Travel Consideration: Liberia

Contributed By RealAdventures

Liberia is a developing West African country which is recovering from seven years of devastating civil war (1989-97). Although a democratically elected government was installed in August 1997, limited progress has been made toward the following goals: resettlement of refugees and displaced persons, reintegration of former combatants, reconstruction of the country’s infrastructure, respect for human rights and the rule of law, a stable environment for economic development, and the elimination of corruption. Tourism facilities are poor or, in many cases, nonexistent. The capital is Monrovia.

A passport and visa are required, as is evidence of a yellow fever vaccination. For persons who are traveling from countries that do not have a Liberian embassy or consulate, an airport entry visa may be obtained, but the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization must authorize the visa in advance of arrival. Further information on entry requirements for Liberia can be obtained from the Embassy of the Republic of Liberia, 5201 16th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20011. The telephone numbers are (202) 723-0437 to 723-0440. Overseas inquiries should be made at the nearest Liberian embassy or consulate.

The ability of Liberia’s security forces to maintain law and order in the countryside is open to question, and travelers should check with the U.S. Embassy Consular Section or Security Office before undertaking travel outside Monrovia. U.S. Government employees require special Embassy authorization to travel outside the greater Monrovia area. Travelers are advised to avoid northwest Liberia because continued instability and strife in southeastern Sierra Leone heightens government sensitivity about security in the border area.

Due to the potential for violence, U.S. citizens should avoid crowds, political rallies, and street demonstrations and maintain security awareness at all times. Also, due to recent animosities among security forces, U.S. citizens should avoid any gathering of such forces.

Monrovia’s crime rate is high. Theft and assault are major problems and occur more frequently after dark. Foreigners, including U.S. citizens, have been targets of street crime and robbery. Residential armed break-ins are common. The police are ill-equipped and largely incapable of providing effective protection.

Hospitals and medical facilities are poorly equipped and incapable of providing basic services. Medicines are scarce or often unavailable in most areas.

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.

Safety of public transportation: Poor
Urban road conditions/maintenance: Poor
Rural road conditions/maintenance: Poor to nonexistent
Availability of roadside assistance: Poor to nonexistent

Road travel can be hazardous. Cars, trucks, and taxis are frequently overloaded with people and goods, and they make frequent stops without signaling. Many vehicles operate with threadbare tires, and blowouts are common. There are no operating traffic lights in the country; therefore, intersections should be approached with caution. There are no public streetlights; pedestrians in Monrovia’s streets and those walking on country roads are difficult to see at night. Pedestrians often walk in the streets and cross busy roadways with little or no warning. Drivers and pedestrians are cautioned that high-speed car convoys carrying government officials force vehicles to pull off the road until they have passed.

Although it is possible to travel overland to and from Cote d’Ivoire and Guinea, travelers should expect frequent delays at government security checkpoints, as well as time-consuming detours around the many bridges and roads damaged during the civil war or by the heavy annual rains which occur from May to November. Travelers can expect strict enforcement of border controls by Liberian, Ivoirian, and Guinean authorities.

COUNTRY INFRASTRUCTURE: Lodging, fuel, transportation, and telephone services are unevenly available in Liberia. They are nonexistent or severely limited in rural areas. Neither water nor electricity is commercially available in Monrovia. Most hotels have utilities available, but not on a 24-hour basis. Few facilities and homes have telephones, and disruption of telephone service is common. Public mail delivery is very unreliable, but commercial air courier service is available through DHL and Federal Express.

CURRENCY REGULATIONS: The U.S. dollar is readily accepted in Liberia. While the official rate of exchange is one U.S. dollar to one Liberian dollar, the street rate is substantially different, and it varies. In the past few months, the street rate has been 35-40 Liberian dollars to one U.S. dollar. The Central Bank of Liberia has recently issued new currency and all older Liberian currency such as the "Liberty" and the "JJ" is no longer legal tender. The use of traveler’s checks is subject to substantial fees, and few commercial establishments accept them. ATMs are unavailable, and credit/debit cards are not accepted anywhere in Liberia. Wire transfers through Western Union and some banks are available, but they are subject to substantial fees.

PHOTOGRAPHY RESTRICTIONS: Taking photographs of military installations, air and seaports, and important government buildings is restricted. Visitors should refrain from taking pictures of any sites or activities, including official motorcades or security personnel that might be considered sensitive.

U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to register and to obtain updated information on travel and security in Liberia at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy at 111 United Nations Drive, Mamba Point, Monrovia, Liberia; telephone (231) 226-370, fax (231) 226-154. U.S. citizens who wish to write to the American Embassy may address letters to the American Embassy Monrovia, Consular Section, Washington, D.C. 20521-8800. Consular assistance in Liberia is limited to the greater Monrovia area.

As there is no direct commercial air service by local carriers at present, nor economic authority to operate such service between the U.S. and Liberia, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Liberia’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards.

For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at tel. 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA Internet web site at The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at tel. 618-229-4801.

All international commercial air service to Monrovia now arrives at Roberts International Airport (RIA), located 35 miles (approximately one hour by car) outside Monrovia. Very limited daytime air service exists to Freetown, Sierra Leone; Conakry, Guinea; Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire; and Accra, Ghana. Most airlines do not meet Western standards of punctuality, security, or service. Luggage and passengers undergo inspection prior to boarding. At this time, an armed para-military security force provides airport security. Conditions at the airport upon arrival and departure are frequently crowded and chaotic. As public transportation to Monrovia is not always available, travelers should attempt to make arrangements for an expediter and chauffeur through their hotel, employer, or business associates.

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