Liberia - Visa on Arrival possible?

Safe? Westpoint in Monrovia.
Arrived in Monrovia on a 45-minute flight from Freetown. I did not have a visa for Liberia in my passport and was supposed to get one on arrival. After having luck in immigrating to Guinea and Sierra Leone, I once again was nervous that they might challenge my immigration request upon arrival in Liberia. 

Border crossings in West Africa are definitely not fun at all.

The visa obtaining for Liberia would have been quite simple if the French Chronopost (the worst company on the planet) had not lost or stolen my passport and together with it, the already issued Liberian visa in the passport. There is no Liberian embassy in Switzerland so my nearest embassy was in France and I had to apply there.

One week before departure for the trip (Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia) I still hadn't my passport returned. I decided to opt for an emergency passport and ask the Liberian Embassy in Paris for a visa on arrival at the airport in Liberia.

This is no normal procedure and method of application, especially not for tourists. Only in emergency cases do the officials in the Monrovia airport issue visa on arrival. I asked the embassy for help and it turned out the consul at the French embassy has a brother who works at the immigration office in Liberia. Via Whatsapp, the whole thing went very fast. Within three days I received an official approved letter via Whatsapp, which I should show on arrival in Monrovia and I will get the visa on arrival at Monrovia airport.

I was simply required to show up the day after arrival at the immigration office in Monrovia and pay the amount (150 USD) in cash.

Arrival in Monrovia

I arrived at 21:00 in Monrovia airport. The immigration officer simply needed to see the approval letter that I got via Whatsapp. He made the entry stamp and I was good to go. I didn't expect it at all to be so uncomplicated.

It's a small airport, sim card purchase is possible but no official money exchange is possible. I was referred to the money dealers (black market) in front of the airport to change.

The airport was far away from the city. About 90 minutes to Sinkor, the district outside Monrovia downtown. The taxi trip was a whopping 50 USD.

Liberia is definitely an expensive place and so are the hotels. Hotels are extremely expensive in Monrovia for what you get. 100 dollars per night for somehow basic accommodation.

Also the restaurants have price ratios similar to restaurants in Europe. Interestingly there are almost no restaurants run by locals, most of the restaurant owners are Lebanese.

Day 2 - Downtown Monrovia

My plan for Liberia was not that comprehensive. I intended to settle everything with the visa and then visit Monrovia downtown. In the best case, if everything goes well, I hoped to see something outside the city and some nature.

I took the cab to downtown Monrovia and walked in the streets to the Liberia Immigration Service. The first glimpse in the streets of Monrovia was not as bad as expected. But maybe because it was relatively quiet as its still early morning.

Downtown Monrovia as Tourist

The Liberia Immigration Service building is as old and crumbling as the residential and commercial buildings around it. 

It seems not much has been done over the last 20 years, since the civil war. At the entrance, I mentioned I had to see the chief of immigration "Nelson" and was sent on the climb up to the 3rd floor.

Nelson was already waiting for me, sitting with 4 other agents in the office in a meeting. I then thankfully paid for the visa.

He told me a lot about the situation at that time during the war. From the balcony, he showed me in which corners of the city what happened back in those days.

Tall building in Monrovia in 2022

Walked through the streets. The morning was about to end and accordingly, the noise and traffic slowly increased.

Traffic situation Monrovia

Unfortunately, the museum was closed today. It's right in the middle of the city and one of the nicest buildings all over Monrovia.

Monrovia Museum visit as Tourism

The main church in Monrovia and next to the Museum.

Important church in Monrovia

The EJ Roye building. According to Nelson the immigration officer, this building played a major part during the siege in the civil war. Rebels and the army were fighting for it.

The building hasn't been renovated at all since then and the bullet holes and RPG impacts are still visible on the whole building.

EJ Roye building captured by rebels

Ducor Palace. The building is in disrepair. 

The rebels entrenched themselves in it during the war and so it was shelled.

Originally, the Libyans owned it, specifically the people around Gaddafi. After the Liberian war, Libya wanted to renovate it, but since Libya was at war itself in 2011, all funds were cut off. Since then, the hotel is in ruins and remains empty.

Ducor Palace open for tourism

When I arrived I was stopped as it was guarded, but for 2 dollars "entrance fee" they let me pass. 

What will happen to the hotel in the future is unclear. According to the security people, it still belongs to Libya and the Libyan Embassy is developing plans for a new hotel.

Inside Ducor Palace, everything is broken

The view from the top is spectacular.

The entire Monrovia is visible. The corner "Westpoint", the peninsula which looks like a nice place from above, is the place where the poorest people live in Monrovia. It's a huge slum.

Ducor Palace top floor

Went to the Water market and down to Westpoint market.

I asked if it was fine for me to walk there and they said yes. During the day it's no problem, no one will harm me. But I should not go there when the sun sets.

How to get to Westpoint Monrovia

Walked through the edge of Westpoint village to the beach and fishing boats. I continued through the residential areas of Westpoint and back to Monrovia downtown.

Westpoint during the day. Not dangerous.

Day 3 - Trip to "Hotel Africa" from Civil War

Wanted to visit some area outside of Monrovia. So I asked for a motorbike driver to bring me to Cece Beach and the Africa Hotel.

It's a 45 minutes drive by motorcycle for 7 USD one way.

The conditions of the roads and buildings are getting worse outside Monrovia.   

Kehkeh drive in Monrovia

Roads are full of potholes and buildings are almost deteriorating. The paint is peeling everywhere. Streets are clogged with people, mud and motorcycles.

Street conditions in Monrovia

The area around Cece beach is solely inhabited by locals. Unfortunately, the motorbike driver had no clue where he was and drove to some residential bush village. And the locals were wondering what I plan to do here.

It wasn't a nice beach but still, it was fine.

Drive to Hotel Africa in Monrovia

My plan was to visit Hotel Africa. Why? Because I didn't find anything better to visit on my last day in Liberia. Hotel Africa is right on the beach.

It is 2 km from the main road. I wasn't allowed to go inside but also didn't want to as the building looks unsafe all over.

Hotel Africa in 2022

This former hotel was a top hotel until the war and was then bombed because rebels had entrenched themselves in it. The building has belonged to the state since the war, but the locals require a tip to enter the property.

The driver waited and looked around as well, having never been there himself.

Entrance Fee Hotel Africa

The drive back is an experience in itself, with the many markets and congested roads one drives through. Liberia is also a country where people are allergic to cameras, they sometimes shout when they see a camera but in general, they don't get angry.

Market outside Hotel Africa

Day 4 - Beach south of Monrovia

It was just a short stroll from the Hotel and I didn't expect it to be a scenic beach. Yes everything is broken and there are poor housing villages, but it was nice to take a look. 

Demolished Beach sincw war in Monrovia

Hundreds of obsolete dilapidated small houses seemed like they were built a hundred years ago. It's where the poor people of Monrovia live. However, it needs to be said they have literally the best view right at the ocean, and probably they live there for free. 

So it's probably a question of time until the state expels these and builds nice residential buildings or restaurants.

Slum in rich Monrovia

Departure - Leaving Monrovia takes a lot of time

The traffic from the city to the airport is extreme in the evening.

Normally the trip takes 1h30 minutes by car, but with this traffic, it was over 2h.

On the road there is absolute chaos, everyone is looking for his own way and everything is allowed. There are no road laws. Thankfully my driver was attentive and recommended picking me up from the hotel a whopping 4.5 hours before flight departure. I thought it is way too much but it seems he knew very well what is going on.

Departure at 21:30. Monrovia airport is uncomplicated and small. It maybe has a dozen flights all week.

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