So you’ve made it to Liberia. Congratulations. Welcome.
Now breath it all in. I know, the air feels a little thick, but don’t worry, that’s just the humidity. Now that you are off the plane and in the Robert’s International Airport (RIA), things will seem a bit hectic, without any order, but just relax. The process will be over soon, and you will receive your luggage with all your items in them.
You’ve now received your luggage and its time to hit the road. Do just that. Do not stop on the way for anyone. The road is very dark, but trust the driver who is familiar with the place and driving at night to lead the way. No, the city does not get much brighter than this at night.
Welcome to the third world. 🙂
Liberia can be a very interesting and fun visit, but only if you allow yourself to experience it for what it has, and not what you expect or have to compare it to. Liberia is a developing nation, so do not expect the systems you are used to abroad to work the same. People living in the country have a system that works for them, and it can work for you too; you simply have to allow it. Even if it seems alien, remember; REAL people live there, and they deserve your respect and your humility.
While it may seem harmless from your perspective, refrain from talking down on the country to the people showing you around or compare/contrasting it to where you are from constantly. Again, real people live lives in the conditions you might not be used to, so be respectful of those people, and their communities. Liberians living at home can be very hospitable, but that depends on your own attitude as the visitor. You are home. These are your people, your communities. View it, and treat it as such.
While in Monrovia, or wherever you might be staying during your stay, try to give yourself time and space to take it all in. You’ve spent all this money to visit, ensure you make a to-do list to enable you enjoy the trip to its fullest extent.
Unfortunately, public transportation in the nation’s capital is an adventure, but luckily, there are local private cab companies like Solo Cab or MyCab, which you can utilize for $10-$15 per ride, with daily charter options. Another great option to moving around is the Keh-keh, which frequents the busy parts of Paynesville and Central Monrovia. These tiny taxis are ideal for movement away from the main boulevard, as they maneuver traffic easily and can get into tight spaces.
If you are new to the country, it is important to find someone familiar with the terrain to help you navigate. This can range from a family member, to a driver, a friend, etc. Liberia is more than meets the eye, so having someone on the ground who is familiar with the climate to show you the where’s where, or who’s who, can make the trip much smoother. A guide can help you navigate the streets, the currency, and the activities.
November 29 marks the official initiation into the Liberian Dry season enjoyment. The months of November-January in Monrovia can be very exciting, but very exhausting. Pace yourself. With so many events and activities happening all at once, it is possible to do them all, but you need to pace yourself and tackle it all one day, or even one hour at a time. The clubs in the city tend to get crowded around 12 AM and up, so its advised to start your night at a more local pub or entertainment center, by taking a nap to prepare for the night ahead, or pre-gaming with friends, then heading out a little later for the long night of activities that awaits you.
There are already promotions for a variety of events happening in the country between the months mentioned. From beach parties, to concerts, pool parties, blogger parties, resort parties, pop-up-shops, and even a few festivals. You are in for an adventure people.
Instagram has become a great tool to know what’s happening in Liberia, so search the various hashtags relating to Liberia (#Liberia #Monrovia #DecemberinLiberia #KoloquaDialogues) to find different blogs and promotions about the activities happening in the country. Liberian nightlife is very scheduled, with each day being dedicated to a specific location. If you are like us though, and want to go rogue in your own lane, its good to be aware of all that’s available, so as to make your choice of the places to visit on your own terms.
Its no secret that Liberia is home to some of the best cooks in West Africa, however, the food options can feel a bit limited. Many high-end hotel restaurants have menus filled with western foods rather than traditional Liberian dishes. The restaurants with Liberian and other African foods, like Terra Cota, Ma Ju’s Burger Spot, Ghana Chop Bar, Vicky’s Fingers, the Capital Room, or Evelyn’s, are some of the country’s favorite for Liberian food. Only downside to these, and the more local joints called “lappa-b-Dos”, is that food on the menu tend to finish earlier on within the lunch hours. To avoid disappointment with your choices not being available, try arriving early, or calling ahead to place your orders. Apart from restaurants, there are many community markets, shops, and super markets filled with fruits, fresh veggies, and other foods you might need to cook your own cravings.
Shopping in Monrovia is a thrifter and street shopper’s paradise! There are several shopping hubs in Paynesville and Monrovia. A favorite is Benson St., Waterside market, Vai Town market, and Ma-Juah’s market in Central Monrovia; and Gobachop market in Paynesville. If you are patient and prepared for an adventure, there’s nothing you won’t find.
Along with these street markets, there are several shops also located in the city on Benson, Randall, Broad, and Carey Streets. These shops carry both African and other types of clothing and items. Other shops are Liberian owned Mango Rags, home of Shop Bomchel on Camp Johnson Road, Afropolitan on Benson St., and Monsio Couture on the Robertsfield highway. If you are a make it from scratch kind of vibe, then you can buy fabric from several shops and have a tailor make something for you.
While Liberia can make for a very memorable visit, it can also feel very frustrating at times; like in traffic, for example. With only one main boulevard connecting the city, traffic can be a serious buzzkill, especially in the heat of the holiday season. The secret to avoiding it though, is to start your journey earlier on in the morning, and leave town before the close of the work day when traffic is at its peak.
Another thing that could be frustrating is the water and electricity situation, depending on where you are staying in the country. Liberia relies largely on generators for electricity, as the national system remains unreliable. Some areas also require use of handpump water, rather than pipe borne water, so be prepared to make use of your arms and legs.
Besides the above mentioned discomforts, visiting Liberia can provide an experience of a lifetime. The country is naturally beautiful and blessed. The people are accommodating, food is great, women are beautiful, beaches are paradise. What more could you want really?
With the season starting to heat up, be sure to check back regularly for more ways to not only survive, but also make the most of your trip to Liberia.