- For other places with the same name, see Liberia (disambiguation).
Liberia is a country in West Africa.
Established and formed by the American Colonization Society (ACS) — an organisation which supported the migration of emancipated slaves to Africa from the United States — in the 18th century, Liberia was the first country to proclaim its independence during the Scramble for Africa.
|Northern Liberia (Robertsport)|
The area between the St Paul River and the borders with Guinea and Sierra Leone
|Central Liberia (Monrovia, Paynesville, Buchanan)|
The capital Monrovia and the main population centre
|Southern Liberia (Greenville, Harper, Sapo National Park)|
Beautiful Atlantic beaches and the country's only national park
- 1 Monrovia — the capital, and Liberia's largest city with a population of around one million
- 2 Robertsport — a coastal town with excellent surfing opportunities, a comfortable holiday lodge and a beachside campsite
- 3 Greenville — a port town near the Sapo National Park
- 4 Harper — in the southeast of the country, Harper is the former capital of Maryland. It is known for its beautiful beaches and beach houses. Now these houses are dilapidated but it's still possible to get a sense of the glory of the past.
- 5 Paynesville — a good spot for BASE jumping
- 1 Sapo National Park — Liberia's sole national park.
- Blue Lake — 72 kilometres west of Monrovia, Liberia's capital, comes a natural wonder.
- Providence Island — A tiny island between downtown Monrovia and the Freeport. It lies at the mouth of the Mesurado River where early settlers to Liberia first settled between 1820 and 1822.
- Lake Piso — in Grand Cape Mount County and is a saltwater lake with an open connection to the Atlantic Ocean.
- Atlantic Coastal Beaches — Bernard's Beach, CeCe Beach, ELWA Beach, Kendejah Beach, Kenema Beach, Thinkers Village Beach.
|Currency||Liberian dollar (LRD)|
|Population||5.2 million (2021)|
|Electricity||120 volt / 55±5 hertz and 220 volt / 55±5 hertz (NEMA 1-15, NEMA 5-15, Europlug, Type E, Schuko)|
|Time zone||UTC±00:00, Africa/Monrovia|
|Emergencies||911, 114 (fire department)|
|edit on Wikidata|
Liberia is a country with historical ties to the United States since it was founded by freed black slaves before the Underground Railroad, American Civil War era of the nineteenth century. The capital, Monrovia, was named after James Monroe. Liberia's flag closely resembles the American flag, reflecting the historical ties between the two countries.
Anthropological research shows the region of Liberia was inhabited at least as far back as the 12th century, perhaps earlier. Between 1461 and the late 17th century, Portuguese, Dutch and British traders had contacts and trading posts in Liberia. The Portuguese had named the area Costa da Pimenta, later translated as Grain Coast, because of the abundance of grains of melegueta pepper.
In 1822 the American Colonization Society, which was the primary organization for returning former Caribbean slaves to greater freedom in Africa, established Liberia as a destination for those formerly enslaved. This movement of black people by the ACS had broad support nationwide among white people in America. While the institution of slavery in America grew, reaching almost four million slaves by the mid 1800s, a growing population in the U.S. chose to emigrate to Liberia as well. African-Americans gradually migrated to the colony and became known as Americo-Liberians, from whom many present day Liberians trace their ancestry. On 26 July 1847, Americo-Liberian settlers declared independence of the Republic of Liberia. The Americo-Liberians at that time soon formed a distinct upper class that dominated local politics and oppressed the native Africans for nearly a century.
Liberia retained its independence during the Scramble for Africa, but lost its claim to extensive territories that were annexed by Britain and France. Economic development was hindered by the decline of markets for Liberian goods in the late 19th century and by indebtedness on a series of loans, payments on which drained the economy.
William Tubman, an Americo-Liberian who became president in 1944, successfully secured American infrastructure investment by joining the Allied Power, and continued to attract foreign investment in Liberia. It was also his tenure that Liberia allowed foreign shipping companies to register their ships in Liberia, such that shipping companies may enjoy less taxation and regulation. Liberia continues holds the world's second largest flag-of-convenience merchant ship registry. Liberian economy flourished during the 1940s to the 1960s. While his administration is still authoritarian, Tubman also pursued a policy of national unification that aimed to reduce marginalization of the native Africans, though its effects were limited and simmering dissatisfaction continued.
On 12 April 1980, a successful military coup was staged by a group of non-commissioned army officers led by Master Sergeant Samuel Doe. The soldiers were a mixture of the various indigenous ethnic groups that claimed marginalization at the hands of the minority Americo-Liberian settlers, and the entire Liberian government leadership was wiped out by mass executions. Marred with incompetence and corruption, the newly-formed military junta quickly turned into a tyranny for almost a decade. Frequent political purges, even more frequent coup attempts and anti-government demonstrations and human sacrifice in the president's office were the norm in Liberia at that time.
In late 1989, the First Liberian Civil War began when warlord Charles Taylor staged an insurrection, dragging the country into a state of war to varying degrees and spreading to neighbouring countries like Sierra Leone until 2003. The war was devastating, almost all infrastructure from the Tubman era was obliterated, illicit drug usage became widespread, nearly 20 thousand of children were conscripted as child soldiers. Liberia is still recovering from the civil war that ended with a ceasefire in August 2003. Hampered with the nearly destroyed healthcare system, outbreak of Ebola caused about 4000 deaths occurred in 2014. With improving political situation, UN sanctions aiming to supress destabilization were lifted in 2016, and the UN peacekeeping mission in Liberia ended in 2018.
While the country is now on the mend, it has not yet redeveloped the necessary infrastructure to sustain a large increase in tourism, with little for the average visitor outside Monrovia. Towns like Buchanan and Ganta, etc, are little more than a collection of shanty houses with no decent hotels or food. Monrovia in general is calmer than the more far-flung areas although the situation countrywide is improving with the presence of UN Peacekeepers. Like in the rest of Africa, Chinese influence has also grown in Liberia in the 21st century, with substantial Chinese investment in Liberian infrastructure under the auspices of the Belt and Road initiative. Fear should not stop you enjoying your visit but act with caution. Travel outside Monrovia is very difficult and not advisable on your own.
The equatorial climate is hot year-round with heavy rainfall from May to October with a short interlude in mid-July to August. During the winter months of November to March dry dust-laden harmattan winds blow inland causing many problems for residents.
Liberia officially has 16 ethnic groups that make up the country's population of Kpelle, the largest group, Bassa, Gio, Kru, Grebo, Mandingo, Mano, Krahn, Gola, Gbandi, Loma, Kissa, Vai and Bella.
Americo-Liberians are the descendants of free-born and formerly enslaved African-Americans.
Liberia's cultural traditions have their roots to the antebellum American South during the 19th century. The country is rich in arts with skills of quilting.
As is the case with almost all countries in Africa, everyone needs a visa to enter the country.
Citizens of the following countries can visit the country without a visa: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Côte d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo.
A letter of invitation and a yellow fever vaccination certificate are necessary to apply for a Liberian visa. For US citizens, a 3-month visa costs US$131, for all others the fee is US$100. One, two & three year multiple-entry visas are also available. The embassy in Conakry has been moved out of town to the town of Kipe. At the Freetown embassy service is next day and no hassle. They will stamp the duration of your stay in your passport when travelling overland so be sure not to give too few days when they ask or else you will have to go to immigration office in Broad Street in Monrovia to extend your visa for US$20 (though they will probably ask for more).
All foreigners need to extend their visa within 30 days of arrival at the immigration office on Broad Street, regardless of visa validity.
It's easy to apply for a Liberian visa at the Liberian embassy in London. You don't need a letter of invitation, but you do need a yellow fever vaccination book, two passport size photographs, and a signed and completed application form. For more information check the embassy's website.
The country's only international airport is Roberts International Airport (ROB IATA) (often called Roberts International Airport or RIA), some 60 km from the city center of Monrovia at Robertsfield. The trip from the airport to the city was once infamous. Today, the situation has improved significantly with the restoration of peace and order. The road is now fully protected by UNMIL and safe.
Ethiopia Airlines has flights from Addis Ababa. Royal Air Maroc from Casablanca and Freetown. Brussels Airlines from Brussels and Freetown KLM from Amsterdam and Freetown. Kenyan Airways from Nairobi and Accra. Air Cote d'Ivoire from Abidjan. Arik Air from Freetown and Lagos.
By far the best way to travel, but helicopter flights are restricted to UN personnel. Poor weather in the rainy season often forces helicopters to return, especially from Voinjama.
There is no real train service. One track, which had belonged to a mine, has been opened for tourists. It travels to the Bong mines, a massive, defunct ore-mining and processing plant once German-run.
The roads linking Roberts Airport to Monrovia and from Monrovia to the Sierra Leone border at Bo (Waterside) are paved and in excellent condition as of February 2010. Road conditions in some other areas are poor, so a 4x4 may be necessary for travel. During the rainy season, travel times are increased dramatically. Traffic through Monrovia can be slow, due to numerous traffic bottlenecks and damaged sections of road. Gas is sold in US gallons, not litres. Most distances and speed limits are posted in miles per hour.
There are no long distance buses for tourists. A few buses for public travel are usable for travel under the National Transit Authority (NTA) guidance with their main terminal in the Gardnerville suburb. An inter-city transportation is ongoing to cities like: Buchanan, Gbarnga, Tubmanburg, Kakata & Robertsport; with plans to extend to cities like Zwedru, Ganta, and Bopolu. Tourist coaches are arranged for chartered express. The NTA criss-crosses Monrovia by providing transportation to suburbs and the downtown area. Also private buses serve the suburbs and the central business district including: Lizard company & individual transportations. Be careful how you board buses and avoid rushing to get on-board because thieves, locally called "rogue", take advantage to steal. Stand in the queue at bus stops & terminals. Buses are also overloaded with passengers, so bring a fan along or sit near a window.
The best way to get around Monrovia. Most Monrovia taxis on the streets will pick up several passengers en route, and are therefore often jam-packed. Ask people you trust if they know of a reliable taxi driver to contact, as getting robbed in a taxi is a possibility. If you are unable to find one, consider hiring a taxi to your destination for your own use exclusively.
Long distance shared taxis leave from "Douala Station" in a northern suburb of Monrovia for destinations around the country. They are typically older yellow Nissan station wagons that leave when 10 passengers have purchased tickets. Fares for shared taxis are reasonable.
Alternatively, a "charter" taxi can be arranged for individual travel at a much higher price.
You can board a boat from the St. Paul River to Robertport other destinations will be made available soon.
Liberia is a multilingual country where more than thirty languages are spoken. The official language is English, with Kreyol - an English-based pidgin language - serving as the lingua franca in Liberia's interior. English is spoken by most Liberians but, especially if you are travelling to more remote areas, a local guide will be useful.
- 'Blo Degbo' Human face rock in Paynesville, near Monrovia (Note: this is not a developed tourist destination, so make sure it is a safe place to visit)
- Rain forests are usually found in remote areas, most are unique and have many attractive features, but on the other hand some are risky because of their wildlife.
There are plenty of beaches around Monrovia. Out towards the airport after ELWA junction is ELWA beach. Set inside a compound there is a marked safe swimming area, a clean beach and plenty of families at the weekends, though without facilities. Further on is Thinkers (pronounced Tinkers) with a food and drinks service, though the waves are a bit rough here, and it is not safe to walk up or down the beach too far. CE CE beach out the other way, over the bridge out to Hotel Africa is very well set up with palm umbrellas, drinks service and a buffet, and a well protected swimming area.
For an interesting day trip, Robertsport offers a glimpse of Liberia's cultural history as well as clean, beautiful beaches. A group of South Africans has set up a tent camp for those wishing to spend the night on the beach and the UN also offers accommodations on a first-come basis. Beware the strong tides.
The city of Buchanan, a several hour car ride from Monrovia, also offers sublime beaches and a selection of restaurants and guest houses.
Immerse yourself in the local culture. Liberia has a thriving music scene, known as hip co, which blends hip hop with colloquial Liberian English. Artists like Takun J, Santos, Mr. Smith, Soul Smiter, and Nasseman are popular. In the dry season, especially, concerts are regularly held at venues across the country.
Liberia also has several nightclubs. While places like Deja Vu cater to a largely expat crowd, explore places more popular with locals. 146 on Carey Street features Liberian music, freestyle sessions, and live performances from Liberia's most popular musicians.
Exchange rates for Liberian dollars
As of January 2023:
Exchange rates fluctuate. Current rates for these and other currencies are available from XE.com
The currency of the country is the Liberian dollar, denoted by the symbol "$" or "L$" (ISO currency code: LRD). It is divided into 100 cents.
Coins of Liberia are issued in denominations of L$5 and L$10. Banknotes of Liberia are issued in denominations of L$5, L$10, L$20, L$50, L$100, L$500 and L$1,000.
There are limited ways to use credit cards. Bring US dollars in cash with you (most transactions at Western businesses are done in US dollars) or transfer money through Moneygram or Western Union. Ecobank on Randall Street is used by many foreigners. If someone gives you Liberian dollars in change, accept it because it will be useful to have some on hand for very small purchases, but once you have a little, be sure to get dollars back (except when your change is less than a dollar, they use local currency in lieu of coins).
All Ecobank ATMs in Liberia take Mastercard/Visa card for cash withdrawal.
Liberia can be very expensive or very inexpensive for a tourist depending on what amenities you want.
Liberia is well known for its beautiful masks. Masks are on sale around hotels and UN centres. After haggling, they will cost about L$25 (depending on the size, etc.)
There is beautiful printed fabric in Liberia. It is sold in lapas (usually 2), one lapa is 2 yards. 3 lapas of the best quality, real wax, will cost about L$15. There are a series of modern and technological Supermarkets or malls: the Abi Jaoudi, Xclusive superstore, located downtown, the ERA Mall, Stop n Shop, Payless Center & the Sinkor Xclusive, all in the Sinkor Suburb, & the Save Way Supermarket at the ELWA Junction. The Sinkor Suburb is lined with top hotels & restaurants and has become Monrovia's new mid-town.
Eating Liberian food can be enjoyable and inexpensive. Liberian meals like palm butter, cassava leaf, potato greens, chock rice, and jollof's rice will barely leave a dent in your budget (US$2-3 with a non-alcoholic drink). Portions are usually enormous. Another popular local dish is fufu (fermented dough made from the cassava plant) and soup (the most common are goat soup and pepper soup). And for those who like to eat on the go, fruit and snacks can be bought from street vendors throughout Monrovia. Peanuts, fried plantain chips, roasted ears of corn or plantains, bananas, mangos, and other fruits cost L$5-20 (or US$0.10-0.30). Especially delicious are the various breads sold freshly baked in the morning. Some breads resemble banana bread, other breads are more like corn bread. All are delicious although somewhat oily.
Club beer is the staple drink, served everywhere. Local gin is also available.
Bagged water is sold on most street corners. While it is supposed to be filtered and safe, it is not guaranteed to be. Stick with bottled water to be sure. You can buy bottled water at any supermarket, restaurant, or at the Total gas stations.
Usually hotels are considered quite safe as the owners will employ guards. However, don't be complacent and make sure that you are aware of your security also in the hotels. Be prepared to pay your entire bill in cash (US dollars).
There aren't that many learning opportunities in Liberia. It is, as a matter of fact, a real struggle for the locals to get a good education in Liberia.
The civil war adversely affected the country's educational system, and many schools lack adequate learning facilities. Corruption is a major problem in the educational sector and it has been well documented by international organisations.
Almost every international NGO operates in Liberia. It is quite possible to find voluntary (unpaid) work here, if you are willing to stay for a bit. Paid work is almost exclusive through international organisations. Most of these organisations require foreign staff to be recruited abroad, so it is unlikely that you would be hired just because you’re in Liberia.
Liberia has very high rates of unemployment. If you are in the country for longer, try to encourage local production and employment by buying local goods and paying for services.
Do not walk around at night, and make sure that your car doors are locked when you drive around. Thieves will often reach into a car when stopped and grab whatever they can, so keep the glass up especially in busy areas of Monrovia (redlight). Rape and armed robbery are common and on the rise. Hotels, etc. have private guards and are rather safe.
There are some gangs of former combatants, armed with machetes, who walk around poorer areas of Monrovia (Redlight). There are also former combatants in the Palm Grove Cemetery on Center Street. Do not walk there alone at all.
The corner of Randall and Carey is also considered dangerous and supposedly a hang-out for drug dealers.
Avoid any desolate places, and stay in groups.
Keep an eye on the locals, if they are carrying on as normal and you see plenty of women and children about, it is unlikely that there will be major sources of concern. If, however, people have disappeared from a usually busy location, or you find yourself surrounded only by youths, you should try to make a hasty retreat.
UNMIL has calmed the country (in general) but it is already now anticipated that when UNMIL leaves the security situation will be worse.
It is advisable to inform your embassy that you are in the country in case of evacuation.
Furthermore, learn as much about the security situation as you can. Locals are a key source of information. Be careful, however, not to believe everything you hear. Rumours spread like wildfire in Monrovia as they are the main source of news although details are often inaccurate.
Local newspapers are interesting reads. Daily Observer has the largest circulation but there are also several others. You can buy them in the street.
Rape is on the increase so be hesitant to walk by yourself in previously unknown or remote areas. Men on the whole will treat women with respect. They may tell you how beautiful you are, that they "love you" or ask you to marry them (more for the status rather than the money), but will not grab hold of you or be in any way improper.
HIV, while still low, is on the increase. Prostitution is rampant.
There are few doctors usable by international visitors so getting medical help may pose problems. There is apparently a Jordanian wing at the Kennedy hospital for private patients. MSF will also see foreigners, but only in dire cases.
Bagged water is sold on most street corners. While it is supposed to be filtered and safe, it is not guaranteed to be. Stick with bottled water to be sure. You can buy bottled water at any supermarket, restaurant, or at the Total gas stations.
Liberia experienced a terrible Ebola outbreak in 2014 and 2015 but was declared completely Ebola-free. However, there has been a single case of the disease afterwards.
As is the case in much of West Africa, always greet people wherever you go. Liberians don't take kindly to being ignored and will call you "rude". Word tends to get around quite quickly in Liberia, and the locals will often warn you of security threats if they know you and know that you are approachable.
Don't assume the worst in people; just because Liberia has a lot of social and political problems doesn't mean that every Liberian is alike. By being a bit open-minded, you'll find that almost all Liberians are friendly, sociable, and approachable.
Do not be too direct with your words; Liberians are quite sensitive to being beckoned directly. If you absolutely must discuss personal or sensitive matters, temper your words with a degree of diplomacy and respect.
Saying "no" directly to requests is considered rude, which is why Liberians may often pester you until you give in. Instead, say something along the lines of "later", "tomorrow", "I'll try", or "I'll see what I can do".
Liberia is one of the poorest countries in the world. Many Liberians live in poverty and are barely able to make ends meet. As a tourist, you may be asked by people to give money or gifts. Giving money to the elderly or the physically challenged will not go amiss, but bear in mind that you could be encouraging people (unintentionally) to be dependent on foreign visitors and this, in turn, could give people more of a reason to harass and pester tourists like you. If you really want to make a difference in the community, it is recommended that you go to local schools or volunteer with local NGOs.
Most people in Monrovia, with the exception of internally displaced people, are relatively well-off in Liberian terms. The worst conditions are in the countryside, where help is also most needed.
It is advisable to bring some business cards. They are given out at every function.
Avoid discussing the Liberian Civil Wars; they can very easily bring up bad memories for people.
Liberia has made a giant leap into the digital age with the arrival of many mobile phone companies; like Lonestar/MTN Cell (the nation's largest mobile company), Cellcom, Comium, Libercell formerly AWI (Atlantic Wireless Inc) and the government owned Libtelco. Mobile phone usage is the leading medium of contact to the outside with some (Lonestar and Cellcom) offering GPRS/internet modem usage. So when you arrive, visiting or staying, you need a GSM mobile phone. You will need to purchase a GSM SIM card (US$1) and prepaid recharge cards (most commonly in denominations of US$1 and US$5), called "Scratch Card" locally. The only exception is Libtelco, that is done by paying monthly bills. Landlines are used only at offices. It is managed & owned by the government also, Libtelco.
The most common access to the internet is by GPRS/HSPA+ or restaurants, pubs, bars and hotels that offer free internet services to customers or for a small charge. With the installation of the undersea fiber-optic cable in November 2012 internet access is much improved. GPRS/HSPA USB adapters are commonly available from the mobile companies for US$50-60, with data plans ranging from US$1/hr or $0.12/MB to USD125/mo for unlimited data and up to 21MBps (1-2MBps is realistic on HSPA+).
DHL operates in Liberia. Expedited Mail Service promises 5 day delivery to the US. EMS counter is at the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunication on MacDonald Street.
The regular post office has just started to operate. The post office is at the very end of Randall Street by Waterside market. Post cards will cost L$30 to send, and will probably arrive at their destination. Packages are packed on the premises.
To receive mail, you must get a locked box together with a P.O. box number at the Randall Street post office. Do not send anything of value through the Liberian postal service. Many people have reported items being stolen while at the post office; in Liberia the postal system is new and very corrupt.