. Illegal rubber tappers have been responsible for a number of attacks on security forces in the Firestone rubber plantation, and you are advised to avoid travelling away from the major routes within the plantation.  Organised groups of former combatants may be present in some inaccessible areas of the country with limited government and UNMIL presence, including Sinoe rubber plantation and Sapo National Park.

The political and security situation in some neighbouring countries is volatile.  We advise against all but essential travel to areas of Liberia outside the capital, Monrovia. However, should you decide to travel outside Monrovia exercise particular caution if travelling in areas bordering Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast).  Check our Travel Advice for Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) and any countries that you will be transiting on your way to/from Liberia.


Local laws and customs

Do not become involved with drugs of any kind.

The import of arms is prohibited by UN sanctions.

If you commit criminal offences, including drug trafficking and diamond smuggling you can expect to be subjected to local law.

There are heavy penalties for those convicted. Local prison conditions are harsh.

Homosexuality is illegal in Liberia.

Carry photographic identification with you at all times, you may be asked to produce it at any time by immigration officials or the police.

See our your trip page. 

Local Laws and Customs - Adoption

The government office responsible for adoptions in Liberia is the Ministry of Justice. All petitions for adoption are filed in the Probate Court, which issues a decree of adoption if all legal requirements are met. Adoption orders from Liberia are not recognised in the UK. Liberian nationals require visas to enter the UK. If you are returning to live in the UK, you will need to apply for entry clearance for the child as a child coming for adoption in the UK. A UN report published in March 2007 expressed concern about shortcomings in Liberian national regulation and central oversight of adoption, as well as the lack of implementation of international standards. The government ordered a recent enquiry into inter country adoptions and has tightened regulations on this.

Entry requirements

Entry Requirements - Visas
All British nationals require a visa to enter Liberia. Visas must be obtained before arrival and can be obtained from the Embassy of the Republic of Liberia in London.

Entry Requirements - Passports
You should ensure that your passport is valid for the full duration of your stay in Liberia. 

Entry Requirements - Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificates
You need to show a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate when entering Liberia. 

Entry Requirements - Registration of Residents
If you are intending to reside in Liberia, you are required to register after your arrival with the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (BIN) (Broad Street, Monrovia). Short term visitors are not required to register with the BIN.

Entry Requirements - Exit Tax
A departure tax of US$40 is payable in cash at the airport. Exact change is required.

Entry Requirements - Travelling with children
For information on what exactly will be required at immigration, please contact the Embassy of the Republic of Liberia in London.

Health

Hospitals and medical facilities throughout Liberia are poorly equipped. There are no emergency services. Blood supplies are unreliable and unsafe, and medication is scarce. There is no effective public or commercial Accident and Emergency or Ambulance service anywhere in the country. You should carry basic medical supplies.

Water-borne diseases, malaria and other tropical diseases are common in Liberia; there have been outbreaks of yellow fever. There are seasonal and sporadic outbreaks of cholera, normally associated with poor sanitation and a lack of access to clean drinking water.

Drink or use only boiled or bottled water and avoid ice in drinks. If you suffer from diarrhoea during a visit to Liberia seek immediate medical attention.

In the 2008 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic the UNAIDS/WHO Working Group estimated that around 32,000 adults aged 15 or over in Liberia were living with HIV; the prevalence rate was estimated at around 1.7% of the adult population. This compares to the prevalence rate in adults in the UK of around 0.2%.  You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS. See our HIV and AIDS page.

Seek medical advice before travelling to Liberia and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up to date. For further information on vaccination requirements, health outbreaks and general disease protection and prevention you should visit the websites of NaTHNaC and NHS Scotland's Fit For Travel or call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.

See our travel health page and the UK Department of Health website. 

General

General - Insurance
You should take out comprehensive medical and travel insurance before travelling. Check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake. Ensure that your insurance covers you for medical treatment and evacuation (medical facilities in Liberia are poor), accidents, cancelled flights and stolen cash, credit cards, passport and luggage.

See our travel insurance page.

If things do go wrong when you are overseas then see our When Things Go Wrong page.

General - Registration
Register with our LOCATE service to tell us when and where you are travelling abroad or where you live abroad so our consular and crisis staff can provide better assistance to you in an emergency.

General - Representation
There is no British Embassy in Liberia. The British Ambassador to Liberia resides in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Be aware that we are unable to provide you with formal consular assistance. Only very limited consular assistance can be provided from the British High Commission in Ghana, Accra with whom you should register (see Locate details above). Our Honorary Consul, Mr David Parker, can only offer limited consular assistance in an emergency.  His contact details are:

Mr David Parker MBE
Hardrock Compound, UN Drive, Monrovia, Liberia
Tel: +231 (0) 77002002    
Email: mailto:dpaidcoord@yahoo.com

General - Money
Credit cards are not accepted in Liberia and very few outlets will accept travellers' cheques. Two cash machines/ATMs accepting only Visa cards were recently installed in two main hotels frequented by international visitors, but foreign exchange and banking facilities remain limited. Western Union has a number of agents in Liberia who are able to transfer money from the UK, although there are very few outside Monrovia. Bring sufficient funds, in US Dollars cash, to cover all expenses.

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Contacts

Ghana, Accra, British High Commission

Address:

British High Commission
Osu Link
off Gamel Abdul Nasser Avenue
PO Box 296

Telephone:

(00) (233) (30) 2221 665/645/672

Fax:

(00) (233) (30) 2213 274
(00) (233) (30) 2221715 Visa Section

Email: high.commission.accra@fco.gov.uk

Office hours:

Main Office:
Monday – Thursday: 0730 to 1530
Friday: 0730 to 1300

Consular section opening hours:
Monday to Thursday: 0900 to 1400
Friday: 0900 to 1200

Sierra Leone, Freetown, British High Commission



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