Luanda, Angola Report of what it's like to live there - 04/23/16
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; I have lived in Honfleur, France, Montevideo, Uruguay, and Chisinau, Moldova.
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?
Home base is Fort Worth, Texas. There is a charter flight from Luanda to Houston thrice weekly. The USG, though, makes us cost construct vs a restricted fare ticket through Europe. That means the Houston one is unaffordable to USG personnel. Oil personnel use it frequently. Otherwise, it's through Frankfurt, Paris, Brussels, or Lisbon to the US, which is a much longer trip.
3. How long have you lived here?
We have been here since October, 2015
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Foreign Service spouse.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
There is a lot of housing for oil company people outside of town in Talatona. Embassy people live close in to the center, mainly in old, dumpy houses and new, badly built apartments that are very overpriced. Most construction here is Chinese and very low quality.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Potatoes are currently out all over the country. There are regular rations on sugar, flour, and milk. It is not unusual to find you must go to several grocery stores to put together a meal, even of solely local food. All imports are expensive when you can find them.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
More colby jack cheese. Motor oil. Spare car parts.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
There is KFC and Pizza Hut. There are several decent restaurants, and, because the unofficial exchange rate is so high, they are currently affordable.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Mosquitoes, flies, slugs, sugar ants, cockroaches because the city goes on regular trash strikes...
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
We are allowed to U.S. mail because of the embassy. There is no mail system in Angola. There is DHL.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Domestic help is plentiful but of low quality. It is also inexpensive. We do not employ anyone currently. Many oil people employ maids, guards, nannies, and drivers. The embassy provides us with guards.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
The embassy has a gym. There are some other gyms in the area. Some of the apartment buildings have gyms for tenants. Cost varies.
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. Just don't. The Angolan banking system is not compatible with the systems of the West. On top of that, there's the theft aspect plus the general restrictions on currency.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
We do not attend church, but I understand there is an LDS community and a nondenominational church.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Nothing is in English. Because the language is Portuguese, it's fairly easy to read if you have another Romance language.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
There are no accommodations for people with disabilities.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Nope and nope.
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?
Nothing less than an SUV is acceptable on the roads, especially after a rain. Parts all have to be imported. No cars over three years old may be imported and sold on the local market. Car theft is common.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
It depends on what you call high speed. The cost is exorbitant, and the current max is abouot 25 MB. We pay over US$100/month for 10 MB.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
This is surprisingly affordable. Don't subscribe. Most people use a pay as you go system.
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. There is a good vet who speaks some English and boards.
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?
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Because of the security situation, volunteering is frowned on.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
At work, American standard. In public, not one I've seen. Being covered is a plus - most of the population is so poor they don't wear shoes or clothes without major wear.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Violent crime is on the uptick. Property crime is more likely to happen than not. Gunpoint and knifepoint robberies of expats in the middle of the day. Unsafe to go anywhere at night unless it's a private place.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Yellow fever epidemic. Malaria epidemic. If you get sick, medevac to Namibia or South Africa as soon as possible.
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?
Air is muggy and full of particulates. There's always dust in the air. Because of the humidity, the air feels very thick in the lungs.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Many restaurants use mystery ingredients, especially shellfish. And seasonal allergies are year round.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Constantly very hot and very humid. There is a rainy season from March to May. They tell me it cools down a bit for June and July. By that, it means you're not drenched in sweat by walking out the door.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
From what I understand, both the Luanda International School and the French school are very good.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
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?
Yes. All are Portuguese or French language. The only English language one is in Talatona.
4. 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?
The expat community is scattered into separate compounds. There really is not a community outside your corporate or government one, and even that is rather loose.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
There are restaurants. There are two movie theaters. There is a local night life of mainly rap/ R&B music in Portuguese, but it's at clubs where you, as an expat are in danger.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
I don't think it's a good city for anyone.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Angola is very anti-gay. We know a gay expat couple here, but they do not mix at all with the local population.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Lots of prejudice against women and whites. Whites are just plain targets. Women, it's the domoestic violence thing.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Yellow fever and malaria epidemics; preparation for a zika epidemic. Economic disruption.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Not that we've found. There are a couple of beaches out of town (Mussolo and Cabo Ledo). Both are getting more downhill and dangerous by the month. The one national park is just sad for safaries. Most "lodges" and "resorts" are what would be considered Motel 6 level accommodation, plus the problem of malaria bearing mosquitos.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Almost everything is imported here.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
I really can't see any, outside of that it's not as expensive as advertised.
10. Can you save money?
With the unofficial exchange rate and the lack of things to do, yes.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
That everything would be so isolating.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Expectations of a normal life.
4. But don't forget your:
Partner and support network. You will need them!