About Sierra Leone


Sierra Leone first inhabited by the Sherbro, Temne and Limba peoples, and later the Mende. In 1462, it was visited by the Portuguese explorer Pedro da Cintra, who gave it its current designation, meaning ‘Lion Mountains’. Sierra Leone became an important centre of the transatlantic slave trade, until 1787 when Freetown was founded. In the early 20th century, Freetown served as the residence of the British Governor who also ruled the Gold Coast (now Ghana) and the Gambia settlements. Sierra Leone also served as the educational centre of British West Africa.


Culture name: Sierra Leonean. To some extent symbolic imagery is regionally based – people from the Western area often associate the tall cotton tree, white sandy beaches, or the large natural harbor with home; people from the East often think of coffee and coacoa plantations. Yet the palm tree and the rice grain are the national symbols par excellence, immortalized in currency, song, and folklore, and valued for their central and staple contributions to everyday life.

Visa Information

A passport and visa are required. In the best interest of visitors, they are strongly advised and encouraged to obtain visas in advance of their travel to Sierra Leone. Visitors to Sierra Leone are also required to show International Certificate of Vaccination (yellow card) upon arrival at the airport with a record of vaccination against yellow fever.


For almost all Sierra Leoneans, rice is the staple food, consumed at virtually every meal. Other things are of course eaten - a wide variety of fruits, seafood, potatoes, cassava, etc. – but these are considered to be just “ snacks” and not “real food”. Real food is rice, prepared in numerous ways, and topped with a wide variety of sauces made from some combination of potatoe leaves, cassava leaves, hot peppers, beans, okra, fish, beef, chicken, eggplant, onions and tomatoes. Along the street, one can find snacks such as fresh mangoes, oranges, pineapples, or papaya, fried plantains, potato or cassava chunks with pepper sauce, small bags of popcorn or peanuts, bread, rosted corn, or skewers of grilled meat or shrimp. Local bars in towns and villages will also sell poyo the sweet, light fermented palm wine tapped from the high tops of palm trees. Poyo bars can be areas of lively informed debate and conversation among men.