Monrovia Stories and Tips

A Visit to Liberia

I wanted to share my experiences about Liberia with you. I had hoped it would be possible to go there, but I was still a bit frightened. But all Liberians I met told me it wouldn't be dangerous at all. So I got my visa in Conakry and I just did it!

I went into Liberia through Nzerekore/Ganta. There are direct taxis from Conakry to Nzerekore (a tough 24-hour ride). From there you need to take a taxi to the border (about 2 hours) and another one to Monrovia (about 6 hours). There are lots of locals travelling this route, thus transport isn't the matter. But be prepared for all kinds of surprises and delays.

Corruption starts on the Guinean side, where a disgusting official demanded small bribes at about seven consecutive barrages. On the Liberian side, to get my passport stamped and vaccination card, have my baggage checked, etc, they ripped me off about $25. It was a corruption nightmare, but what is $25 compared to the trophy I got.

On many checkpoints throughout the country, the officials over and over again demanded "cold water." The best ways to avoid paying:
- dress well
- make yourself a good-looking ID card welded in plastic, declaring your organisation, position, and name, and including a photo (or get one from a friendly NGO manager)
- act harsh and self-confident (a thing I just had to learn)

I shouldn't overemphasize problems, as in the end, I liked the country a lot. As Liberia is full of natural resources, it is astonishingly prosperous for a country that was entrenches in a civil war. But the upswing flourishes on a totally destroyed infrastructure. Many houses are still in ruins, and there is no pipe water, electricity, or international phone lines. But everybody seems to be well-dressed and with a mobile phone!

I met a lot of friendly and well-educated people who helped me along. There really is peace, and aside from the barrages and all the UN peacekeepers, I saw no weapons. I guess Monrovia is safer than any Italian city.

I left the country through Zorzor/Lofa, where there was only a little bit traffic on the Liberian side, but there was more on the Guinean side. Officials were friendlier and less corrupt here, but nevertheless, I had to pay $10 to get my exit stamp.

- Visa at Conakry, Liberian Embassy
Cité Ministérielle, Donka
Commune de Dixinn, Telephone: 46 26 71
I paid $50 and got it in 10 minutes, but I wasn't sure which part of it was just a bribe. Reportedly visas are available in Nzerekore as well.

- $1 equals L$53 Forget about cheques, credit cards, and other currencies.

- Accommodation is rare or expensive ($50 and up). If you're on a budget, it’s best to try with the local NGOs, hospitals, etc.

I will be looking forward to hearing from you if you should go there!

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