The Leone, abbreviated as Le, is the monetary unit. Leone coins come in denominations of Le50, Le100, and Le500. The Le1000, Le2000, Le5000, and Le10000 banknotes are the most common. New bank notes were launched on May 14th, 2010. The new notes are somewhat larger than the old ones and are said to be more durable. There has been no replacement for the previous Le500 note. The designs are eerily similar to those seen on older banknotes. As of the end of May 2010, the new notes greatly exceed the old kind, thus it’s safe to assume that people won’t want to accept the old notes for much longer. For one year after the introduction date of the new notes, the old kind may be exchanged at banks.
It is extremely simple to exchange money, whether on the black market or via institutions. The rates at the airport’s tiny bank are fair. Although additional currencies are available, the most common are the GB£, Euro, and US$.
Only a few stores, restaurants, and hotels accept credit cards (Visa mostly). Major credit cards are accepted at the airport duty-free store. Some of the other hotels want to accept credit cards. Some banks may let you borrow money using a credit card, but the procedure can be lengthy and expensive.
In Freetown, ATMs are available. A visa card ATM is available at Rokel Commercial Bank. Ecobank ATMs allow international master card/Visa cards for cash withdrawals.
Money and daily life
Even though Sierra Leone is a poor nation, the high cost of living will surprise you. Many products are twice the price that one would expect to pay in other nations due to a lack of a proper import system, hefty import tariffs, and a 15% Goods and Services Tax (GST).
When it comes to items found on the street, foreigners often pay much more than locals, so be sure to negotiate and reduce the price as much as possible. You can get by in Freetown on a daily budget of LE 220,000 (about $55) if you are willing to stay in inexpensive guest rooms (which implies not a safe location with bed bugs in the bed), travel solely by local bus (poda poda), and eat exclusively on street corners (which is not advised for your health). A more reasonable price is about LE 440,000 (about $110) if you want to eat good restaurant meals every now and then and stay in mid-range accomodation. You can easily munch through LE 880,000 (about $220) each day if you want to eat and sleep properly.