The capital city of Sierra Leone, Freetown is located on the Atlantic coast of West Africa and is a large and diverse city which hosts a combination of ethnicities, religions and cultures.
Originally founded by freed repatriated American slaves, Freetown has a rich history steeped in conflict and subsequent rebuilding.
Today it is home to more than 1 million people and is known for its exporting capabilities thanks to its excellent natural harbour, which is the largest of its type on the African continent.
Cruise ships will dock at the deep-water harbour, called the Queen Elizabeth II Quay. It is situated on the Sierra Leone River, which is close to the centre of the city.
General facilities can be difficult to locate in Freetown, so it is recommended you use the amenities on board your ship before disembarking. Speak with cruise authorities on what will be available in town.
There are few facilities available at the Queen Elizabeth II Quay. This is generally not a problem due to the convenient location of the port – it is only a 5 minute drive or a 30 minute walk to the CBD of Freetown. Taxis are often able to be shared or chartered. Once in town you can expect to find shops where you can purchase food and souvenirs.
How To Get Around
Freetown has a few options when it comes to travelling within the city. Local taxis run fixed routes and are usually shared, although many drivers will assume foreigners want to charter the taxi. Taxi fares are quite cheap though, so travelling the fixed routes could be a fun way to get to see the city from a different perspective.
Travel times from the port:
It is a 2 minute walk to the National Railway Museum
It is a 30 minute journey to the city centre
It is a 30 minute journey to the Cotton Tree.
It is a 5 minute journey to the city centre
It is a 5 minute journey to the Cotton Tree
It is a 40 minute journey to Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary.
Currency – The currency in Freetown is the Sierra Leonean Leone (Le). Notes come in Le1,000, Le2,000, Le5,000 and Le10,000 denominations. Coins come in Le10, Le50, Le100 and Le500 denominations.
Time Zone – Freetown runs on Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), which has no offset from Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).
Weather – The climate in Freetown is classed as tropical monsoon, meaning it typically experiences a wet season and a dry season, with the wet season being marked by strong thunderstorms. The wet season is from May to October. April is the hottest month in Freetown, with temperatures reaching an average high of 31.2 degrees Celsius. August is the coolest month, with an average high reaching a still-warm 28.4 degrees Celsius.
The Cotton Tree – The Cotton Tree is a historic symbol of Freetown. According to the story, a group of former African American slaves who gained their freedom by fighting for Britain during the American War of Independence arrived on the shore where modern Freetown stands and declared that the land should be cleared to where the large cotton tree stood. They then apparently gathered around the tree and spent time in thanksgiving, praising God for their arrival at this free land. Today, a cotton tree stands in the middle of the city, and locals believe it is the same tree those first settlers gathered around. It is regarded as a symbol of the city and many people still pray beneath the tree.
Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary – Tacugama is located 40 minutes outside of Freetown, in the Western Area Forest Reserve. If you want to see the chimpanzees that live in this 100-acre sanctuary, be sure to book your tour – groups leave at 10:30am and 4pm daily, but you must call ahead to reserve your spot.
National Railway Museum – The National Railway Museum in Freetown was officially opened in 2005. After the railway lines were all closed down in 1975, instead of sending all of the trains off to be scrapped, some of the last railwaymen decided to preserve a few of the locomotives by locking them in a remote shed in the rail works. These trains survived the war for independence fought by Sierra Leone against the United Kingdom, and also the civil war which was fought in the 90s. After the culmination of this war, a UK army officer took it upon himself to look for the lost trains, of which there were stories but no recent sightings. Once found, he managed to secure them as items of national importance and helped create the National Railway Museum. This museum can be visited from 10am-4pm, Monday through Saturday.