Praia, Cape Verde Report of what it's like to live there - 05/23/12

Personal Experiences from Praia, Cape Verde

Praia, Cape Verde 05/23/12

Background:

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

4th expat experience.

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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?

Washington DC. For personal travel TACV has direct flights to Boston 2x per week, you spend the night in Boston and connect the following day. For business travel, you fly thru Lisbon, this can take up to 30 hours. Flights change and/or are cancelled without notice. Traveling to/from CV can be a nightmare.

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3. How long have you lived here?

18 months.

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

US 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?

You are 10 minutes from everywhere in Praia. Most folks are pleased enough with their homes. All have pros and cons. Most are poorly built. Homes tend to be fairly large and do not have yards.

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

It's an island. What's available today you might not see again for months, ie butter, eggs, chicken breasts. Costs are similar to DC.

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

Food I can't live without. Definitely think about your consumables, there are very few American products and when you find them they are usually expired and expensive.

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

No fast food. Not many choices. People seem to eat the same thing for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There are a few decent places, but it gets old after a while. Prices are fairly expensive.

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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?

I think it would be very difficult. All local produce must be bleached before eating.

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

Flies, mosquitoes and roaches. We have found them to be more of a nuisance, but others have had serious problems.

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Daily Life:

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

Pouch - takes up to 3 weeks each way.

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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 inexpensive, $300 per month. We love ours.

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

Yes, and it is quite nice.

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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?

Only Visa ATM cards work. This is a cash society; very few places accept credit cards.

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

None that I know of.

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

Cable is available and affordable.

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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?

A lot, very few people speak English in the markets.

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

A lot.

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Transportation:

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

There are tons of cabs and they are affordable.

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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?

One you don't mind getting banged up. It's mostly cobblestone roads and I don't think there are any traffic rules. People drive how they feel. It's not uncommon for locals to just stop the car because their cell phone rang. Crazy.

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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?

Available and affordable, as long as you don't go over your allotted usage. Plans are available.

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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?

The Embassy provides, otherwise you can buy one on the corner along with sunglasses from some guy.

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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)?

Rudimentary. No kennels.

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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?

Very few. Teaching English is about the only option.

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

Tropical. It's always hot.

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Health & Safety:

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

Yes. This is a very poor country with high unemployment. Crimes of opportunity are frequent. You cannot leave anything unsecured. It's not uncommon for jewelry to be grabbed.

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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?

Yes, medical care is poor. You will be medivaced for most anything.

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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?

Pretty good except for the dusty season. People with allergies can suffer.

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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 sunny, with a brief rainy season in the fall.

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Schools & Children:

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

There are two schools Embassy kids attend: one French and one Portuguese. Parents seem moderately pleased. There is nothing fancy about either school. There is no option for older kids.

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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?

Available and inexpensive. Quality will vary.

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

Not that I am aware of.

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Expat Life:

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

Small.

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2. Morale among expats:

Fair. This is a very isolated island; getting off it is expensive and time-consuming.

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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?

There are a few events: festivals etc.

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

If you like peace and quiet, this is for you. I would think being single here would be a little lonely if you are not an extrovert.

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

I don't think there is any problem. It's a live-and-let-live society.

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

None that I have witnessed.

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

Warm sunny days.

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

Go to the pool, the beach, drive around the island.

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

Grog, punch.

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

While Cape Verde is naturally beautiful, it is not a modern country, basic utilities are intermittent. The weather is almost always sunny and warm and inter-island travel can be enjoyable though somewhat expensive.

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11. Can you save money?

If you don't leave Cape Verde, maybe. Services are cheap. Things aren't. Gas is $9 a gallon.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Probably not. I'm glad I did it, but don't want to do it again.

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

Sense of urgency.

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3. But don't forget your:

Patience.

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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?

If you like a bustling city life with lots going on, this isn't for you.

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