|Sea Bird boat during daylight, Freetown, Sierra Leone|
So, just follow the steps below:
- Descend the plane. Have your boarding ticket in your hand, they will check it when descending the plane. Have your paper landing visa, passport, yellow fever vaccination card, and baggage tags readily available, but not right in your hand.
- Enter the bus which will take you to immigration hall. Disembark the bus, and follow the crowd inside the immigration hall.
- Join the line for foreign passports but if asked to change lines, do it. They are trying to help you and speed up the lines.
- Comply with all requests and directions from the officer in the immigration box, including the request to place two index fingers for scanning, and to take a picture. They will ask you the address of the place where you are staying, and maybe a telephone number. The officer needs landing visa and your passport. S/he will take the landing visa and stamp the passport with a one month single entry tourist visa. Along the way someone will likely ask to see your yellow fever vaccination card.
- After your passport is stamped, go left past the money changers (stop and change a $20 if you want). The exchange rate is visible. Proceed to baggage pick-up. Get a cart for 10,000Leones if you like.
- Pick up your bags from the belt. If your baggage does not appear, go to the lost luggage counter directly behind you in the baggage area. It’s an obvious process, and the staff is honest, helpful, and speak English. Complete the form as directed, and keep the copy. Check that there is a telephone number where you can call to track the process, and not only an email. Usually lost luggage flies in with the next flight in your airline, and is sent with the boat, so you can pick it up in Freetown.
- Proceed with your bags (follow the crowd) to the exit. Eventually you might be stopped by customs, and requested to open your bags. Have your baggage tags out and ready. A person will match your tags to the tags on your suitcases. S/he won’t take the tags. Then exit out the door into the arrivals hall.
- If you are met by somebody sent by your sponsoring organisation, family or friends, just tell all the eager folks offering you service that you are being met. Follow your scort out of the airport building.
- Go out of the gate, now you are "in the open". You will see slightly to your right two buildings; one for the Sea Coach, and slightly further away to the right, the Sea Bird. Buy a ticket with any of them. Your suitcases will be tagged, keep carefully all the tags. You can carry with you a small bag, it is handier to board the boat if you have a bag that allows you to have your hands free, such a backpack. A small trolley is also possible, but not so handy.
- Your bags will be taken away and put in a small bus.
- You will be asked to board another small bus. You will be offered if you want to buy a SIM card, or asked for "Christmas money" or "Sunday money", meaning a tip.
- Disembark the bus, you might get a glimpse of your bags arriving safely at the dock and properly loaded on the boat. You can just sit and wait. Once called, join the queue to board the boat. You will have to show your boat ticket before walking the wooden pontoon dock. Flat shoes are obviously handy, since the pontoon dock can move a bit if water is rough. Staff will help you to board, and are very friendly with children, carrying them in their arms if needed.
- The water taxi trip takes about 40 minutes. It can be bumpy during the rainy season. You will have a life jacket, and the boat is closed.
- On arrival at the dock in Freetown, staff will help you disembark onto pontoon dock. If somebody is waiting you there, be sure to have agreed in advanced the water taxi company you are using, since they have docks in different places. Sea Coach has its dock in Aberdeen, and Sea Bird in Murray Town.
- You are already in Freetown, the last bit is to show your luggage tags so that you get your luggage. Be patient, you are almost there.
- Be sure you have arranged your transport from the dock to wherever you are going in advanced. Don't expect public transport readily available or a line of taxis waiting for you.
Now you can breathe a sigh of relief. You made it!