Gaborone, Botswana Report of what it's like to live there - 10/12/14

Personal Experiences from Gaborone, Botswana

Gaborone, Botswana 10/12/14

Background:

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

This is our second post. First post was Frankfurt.

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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?

Florida. Trip is horrible - 23 + hours. You need to account for 2 days of travel. Our route goes FL to Atlanta, Atlanta - Joburg, Joburg - Gaborone.
There are no direct flights to Gaborone. When you want to fly anywhere, you need to go from Gaborone to Joburg (SA) and from there route were you want to go...This makes flying anywhere expensive.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year and 2 months.

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

My husband is employed with the U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Houses. Few owned by the Embassy, most of them are rented. Our house is less than a 5-minute drive to the Embassy.

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

The variety of groceries is really limited. Sometimes you find something, next time they don't have it anymore. All products are imported and that adds to the cost.

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

Vanilla, spices you cannot live without.

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

There is Nandos, a SA chain. Restaurants are few and some of them are not as good. It's better to cook at home.

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

North of Botswana you need malaria medicine. Gaborone does not need malaria medicine.

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Daily Life:

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

No.. You cannot sent any mail out unless is a letter or the package is the size of an old VHS. We only have pouch here. No DPO. When buying stuff online, you can send returns for what I know. I have not tried this.

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

It's not that expensive. People get live-in maids. Our helper comes 2 times a week and gets paid US$131 per month. She cleans, washes the clothes and irons. Our gardener comes 2 days a week for 4 hours each day and gets around US$80

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

There is one gym and I think it is expensive. A Gym is also offered by the Embassy but it does not have good equipment and I think it is expensive.

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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 are used ok. We have not used ATMs here. Usually we carry cash or credit card.

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

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

English is spoken here as well as Setswana. You don't need to learn Setswana.. too difficult.

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

Nope. No resources are available.

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Transportation:

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

There are no trains. There are "combies" (really small vans) and taxis here, but people usually have their own car.

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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?

Driving is on the right side like in the UK. People import cars from Japan. Availability of parts for cars is limited.

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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?

ADSL only and is very unreliable. We pay for phone and internet around US$90 a month.

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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?

You can purchase them here.

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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?

There are vets. I know there is one kennel but I have not had any experience with it.

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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?

Nope. Botswana is revoking work permits for expats in order to give those jobs to locals... So don''t even think about it.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Have not found one.

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

Formal... Locals dress up even just for grocery shopping.

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Health & Safety:

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

There are lot of house break-in's. Crime rate is going up and police are useless. You need to be alert as some members of the Embassy have been robbed while at the mall and some houses have been broken into.

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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?

Not good. You would get evacuated to Pretoria. No good Doctors. here. Also the country has high levels of HIV. No special needs support or they are really limited. One one OT available in the whole town... and not as reliable for appointments.

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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?

Lots of dust. It does not rain much here.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

You do need your allergy medicine.

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

Dry.. May-September is winter.. So it is cold.. Don't think because you are in Africa, it will not get cold.. It does. From the end of September - April, it's summer and really hot and does not rain much.

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Schools & Children:

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

None. There is one school that proclaims to be international school and were everybody goes to but the education is not good. All schools are not up to the USA standards and this post should be declared as not suitable for school age kids. Some families homeschool, others have sent kids to boarding school. Our kids go to a local Christian school, it's still not optimal, but better than the "international" school.

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

None.

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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?

Some. There is a Montessori preschool that seems to be good but I don't have any experience with it.

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

None... Nothing for the kids to do.

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Expat Life:

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

Low.

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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?

Invite people over for dinner. Small gatherings. There is really nothing else to do here.

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

In our view no. I don't know about singles. There are no bars, or places to go. For families without kids, I think this place will be great as they can travel if they don't mind spending the money.

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

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

None.

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

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

Nothing.

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

None.. Well maybe you get the chance to go on Safari but... there are really expensive. It is really hard to save money. There is no culture.. You would think you are in Africa and will be able to get a sense of the music, food, etc... Don't get your expectations high on this...The Okavango Delta is a very popular tourist destination but is really expensive..especially if you have kids.

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9. Can you save money?

No

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

Support for special needs and quality of the schools. Schools are really bad here. One or two schools are decent for elementary school and locals put their kids' names on the school register when they are 2 months old.. No special treatment for U.S. Embassy Employees. So you will not get in. We have tried to get a spot since we got here.

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

Nope.

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