|Travel Security Advice for Liberia|
Liberia is a country in West Africa that suffered from years of instability and conflict from 1990-2003, with attendant destruction of buildings, roads, infrastructure, and public institutions. A comprehensive peace accord ended the conflict in August 2003 and a United Nations peacekeeping force (UNMIL) was deployed to facilitate disarmament and demobilization, help arrange democratic elections and provide for security of the country. In late 2005, Liberians went to the polls and elected Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as president. The new government was inaugurated in January 2006, and has made tremendous progress towards restoring security and stability to the country.
Despite nearly four years of peace and a renewal of economic growth, Liberia is still one of the poorest countries in the world and many basic services (e.g., public power, water and sewage, landline phones) are either limited or unavailable. Facilities for foreign visitors are adequate in the capital, Monrovia, but virtually non-existent in the rest of the country. The official language of Liberia is English.
Read the Department of State’s Background Notes on Liberia for additional information.
U.S. citizens living or traveling in Liberia are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate at the Department of State’s travel registration page in order to obtain updated information on local travel and security. U.S. citizens without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. Registration is important; it allows the State Department to assist U.S. citizens in an emergency.
A passport and a visa are required for entry, as is evidence of yellow fever vaccination. Immigration officials do not issue visas at the airport. Persons arriving without a visa may be deported immediately, without leaving the airport. Persons arriving from the United States must obtain a Liberian visa before traveling. There is a U.S. $30 airport tax on departing passengers, although it is sometimes collected as part of the ticket price. For the latest information on entry requirements, visa fees and the airport tax for Liberia, contact the Embassy of the Republic of Liberia at 5201 16th Street NW, Washington, DC 20011, tel. (202) 723-0437, or visit the Embassy of Liberia website. Overseas, inquiries should be made at the nearest Liberian embassy or consulate.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Liberia.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.
THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY:
The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to plan proposed travel to Liberia carefully and to exercise caution when traveling in Liberia. Neither public transport nor taxis are available at the international airport, which is located 40 miles outside of Monrovia; therefore, before traveling to Liberia, Americans are urged to make arrangements for transportation from the international airport into the city center. Americans traveling to Liberia are also urged to ensure that they have confirmed reservations at a reputable hotel, as rooms can be scarce and difficult to find without advance plans.
Americans who travel to or reside in Liberia should realize that Liberia's police force is in the process of being rebuilt. There is a UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), but its mandate is to ensure political stability in Liberia. Americans who travel around Liberia must realize that the role of UN Police (UNPOL) officers is to serve as advisors to the Liberia National Police. Accordingly, they do not have the authority to arrest or detain, and they are unarmed. The Liberia National Police, for its part, has a limited presence in Monrovia, and even less of a presence outside of Monrovia. In addition, police officers can be a source of problems for visitors as well as a source of aid or assistance. Although problems with corruption have improved, travelers may be detained by police officers who solicit bribes. Americans are encouraged to carry a photocopy of their passports with them at all times so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship is readily available. If detained or arrested, U.S. citizens should always ask to be allowed to contact the U.S. Embassy.
U.S. citizens in Liberia should be aware of their surroundings at all times and use caution when moving around, especially at night. The U.S. Embassy recommends that American citizens observe a suggested curfew of 2:00 a.m.-6:00 a.m. Travel outside of Monrovia after dark is strongly discouraged, as roads are in poor condition and thus dangerous to navigate at night. U.S. citizens should avoid crowds, political rallies, and street demonstrations, and should maintain security awareness at all times.
For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs website.
Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the U.S. and Canada, or by calling a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444, from other countries. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s extensive tips and advice on traveling safely abroad .
The crime rate in Liberia is high, and is exacerbated by the high rate of unemployment. Theft, assault, sexual crimes, and murder are problems, and they occur more frequently after dark. Foreigners, including U.S. citizens, have been targets of street crime, robbery, and sexual assault. Women have been attacked on deserted beaches. Residential armed break-ins have occurred. The police are ill equipped and largely incapable of providing effective protection or investigation. Criminal activity has been reported in both urban and rural areas.
Perpetrators of business fraud often target foreigners, including Americans. Formerly associated with Nigeria, these fraud schemes are now prevalent throughout western Africa, including Liberia, and pose a danger of both financial loss and physical harm. An increasing number of American citizens have been the targets of such scams. The best way to avoid becoming a victim of fraud is common sense – if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. U.S. citizens should carefully check any unsolicited business proposal originating in Liberia before committing any funds, providing any goods or services, or undertaking any travel, particularly if the proposal involves the mining or sale of gold and diamonds. There has also been an increase in the number of Liberian/American Internet relationships in which there are eventual requests for financial assistance under fraudulent pretenses. For additional information, please see the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure International Financial Scams.
Petty corruption is rampant; poorly paid government officials are not immune from the temptation to collect fees for doing their job. The result is that travelers may be asked for bribes and inconvenienced for not paying them.
In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law. In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines.
VICTIMS OF CRIME:
If you are the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate (see end of this sheet or see the Department of State list of embassies and consulates). This includes the loss or theft of a U.S. passport. The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, help you find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds may be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime are solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Liberia is 911.
In an emergency, dialing 911 or 355 from a cellular phone within Liberia will put you in contact with a cellular phone at the Liberian National Police (LNP) Headquarters. Please note that there is no landline telephone service in Liberia, and cellular phone communication is subject to occasional disruptions in service.
Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States .
Persons violating Liberian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Liberia are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
Lodging, fuel, transportation, and telephone services are unevenly available in Liberia, and are nonexistent or severely limited in rural areas. Neither water nor electricity is commercially available in Liberia, except in some parts of Monrovia. Most hotels have utilities available, but not always on a 24-hour basis. There is no working landline telephone system in Liberia. Several cell phone companies provide service in Monrovia and some areas outside the capital. U.S. cellular phones do not always work in Liberia and it is advisable to rent or purchase a local cellular phone. The postal system is slow and unreliable. Commercial air courier service is available through UPS, Federal Express (FedEx), and other companies.
The U.S. dollar is readily accepted in Liberia, and there is no limit on the amount of foreign currency that can be transported into and out of the country, provided one follows the specific regulations for such transfers. Sums in excess of U.S. $10,000 must be reported at the port of entry and no more than U.S. $7,500 in foreign currency banknotes can be moved out of the country at one time. Larger sums must be transferred via bank drafts or other financial instruments; persons without a Liberian bank account are limited to two outgoing U.S. $5,000 over-the-counter cash wire transfers per month. Wire transfers are not widely used and are subject to substantial fees. ATMs are unavailable and traveler's checks and credit/debit cards are not accepted anywhere in Liberia.
SWIMMING HAZARD: Liberia has many excellent beaches along the Atlantic coastline that tourists and those who live in the country enjoy throughout the year; however, American citizens should be aware of the threat of dangerous rip currents better known as rip tides. These strong currents can occur anywhere on the coast given the right surf conditions. The Liberia Weather Service does not provide information on where and when these tides form and there are no lifeguards posted on beaches. American citizens who plan to swim in the Atlantic should read from various sources about the dangers of rip currents and how to navigate if you find yourself in such a situation; or better still, do not swim if you are unfamiliar with swimming in water where very strong rip currents occur.
Photographing military installations, air and seaports, and important government buildings is prohibited. Visitors should not take photographs of sites or activities that might be considered sensitive, or police are liable to confiscate the camera.
Please see our Customs Information sheet.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
Hospitals and medical facilities in Liberia are very poorly equipped and are incapable of providing many services. Emergency services comparable to those in the U.S. or Europe are non-existent, and the blood supply is unreliable and unsafe for transfusion. Americans with serious medical problems travel or are medically evacuated to the United States, Europe or South Africa. Medicines are scarce, often beyond expiration dates, and generally unavailable in most areas. As there is neither an effective garbage removal service nor a functioning sewer system, the level of sanitation throughout urban areas is very poor, which increases the potential for disease. Upper respiratory infections and diarrhea are common, as well as more serious diseases such as typhoid and malaria. All travelers to Liberia must be vaccinated against yellow fever and should carry a supply of all prescription medication, including anti-malaria medication, adequate for their entire stay. A typhoid vaccination is also recommended.
For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) website. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to consult their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to determine whether the policy applies overseas and whether it covers emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page .
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Liberia is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Road travel in Liberia can be hazardous. Potholes and poor road surfaces are common, making safe driving extremely challenging. Cars, trucks, motorcycles, and taxis are often overloaded with people and goods and make frequent stops without signaling. Drivers overtake on the right as well as the left. Many vehicles operate with threadbare tires, and blowouts are frequent. Public taxis are poorly maintained and usually overloaded. Intersections must be approached with caution. The absence of public streetlights makes it difficult to see pedestrians walking in the city streets or on country roads. Drivers and pedestrians are cautioned that high-speed car convoys carrying government officials require all other vehicles to pull off the road until they have passed.
Travelers should expect delays at UNMIL security checkpoints, as well as time-consuming detours around the many bridges and roads damaged by war, neglect, or the heavy annual rains, which occur from May to November. Travelers can expect strict enforcement of border controls by Liberian, Ivorian, Sierra Leonean, and Guinean authorities. At times border crossings to neighboring countries are closed.
AVIATION SAFETY AND SECURITY OVERSIGHT:
As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Liberia, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Liberia’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.
On June 1, 2009, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) blocked the planned start-up of direct flights by a U.S. air carrier between the United States and Liberia until further notice, due to the failure to meet international security standards and appropriate recommended practices established by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) at the Roberts International Airport in Monrovia.
Local embassy information is available below and at the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates .
This replaces the Country Specific Information for Liberia dated March 27, 2009, to update sections on Registration, Entry/Exit Requirements, Crime, Criminal Penalties, and Aviation Safety Oversight.
The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office also has information regarding Liberia HERE.....
There is also a Malaria Warning for Liberia HERE.....
The SW Team.......