Tips For Basic Transportation Safety In Sierra Leone

If you're planning to help with humanitarian efforts in Sierra Leone, it's important to learn beforehand how to keep yourself safe during your trip. A decade of civil war and the recent outbreak of ebola in Sierra Leone has left the country in extreme poverty. You'll need to know how to keep yourself safe as you make transportation arrangements and travel plans. Here are some tips to consider.

1. Rent a car or hire a private service if possible.

If you're going to be staying in Freetown, renting a car or borrowing a privately-owned vehicle is the best way to stay safe. Theft and other petty crimes are higher with taxis and shared transportation like buses, especially for tourists or humanitarian workers with greater perceived wealth. If you'll be traveling outside the city to smaller towns and villages for your work, consider contacting a rental fleet that offers vehicles with off-road capability. Many roads in Sierra Leone are rough and muddy, so a typical city car will not fare as well for inter-village transport. 

2. Be sure to carry your traveling papers and ID with you whenever you're traveling.

You can be asked for your authorization to travel and reside in Sierra Leone at any time. Keep your passport, visa, or any other travel documents you might have in a safe place directly on your person where they cannot get lost or stolen. Some major roads have checkpoints that require identification, hand washing, and temperature checks to prevent the spread of disease. You'll need proof of vaccinations in many areas as well. 

3. Avoid un-official road blocks whenever possible.

When driving rural roads, be aware that local residents can set up un-official "toll booths" where they block the road and request payment before you can pass. Sometimes, locals may be armed with guns or other weapons, and while violent situations are less common, they can happen. Also, it is easier for a group of armed men to loot a stopped car or to open a window and take whatever is lying in plain sight on the seat (cameras, wallets, music, etc.). If you see an unofficial road block ahead, the best solution is to turn around and find a different way or to travel later when the block has been moved or abandoned. You can more easily avoid these blocks by traveling in more locally populated areas that are not frequented by tourists. 

4. Travel with less.

Be sure to keep your rental car free of visible valuables -- get used to traveling without a purse, and keep a simple camera hidden beneath the seat. In America, you might be used to leaving some things in the car with the door locked. Get in the habit of taking everything with you whenever you leave your vehicle, even if you are just going to the store or running back into your hotel to grab something you forgot. It will reduce the chances of a car break-in. Refrain from wearing valuables like watches, expensive-looking jewelry, and brand-name accessories that aren't absolutely essential. 

4. Avoid driving at night, especially outside of town. 

Few streets are lit at night, even in the city. It can be difficult to find your way around, and it can be hard to see obstacles in the road at night. Traveling outside of town at night is even more dangerous. Towns are far apart and the roads are not predictable. You will not be able to call a tow service if you break down, and getting help on the road is not likely, as few people travel at night and there are no public patrols to help stranded citizens. When driving long distances during the day, it's best to always go with another person in case of an emergency. The chance of accidents increases after dark as well, since drinking and driving is a problem in Sierra Leone. 

Doing humanitarian work in Freetown and the the rest of Sierra Leone can be safe and rewarding if you take some precautions. For more information, contact a humanitarian car fleet rental service in Sierra Leone, such as Flash Vehicles