Liberia

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Saturday, 20 September 2014.   This advice contains updated information in the Summary and under Safety and security (sporadic demonstrations and local disturbances have been reported across Liberia related to the Ebola outbreak; be aware that these can turn violent). We advise Australians to reconsider their need to travel to Liberia due to the outbreak of Ebola virus disease and the unpredictable security environment and incidence of crime.

Liberia overall

Summary

  • We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Liberia due to the outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD), the unpredictable security environment and incidence of crime. Given the increasing restrictions on travel due to the EVD outbreak, the extremely limited care options and the potential for deterioration in the security situation, we advise you to leave while limited commercial flights continue to operate.
  • The outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD) centred in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone continues to worsen and has led to an unprecedented number of deaths.
  • Liberian authorities have implemented a state of public emergency in response to the EVD outbreak. They have put in place a range of measures to combat the spread of the disease including closing the majority of Liberia’s borders, imposing restrictions on travel within the country, school closures and cancellation of public events. A nationwide curfew is in place between 11 pm and 6 am. You should comply with all curfews and instructions from local authorities and be aware that local emergency measures may change without warning. Travellers with fever or EVD-like symptoms are being subject to quarantine or being denied entry or exit from the country.
  • Sporadic demonstrations and local disturbances have been reported across Liberia related to the Ebola outbreak – be aware that these can turn violent.
  • Departure options from Liberia are extremely limited. Only a small number of commercial airlines continue to operate flights out of Liberia and the majority of land borders are closed. Further restrictions are highly likely. Additionally, many countries in Africa, including the major travel hubs of South Africa and Kenya, have now banned entry to travellers who have been in EVD affected countries. Australians in Liberia will find it increasingly difficult and costly to leave.
  • The Australian Government will have very limited capacity to provide consular assistance in these circumstances. A medical evacuation would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to conduct. Australian High Commission personnel have deferred non-essential travel to Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia as a result of the EVD outbreak.
  • If, despite our advice, you choose to travel to or stay in Liberia, we strongly recommend that you register your contact details with us so we can keep you informed. You should also read and subscribe to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa travel bulletin.
  • You should also monitor local media for information on your safety and security. Avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings as they may turn violent.
  • Liberia is recovering from a devastating civil war which ended in August 2003 and left it with little infrastructure. Although there is a large deployment of UN peacekeepers and police advisers in Liberia, the security situation remains unpredictable.
  • You should exercise particular caution in all areas bordering Côte d’Ivoire due to the presence of armed groups and the continued risk of cross-border attacks.
  • Because of the unpredictable security situation we strongly recommend that you register your travel and contact details with us so we can contact you in an emergency.
  • Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Liberia. The Australian High Commission in Accra, Ghana provides consular assistance to Australians in Liberia.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
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Entry and exit

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Liberia for the most up to date information.

Departure options from Liberia are extremely limited. Only a small number of commercial airlines continue to operate flights out of Liberia and the majority of land borders are closed. Further restrictions are highly likely. Additionally, many countries in Africa, including the major travel hubs of South Africa and Kenya, have now banned entry to travellers who have been in EVD affected countries. Australians in Liberia will find it increasingly difficult and costly to leave.

In response to the EVD outbreak, health screenings have been introduced at the border crossings that remain open. Travellers with fever or EVD-like symptoms are being subject to quarantine or being denied approval to enter or depart the country. Further changes to entry and exit requirements are likely at short notice.

Liberia is listed by the WHO as endemic for yellow fever. Yellow fever is a serious and potentially fatal disease preventable by vaccination. A valid yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for entry into Liberia. For more information about yellow fever, including Australian re-entry requirements, see the Department of Health website.

Make sure your passport has at least six months validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Safety and security

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General advice to Australian travellers.

Civil unrest/Political tension

We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Liberia. The security environment in Liberia is unpredictable and there is a high incidence of crime.

Sporadic demonstrations and local disturbances have been reported across Liberia related to the Ebola outbreak – be aware that these can turn violent. You should avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings as they may turn violent.

Liberia is recovering from a devastating civil war which ended in August 2003 and left the country with little or no infrastructure. Although there is a large deployment of UN peacekeepers and police advisers in Liberia, the security situation remains unpredictable.

You should exercise particular caution if travelling to Grand Gedah and River Gee counties due to the presence of armed groups in the areas bordering Côte d’Ivoire and the possibility of cross-border attacks. The border area has been unstable recently, with cross border attacks occurring in the first half of 2014, increasing the risk to travellers.

Some political issues remain sensitive in Liberia, such as the imprisonment of former Liberian President Charles Taylor for war crimes. Australians should exercise caution if discussing political issues.

Crime

Crime occurs throughout Liberia and foreigners are a target for robbery. There is a high incidence of rape, with an increasing number of expatriate victims. Crime levels are higher at night and travelling alone or after dark is not recommended. Police forces have limited capacity to provide effective protection.

Due to the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, victims of violent crime, especially rape, are strongly encouraged to seek immediate medical assistance.

Commercial and internet fraud is prevalent and often originates in West African countries. Victims have been defrauded and those who travel to the originating country have had their lives endangered. Some victims have been killed. Criminals have been known to seek details of 'safe' bank accounts overseas in which to transfer large sums of money (as a donation or for a percentage of the amount involved). They may also provide fake cashier cheques for 'urgent' shipments of large quantities of goods, request sizeable fees for a fake government contract and extort money from individuals they have convinced to travel to Africa for a business opportunity. If you are a victim of a financial scam, we advise you to obtain legal advice and not to travel to Africa to seek restitution as there is a risk of physical assault from the perpetrators. Our international scams page provides more detail on these types of scams.

Some Australian citizens have also been defrauded or had their lives endangered by bogus internet friendship, dating and marriage schemes operating from West African countries. These scams typically result from connections made through internet dating schemes or chat rooms. Once a virtual relationship develops, the Australian citizen is asked by their friend or prospective marriage partner to send money to enable travel to Australia. Once the money has been received, the relationship is usually terminated and any chance of recovering the funds is highly unlikely. In some instances, foreigners who have travelled to Africa to meet their friend or prospective marriage partner have been kidnapped and held to ransom.

Money and valuables

Credit cards are rarely accepted in Liberia and few commercial establishments accept travellers' cheques. There are a limited number of ATMs in Monrovia. Consult with your bank to find out whether your ATM card will work in Liberia. Western Union and Moneygram have a number of agents in Monrovia.

Local travel

Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak

Australian High Commission staff have deferred non-essential travel to Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia as a result of the EVD outbreak. We strongly recommend you do the same.

Liberia has implemented a state of public emergency in response to the EVD outbreak. The majority of its borders have been closed in an effort to reduce the spread of the disease. It has also imposed restrictions on movement within the country, school closures and cancellation of events. A nationwide curfew is in place between 11 pm and 6 am. You should comply with all curfews and instructions from local authorities and be aware that local emergency measures may change without warning.

Health screenings have been introduced at the border crossings that remain open. Travellers with fever or EVD-like symptoms are being subject to quarantine or being denied approval to entry or depart the country.

Departure options from Liberia are extremely limited. Only a small number of commercial airlines continue to operate flights out of Liberia and the majority of land borders are closed. Further restrictions are highly likely. Additionally, many countries in Africa, including the major travel hubs of South Africa and Kenya, have now banned entry to travellers who have been in EVD affected countries. Australians who travel to Liberia will find it increasingly difficult and costly to leave Africa.

As a result of measures imposed to combat the spread of EVD, serious food shortages have emerged in the West African region. The UN World Food Program has declared a level three food emergency, its highest threat. The security situation may also deteriorate as a result of the EVD outbreak.

Other local travel information

You will be required to show photographic identification at government security checkpoints.

Poor road conditions, poorly maintained vehicles and a lack of sufficient street lighting make driving in Liberia dangerous, especially after dark. For further advice, see our road travel page.

Public transport options are limited.

Tourist facilities are severely limited outside of Monrovia and infrastructure is poor.

There have been a number of attacks on security forces by illegal rubber tappers in the Firestone rubber plantation area near the Monrovia airport. Should you be in this area, you should only travel on major routes, particularly within the plantation.

Strong coastal currents are common in Liberia and you should seek advice from locals before swimming.

Airline safety

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See instead the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Liberia.

Please refer to our air travel page for information about aviation safety and security.

Laws

If you choose to travel to Liberia, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research local laws before travelling.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

It is a requirement to carry photographic identification with you at all times.

Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are severe and can include heavy fines and lengthy jail sentences.

Homosexual acts are illegal. Penalties include imprisonment up to one year. See our LGBTI travellers page.

Possession of pornographic material is illegal.

Photography around military installations, air and seaports and government buildings is prohibited.

While the United Nations has lifted the ban on the importation of rough diamonds from Liberia, laws controlling the international trade in rough diamonds continue to operate. You should seek up-to-date legal advice before trading in diamonds. Penalties for illegally exporting diamonds from Liberia can include jail sentences.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Local customs

Liberia is a conservative society, particularly outside Monrovia, and you should take care not to offend. We encourage travellers to be aware of local customs regarding dress. Typical dress for women includes loose fitting clothing that covers the upper arms and legs.

Information for dual nationals

Our Dual nationals page provides information.

Health

Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak

The outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD) in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone continues to worsen and has led to an unprecedented number of deaths. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared this outbreak to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

The EVD outbreak has overwhelmed many local healthcare facilities and options for obtaining routine or emergency medical care may be severely limited.

The Australian Government will have very limited capacity to provide consular assistance in these circumstances. A medical evacuation would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to conduct. Australian High Commission personnel have deferred non-essential travel to Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia as a result of the EVD outbreak.

EVD is not highly contagious to the general population, as transmission requires direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person or animal. However, the high rate of infection among frontline healthcare workers in the current outbreak is of significant concern. For more information, see the Ebola outbreak in West Africa travel bulletin and information on the virus from the Department of Health.

Other health information

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

Medical facilities are poor in the capital Monrovia and non-existent elsewhere. Physicians and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for medical care. In the event of a serious accident or illness, medical evacuation to a destination with appropriate facilities would be necessary. Medivac costs could exceed $A100,000.

The rate of HIV/AIDS infection in Liberia is high. You should exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in activities that expose you to risk of infection.

Liberia is listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as endemic for yellow fever. Yellow fever is a potentially fatal viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes, which is preventable by vaccination. We strongly recommend that you are vaccinated against yellow fever before travelling to Liberia. A valid yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for entry into the country.

Malaria and other tropical diseases are common in West African countries, including Liberia. You should consider taking prophylaxis against malaria, and taking measures to avoid insect bites such as using an insect repellent at all times, wearing long, loose-fitting, light coloured clothing and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof.

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including cholera, typhoid, lassa fever, hepatitis and tuberculosis) are common, with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. It is advisable to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, and avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food. Do not swim in fresh water to avoid exposure to certain water-borne diseases such as bilharzia (schistosomiasis). Seek medical advice if you have fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

Where to get help

Depending on the nature of your enquiry, your best option may be to contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurance provider in the first instance.

The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and can’t do to assist Australians overseas. For consular assistance, see contact details below:

Australian High Commission, Accra

2, Second Rangoon Close
(cnr Josef Broz Tito Ave)
Cantonments
Accra, Ghana
Telephone: (+233) 302 216 400
Facsimile: (+233) 302 216 410
Email: AccraHC.Enquiries@dfat.gov.au
Website: www.ghana.highcommission.gov.au

If, despite our advice, you are travelling to or staying in Liberia, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we strongly recommend that you register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the Embassy, you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

The rainy season is May to November when flooding may occur. Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.

Additional Resources

For additional general and economic information to assist travelling in this country, see the following links:



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.