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How To Get From Lungi Airport To Freetown Guide | Sierra Leone

You’ve decided to visit Sierra Leone, great! It’s one of the most offbeat countries I know which makes it exciting, but it doesn’t come without its challenges. Navigating your way from Lungi Airport to Freetown is the first hurdle; that’s why I’ve put together this guide for you.

Since Lungi Airport is on the opposite side of the Sierra Leone River to Freetown (and it’s a BIG river) you’ll need to get across to reach the capital. There are two ways; overland by road or over the water by boat.

In this how to get from Lungi Airport to Freetown guide, I’m going over the different options. However, I suggest budgeting for the private ferry service because it’s the most convenient. 

At A Glance | How To Get To Freetown From Lungi Airport in Sierra Leone

  • Private Ferry $45 (recommended)
  • Government Ferry (27 leones; very cheap but long and unreliable)
  • By Road (budget $40, it’s a long journey around the peninsula)

What To Expect At Lungi Airport, Sierra Leone

Abi at Lungi Airport in Sierra Leone on the way to Freetown

Before I jump into the actual transportation methods, I wanted to go through your arrival at Lungi Airport. 

The first time I visited Sierra Leone, around 2012/13 (my dad and I are still trying to figure out the exact date, lol), the airport was a mess. It was like a crazy, chaotic zoo with barred windows, dirty squat toilets and no decent facilities. You would’ve had to walk over the tarmac from the plane and carry your bags through the surf to reach the boat, as there wasn’t a jetty.

Luckily, over the years it’s had many renovations and today’s airport looks much like any other modern-day one. On this last trip, I was pleasantly surprised to see a beautiful new terminal had been built.

Sierra Leone Visa On Arrival 

It used to be that you needed a letter of invitation and a visa from the embassy; however, today you can get the Sierra Leone visa on arrival if you’re a British Citizen.

Check the Sierra Leone immigration department website for other countries here. 

  • African Union Countries pay $25
  • Non-African Union Countries pay $80

It’s really simple to get the visa on arrival. The visa desk is in the immigration control building. There’s a counter to the left as you come into the building and all you have to do is hand them your passport, pay and they will stamp the visa in for you. Afterwards, you’re free to move through immigration.

You’ll Need To Pay The Airport Tax

Airport tax receipts at Lungi Airport

Once you’ve exited the baggage claim area and entered the arrival hall, more than likely you’ll get pulled by security to go to the kiosk and pay the airport tax. If not, you won’t be able to exit until you show the guard the tax receipt; you’ll be directed to the kiosk if you haven’t paid already.

  • The Sierra Leone airport tax is $25 per person  

This step is also made really easy, and you shouldn’t have any problems. They will need your passport and pay in cash (U.S $) for ease; make sure you get the receipt. 

I suggest taking enough dollars in cash with you to pay for the visa, airport tax and ferry. However, I also think it’s a better idea to take dollars and change it into leones once you’re in Sierra Leone rather than taking leones from home. Why? Because you’ll get a huge stack of notes if you convert your spending money into leones, which isn’t practical to travel with.

Pro tip >> If you’re changing dollars to leones with the money man you’ll need $100 bills. They get funny with the $50 bills. Don’t change all your dollars at once, you can do it again later if you run out. It’s also easier to convert dollars back into your local currency than leones if you have any left and you might be able to pay with dollars at some places/activities. 

I’ve written a full money guide for Sierra Leone here. It explains how to get money, where to change money, tipping and what you can expect from your visit. 

How To Get From Lungi Airport To Freetown | Private Ferry

The private ferry/water taxi from Lungi airport to Freetown

Catching the private ferry/water taxi from Lungi airport to Freetown is by far the best way to make this journey. Trust me, it’s going to make your visit much smoother. 

The private ferry is the fastest and most convenient way to cross the river; however, this is still Africa, and hiccups often occur.

On my last visit we waited almost 2 hours at the jetty for the ferry; it had broken down and had to return with the passengers. We hadn’t boarded this one as there were too many people but there are only two ferries running between the ports, so when one breaks it’s a problem. 

Why catch the ferry from Lungi airport to Freetown?

There’re a few reasons why I think the private ferry is the best option. The top reason though is for ease and comfort. The arrival time (for the cheaper flights) is generally early in the  morning and the last thing I want to do in a foreign country is mess around with (unreliable) public transport. It’s also (usually) the fastest option and after a long flight I just want to get to my accommodation and sleep. 

The private ferry takes about 30 minutes to reach the other side once it sets off. Which is great but if you get unlucky like me on this last trip, it took 2.5 hours. I didn’t get to the compound until after 5 am and then my dad wanted an early start to begin sorting visas for our West Africa road trip! 

Who I Recommend Using

The Seacoach express tickets at Lungi Airport, Sierra Leone

To my knowledge there are currently two private ferry companies operating the journey from Lungi Airport to Freetown: Seacoach and Seabird. 

They are both reliable, although I have only ever used Seacoach, (which used to be called Pelican). Since these are the guys I’ve always used they are who I suggest you also use. 

Where To Find The Ferry Office

As soon as you exit the building expect to get bombarded by touts trying to sell you transport and SIM cards. 

I usually purchase a local SIM while in Sierra Leone, although doing so at the airport isn’t the cheapest place. On this trip I purchased the Airalo e-sim before I arrived so I had data until I got to the center and could buy one locally.

  • 1GB for $6.50 lasting 7 days >> Airalo e-sim.

The ticket desk for Seacoach is not far from the exit, just head out of the building, walk straight and you’ll find it on your right. 

Pro tip >> If you’re at all concerned about being hassled you can ask one of the airport bag guys to take you to the ticket desk. You’ll need to give them a tip but they will take you there. 

Cost And What To Expect

The cost of the Seacoach is $45 per person for a one-way trip. 

Here’s all the details so you know what to expect! 

The Seacoach minibuss at Lungi Airport, Freetown .

Once you’ve purchased your tickets they’re gonna take your bags. Make sure you keep hold of your bag ticket as you’ll need this to collect your bag at the other end. Keep all valuables on you.

You’ll then be directed into a waiting area. You’ll likely be offered a SIM by someone. This is a better place to buy one rather than outside if you are buying one at the airport, (you’ll be seated and it’s calmer). They will add credit/data for you. You can give them your phone and they will set it all up for you. 

Next you’ll be taken to a minibus for transportation to the jetty. It’s not a long journey and once you arrive at the jetty you’ll be shown to another waiting area, just follow the other people if you get confused. Hopefully, you won’t be waiting too long! 

I’ve found the journey across the river pleasant, it’s usually smooth although it does depend on the time of year you’re visiting as the rainy season brings choppy weather. 

Pro tip >> Once you dock at Freetown there are usually taxis waiting. However, I suggest arranging transportation through your hotel to ensure you have someone to pick you up, especially if you’re arriving in the early morning hours.  

How To Get From Lungi Airport To Freetown | Sierra Leone Government Ferry

I personally haven’t caught the public ferry before but I’ve got all this information from my dad who has; he lived in Sierra Leone for over 12 years. 

From Lungi airport, you’ll need to get to the public ferry terminal. There are a few options to do this, you can either use the local bus which is very affordable, jump in a shared taxi or take a private taxi which can be arranged at the airport.

All options will get you to the ferry terminal but keep in mind local transport is generally very unreliable; this includes the government ferry as well.

The government ferry terminal is about 8 miles from the airport. You should exit Lungi airport to the left.

Cost and What To Expect

The government ferry costs 27 leones per person (that’s just over a dollar $). You’ll also need to budget for transportation to the ferry terminal. Depending on your method prices vary. The private taxi will be the most expensive. I’d budget $20 absolute max, but it’s certainly negotiable for less.

There is a small market at the ferry terminal where you can buy some drinks and snacks. The boat journey is just over an hour if everything runs smoothly but the engines tend to fail quite regularly, you also need to factor in loading and unloading which can take hours. It’s very unorganised and chaotic.

Another issue is that you will be dropped in Kissi, which is on the east end of Freetown, most accommodations are in the west end. It takes around 30 minutes to travel between the east end and west end. The best option from here is to jump in a tuk tuk, which fits 3 people, and will cost about 50 Le.

How To Get From Lungi Airport To Freetown | By Road

Travelling by road in a taxi from Lungi airport to Freetown is very impractical, and let me tell you why. 

Firstly, it’s expensive and secondly, it takes a long time. If you’re lucky the least you’ll pay is around $40 but I assure you they will go in with a higher price, it’s negotiable (almost everything in Sierra Leone is negotiable) but you won’t get a one way trip for less than $40. 

It takes about 3 hours, which is madness considering the private ferry (water taxi) will cross the Sierra Leone River in 30 minutes. In my opinion, it’s worth the extra $5, which will also be hassle free!

That said, the road is quite good and it will give you an opportunity to see the countryside, villages and scenery. However, unless you have no a severe phobia of boats, I still recommend the water taxi.

My Recommendation | How To Get To Freetown From Lungi Airport in Sierra Leone

Overall, the best way to get from Lungi airport to Freetown in Sierra Leone is on the private ferry. Seacoach is the company I recommend using and it’s going to cost you $45 one way! It’s important that you organise transportation to pick you up in Freetown, especially if you’re landing in Sierra Leone on any early morning flight. 

If you’re on a tight budget then the government ferry is doable and can be quite an experience but expect long delays, lots of people and chaos.

I really don’t recommend driving around the peninsula as it’s not worthwhile. The only reason you should be choosing this transport method is if you’ve got a serious fear of boats or you are heading elsewhere in Sierra Leone. 

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Thanks for reading. If you have any questions shoot me a message.