Do not walk around at night, and make sure that your car doors are locked when you drive around. Thieves will often reach into a car when stopped and grab whatever they can, so keep the glass up especially in busy areas of Monrovia redlight. Rape and armed robbery are common and on the rise. Hotels etc have private guards and are rather safe.
There are some gangs of former combatants, armed with machetes and guns, who walk around poorer areas of Monrovia Redlight. There are also former combatants in the Palm Grove Cemetery on Center Street. Do not walk there alone at all.
The corner of Randall and Carey is also considered dangerous and supposedly a hang-out for drug dealers.
Avoid any desolate places, and stay in groups.
Keep an eye on the locals, if they are carrying on as normal and you see plenty of women and children about, it is unlikely that there will be major sources of concern. If, however, people have disappeared from a usually busy location, or you find yourself surrounded only by youths, you should try and make a hasty retreat.
UNMIL has calmed the country in general but it is already now anticipated that when UNMIL leaves the security situation will be worse.
It is advisable to inform your embassy that you are in the country in case of evacuation.
Furthermore, learn as much about the security situation as you can. Locals are a key source of information. Be careful, however, not to believe everything you hear. Rumours spread like wildfire in Monrovia as they are the main source of news. Details, however, are often inaccurate.
Local newspapers are interesting reads. Daily Observer has the largest circulation but there are also several others. You can buy them in the street.
HIV, while still low, is on the increase. Prostitution is rampant. Typhoid, malaria, and worms are very common. Stay AWAY from anybody exhibiting any signs of the Ebola Virus. Disinfectants and gels are also advisable especially as handshakes are the norm. There are few doctors usable by international travelers so getting medical help may pose problems. There is apparently a Jordanian wing at the Kennedy hospital for private patients. MSF will also see a traveler, but only in dire cases.
Bagged water is sold on most street corners. While it is supposed to be filtered and safe, it is not guaranteed to be. Stick with bottled water to be sure. You can buy bottled water at any supermarket, restaurant, or at the Total gas stations.
A letter of invitation and a yellow fever vaccination certificate are necessary to apply for a Liberian visa. For US citizens, a 3-month visa costs USD131, for all others the fee is USD100. One, two & three year multiple-entry visas are also available. Be aware that all visas only entitle you to a 30 day stay and you will need to visit the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization BIN in Monrovia to apply for an extension beyond this time. Multiple-entry visas may also require a 're-entry letter' approved by the BIN for all subsequent trips.
The embassy in Conakry has been moved out of town to the town of Kipe. At the Freetown embassy service is next day and no hassle. They will stamp the duration of your stay in your passport when travelling overland so be sure not to give too few days when they ask or else you will have to go to immigration office in Broad Street in Monrovia to extend your visa for USD20 though they will probably ask for more.
Liberia has made a giant leap into the technological or digital age with the arrival of many mobile phone companies; like Lonestar/MTN Cell the nation's largest mobile company, Cellcom, Comium, Libercell formely AWI Atlantic Wireless Inc & the government own Libtelco. Mobile phone usage is the leading medium of contact to the outside with some Lonestar and Cellcom offering GPRS/internet modem usage. So when you arrive, visiting or staying, you need a mobile phone. These mobile companies use recharge card called "Scratch Card" locally to recharge. The only exception is Libtelco, that is done by paying monthly bills. Landlines are used only at offices. It is managed & owned by the government also, Libtelco. The internet is very slow & at times discouraging. Some restaurants, pubs, bars & hotels offer free internet services to customers or little payment. The Heineken pub between 18th & 19th streets offers a wireless coverage once a bottle is bought, so you can make an interestine sip over your chilly drink & your own laptop. With the arrival of the fibre optic cable in Monrovia, it is anticipated that by the summer of next year, Liberia's internet would be fast, after installation work is done.
DHL operates in Liberia. Expedited Mail Service promises 5 day delivery to the US. EMS counter is at the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunication on MacDonald Street.
The regular post office has just started to operate. The post office is at the very end of Randall Street by Waterside market. Post cards will cost 30 Liberian dollars to send, and will probably arrive at their destination. Packages are packed on the premises.
To receive mail, you must get a locked box together with a P.O.Box number at the Randall Street post office. Do not send anything of value through the Liberian postal service. Numerous people have reported items being stolen while at the post office; in Liberia the postal system is new and very corrupt.
Liberians are very friendly and sociable. However, they do not take kindly to being ignored and will call you "rude". Make sure that you greet as many people as possible and smile when you do so. Make friends with any guard, cleaner etc that you come across, introduce yourself and remember their names. Your security will also improve as the locals will warn you of security threats if they know you and know that they can talk to you.
Handshaking is the normality, usually followed by a finger snap. Shake hands with people you meet, even fruit sellers.
As Liberia's economy is not at its best, you will inevitably be asked for money or help of some kind. Usually the most persistent beggars are former combatants. Giving money to the elderly or the physically disabled will not go amiss. However, with most children and others, it's best to spend a little time with them, play a game, take digital photos loved here and then possibly give something as a gift to your friends. Liberians are proud people and their desperate need is no reason to treat them as beggars.
School fees are expensive up to a USD100/year so often foreigners are asked to pay for school, but this can also be used as a ploy.
Most people in Monrovia, with the exception of internally displaced people, are relatively well-off in Liberian terms. The worst conditions are in the countryside, where help is also most needed.
Rather than saying "no" to the requests, considered rude here, say "later" or "tomorrow" or "I will see what I can do". Do not ignore people. However, be assertive when answering as they'll often pester you and call you "boss" until you give in.
It is advisable to bring some business cards. They are given out at every function.
The wars of the 1990s and 2000s are very fresh in MANY people's minds so it is advisable to stay away from the topic.
The higher the social status of an individual, the more respect is due to them, even though that does not mean you don't give any respect to the extremely poor or bathe the wealthy with gifts of gratitude.
Rape is on the increase so be hesitant to walk by yourself in previously unknown or remote areas. Men on the whole will treat women with respect. They may tell you how beautiful you are, that they "love you" or ask you to marry them more for the status rather than the money, but will not grab hold of you or be in any way improper.