Travel & Tourism
Liberia’s recent civil war and its slow peace process have been making headlines for two decades, but today the Liberian people are following the first female African president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, into the future with hopes that the once prosperous nation can rebuild itself. Also helping Liberians move forward is the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission (UNMIL), which maintains a strong presence in the recovering nation.
Nestled between Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, and Guinea on the West African coast, Liberia boasts golden beaches and blue lagoons lined with coconut trees, the largest rain forest in West Africa, and undulating hills dotted with coffee and rubber plantations. Though the country’s tourism industry collapsed during the civil war and has been slow to reestablish itself, Liberia has much to offer the traveler looking to experience the untouched beauty of West Africa while off the beaten track.
What to Do in Liberia
1. Blo Degbo: This ancient rock formation, located in Paynesville near Monrovia, is shaped like a human face. Find a guide to take you to visit this natural marvel.
2. Sapo National Park: Liberia is home to 40 percent of West Africa’s rain forest and a large variety of flora and fauna, and most of it belongs to Sapo National Park. Though traveling outside of urban areas can be dangerous, visiting the Liberian rain forest is an unforgettable experience, offering the chance to see monkeys, leopards, chimpanzees, antelope, elephants, and anteaters.
3. Golden Beach Restaurant and Bar: Relax and indulge your inner gourmand at this American-owned restaurant, which serves a Western Continental menu on the beach in Monrovia. In the evening the restaurant turns into a nightclub; Top 40 hits and hip-hop are the name of the game here.
4. ELWA Beach: Just outside of Monrovia, this beautiful beach has a designated swimming area and is popular with families on the weekends.
5. Thinkers Beach: The waves are a little rough at Thinkers (pronounced “Tinkers”), not far out of Monrovia, but the sand is clean and warm, and food and drinks are available.
6. Robertsport: Take a day trip north out of Monrovia and visit Robertsport, known for its beaches and superb surfing. If you love water sports, as we do, this is the place for you. Tents are available on the beach for overnight stays.
7. Buchanan: Several hours south from Monrovia, this coastal town has peaceful, clean beaches and quaint restaurants and guesthouses.
8. Waterside Market: This market in Monrovia caters to locals and foreigners alike. Shop for fruits and vegetables, colorful fabric, and hand-carved masks.
9. Centennial Pavilion: This is a great place for new visitors to better understand Liberia. With all the bright Liberian colours, murals, portraits and statues all around, you can’t help but feel the sense of importance the locals attach to this building.
10. Wulki Farms: A serene place to unwind. Owned by a former minister in Charles Taylor’s cabinet, where you can ride horses, go swimming or visit the little zoo for a glimpse of ostriches, crocodiles and the occasional rabbit.
11. Firestone Rubber Plantation: This is the world’s largest rubber plantation. You can observe how rubber is processed and even play a round at the golf course that’s within the premises.
12. Mt Nimba: This is the highest Mountain in the country, measuring 1362m above sea level. It’s a great destination for hikers, climbers and campers. Be advised that It normally takes a few days to reach the full peak.
13. Ermita De La Agonía: Put Church of La Ermita La Agonia at the forefront of your travel plans. Dating back to 1866, the church is right in the heart of Liberia. It’s a jewel of beauty from days gone by, which still remains of great significance for the people of Liberia today. A remnant of Liberia’s spirited past, this cultural sanctuary allows you to catch a breath after a day of sightseeing and take in its devotional and inspiring atmosphere.
When to Go
Liberia has a dry season and a rainy one: the dry season lasts from December to April and the rainy season is from May to November. Because of Liberia’s location, just north of the equator, the climate is tropical and daily temperatures are usually between 79 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit (between 26 and 32 degrees Celcius.) Humidity levels are very high, especially in areas closer to the coast, averaging 88 percent year-round. Though rainfall is not consistent during the rainy season, humidity levels are higher. We suggest visiting in the dry season or in the months of July and August, when there is usually a brief period of weather similar to that of the dry season.
Getting In and Around
Visas: Foreign visitors to Liberia are required to have a visa to enter the country. Visas are not issued at Roberts International Airport (where most travelers will fly into) and must be obtained in advance from the consulate or embassy in your home country. Visitors must also provide proof of yellow fever inoculation. Visit the website of the Liberian embassy in Washington, D.C., for a complete list of Liberian visa requirements.
Transportation: Owing to the years of civil war in Liberia, the transportation infrastructure is poor and roads are often unpaved, unlit at night, and marked with potholes, especially outside of Monrovia. Driving is the only way to get around Liberia, though, so we suggest hiring a driver with a four-by-four, especially if you plan on traveling through more-rural areas. Also be aware that road rules are not widely enforced and bad driving is common.
Taxis are available for travel within Monrovia and often pick up several passengers. For a higher price, chartered taxis can be secured.
If you are flying into Roberts International Airport, which is 35 miles (56 kilometers) outside of Monrovia, note that there are no taxis or any other form of public transportation between Harbel, where the airport is located, and Monrovia. Make sure to arrange transportation from the airport before you arrive in Liberia.
Mobile Phones: Telephone service in Liberia is limited, with almost no land line service. Most mobile phones on international plans will not work in Liberia, so we suggest renting or buying a local mobile for making calls from within the country. If you have a SIM card–equipped phone, you might also buy a SIM card. Note that there is little mobile service outside of main urban areas.
Safety and Security
Concerned about your safety as you plan travel to Liberia? We at Africa.com, together with our friends, family and colleagues, travel extensively throughout the continent. Here are the resources we consult when thinking of our safety in Liberia:
Africa.com comment: Very timely and frequently updated. Perspective assumes that you ARE going to travel to Liberia, and seeks to give you good guidance so that you understand the risks and are well informed.
Africa.com comment: Can sometimes be considered as overly conservative and discourage travel altogether to destinations that many reasonable people find acceptably secure. On the other hand, they have the resources of the CIA to inform them, so they know things that the rest of us don’t know. See what they have to say about Liberia.
1. Liberia is roughly the size of the state of Tennessee and has a population of about 3.6 million. The country is divided into three regions: Southern Liberia, Central Liberia, and Northern Liberia. It is mostly flat near the coast of the Gulf of Guinea, with rolling plateau farther inland and a mountainous region in the northeast. The capital city is Monrovia, located on the coast in Central Liberia.
2. The official language of Liberia is English. At least 20 other languages are spoken, but many of them cannot be written down.
3. The official Liberian currency is the Liberian dollar (symbol LRD), but American greenbacks are accepted almost everywhere. There are no ATMs in Liberia, and debit or credit cards and traveler’s checks are not accepted. Visitors must take cash into Liberia with them or arrange for wire transfers.
4. Ninety-five percent of Liberians consists of indigenous Africans, belonging to such tribes as the Kpelle, Bassa, Gio, Mende, and Mandingo. Two and a half percent of the population is Americo-Liberian (descendants of freed slaves who immigrated from the United States), and the other 2.5 percent is known as Congo People (descendants of freed slaves who immigrated from the Caribbean).
5. Liberians are generally very friendly toward foreigners, and it is important to be receptive of the greetings of locals. Keep in mind that while many Liberians may be keen to engage in conversation with you, it is best to avoid the subject of the civil war unless it is brought up to you, as memories of the violence are still fresh in the minds of many.