Luanda, Angola Report of what it's like to live there - 03/28/15
Personal Experiences from Luanda, Angola
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No, lived around the world in a variety of settings.
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?
Washington DC - 20 or so hours. Many possible connections in Europe, UAE, and Houston.
3. How long have you lived here?
Over a year.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
As long as you like high-rise apartment living, you will probably be very happy with your housing. The Embassy has really nice apartments for employees, almost all of them with some type of view. Many have decks and a few have pools or basic gyms. Houses are few and far between and have endless maintenance issues. None of them have yards. All housing is located within about three miles of the Embassy though the commute time is totally unpredictable.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Availability has improved since I arrived but has now gotten worse due to import restrictions. Costs vary widely. Seasonal tropical items aren't bad, but if really want broccoli on the wrong day you can pay US$11+. Strawberries can be US$10 for 10 berries. Cheese and ice cream are pricey. Fish is surprisingly expensive and poor quality. Bread, milk and staples are relatively reasonable. Overall, we get one of the highest COLAs in the world so it is fine.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Just liquids, especially cleaning products and personal care products.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
KFC is here but unbelievably expensive. A lunch buffet is easily US$50, dinner at an average restaurant is US$80 and up. A meal out is rarely worth the money but it is nice to get out with friends.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
You have to take malaria meds though the mosquitoes are not overwhelming; non-existent at the beaches and generally not a problem in the apartments.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Pouch only - no liquids.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Available but mediocre quality and expensive for Africa. US$300-$500/month and up.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
The Embassy has a pretty nice gym that is free. Some apartments have gyms but other than that, I have never heard of anyone going to a local gym.
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?
Don't plan on it.
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
The more, the better.
6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Trains and buses - no. Taxis - Some people have started to use them.
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?
4WD. Big. Sturdy. Able to make it over the giant potholes. The roads are terrible.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, and it is pretty much reliable. It stream hulu and netflix you will need the package that costs US$300/month.
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 quarantine that I know of. I have heard that there is a relatively good vet in Talatona (suburbs) that people have used.
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, but plenty of jobs at the Embassy.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Business or business casual.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Yes! We never forget that this is a critical crime threat post. Lots of street crime. No walking around after dark. No walking any time in restricted areas, especially the road connecting the Marginal with the Embassy.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
You will be med-evac'd for any significant health problems.
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?
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Hot and humid in the (Angolan) summer, cool in the winter. Short rainy season in March/April. Really nice temps in the winter though a bit gloomy because it is almost always overcast.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There is only one international school and the commute can be from 1-2 hours each direction. Some people are happy with it, others aren't. Besides academic concerns, a common complaint is that there are no competitive sports.
2. 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?
Some families are experimenting with a local daycare and have been happy. Talk to the CLO for updated information.
3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
We are by far the biggest embassy so there are a handful of other diplomats and of course the oil people. Some people are happy, some aren't. You have to make a concerted effort to drive to the beaches, to go out to eat, to get out of the country regularly. If you make the effort you will probably have a much better experience overall.
2. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
It is tough for families because there aren't any activities outside of school. Some singles and couples have enjoyed the very active nightlife. Like any developing country, it is what you make of it and depends on how much effort you put into getting out of the house.
3. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Not really, but members of the Angolan government do NOT like Americans. We supported the wrong side in the war. It can be exhausting.
4. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Hanging out at the beaches with friends.
5. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Nothing. I have not seen anything actually made here. There's some great fruits and vegetables though!
6. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
It has a nice, relatively safe walkway along the bay called the Marginal. Clean beaches are only 2-3 hours away. Good connections to South Africa and to Europe.
7. Can you save money?
Yes. The COLA is super high - currently 60% - and there is nothing to buy here besides groceries and an occasional meal out. Beaches are free.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
How very hard it is to do anything outside and how far away the beaches are. The people who enjoy spending time at home with alone or with family seem to be happier than the people who would like to get out of the city more.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
No, sorry. The work at the embassy is too much, the city is too dirty, the infrastructure is too poor, and the recreational opportunities are too few.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Bike, winter clothes, and expectation of going on a safari in Angola (the local park - Quissama - is expensive and poorly stocked).
4. But don't forget your:
Sunscreen and camping gear. And don't forget to get out the country regularly. You can get tickets to Cape Town for only US$700 and it is a great break.