Luanda, Angola Report of what it's like to live there - 08/03/11

Personal Experiences from Luanda, Angola

Luanda, Angola 08/03/11

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No. Also lived in Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, Managua, Libreville and Kabul.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

It's a two-day trip from Washington DC, through either Europe or Johannesburg. The "Huston Express" is a private plane that travels between Huston and Luanda, but it is much more expensive than commercial flights.

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3. How long have you lived here?

I am one year into a two-year tour.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

US Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Apartments and houses are abundant in the city but are VERY expensive ($10,000 to $20,000/month in rent). Yards are rare. Commute times are extreme, often multiple hours -- even to go just a few miles.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Some products are available, but they are of low quality and are very, very, expensive (2-3 times what those products would cost in the States).

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

More cleaning supplies and anything you want to eat or use over the course of your assignment. Don't plan to buy ANYTHING in Angola.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

There are quite a few restaurants throughout the city. Lots of pasta and pizza, but it will generally cost around US$50/meal.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

None.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Mosquitoes and flies are everywhere.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

No mail in or out of Angola.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Very available, but poorly trained and generally not motivated to learn/work. Costs are similar to what it would be in NYC or DC.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Not at affordable prices (they are generally between $500 and $1,000/month).

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Credit cards and ATMs are not usable in Angola.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There is a weekly Catholic service in English in Luanda. That's the only one I know of, but there are a lot of Missionaries in the country, so I imagine there are other options.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

TV is available in English for about $100/month. Newspapers are not available in English.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You need a basic understanding of Portuguese or Spanish. French will work occasionally in a pinch. English is not very common.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Luanda would be extremely difficult for anyone with physical disabilities. Streets are in very bad shape, and many buildings have multiple stories without working elevators. Sidewalks are often pot-holed or non-existent.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

None available.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

SUVs are a necessity IF you choose to drive. Many people are arriving and deciding that it's not worth the trouble to drive in the city because traffic is so horrific. If you choose to have a car, definitely ship it in, because prices are ridiculously prohibitive in Angola.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Internet will cost about $100/month, but that is in no way high speed.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Don't bother to bring one from the States. Cell phones run on a completely different system there. Buy something cheap in Angola and don't use it often -- it's expensive!

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

No quality pet care available. I chose to leave my beloved dog in the States with family, and I am very glad I did so.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

No.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Fairly dressy. Similar to Miami.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Street crime is frequent, but there is very little violence.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

No good medical care is available -- we are medivac'd for almost any issue. Malaria is common.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Unhealthy. Lots of traffic, and during the dry season (~8 months out of the year) the air settles in over the city and never moves.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Warm and dry much of the year with 3-4 months of hot, muggy rainy season.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

No.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Large, but many expats are locked into company compounds or on oil rigs.

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2. Morale among expats:

Very low.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Nightclubs are abundant. That's about it.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Singles will have a good time partying, but it can get lonely. It's a tough city for families, especially with small kids.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Not great.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Not that I have experienced.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Travel outside the country to Namibia or South Africa.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

There is some art available, but the same things are found in Namibia and South Africa (and probably throughout all of Southern Africa) at half the price.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

There are some beaches within one to two hours of the city that are decent, though they are often packed. Nightlife is great in the city for anyone who wants to go out between 2 and 7 am, but it is very very expensive.

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11. Can you save money?

No.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Never.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Pets. Water sports equipment. Bicycle. Car.

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3. But don't forget your:

Everyday products. All of them!

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

It's a tough place, but like anywhere else, it is what you make of it.

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