LIBERIA

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Liberia is a developing West African country which is recovering from seven years of devastating civil war (1989-97). Although a democratically elected government was installed in August 1997, limited progress has been made toward the following goals: resettlement of refugees and displaced persons, reintegration of former combatants, reconstruction of the country's infrastructure, respect for human rights and the rule of law, a stable environment for economic development, and the elimination of corruption. Tourism facilities are poor or, in many cases, nonexistent.

Passport and/or Visa Requirements: A passport and visa are required, as is evidence of a yellow fever vaccination. For persons who are traveling from countries that do not have a Liberian Embassy or Consulate, an airport entry visa may be obtained, but the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization must authorize the visa in advance of arrival. Further information on entry requirements for Liberia can be obtained from the Embassy of the Republic of Liberia, 5201 16th street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20011. The telephone numbers are (202) 723-0437 to 723-0440. Overseas inquiries should be made to the nearest Liberian Embassy or Consulate.

Travel Warnings, Advisories and Areas of Instability: The ability of Liberia's security forces to maintain law and order in the countryside is open to question, and travelers should check with the U.S. Embassy Consular Section or Security Office before undertaking travel outside Monrovia. U.S. Government employees require special Embassy authorization to travel outside the greater Monrovia area. Travelers are advised to avoid northwest Liberia as continued instability and strife in southeastern Sierra Leone heighten government sensitivity about security in the border area.

Travel Warnings, Advisories and Areas of Instability: Monrovia's crime rate is high. Theft and assault are major problems and occur more frequently after dark. Foreigners, including U.S. citizens, have been targets of street crime and robbery. Residential armed break-ins are common. The police are ill-equipped and largely incapable of providing effective protection.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be Reported immediately to local police and to the nearest U.S. Embassy or consulate. The pamphlets "A Safe Trip Abroad" and "Tips for Travelers to Sub- Saharan Africa" provide useful information on personal security while traveling abroad and on travel in the region in general. Both are available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.

MEDICAL FACILITIES: Hospitals and medical facilities are poorly equipped and incapable of providing basic services. Medicines are scarce or often unavailable in most areas. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. The Medicare/Medicaid program does not provide for payment of medical services outside the United States.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: Check with your own insurance company to confirm whether your policy applies overseas, including provision for medical evacuation. Ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death. Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure "Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad," available via its home page at http://travel.state.gov and autofax service at (202) 647-3000.

OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's international traveler's hotline at telephone 1-877-fyi-trip (1- 877-394-8747); fax, 1-888-cdc-faxx 1-888-232-3299); or by visiting the CDC Internet home page at http://www.cdc.gov.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Liberia is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of public transportation: Poor
Urban road conditions/maintenance: Poor
Rural road conditions/maintenance: Poor to nonexistent
Availability of roadside assistance: Poor to nonexistent

Road travel can be hazardous. Cars, trucks, and taxis are frequently overloaded with people and goods and make frequent stops without signaling. Many vehicles operate with threadbare tires and blowouts are common. There is only one traffic light in the country; therefore, intersections should be approached with caution. There are also no public streetlights; pedestrians in Monrovia's streets and those walking on country roads are difficult to see at night. Drivers and pedestrians are cautioned that high-speed car convoys carrying government officials force vehicles to pull off the road until they have passed.

Although it is possible to travel overland to and from Cote d'Ivoire and Guinea, travelers should expect frequent delays at government security checkpoints, as well as time-consuming detours around the many bridges and roads that were damaged during the civil war or by the heavy annual rains which occur from May to November. Travelers can expect strict enforcement of border controls by Liberian, Ivoirian, and Guinean authorities.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service by local carriers at present, or economic authority to operate such service, between the U.S. and Liberia, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Liberia's civil aviation authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet home page at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa.htm. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the Pentagon at 703-697- 7288.

All international commercial air service to Monrovia now arrives at Roberts International Airport (RIA), located 35 miles (approximately one hour by car) outside Monrovia. Very limited daytime air service exists to Freetown, Sierra Leone; Conakry, Guinea; Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire; and Accra, Ghana. Most airlines do not meet Western standards of punctuality, security, or service. Luggage and passengers undergo inspection prior to boarding. Conditions at the airport upon arrival and departure are frequently crowded and chaotic. As public transportation to Monrovia is not always available, travelers should attempt to make arrangements for an expediter and chauffeur through their hotel, employer, or business associates.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Liberian law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Liberia are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

COUNTRY INFRASTRUCTURE: Lodging, water, electricity, fuel, transportation, and telephone services are unevenly available in Liberia. They are nonexistent or severely limited in rural areas. Commercial power is generally not available in most parts of Monrovia. Few facilities and homes have telephones, and disruption of telephone services is common. Public mail delivery is very unreliable, but commercial air courier service is available through DHL.

CURRENCY REGULATIONS: The U.S. dollar is legal tender in Liberia. While the official rate of exchange is one U.S. dollar to one Liberian dollar, the street rate is substantially different and varies considerably. In the past few months, the street rate has been 35-40 Liberian dollars to one U.S. dollar. The use of traveler's checks is subject to substantial fees and few commercial establishments accept them. Credit cards are not accepted anywhere in Liberia.

PHOTOGRAPHY RESTRICTIONS: Taking photographs of military installations, air and seaports, and important government buildings is restricted. Visitors should refrain from taking pictures of any sites or activities, including official motorcades, that might be considered sensitive.

Y2K INFORMATION: U.S. citizens contemplating traveling or residing abroad in late 1999 or early 2000 should be aware of potential difficulties. They may wish to consider taking practical precautions against possible disruptions of services triggered by the Y2K computer phenomenon. Monitor the homepage of the Department of State for updates on Y2K issues.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children, international parental child abduction, and international child support enforcement issues please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues or telephone (202) 736-7000.

EMBASSY LOCATION/REGISTRATION: U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to register and to obtain updated information on travel and security in Liberia at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy at 111 United Nations Drive, Mamba Point, Monrovia, Liberia. Telephone: (231) 226-370, fax: (231) 226-154. U.S. citizens who wish to write to the American Embassy may address letters to the American Embassy Monrovia, Consular Section, Washington, D.C. 20521-8800. Consular assistance in Liberia is limited to the greater Monrovia area.

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