A life in Freetown is one full of adventure. A melting pot of ethnicities and religions, Freetown is a welcoming city where the color and clamor of African culture hit you like a whirlwind. Downtown is where you will find the commercial center, a bustling area where the cries of market traders and the non-stop traffic attest to the drive and ambition that this city cultivates. All of this is in stark contrast to the rolling hills, awe-inspiring mountains and white sand beaches that envelop the city’s beating heart.
There is a thriving expatriate community and you can easily get involved by joining one of several groups, including sports clubs and charitable organizations. There are several expat haunts, such as restaurants and clubs, where you can enjoy a taste of home, but it would be a shame not to embrace the Freetown nightlife — the locals certainly know how to party.
Violent crime is rare but, as with any large city, petty crime is prevalent. Take care of your belongings — don’t leave valuables unattended, and be sure to keep an eye on your luggage at the airport. The beaches in particular have their fair share of scammers and should be avoided at night, especially if walking alone.
The poda-podas (vans with benches added in the back) are probably best avoided, however cheap they may be, as traffic accidents involving these are fairly commonplace. Thefts also take place on-board poda-podas and taxis so private hire vehicles or your own car are preferable. Travel on the motorways outside of Freetown should be avoided after dark as these are unlit and often hazardous.
For those who live in Freetown, the best known hospitals are the government-run Connaught, privately owned Choithram and an Italian NGO hospital aptly named Emergency. All healthcare comes at a cost except for pregnant women and children under the age of five.
Tap water should only be used for washing and should not be consumed as there is the risk of contracting malaria; bottled water should be used for drinking and brushing teeth. On a night-out, make sure to ask for no ice with your drinks as the ice may well be contaminated.
Before moving to Sierra Leone, you must have a yellow fever vaccination (you will be asked for proof of this at the airport) and malaria tablets; typhoid and hepatitis A vaccinations are also recommended. Medical insurance is a must.