Praia, Cape Verde Report of what it's like to live there - 05/18/14
Personal Experiences from Praia, Cape Verde
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
Second tour. We were in SE Asia previously.
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?
There is a direct flight via TACV from Boston that takes about four hours. If you are flying on official government business you have to transit via Lisbon and the trip will take about 22 hours.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Government. Spouse of a Foreign Service Officer.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
The housing is AWESOME!! There are 8-9 houses and 1 apartment. The houses are huge and a couple have swimming pools. They are massively large and built like fortresses. We don't really use the 3rd floor. Very little green space. They are spread out all over Praia. The longest commute by car is 10 mins to the Embassy. There is no traffic here.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Other than seafood, meat is very expensive. If you are willing to negotiate at the open air market, then you can get a good price on produce. Bring all of your soaps, shampoos, contact lens solutions, canned good with you. Household supplies are affordable but not American quality. Wine is not expensive and very good. They also have great olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
If you like to drink they make grog here and it is quite tasty.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
More peanut butter, salsa, beef jerky, nuts, laundry detergent, diapers.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
No fast food. There are several expat friendly restaurants that range from US$10-20 per meal. There are many Portuguese bakeries if you need a quick snack. The food here is good but not great. If you really like grilled seafood you will be in heaven.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
After the rain there are a lot of flies. They will get into your house and it will be difficult to eat outside. This will last for 1 to 2 months. It is not bad. There is not a "bug problem" here.
An occasional roach.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Our nanny costs US$88 per week plus 20% Social Security. She also cooks lunch for us everyday. We hired a cleaning lady two times per week for US$40.
Good help is widely available and there is a good pool of maids in the embassy community.
We don't have green space but a couple of houses hire a gardner/pool man.
A couple of families have hired security guards.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
There is an embassy gym that has free weights, bench, elliptical, treadmill, stationary bike and a large swimming pool. You can also join several local gyms for not much money.
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?
Cash. Use the embassy cashier to cash checks. Only the high end hotels accept credit cards.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
None. It is all in Portuguese or Kriolu.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Basic Portuguese will get you by but you should learn Kriolu. Cabo Verdeans never speak Portuguese to each other so if you want to know what is happening around you, then you need Kriolu. A surprising number of people here speak English.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes. It would be impossible to live here if you were disabled.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Taxis are safe and affordable. You don't hail taxis here, taxis hail you. The buses are not in great working condition and I don't think that they are safe.
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?
If you want to leave Praia and explore the rest of the island then bring an SUV. On the few days that it does rain, the streets flood so you will need the extra clearance. We brought a older 4runner and it has worked out well.
It is much better if you can bring a diesel vehicle. Diesel is 20% cheaper per liter. Gas here is very expensive. US$6.50 per gallon.
There are no car jackings but bandits will break your windows if you leave anything valuable on the seats. Bring all parts you will need. All car parts are at least twice as much here as in the states.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes. It is pretty good. The internet/cable bill is US$95 per month.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Embassy issued. If you want a smart phone, bring one with you. They are prohibitively expensive here.
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 need for quarantine. There are vets, but I don't know if the quality is good.
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?
There are two positions at the U.S. embassy. You can also teach English. I know several Americans who have started their own businesses. It is very easy to start a business here.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Yes. You can volunteer at an orphanage, Paralympics, and teach English.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Dress casual in the workplace. Shorts/jeans are acceptable in public.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
There are a lot of robberies. The criminals are looking for money, ipads and iphones. Most of the people I know who have been robbed were usually robbed late at night. This is a culture that does not start partying until midnight. My family has not been affected but we are not out late at night.
Very little murder, rape or violence in the expat community. Just thieves.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
We have a U.S. trained Cape Verdean doctor who is contracted with the Embassy. You will be medevac'd for any reason. You so not want to go to the hospital here.
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?
Great. There is no manufacturing and few cars. The air is clean. It does get quite dusty in the late winter months and that can make cleaning difficult but no problems breathing.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Awesome. The average temperature during the day is 80F. A little warmer in the summer and a little cooler in the winter. 5F degrees in either direction. The nights can get a little chilly in the winter months when it will dip into the high 60s F.
The official rainy season is from August to October but it only really rains heavily a few days per year.
If you have young children this is the main benefit of living here. The kids can play outside every single day.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Currently there are not any children at post older than 5. There are currently no English speaking schools but rumor has it, one is on the way.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
I don't know for sure but I cannot imagine it is suitable.
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?
I have two children 4 and 2 years. The four-year old goes to a Portuguese preschool half a day and I have a nanny helping me with my two-year old. The Portuguese preschool costs about US$180 per month. The other embassy children go the French preschool and they are happy and the cost is the same.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
My 4-year old is in ballet and a boy from another family takes karate. There are pick-up soccer games all over the city.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Small. It is good to socialize with non embassy expats. You get tired of hearing all of the gossip within the embassy community. There is a good group of English speaking expats from the U.S., Portugal, Ukraine, UK, that hang out with English speaking Cape Verdeans. They are a lot of fun.
Within the embassy community there is a lot of socializing at peoples houses.
We love it here, but some people get island fever and/or get bored with the lack of activities.
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?
Beach. Pool. Dinners at peoples houses. There is a pretty active poker scene in the expat community. Lots of concerts.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Great for families with small children and single people seem to do well for themselves. There is a vibrant bar/club/music scene.
You would probably have difficulties with older children here.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
None. This is a very open and accepting place.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Seeing the loggerhead turtles lay eggs on the island of Maio. Staying at the lovely resort Riu Karamboa on the island of Boa Vista and playing on the white sand beaches of Sal. There is also a small, but close knit group of non-embassy expats that are a blast to hang out with in Praia.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Inter-island travel is great and relatively affordable via plane or ferry. The beaches are fantastic and the community is pretty close. The live music scene is great in Praia, you can see a live concert every night of the week. Also, everyone here either sings, plays an instrument or dances so you are in for a fun night when you go out.
When it gets hotter in the summer months, you can escape to a Assomada. It is about 45 minutes from Praia and it is 10-15F degrees cooler in the summer.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Grog. Some local artwork is nice.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
The weather is fantastic. There is no traffic and no crowds. There are two beaches in the city and a pristine beach that is twenty minutes away by car.
10. Can you save money?
Yes. Getting out of the country is very expensive!! If you don't leave you will save money.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
How much more prevalent Kriolu is than Portuguese. I wouldn't have spent all that time on Rosetta Stone learning Portuguese. I would have found a Cape Verdean to teach me the language. It is a very easy language to learn.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
4. But don't forget your:
Sunglasses, sense of adventure.
5. Do you have any other comments?
This is an easy tour if you are willing to make your own fun or be willing to make an effort to meet people. We really enjoy it here and wish that we could extend.