Liberia Travel Guide
To be frank, Liberia hasn’t had the best luck over the past 35 years. After the death of beloved President William Tubman in 1971, a power vacuum emerged, which set the country down the path towards civil war. Breaking out in 1989, the war raged on until 2003, with a brief ceasefire that barely lasted two years between 1997 and 1999.
Faced with shattered infrastructure, recovery efforts proceeded slowly. Then, in 2014, Liberia suffered another international black eye, as one of the worst Ebola outbreaks in years ravaged the country.
This health emergency was declared over in May 2015, but many remain dead set against going to this part of the world. Thing is, though, Liberia needs visitors and foreign investment more than ever these days.
If you are an adventurous traveler, not only will you have the experience of a lifetime without a tourist to be seen, you will be doing your part to help get this nation back up on its feet.
Currency: Liberian dollars
Languages: English, various indigenous languages
What To Do
Learning about this nation’s history is integral to understanding its current state, so set aside time in your schedule to check out the Liberian National Museum.
Although Liberia’s civil war depleted its initial supply of artifacts significantly (over 5,000 items were looted and sold to expats leaving the nation at the start of the chaos), 250 original pieces were hidden and saved by museum staff.
In addition to these priceless artifacts, there is now a sizable exhibit that chronicles the war which almost threatened its existence.
If you have an interest in the political history of Liberia, head over to the Centennial Pavilion. Within its halls, you will find the final resting place of William Tubman, a man widely regarded to be the Father of Liberia for bringing this nation into the modern age.
Throughout this grand building, you’ll find plenty of statues and murals that detail Liberia’s former leaders and the precepts which guided its development until the wheels fell off in the 1980’s.
A significant portion of those who now call Liberia home can trace their lineage to freed slaves who set out across the Atlantic from America and the Caribbean to make a new start on the home continent of their ancestors.
Providence Island is where these repatriated African Americans all those years ago. Although the site has seen better days (it degraded due to inattention during the war), its significance to the history of this country still warrants a visit, ideally accompanied by local guides for context.
Speaking of guided tours, consider booking with Social Impact Tours during your stay in Liberia. This group will take you to parts of Monrovia that you wouldn’t dare visit on your own.
However, you’ll be able to see the things local entrepreneurs are doing through the support of microloans, and how members of this city have come together to repair their society after the war ended in 2003.
From a ferry constructed wholly of recycled car parts to community tribunals set up to resolve disputes between family members and friends alike, there are plenty of examples of cooperation in this economically poor nation that we in the West could learn from.
As rough and ready as travel can be in Liberia, you’ll want to kick your feet up and relax at some point. Ce Ce Beach is the best place for this, as this stretch of golden sand is blissfully empty (and given the security situation, well-protected by armed guards).
While the infrastructure could be better (as it could be everywhere else in the country), there are a number of resorts here that stand ready to assist you in your efforts to unwind.
What to Eat
A staple across many nations in Western and Central Africa, Fufu is a common source of sustenance for Liberians. Made from cassava or plantain flour, it is kneaded into a thick porridge-like mass that is scooped up by the right hand of diners and rolled into a ball before being dipped in a groundnut soup (if available) and consumed.
When it comes to main courses, Jollof Rice is one of the most common meals that you will find on dinner and restaurant tables in Liberia. Long thought to be the predecessor to jambalaya in the Southern United States, Jollof Rice is made by cooking rice, tomatoes, tomato paste, chilli peppers, spices, salt, and onions together in one pot together.
Despite its name suggesting that it might be a condiment or side dish, Palaver Sauce is a stew that is well-loved by many people across Liberia. Reputed to help calm tension between quarrelling friends and family members, it eventually took its name from the Portuguese word for a lengthy heated debate. Eventually, it found its way to Liberia, where it has enjoyed widespread popularity over the years.