Praia, Cape Verde Report of what it's like to live there - 09/19/09

Personal Experiences from Praia, Cape Verde

Praia, Cape Verde 09/19/09

Background:

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

No, Zaragoza, Spain, as well as short stays in various cities in Greece and Brazil.

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2. How long have you lived here?

3 months, summer 2007.

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

US Government.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

There are direct flights from Boston to Praia with TACV (approx. 7 hrs.). Otherwise, people fly into Lisbon (usually with TAP) and then connect to Praia with TACV (approx. 11hrs w/ lay over). Dakar, Senegal is also another popular place to connect. Beware that most of the connecting flights have a reputation for being a black hole for luggage.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

The ambassador's residence is about 10-15 minutes away from the embassy. Most other embassy personnel, as well as other foreign government representative, live in the upscale Prainha section. The president of Cape Verde also lives in this neighborhood. From Prainha to the center of town- where the embassy is located- is about 5 minutes driving.

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

Both are readily available. Over-the-counter drugs, though, are expensive and should be purchased before arriving.

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

More books, snacks of all kinds.

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

Fast food is limited. And Cape Verdeans actually take a very long time to serve food. It is likely that you can wait up to an hour and a half to be served. The cost is similar to that in the US. Vegetables are scarce. Lettuce and carrots are commonly served, but greener veggies are uncommon. The supermarket is very good, but there are produce items that appear and disappear quickly.

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

None.

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Daily Life:

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

Very slowly, if not through the diplomatic pouch.

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

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

Yes. This country is also full of runners and walkers. People are very exercise friendly.

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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?

While cards were accepted, usually it was only VISA. And at times the machines weren't fully functional. Don't depend on credit cards.

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

I did not come across any in my time there.

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

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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?

Portuguese is required everywhere, but most people outside of the city center only speak Cape Verdean Creole. Creole in Santiago is fairly similar to a Portuguese/ Spanish mix to decipher key points, but its always helpful to speak the language when leaving downtown Praia.

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

YES! Most roads are extremely poor. There are no sidewalks. Taxis can be hailed from the roadside, but getting to the road with a mobility disability would likely be very difficult.

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Transportation:

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

There are no buses. Vans are affordable and relatively safe, but drivers do drive extremely fast and can be careless.

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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?

Off road, SUVs are recommended because of the poor road quality. But be aware that some roads in the rural areas are super narrow, even though there's two-way traffic.

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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?

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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 provided these, so I'm not sure about this.

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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?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & 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?

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

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Good. It can get dusty during the dry season.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

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

Petty theft, like anywhere else in the world if people aren't being careful.

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4. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Medical care and common medicines are very limited. But this is not a malaria country, so that's at least one less worry.

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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?

There can be a very heavy rainy season, but the dry season can be devastating. This country has had droughts, and water shortages are constant.

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Schools & Children:

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

From my understanding, there are no international schools, but for preschool and very elementary grades there is a fairly reputable French school.

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

I have seen no evidence that special needs-kids are well accommodated, but I do have minimal experience with this.

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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?

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

Not that I saw.

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Expat Life:

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

Cape Verde is a very migratory country. There are many Cape Verdean-Americans, as well as Cape Verdeans living in Europe, who spend summers or long stretches in country. Otherwise, the expats number about 50 or so people.

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2. Morale among expats:

Expats love it here, though some people go stir crazy. It is a small place where comraderie is really good. But boredom can set in very easily for the adventurous types.

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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?

This country loves music. You can always catch a live performance in town at a number of good restaurants and bars. Dancing is also common outside of some of the more upscale restaurants. Food and eating out are very commonly the center of social outings. While the food may arrive late, it is usually of very good quality.

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

This is a good city for people (with family members or not) who are pleased by the simple things: eating out, good music, dancing, and friendly folks. People who need lots of organized activities can expect to be bored here. Unfortunately, many of the beaches are not sanitary enough to swim in, so most water sporting is out.

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

I have very limited knowledge here, but the society is extremely tolerant.

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

No.

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

Cidade Velha, the old city, is a great day excursion. It is picturesque and historical. The city was the first city founded by Europeans on the continent. This city was the Portuguese's first stop before navigating throughout the west and southern coasts. So there are slave forts and a lot of historic remnants. If you are willing to spend money to travel to the other islands, it's well worth it. Boa Vista and Mindelo are more touristy and see more European visitors than Santiago does.

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

Pano de Terra- native cloth; Jewelry (black beads with white dot- to ward off the evil eye). Fresh Mangoes!

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9. Can you save money?

Yes, but the prices are really expensive when compared to other places in the West African region.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Absolutely!

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

cold-weather gear.

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3. But don't forget your:

flip flops, sunscreen, and sense of humor.

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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. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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