Welcome to Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone
Freetown is the capital city of Sierra Leone and is the heart of the Western region. It is on a peninsula on the south bank of the estuary of the Sierra Leone River. The city lies at the foot of the peninsula mountains and faces one of the best natural harbours on the west coast of Africa. The peninsula is home to some of the finest beaches in Africa – Lumley beach, Lakka beach, No. 2 river beach and Toke beach are some examples.
Freetown, like the rest of Sierra Leone has endured some very difficult times during the civil war. It was occupied by rebels twice and the resident population and infrastructure suffered badly. As stability returned to Freetown, many Sierra Leoneans fled the rural areas to the city to escape the carnage.
Though the country has been peaceful since 2002, the population of the city is still much higher than it was prior to the war. This has put pressure on land and local services. Many areas of jungle have been cleared to house the new residents. Some claim that the US government has not helped the situation with their new embassy development at Leicester. Some blame the new developments for severe flooding of the city during the rainy season. Deforestation has also been blamed for a shortage of water in the city.
Arriving by plane
Freetown International Airport (IATA: FNA) (ICAO: GFLL), in Lungi (on the other side of the estuary from Freetown), Tel: (232-22)-338405,. Getting from the airport to Freetown can be a challenge and the safety of the various operators has been questioned. There are a number of fast boat services that cross the estuary, and most foreign visitors use this option for roughly US$40.
To pick them up, just walk to the right after exiting the airport building. Sea Coach Express (Pelican Water Taxis) operate small boats, some covered, some not, from Mahera Hotel to the Aberdeen bridge for Le180,000 (40USD). The hovercraft service has resumed under the Helog name. It arrives/departs from Man of War Bay, Aberdeen. The crossing can be unpleasant if the sea is rough. The Pelican and hovercraft are convenient for most foreign travellers as they avoid the slow route through the crowded east end of Freetown. The helicopter now only operates a charter service.
Another possibility is on the overloaded ferry which runs to the main part of Freetown. A seat on a bus which uses the ferry costs Le60,000. The bus takes passengers to Rawdon Street in the center of Freetown. This trip can take 3+ hours and has been known to take 8 hours. By road it is 4+ hours to the city, via Port Loko using some poor roads.
Finally, some private boats cross the estuary. This is not recommended at night. Unfortunately, thefts from hold baggage are very common at the airport, especially on the way out of the country.
Carry anything of value in your cabin luggage. Having your checked baggage wrapped in cellophane at your point of origin is another good tactic. If arriving at night, as many flights from Europe do, it is highly advisable to get a room at one of the Lungi hotels, which exist purely for this purpose. Book in advance.
Sierra Leone’s public railway service was closed in 1974. A railway museum has been opened at Cline Town and is well worth a visit. Many of the original railway buildings and signs can still be seen in and around Freetown, particularly at Hill Station and Congo Cross. It is also possible to walk along much of the track bed, starting near the Hill Station Club  and dropping down the hill via Congo Cross into Freetown.
Roads in Freetown are being reconstructed and a bypass road is also being built to link the western part of Freetown to the rest of the country, cutting out the congested eastern part of town. The roads via Leicester and along the coastal part of the Freetown peninsular are also due for reconstruction. The road works affect many roads. Unfortunately, the Sierra Leone Roads Authority have given up maintaining other roads, which means they are increasingly in poor condition.